Bragging Right Preview and Prediction

Bragging rights are on the line once again at the Enterprise Center Saturday night when the Missouri Tigers and University of Illinois Illini meet for the 49th time.  Missouri will look to keep this rivalry relevant as they try to end the Illini’s 5 game win streak in the series.

The 2017 meeting was one to forget for a tournament bound Missouri team as they had serious ball control issues. The Tigers had 21 turnovers en route to a 70-64 loss in a game that they were favored.  The Illinois got a dominate performance from sophomore Trent Frazier scoring 22 points off of the bench. The loss a tough one to take for most Mizzou fans as they were the favored team, they did have the big-time recruits even without Michael Porter Jr.  This loss stung for the Tiger faithful, they will look to avenge this loss and the Illinois dominance on Saturday night.

If this game didn’t have enough intrigue to it the Tigers have three players that originally committed to Illinois on their roster in Jeremiah Tilmon, Mark Smith and Javon Pickett.  The Illini faithful will undoubtable bring their full focus of hatred to these players, which will make for an even more raucous atmosphere. Despite the two teams not being highly ranked, this game still has plenty of intrigue to the St. Louis community. 

The actual game will be an interesting matchup of differing styles.  Missouri brings a hard-nosed defensive effort against a faster Illini attack. Illinois allows 12 offensive rebounds per game while also being the sixth most foul prone team in the nation. Jeremiah Tilmon has continued to develop most recently dominating the boards against a respectable Xavier team that defeated Illinois earlier in the season. Ball control will be the name of the game for Mizzou, the offense will have to break the pressing Illini and be able to set up their half court offense.  If Tilmon is allowed to establish himself on the block early it will open up shots for guards Jordan Geist and Mark Smith. 

It will be a bitter sweet pill for Illini fans to swallow if it is Tilmon and Smith that make the difference on Saturday night. Illinois will have to feed off of the crowd to establish their style. Madness and energy from the crowd and in game will make the difference.

Prediction:

Illinois was able to establish their tempo last year. The addition of Mark Smith will allow the Tigers to control the tempo better and the advantage on the inside is just too much to overcome for Illinois. 

Tigers when in an ugly one: 68-60.

CBB Picks ATS December 19

Picks ATS December 19 2018

CBB: Virginia -8.5 at South Carolina

Virginia is 6-3 against the spread during their 9-0 start, holding teams to an average of 51ppg. South Carolina is in a rebuilding mode this season. Virginia will be to much for the Gamecocks to handle on both ends. Look for a low scoring game that covers by double digits.

Virginia -8.5

CBB: Auburn -125 at NC State

A lot of people are high on NC State heading into this matchup with SEC powerhouse Auburn. Going to Raleigh is never easy for any team but Auburn is full of veterans that will be ready for the crazy atmosphere. The Wolfpack are 8-2 ATS this season, I am a believer in veteran guard pulling off big victories. Give me the Tigers to pull it out.

Auburn ML

CBB: Samford at Tennessee Total: 149.5

Tennessee has shown offensive prowess that they didn’t have last season. Admiral Schofield has developed into a SEC Player of the Year Candidate. Tennessee jumps on Samford early and coast to the victory 85-60.

Under 149.5

CBB: Southern Mississippi at Kansas State Total: 128

K-State overs have been my go to most of the season. This one seems to low for a team that they should route. K-State Wins 70-61

Over 128

CBB: Arkansas Little-Rock at Memphis -14

I love Penny Hardaway’s attitude. He has brought relevance back to the program and will be a contender next season. At home they dominate and lesser Little-Rock team.

Memphis Tigers -14

Dexter Fowler- 2019’s Most Important Player?

The saga of Dexter Fowler is sickening to pretty much all Cardinals fans.  His 2018 regression was historically awful, his perceived love of the Chicago Cubs is inexcusable.  Nevertheless, entering into the 2019 season, he may be the most important piece to a team that seems primed to get back to the playoffs. 

