Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Michigan State Spartans -3
The Texas Tech Red Raiders blew up most brackets with their upset of Gonzaga in the Elite Eight. They also blew up the Big 12. The preseason #7 ranked team in the Big 12 has spent an entire season shattering expectations. Texas Tech was able to overcome different styles of teams on their run to the Final Four trouncing an offensive minded Buffalo team, grinding a win versus defensive minded Michigan and showing its full repertoire taking down the #1 team in offensive efficiency in the country the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Texas Tech’s bread and butter is and will be on the defensive end. Texas Tech garners takeaways on 23.1 percent of opponent possessions, 11th in the nation. Tech will look to keep this low scoring and dirty.
Michigan State has seemed to find itself on the offensive end by utilizing the fast break. The Spartans were able to overcome two teams that athletically were superior by not allowing them to set their defenses. If Cassius Winston can control the ball Michigan State should be to impose its will on the break with Xavier Tillman attacking the rim. There will be a lot of pressure on Winston to run the offense efficiently out of half court sets. We know Michigan will be looking to run but the grind it out style of Texas Tech will look to take that away. Tech also brings the 28th nationally ranked offensively efficient team which means they will not turn the ball over enough to allow the new “running” Spartans to take off.
This game will be a matchup between a coach on the rise and a coach that is cementing his legacy. Chris Beard has done a remarkable job bringing the Red Raiders to this point. Jarrett Culver will have to find his shot earl, if he doesn’t it will be up to Matt Mooney to start the offense from the outside. This game will be a hard hitting affair, usually I would lean to the veteran coach in this situation but I am going with Chris Beard. Texas Tech has bought into what Beard is selling. They will have no fear of Michigan State. The Red Raiders are going to shut down Winston and the fast break and pull out the victory. I may lean ML on this game but if you can take the points why not be safe.
Pick: Texas Tech +3
Auburn Tigers vs. Virginia Cavaliers -5.5
The Auburn Tigers came into the tournament hot but no one saw this coming from Bruce Pearl’s squad. Defeating three of the blue blood of college basketball on their way to the final four. The injury to Chumu Okeke could have derailed any team going into their elite eight matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats but they rallied behind his injury. This Auburn team reminds me of the UConn title team of 2014. Playing the part of Shabazz Napier is senior Jerad Harper while the part of Ryan Boatright being played by Bryce Brown. The Tigers are a veteran led team that goes ten deep to make sure they can keep up their frantic pace. If Auburn can come out and play their pace and jump out to an early lead it will be a problem for the defensive minded Virginia Cavaliers.
Virginia seems like a team of destiny after the debacle of last season. Their last second game tying shot from Mamdi Diakite over Purdue was something that we only see in movies. The Cavaliers are battle tested through the season but have a tendancy to have some slow starts. If Virginia doesn’t come out and set the pace they will be overcome by the constant attack of Auburn. Unlike the other final four matchup the Cavaliers will have to contend with multiple scorers in order to be successful, this game will be a battle of different styles that should be a chess matchup of two great coaches.
Pick: Auburn +5.5 (Virginia wins by 4)
Tennessee Volunteers at LSU Tigers
Tennessee was primed to make a statement last week in Lexington. They had control of the SEC and could bury the “mighty” Kentucky Wildcats. Instead they saw an end to their 20-game winning streak and found themselves just one game up the aforementioned Wildcats and their opponents on Saturday the LSU Tigers.
This is a matchup of offensive teams both ranking in the top ten in scoring in all of college basketball. The difference on Saturday will be the ability of either team to establish themselves on the defensive end. In LSU’s loss to Florida on Wednesday night the Tigers were unable to adjust to a Florida that tried to slow down the pace. If Tennessee is able to establish a slower pace and dominate the ball control LSU will not be able to adjust.
We have seen the Volunteers win scrappy games when they have to. I like Jordan Bone holding Tremont Waters in check and the Volunteers to prevail on the road. I’m not going to worry about last week or the Rick Barnes curse. Give me the Volunteers in a huge SEC game.
