March 15, 2016 (4:00 PM ET)
There are a total of 4 picks tonight.
The college selection on Wichita State was released four hours ago.
1: Take LA Lakers at +5 spread against Sacramento Kings for 3% of the bankroll.
The dysfunctional Kings have lost their last 5 games and are once again embroiled in a messy situation. Dropping consecutive games can be excusable when a team is giving its all but when multiple players are putting out lackluster efforts on a consistent basis and have not 'bought in', it is a recipe for disaster. The Sacramento squad is split in its respect for coach George Karl. Some listen to his intructions and handle themselves in a professional manner while others like DeMarcus Cousins continuously defy authority, object to his every call and even publicly berate their coach on national TV! To have your star player act in such a negative way trickles down and is severely detrimental to cohesion and locker room harmony.
All those internal problems have translated to a lack of chemistry on the court and it seems like some players either don't know what their specific defensive role/assignment is, or simply don't care to follow the coach's instructions. Needless to say, regardless of whose fault it is, this is a talented but dysfunctional squad that will once again be watching the playoffs from home and has no business laying 5 points on the road! The Kings have dropped 5 in a row and hardly resemble a team that can 'close out' games let alone do so by a comfortable margin. This spread is inflated and presents value on the home underdog.
The LA Lakers might be the worst team in the Western conference this year but they have been playing better than Sacramento since the All-Star break. These two teams have been heading in opposite directions recently and although Los Angels has fallen short in some games, they have been a lot more competitive over the past few weeks and have finally turned a corner or two. They have a long way to go and are a poor team but so are the Kings. As poor as LA has been, they at least put in a good fight and try their best. The same can't be said for a Sacramento side that seems to play well when it 'feels like it' but takes most nights off. There's no doubt that Byron Scott's squad will be motivated for this contest as they do NOT want to become the first team in franchise history to be swept by the Kings! They have already lost to Sacramento 3 times this season and with this being the 4th and final meeting between the two clubs, we expect a solid effort from them tonight.
Cousins and company are just 1-8 ATS when listed in the role of small (3 or less points) road favorites over the last 3 seasons having actually lost 8 of those 9 games! This is a role that they've continuously fallen short in therefore, except now they are being asked to not only win this game but to do so comfortably by 6 or more points. We believe this line has moved too much after the announcement that Kobe Bryant will not participate and now presents value on the capable and revenge-minded underdogs. The fact that the Kings travel back to Sacramento to play another game tomorrow night does not help their cause in this spot either. The quick turnaround forces them to limit certain players' mintues tonight in order to keep them fresh for tomorrow. The Lakers meanwhile will be solely focused on the task at hand and should challenge for the outright victory! Even if they fall short, we believe the 5 points are precious and may well come into play. Fade the team in turmoil as the Kings have all kinds of internal issues with their coach, players, upper management and general harmony and are laying too many points in this game.
2: Take Indiana Pacers at -2 spread (buy half a point) against Boston Celtics for 3% of bankroll.
The Boston Celtics travel to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to take on the Pacers tonight. This is a crucial game for the Pacers in regards to playoffs as they currently sit 7th in the East and are by no means 'safe'. They need to start this homestand strong to keep chasing teams like the Pistons and Bulls at bay in order to secure post-season basketball. Pacers have managed to take 2 of 3 from the Celtics this season and present matchup problems for them. Nonetheless they are the ones that will actually be looking for revenge as Boston beat Indiana 103-94 back on Jan 13th. With such a close race in the Eastern conference, the Pacers really need to start piling up the wins and tonight they are catching the Celtics in an unfavorable spot.
Boston comes into this game off a 102-98 home loss to the Houston Rockets. That loss snapped the C's 14-game home winning streak! They allowed the Rockets to shoot 46% from the field, while their own offense struggled, shooting only 37%! This is a tough spot for the Celtics to bounce back they have not played since March 11th! It's worth noting that the Celtics are just 6-10 ATS when playing with 3 or more days of rest over the last 3 seasons. This matchup with the Pacers is sandwiched directly between a long layoff and an ESPN showdown when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder tomorrow night!
The Celtics will also be without the services of Jae Crowder in this contest. Crowder is an underrated and pivotal player on this team. He's their best 'two-way' player and will be surely be missed especially because of his defensive efforts as he's often tasked with guarding the opposition's best player. That will leave either Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart the unenviable task of defending Paul George, a player who will certainly have a size advantage in that matchup. Crowder is also extremely underrated for his offensive contributions as well. He is an all-around producer who's having a career season!