Fowler is not what Cardinals fans want, he’s not Bryce Harper. It’s time to accept the fact that most likely the Cardinals will enter the season with Fowler as the projected starting right fielder. He will play the role of either #2 hitter setting up for offseason pickup Paul Goldschmidt or he will be batting in the 6th spot protecting the bigger bats.  .180/.278/.298 are numbers you expect to see from a Starting Pitcher rather than your $16.5 million per year starting outfielder.  But to say that he repeats those numbers is almost unfathomable. In Fowler’s worst season outside of 2018 the lowest OBP he recorded was .364 in 2015, his lowest OPS .757 also in 2015. Whether it was the reported depression, injury or who knows what else, regression of that level is unheard of in major league history. 

While the Cardinals may never have the man to live up the contract that was signed in the offseason of 2016 realistically they don’t need the Fowler that posted an .840 and .851 OPS in 2016 and 2017.  They need a Fowler that can be at his career average at best to be successful. Despite his dreadful 2018 Fowler still has a career OPS of .780 nearly 60 points higher than the MLB average was in 2018.  Looking at the 2018 playoff teams worst OPS player you can see that all the Cardinals would need is a below average season from Fowler to get what they need.

Rockies, Ian Desmond, 160 games, .729 OPS

Brewers, Ryan Braun, 125 games, .782 OPS

Dodgers, Chris Taylor, 155 games, .775 OPS

Braves, Ender Inciarte, 156 games, .705 OPS

Combined average = .747 OPS

Fowler would need to be at just a .747 OPS to be where the Cardinals would need him to be. As previously stated only one time in his career has he posted an OPS below that mark (last season). While they were small, Fowler did show signs of life before his foot injury raising his OPS to .659 when compared to his June .412.  He added three homeruns in 64 at-bats in July compared to the zero he had in 55 at-bats in June.  Signs of life were there but quickly faded after getting hit by a pitch in early August. 

His defense has been the subject of criticism as well last season, but he was never touted as a Gold Glover before being signed.  With the addition of Paul Goldschmidt the Cardinals now have at least four potential Gold Glove winners, Bader, Wong, Yadi, Goldy and a past winner in Marcell Ozuna.  Any issues Fowler has in the field should be covered by the play of those around him.  He isn’t worse than Jose Martinez and the Cardinals were fine with risking their defense for the bigger bat. 

I want Bryce Harper, I want Tyler O’Neil to get more at bats.  But seemingly that is not going to be a guaranteed option unless the Cardinals are willing to eat $41 million over the next two seasons.  The Cardinals are not going to do that, they are going to ride with Fowler until they are forced to realize that he has nothing left.  This team now has its cornerstone bat in the middle of the order, they have the pitching staff that can give them a chance to win every night. All they need is a small piece of the player they believed they had signed to be successful.  It’s there, hopefully we see it.

@italksportsti

NBA Trade Candidates

Hassan Whiteside is a talented player at a position that has become devalued with the emergence of the run and gun offense.  Heat GM Pat Riley gave Whiteside a lot of money giving him a 4-year/ $98 million in 2016 placing him as a franchise player.  Clashes with Coach Eric Spoelstra, “injuries”, and further emergence of Bam Adebayo have put Whiteside on the outside of the future plans for the Heat.  Who would take and him? 

Unlikely but interesting: Cleveland Cavaliers.

I know the Cavaliers have a player named Tristan Thompson that is very similar.  Thompson though doesn’t bring the star power or the offense that Whiteside can bring.  2018-19 is a lost season for the Cavaliers but a trade for Whiteside would give the a core that would be very formidable in the East.  Kevin Love, Colin Sexton, Cedi Osman and Whiteside would give the Cavaliers a starting lineup that could be bottom tier of playoff eligibility.  Not to mention the Cavaliers will be looking at potential top five pick next summer.

Moving George Hill and releasing JR Smith can be a bit of a problem for the potential of moving money.  But if the Cavaliers put up Thompson and another piece they can realistically move money that would make it acceptable for the Heat.  Would Spoelstra and Riley be willing to move one locker room problem for another potential problem?  Unlikely but why not.

