January 12, 2016 (4:00 PM ET)
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1) Take Boston Celtics at -1 spread against New York Knicks for 3% of the bankroll.
The Celtics are a good team but they are currently undervalued after a rare rough stretch that has seen them lose 4 of the last 5 games! It's worth noting that they completely outplayed the Grizzlies in Memphis for 3 full quarters before complacency got the better of them. They led by as much as 21 points but were outscored by double-digits in the 4th quarter, suffering a narrow loss! We believe they will be looking to atone for that and will come out of the gate motivated and determined tonight. And unlike in their last game, they'll know that the game is far from finished regardless of what type of lead they have. This is a squad that is finally healthy and does not have any players out injured. Avery Bradley made his comeback after 3 games out, playing 38 minutes against the Grizzlies. With him and everybody else available and ready to contribute, we believe they'll turn their recent woes around and secure a much needed W against an Atlantic division and playoff rival.
Brad Stevens is arguably the best 'in-game' coach in the NBA in the sense that he continously designs nearly flawless plays coming out of time-outs to get the better of matchups and make full use of each player's unique strengths and weaknesses! While we're fans of former PG, Derek Fisher, he is not at the same level, tactically, as the former Butler coach. Stevens has shown his ability to not only motivate his side to play with a chip on their shoulders and bounce back from similar situations in the past but to also get the very best out of each individual. With the C's underestimated for perhaps the first time, this season, coming off 3 consecutive losses, we expect a massive effort from his team tonight! Especially since a loss would drop them to a .500 record and into a tie with the surging Knicks! In what is a much tougher Eastern conference this year, Boston is already not in a playoff spot despite their winning record. To fall further below 9th place is not in their plans and would be extra costly against a direct rival since it would boost New York's post-season aspirations. Despite dropping 3 in a row, Boston is only half a game behind the struggling Orlando Magic for that 8th and final playoff spot! Look for them to give everything they have tonight to go into a virtual tie with the Magic while creating some much needed separation from the chasing pack.
This is an intriguing contest but the main matchup advantage for the Celtics should come from the point-guard position where neither the aging Jose Calderon nor youngster Jerian Grant will have an answer for the explosive Isaiah Thomas! The talented southpaw nearly single-handedly won Boston the game in Memphis with his 35 points and yet despite his stellar effort, he was quick to blame himself for the team's recent slide! That showed maturity and leadership and proves once again that he's ready for the spotlight and for putting this team on his shoulders as he did for much of 2015. Look for Evan Turner to give him a hand offensively while Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley do their best to guard Arron Afflalo and company. Given that the Celtics were out-hustled by nearly 20 rebounds against the Grizzlies, we don't see them boxing out as inefficiently tonight. That'll surely be a point of emphasis by the coaching staff and we expect to see a better effort on the glass against the Knicks tonight. Afterall, it's not often that an NBA team holds another to 37% shooting from the field and yet loses the game but that's exactly what happened to the C's last time out due to being outplayed on the boards! Despite throwing away that game, this team has played better on the road than at TD Garden this season and we expect them to make up for their last effort and secure another road victory.
The Celtics have had New York's number in recent meetings, winning the last four! They did so again just over two weeks ago winning nearly by double-digits and that's largely due to the matchup problems they present for the Knicks in both the PG position and thanks to the fact that their bigs, like Sullinger and Olynik can shoot the 3-ball well. Let's also not forget that Brad Stevens' team is 40-27 ATS (against-the-spread) over the last 2 seasons against poor defensive teams, meaning those that allow 99 or more points per game on average! The Knicks have been hot recently while the Celtics have been cold and that means Boston will be the more desperate team in this contest. They will play with great urgency since they do not wanna fall into a mediocre 19-19 record and into a tie with the very team that they're playing against. Look for them to prove doubters wrong as they snap this 3-game skid and right the ship. It's also worth noting that the Knicks have a crosstown game against the Brooklyn Nets tomorrow which will take some of their attention away due to local bragging rights. This should be a tightly contested battle but we forsee them falling short against the hungry Celtics tonight.
2) Take West Virginia at +2 spread against Kansas for 3% of the bankroll.
The Kansas Jayhawks have won 13 consecutive games since suffering their early season (and only) loss to the Michigan State Spartans. They are the unquestioned number 1 team in the country and are coming off one of the greatest regular season college basketball games of all-time when they defeated #2-ranked Oklahoma in a triple-overtime instant classic 109-106! They have played an extremely tough schedule, but it's important to note that even though they come into this contest undefeated in conference play, their 3 victories thus far have all come at Allen Fieldhouse, where the Jayhawks are 198-9 under head coach Bill Self. Heading out on the road is an extremely different atmosphere, especially when being ranked as the #1 team. The Jayhawks have a huge target on their backs and we believe their opponents will take advantage of that opportunity tonight.
Like the Jayhawks, the West Virginia Mountaineers are also undefeated in conference play thus far this season, however unlike their counterparts; they opened their conference schedule on the road and managed to come away with wins at both Kansas State and TCU. They also hold a 77-60 home win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys in their last contest to come into this matchup 3-0 in conference play. This is a big-time matchup for the Mountaineers as all roads to the Big 12 title have run through Kansas. A victory over the Jayhawks would be that resume seeking win that the Mountaineers have been looking for this season and we believe they can get it.
The Mountaineers are a very well rounded team on both sides of the ball and one of the conference’s elite. Thus far this season they rank #1 in the conference in scoring margin (+22.6), three-point FG% defense (25.4%), rebounding margin (+11.8), steals (11.3), and turnover margin (+6.3). As a team they use their press defense to generate consistent pressure and create havoc on opposing ball handlers and force turnovers. They have limited opponents to just 91.2 points per 100 possessions so far this season!
Kansas is a big name program but if the Mountaineers continue to play at home as they have been all season long, they will be able to pull off the upset. The Jayhawks own the series meeting, going 4-2 in the last 6, however it's worth mentioning that the Mountaineers have won 2 straight, with both wins coming in Morgantown. The depth and play of their reserve guards have been instrumental in West Virginia's success this season. The entire team will no doubt be motivated in this contest and we expect this to be a closely contested matchup, possibly coming down to the final possession. We believe West Virginia can pull off the upset but if they fall short by a buzzer beater, the points should prove to be valuable.
Other notable facts to consider:
- West Virginia is 9-2 ATS in their last 11 home games.
- The road team is just 1-5 ATS in the last 6 meetings of these two schools.
- West Virginia is 5-0 ATS in their last 5 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
- West Virginia 7-2-1 ATS in their last 10 home games vs. teams with a great than 60% road winning percentage.
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