March 11, 2016 (1:35 PM ET)
There are 2 picks tonight.
NOTE: Connecticut vs. Cincinnati was released yesterday, a day in advance!
1) Take Boston Celtics at -5.5 spread against Houston Rockets for 3% of the bankroll.
The Celtics have won 14 in a row at the TD Garden in Boston and are in the midst of making history! This is their longest home winning streak in 25 years and they know the importance of extending it, given that their next visitors are Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Rockets have a 3 game lead over the Utah Jazz for that 8th and final playoff position in the West and that means this particular game is suddenly not a 'must-win' like many of their recent ones have been. Houston is a team that plays well when it wants to and takes nights off, when it feels like it. Their squad, while talented, is also fairly unprofessional and doesn't always play hard. Given that they are in a safer position now than they were going into their last couple of games, we wouldn't be surprised to see a typically 'inconsistent' effort from them tonight.
The Celtics are the much better coached team with Brad Stevens continuing to do miracles while JB Bickerstaff is very fortunate that the Rockets front office gave him the job after the impulsive firing of Kevin McHale early in the season! Stevens has built a squad that has great chemistry and loves playing with each other. No player is bigger than the team and every individual on this roster seems to know their particular role and what is expected of them. They share the ball well and have averaged 112.4 points on this current 14-game home streak! Defensively however, is where they have a decisive advantage over their opponents, given that they are much more organized than Houston and create tons of turnovers. Given that the Texans play at a very high-tempo and like to push the ball in transition, that is a recipe for disaster against a Boston team that is among the very best in the league in forcing turnovers!
Another important edge that the C's will have tonight is the fact that they are solely focused on the task at hand while the same can not be said for the Rockets. That's because Celtics don't play another game until the 15th of March after this game which means they can afford to keep key players on the court and don't have any upcoming games to 'look ahead to'. Harden and Houston on the other hand have another game tomorrow night and may not elect to expend a lot of energy to rally from a big deficit. The fact that they have another game scheduled for tomorrow means they also need to prepare for that and ideally keep players fresh for. Celtics will be concentrating on extending their unbeaten home run to 15 games and don't have to worry about travelling, or be distracted by an upcoming game. It's also worth noting that James Harden has averaged just 12.7 points in the city of Boston in his NBA career! We expect him to do much better than that tonight but that doesn't mean the Rockets can keep up on the scoreboard, given their defensive holes. Coach Stevens has found ways to at least 'limit' Harden more than most other coaches and with good defenders such as Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart, 'The Beard' may not be as efficient from the field as he normally is. He'll still score a bunch of points but how many shots he takes to get them will determine whether his team wins or not and unless others can step up to help him out, we don't believe this game will be close. Boston is the better team, and they will have no shortage of motivation to get another W. Look for them to pull away and cover the spread in the process.
Other notable facts to consider:
- Celtics are 14-5 ATS when the total is set at 210 points or higher!
- Celtics have covered 8 of 12 spreads when playing on Friday nights.
- Rockets are just 9-14 ATS when attempting to avenge a previous loss.
2) Take Connecticut at +1 spread against Cincinnati for 3% of the bankroll.
This should be considered a huge matchup for the UConn Huskies as they take on the Cincinnati Bearcats in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. At the moment, UConn is projected among the last four in when it comes to an invitation to the Big Dance. A loss in this contest would be devastating so you can expect the players and coaches to treat this game as absolute must-win.
This is also a big time revenge game for the Huskies as Cincinnati got the better of them twice already this season. As if having a possible spot in the Big Dance to play for, the Huskies also have the added motivation of revenge in this contest. It is incredibly difficult to defeat the same team three times in a season and with so much on the line, we expect to see arguably the Huskies best effort this afternoon. Cincinnati is a team that has been ranked in the Top 25 for much of the season, but in our opinion, they have been somewhat overrated. They finished the season with a 61-54 home win over No. 24 SMU, knocking the Mustangs out of a chance to share the AAC regular-season title with Temple. While the Bearcats don't have any "bad losses" on the season, they also don't have any quality non-conference wins either. They defeat of VCU was arguably their best win of the season. UConn should prove to be a stern test for the Bearcats in this one.
Cincinnati has likely locked up their spot in the field of 68 no matter what happens in this contest. They simply do not need to win this as much as their counterparts. They have already defeated the Huskies twice on the season so a question as to where they are going to draw their motivation from certainly has to be asked. Having defeated this team twice this season it would be extremely easy for the players to overlook this team heading into this contest. The Huskies have been one of the nation’s best teams defensively, holding their opponents to just 62 points per game. We have seen the Cincinnati offense go cold for long periods in the past and if UConn is the more aggressive team defensively, which we expect them to be, that should be enough to edge out a victory.
Something else that is worth mentioning is that one of UConn's star players, Amida Brahma missed the first meeting between these two teams and only played a handful of minutes in the second. Brahma can be a force in the paint and could be the X factor for the Huskies in this contest. The Huskies also have an extremely talented backcourt, which many feel have underperformed this season. The trio of Sterling Gibbs, Rodney Purvis and Daniel Hamilton appeared to be (at least on paper) to have been among the best in the nation. They haven't quite performed up to the level that many had expected, however, with this arguably being the biggest game of the season; we wouldn't be surprised if they put together their best performances of the year. Both defenses will make the points hard to come by in this contest, but with the Huskies ultimately needing this game to keep their NCAA Tournament bid alive and also avoid getting swept 3-0 by the Bearcats, look for them to do just enough to come away with the outright victory.
Other notable facts to consider:
- UConn is 12-5 ATS in the last 17 meetings.
- Cincinnati is 1-5 ATS in their last 6 neutral site games.
- Cincinnati is 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games following an ATS win.
- Cincinnati is 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games following a straight up win.
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