Makes sense: Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers jumped out to a nice start during the 2018 season.  The illusion of their ability is starting to show after a couple lopsided losses to the Raptors w/o Kawhi and the rebuilding San Antonio Spurs. Adding a player like Whiteside can make them a real threat in the West.  Pairing him with the rising star of Tobias Harris and multiple ancilary players can make them a tough matchup at multiple positions.

The Clippers appear set on not giving Montrez Harrell full starter minutes so its safe to say they don’t believe he is the answer at the center position.  Whiteside can not only help them of offense but can handle the paint allowing the guards to move the ball out after a defensive stop. The Clippers have a ragtag group of players, adding a potential star like Whiteside could be just the boost they need for the remainder of the season. 

Picking up Whitesides remaining contract could make it tough to add two players in the offseason, but if their target is going to be Kawhi Leonard they could add to his interest by having one of the best two way big men in the league.  

Should do it: Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets are at a crossroads. They are good enough to make the playoffs but are not good enough to win anything.  They have a built in star with Kemba Walker as well as a strong set of role players.  They are missing a piece to pair with their star.  Enter Hassan Whiteside. Charlotte may be turned off at the idea of adding another troubled center after the Dwight Howard experiment did not pay off, but with the veteran presence of Tony Parker on the bench and the leadership of MJ this move could be the ticket to the next level for a Charlotte franchise that has seen limited success.  

Cody Zeller and Bismarck Biyombo have filled in the role of center during the 2018 season, clearly Whiteside would make for a upgrade on multiple levels.  His presence on the offensive end would open up opportunities for Kemba Walker and allow Zeller to move to the bench, which can strengthen the second unit.  Unlike the previous teams listed it would be tough for the Hornets to make an offer that would be intriguing for the Heat.  Charlotte does not have the expiring contracts potentially needed to make the move. They do however have their first round picks for the next two seasons.  Moving one of those picks and two expiring contracts could be all it takes to get the Heat to move on from a player they do not see a future with. Whiteside has his negatives but the potential for stardom is their.  Charlotte will have to make the first move.

Bowl Picks ATS- Dec 15

The bowl season is here, starting off with five games on Saturday.  With no real marquee matchups these games won’t get the love the deserve. A

Autonation Cure Bowl: Tulane -3.5 vs Louisiana Lafayette

A meeting between to Louisiana teams that got off to a slow start in 2018 will face off in Orlando.  Both teams feature top 30 rushing attacks which will make for slow paced game. 

The Ragin Cajuns under first year Coach Billy Nappier, former Nick Saban assistant, as turned around a ULL team that coming off three straight sub-.500 seasons. ULL has been battle tested starting the season at 1-3 with losses to SEC powers Alabama and Mississippi State.  They rebounded from a tough start to the season by winning six of their final nine games and the Western Division of the Sun Belt.  

Tulane has moved on from their offensive coordinator, hiring Will Hall.  Tulane will enter this game with a sub par offense versus a ULL sub par defense.  Tulane will have problems on the offensive end against the battle tested Cajuns.  ULL will run the ball more effectively than their counterparts which will make this close.  

ULL +3.5

Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona State vs. Fresno State -6

The Las Vegas Bowl will be the highlight of the bowl matchups featuring the Mountain West Champion Fresno State Bulldogs versus the Pac-12’s Arizona State Sun Devils. 

Perhaps the biggest headline for this game is Sun Devils leading WR N’Keal Harry has chosen to sit out this game.  Fresno State has experience defeating a Pac12 team, taking down UCLA, they also have beaten San Diego State. Arizona State lost to the same Aztec team during the season. 

The Mountain West doesn’t get the respect that they may deserve.  Without Harry, Arizona State doesn’t have much of a chance.  

Fresno State -6

Take notice of Russell Wilson

Last night Russell Wilson was not great.  10/20 with no touchdowns and an interception are not MVP numbers, but to not consider him as a candidate is just wrong. Pat Mahomes and Drew Brees are throwing out numbers that you can only getting while playing Madden on easy.  They are flashy and dominate offenses, but are they the singular reason their teams are winning?  Not to the level of Russell Wilson.  