Pick: Tennessee -1
Ohio State Buckeyes at Maryland Terrapins
Every week I look at Maryland and see a potential second weekend team. It could be my love for the traditional big that you really only see in college basketball. Bruno Fernando is a throwback to the basketball I watched as a kid. Throw it to the big man and impose your will. The sophomore center enjoyed his matchup in Columbus putting up 13 point and 15 rebounds. He will be on the attack early against Ohio State’s Kaleb Wesson whom was no match in the first meeting. If Wesson gets into foul trouble the deficiencies of Ohio State’s depth will show.
Neither team will bring a potent offensive attack, but if Maryland is able to avoid a sluggish start that they are known for they should be able to coast to an easy victory at home. They also have to find a way to cut down on their turnovers. If they play smart and feed Fernando early it will open up looks for the slick shooting freshman guard Aaron Wiggins whom has hit 9 of 18 from behind the arc over the teams last 3 games.
Maryland is 3-0 ATS in their last three home games. Give me Maryland to cover. Take care of the ball!
Pick: Maryland -6.5
Duke Blue Devils at Syracuse Orange
We all know Duke without Zion Williamson is going to cause some problems. What is being ignored is that a healthy Tre Jones is back in the lineup for the Blue Devils. In the first matchup his injury forced the Blue Devils to run the point with RJ Barrett and company. With Jones as the helm Barrett will be free to work inside the Syracuse zone. His ability to create at the top of the key will be a huge factor. I assume Coach K will utilize one of his big’s in Zion’s spot, while that may be the game plan to start don’t be surprised to see a lot of sharp shooting sophomore Alex O’Connell.
Syracuse shot lights out in the first matchup, Frank Howard will have the defense of Tre Jones hounding him all night which will lead to more turnovers not allowing the Orange to set their press. Duke has the superior athletes even without Zion. If utilized correctly they should cover the spread.
Pick: Duke -4.5
Other games I like:
Illinois/Penn State Under 145.5
MO State/ Indiana State Under 131.5
Kansas State -10.5
Illinois Fighting Illini at Maryland Terrapins -9
Illinois can force a lot of turnovers. Problem is their defense has no other real positives, opposing teams that can hold onto the ball shoot 47% from the field and 36% from behind the arc. They are going to look to push the pace on Saturday to stop the strength of the Maryland frontcourt
Maryland has the size downlow with NBA prospect Bruno Fernando, Illinois has no one on their roster that will be able to handle him. The Illini do have two 7’0 centers on the fringes of their rotation, but in the top seven, Giorgi Bezhanishvili is the only one who could be considered a “big man”, he will be no match for the bruising Fernando on Saturday. As long as point guard Anthony Cowan can continue his solid big ten play the Terrapins should roll to victory at home tomorrow.
The numbers back up Maryland as they are 5-0 ATS last five after a loss. Grab this game before the number goes up for Maryland.
Vanderbilt Commodores at Oklahoma Sooners -10
Oklahoma has been great ATS after a win. The Sooners are 11-1-1 over their last 13 after a victory. They will get a Vanderbilt team that has been reeling since the loss of Darius Garland. Losers of six straight games, squandering a chance to have a historic win against #1 Tennessee. The Vanderbilt team won’t be able to work off what could have been a very big and needed emotional boost.
Sooners are 7-1 at home this season with their lone loss coming to Kansas State. Oklahoma rides the momentum from their win over Oklahoma State to get the triumph here.
Marquette Golden Eagles -2 at Xavier Musketeers
The Marquette Golden Eagles have won six straight games, finding themselves just one half game behind the Villanova Wildcats for first place in the Big East. Star Marcus Howard has been the catalyst all season along with Sam Hauser. Hauser in particular has emerged as the #2 scoring option averaging 15 ppg this season. The key to the game though will be sophomore Theo John. The emergence of the 6-foot-9 sophomore center has given the Golden Eagles a jolt defensively that has made them a better team. Marquette is holding opponents to 68.9 points per game on 40.1 percent shooting, noticeable improvements on last season’s numbers of 78.5 and 47.9, respectively.