He’s set to post career-highs in touchdowns (39), yards per attempt, and passer rating, while only throwing it about 27 times per game. In a season when quarterbacks are shattering records for completion percentage and Patrick Mahomes is virtually a lock to go over 50 touchdowns, Wilson is doing it his own way while still keeping pace with some of those prolific scorers in the league. When the game was on the line last night Wilson made the play that changed the momentum, his 40-yard scramble that led to the 2-yard TD from Chris Carson was a thing of beauty in a game that was dominated by defense. 

The Seahawks have made wholesale changes to their offense.  Jimmy Graham, gone, Darrel Bevell gone, Doug Baldwin injured most of the season.  Wilson has found a way to make a star of Tyler Lockett and relevance to WR David Moore a former 7th round pick  and TE Nick Vannett. These are not premier players, they may not even see the field on most teams that are playoff relevant.  Wilson works with what is around him and makes them play to his level.  

Wilson has the third best passer rating on the road behind the  aforementioned Mahomes and the veteran slinger Phillip Rivers.  He has 21 touchdowns and 2 interceptions against the NFC this season.  He is the reason that the Seahawks are able to score, his ability to move and create allows the running game to develop as it has, becoming the #1 rushing attack in the NFL, averaging an astounding 153 yards per game.  Wilson will most likely not win the MVP but he is by far the single most important player on any playoff team.  

Draftkings Picks December 10

December 10 2018- DFS Draftkings pick.

11 game slates make for multiple options, there are three games on the slate that have caught my attention. Let’s make some decisions.

PG: DeAron Fox, Sacramento Kings ($7,600)

Fox has seen an increase in salary over the last few weeks.  But with the lowly Bulls on the slate this game should be full of offense. Fox will have a great opportunity for high upside.  The Bulls rank bottom ten against point guards this season.  Fox can go off for 50 any night, tonight could be one of those.

SG: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Sacramento Kings ($6,300)

Let’s continue the stack of Kings against the Bulls.  Bogdanovic has hit above 25 for six straight games.  He is also blow out prove as he doesn’t sit usually start.

SF: Trey Lyles, Denver Nuggets ($3,700)

With the injury to Millsap, Lyles saw a huge up in minutes.  This play is mainly a price play for a guy that looks to play at least 30 minutes tonight.  The matchup with Memphis is not ideal, but a player playing a that many minutes at $3,700 is always worth a shot.

PF: Marvin Bagley, Sacramento Kings ($4,700)

Bagley is questionable tonight but if he plays he can be another asset at an affordable cost. Bagley is a double double machine in a pace up spot. Play him if he is able to play.

C: Karl Anthony-Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves ($9,200)

The return of Draymond green could make for a fun matchup for Towns.  Towns will bring a large amount of offense to this game.  With the questionable status of Anthony Davis, Towns seems like an easy play.

G: Colin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers ($4,900)

No George Hill means more time for Sexton.  Lots of minutes against coming for a point guard with few options behind him.

F: Otto Porter Jr., Washington Wizards ($6,100)

No John Wall tonight opens up more points for secondary players. Otto Porter will be the recipient of those points against a Pacers team that seem like a bad matchup.  Porter will bring multiple value spots.

UTL: Zach Lavine, Chicago Bulls ($7,400)

Potentially the play of the night.  Lavine has a chance to flourish in potentially the biggest game stack of the night.  Lavine has more options to work with after the return of Lauri Markkanen.  Lavine will not have a player to match him on the defensive end.  Lavine should net close to 50 tonight while his price continues to drop.

Good luck tonight!

Cardinals struck Gold! Whats next?

An impact bat, someone that can strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers, a player to build your lineup around.  These were the comments most associated with the St. Louis Cardinals heading into the offseason. A team that has the ancillary pieces to win but lacked the true star that can change an organization. Enter Paul Goldschmidt, the silent assassin that has been hidden in the desert. St. Louis was able to make a deal for the perrennial MVP for a catcher that was not going to play for two years, a pitcher that was 9th on the depth chart and player that feels like the last resort throw in Brad Pitt and Jonah hill were looking for in Moneyball.  Now that the power bat has been added its time to move on to the next step.  Cardinals fans don’t want Mo and Girsch to settle.  Let’s look at some different scenarios that could happen. 

Dream Scenario-Sign Bryce Harper, Craig Kimbrel and find a suitor for Dexter Fowler.  

The Cardinals still have a need for a left-handed swinging outfielder that they can rely on for the upcoming season. Currently the projected bench consists of Yairo Munoz, Jedd Gyroko, Jose Martinez, Dexter Fowler/Tyler O’neil and whomever the backup catcher will be.  That is a litany of right handed bats to go along with the switching hitting Fowler.  The need for a left-handed swinging outfielder is obvious.  Enter Bryce Harper, the most decorated of potential free agent signings could fit right into a lineup in need of left-handed depth.  The endless ways that this lineup could be constructed with bats like Goldy, Carp, Harper and Ozuna would be a murderers row of potential OPS. dominance.

Lets be realistic in the idea that after the season someone will have to walk.  Try and lock up Harper for 10year/$350,000 deal with a player option after four years.  You then proceed to let Marcell Ozuna walk after the 2019 season and take more of your finances to lock up Goldschmidt for 3-4 years at about $25 million a year.  While that is a lot of money attributed to two players, you have to take into account that Yadier Molina’s $20 million a year will be coming off the books in 2020. 

Next you get Craig Kimbrel, the model of consistency over the last decade to be your close, eat the money for Dexter Fowler and hopefully find a suitor willing to take him on just to cut him loose. All of a sudden you have filled every hole your team has with the premium player that those positions. 

Nightmare Scenario- Cards do nothing to build on their momentum.

This is a simple answer, if the Cardinals front office decides that the bullpen is complete, the struggles to finish off games will continue.  The great offense that Goldschmidt will provide could be negated because Jordan Hicks has been overused for the week.  While bringing in an accomplished closer is not a walk in the park, the Cardinals may still be burned by their most recent moves in free agency to bolster their bullpen. Memories of the Brett Cecil and Greg Holland contract are still haunting Mozeliak, so Andrew Miller and Craig Kimbrel may be to much for him. 

If Dexter Fowler is still in the plans for the Cardinals they are banking on a player that had a historically bad season entering his age 33 season. 

Realistic Scenario- Extend Mikolas, add reliever and lefty bench player.

Miles Mikolas doesn’t bring the flash of a high-level starter.  He doesn’t have the Carlos Martinez stuff or the youth of Jack Flaherty.  What he brings is a vital ability to todays game that has gotten lost in the emergence of the bullpen era.  Mikolas is an innings eater that relies on pitching to contact and being efficient.  He will lead the team in innings pitched next year (barring injury) and will save innings for your core bullpen arms. Lock him up and throw away the key.  

Signing Tony Sipp should be the next move that completes the bullpen.  Allow your relievers to work out who the closer will be going into next season and solidify the left side. Sipp not only held lefties to a .191BA last season but also held a 0.90ERA in Minute Maid Park!  With Anthony Rizzo and Christian Yelich being the premiere players on your opposition Sipp would be the perfect addition to a staff that is unproven to say the least from the left side. 

Bryce Harper makes a lot of sense, but the addition of Goldschmidt will be the move that Mozeliak will justify over spending more for Harper.  Adding Micheal Brantley would be ideal after the pickup of Goldy, but to live more realistic I could see a reclamation project like Matt Joyce or a proven bench player like Gerardo Parra.  While these are sexy options they could fit the need of a lefty handed bat in the outfield.  Sadly though I see a platoon of Fowler/O’Neil coming into the season.  

Finally, they need to trade Jose Martinez to an American League club.  He brings limited power and basically zero defense from your bench.  He was great in 2018 but there is no where for him to go from here.  

Thanks and let me hear your opinions.