The Xavier Musketeers have not had the season they hoped for after last year’s Sweet Sixteen team. Xavier absorbed a 70-52 beating in Milwaukee on Jan. 6, shooting just 31.5 percent while making 1 of 14 from 3-point range. Revenge will be on the mind of the Musketeers who are 0-3 currently against top 25 teams this season. Naji Marshall one of the top scorers for Xavier all season is questionable with a shoulder injury. His absence will change this line before the morning. Either way Marquette is 6-1 ATS in its last 7 road games as the favorite.
Dictating the pace of this game will be important. Xavier will want a grind it out inside game while Marquette is going to look to go up pace and find room for Howard to work. I like Marquette to win and cover.
Under Texas/ Georgia
Under Texas AM/ Kansas State
Over Marshall/Southern Miss
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.
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
Pittsburgh Steelers -3.5 at Cleveland Browns
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a major problem but the Browns are not that problem. Despite the absence of LeVeon Bell the Pittsburgh Steelers should be in a great place to cover on Sunday. The lose of bell has moved the line to 3.5. The Browns are improved with Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry and a healthy Josh Gordon should allow them to put points on the board but the Steelers still have a dominate offense that will be able to pull this one out by a touchdown. I think the Browns will win at least 6-7 games this season and surprise a lot of teams, but the Steelers offense feels like they have something to prove on Sunday and the Cleveland defense will not be ready for James Conner and Big Ben.
The Steelers are 13-4 ATS vs Cleveland over their last 17 games. Cleveland has not one a season opener since 2004.
Steelers -3.5 (Like the over at 44)
Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts -2.5
The return of Andrew Luck makes the Bengals and Colts makes this a much more interesting matchup then it would have been in 2017. The Colts sitting at a 2.5 point favorite stills surprised us. The Bengals may not be world beaters but they have veterans all through the offense and a defensive front that features studs Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson.
Luck hasn’t played in a year and that Colts line hasn’t gotten much better. I can’t buy that Luck is ready to step in right away and look like the Pro Bowl player that he was right away. Look for Luck to make some plays that reminds us of his greatness but he will have some first game jitters.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints -9.5
In two games against the Buccaneers last season, the Saints averaged 30.5 points per game, Drew Brees averaged 254 pass yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, the running back corps averaged 121.5 rushing yards, and receivers caught 44 passes for 505 yards with three touchdowns. The Buccaneers have not made big improvements on the defensive end. Why would they be able to stop the Saints in 2018??
Jameis Winston will be serving the first game of his 3 game suspension which means veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will step in to try take down the great Drew Brees. 9.5 is a lot of points for the first game of the year, but when you have a veteran like Brees and dynamic players like Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas the Saints should control the the game on offense and the ball hawking defense should cause plenty of turnovers i
Air Force at Florida Atlantic University -9
FAU was embarrassed in their opener versus Kyler Murray and the Oklahoma Sooners in week one. Air Force is not Oklahoma. It’s time for people to jump back on the Lane Train in week 2.
Florida Atlantic will come out throwing the ball early, jumping ahead and not looking back. Air Force dominated a Stoney Brook but Stoney Brook is does not have the talent level of Florida Atlantic. Being at home and most likely going to be very motivated I like Florida Atlantic to turn the table and blow out Air Force.
Florida Atlantic -9
Arkansas -14 at Colorado State
The Colorado State defense stinks. Giving up 45 and 43 to Hawaii and Colorado. They now are staring at an incoming SEC team in Arkansas. Arkansas threw for 343 yards in game one against Eastern Illinois. Colorado State has given up a 373 yards per game in the first two games of the season.
Arkansas will score and they will score and they will score. That was not a typo. I see Arkansas putting up a lot of points and silencing any potential home field advantage. I would take Arkansas by 21 if it went that high.
James “Why Not” Pick of the Week
Houston Texans +6.5
The Patriots gave up a lot of yards in 2017. The Texans will have back their second year QB Deshaun Watson who was putting up MVP like numbers before his injury. Watson is good and his receivers are good. The Patriots historically have come out of the gates sluggish until Belicheck figures everything out. Look for a high scoring game where the better defense makes a big play. Houston has the better defense. Houston may not only cover but I could see them knocking of the AFC Champs.