The Pacers are coming off an embarrassing loss as they were completely blown out by the Atlanta Hawks, 104-75 in their last contest, which was a season-low in points scored for Indiana! There is no question that they will be looking to rebound from that performance and have a chance to do that tonight in front of their home crowd, a place that has lent itself well to the Pacers. Indiana is 9-4 ATS as home favorites of 3 points or less over the last 3 seasons! Frank Vogel's side needs this win more than their opponents tonight. Isaiah Thomas will no doubt get his points, but the Pacers have been dominant on the glass this season and should hold the rebounding advantage against the 'smaller' Celtics. Look for them to turn that edge into a win and cover!
3: Take Brooklyn Nets at -7 spread (buy half a point) against Philadelphia 76ers for 3% of bankroll.
These two teams sit at the bottom of the Eastern conference but they shouldn't be painted with the same brush. The Nets have won twice (18) as many games as the 76ers this season and are not the doormat that Philadelphia has been. Many of their losses have been close and competitive while Brett Brown's squad has suffered more double-digit losses than any other NBA team! Therefore while both teams are poor, one is still significantly better than the other one and that should not be overlooked.
Not only is Brooklyn the better team, they currently have a much healthier squad. The 76ers are missing 3 regular starters (Covington, Grant and Okafor) and lack depth in the front-court as Holmes will also sit this one out. That means veterans like Carl Landry and Elton Brand may be called into action but those two are way past their prime and have had very little game time this season. To now be tasked with the responsibility of limiting former All-Star Brook Lopez who's having another solid season is troublesome. Former 76er, Thaddeus Young also presents problems for Philadelphia as his athleticism is matched by only Nerlens Noel given the current set of injuries. He has averaged 20.3 points and 10 rebounds against his former team this season and might do even better tonight!
The Nets will be extremely motivated for this contest. That's because they are currently the laughing stock of the league, having lost not once but twice to these dismal 76ers! Philadelphia has won only two if its last 20 games and the fact that both came against Brooklyn does not sit well with the New Yorkers. They know they overlooked them as recently as a four days ago and won't be making that mistake again. They will be fully focused on exacting revenge tonight and we believe they'll hold a comfortable double-digit lead for much of the contest.
Brooklyn has rarely been installed as a favorite this season, let alone as a significant one. The fact that they opened as 7 point favorites by Vegas tells you something! They are much better tahn their opponents and have a score to settle against the East's worst team. They present matchup problems for the injury-riddled 76ers and should score a blowout victory, barring a late and meaningless backdoor cover.
4: Take Wichita State at -3 spread (buy half a point) against Vanderbilt for 3% of bankroll.
The Wichita State Shockers had big hopes coming into this season, but injuries earlier on appeared to railroad this team as they dropped 5 of their first 10 games to begin the year. Their early season struggles took some of the spotlight off of them, which should be looked at as a positive heading into the tournament. They were forced to re-invent themselves and have gone 19-3 since Dec 20th. They are the healthiest that they have been all season and are a legitimate threat to once again make a deep run in the tournament.
The Shockers are a team that has made the Big Dance 5 straight times and surprised everyone last year with wins over highly touted Indiana and Kansas to reach the Sweet Sixteen. If you recall, in their breakout 2013 season, the shockers made it all the way to Final 4. This is a team that is built for this type of tournament and has all the tools necessary to make another deep run, including their core personnel in Ron Baker and MVC players of the year, Fred VanVleet. After having such success in this format and now being forced into this 'play-in game', we expect the Shockers to come out with a chip on their shoulders in this one.
The Vanderbilt Commodores have been an inconsistent team all season long and come limping into this play in game. They have lost two straight, including a first round exit in the SEC tournament, losing to another inconsistent team, the Tennessee Volunteers. Vanderbilt will no doubt have a size advantage in this contest, but they are extremely inexperienced when it comes to tournament play as only Josh Henderson has Big Dance experience. The reason for their inconsistency is that Vanderbilt is a team that relies heavily on their three-point shooting and when their shots are falling, they are an incredibly tough team to beat. On the other hand, when they struggle from deep, they have a difficult time putting points on the board. The Commodores are also very thin up front and only use a 6-man rotation, which can lead to fatigue down the stretch!
While they lack size comparable to the Commodores, they do have other advantages that they should be able to exploit in this contest. The Shockers use a 10 man rotation which allows them to consistently flood the court with fresh legs. This allows them to play for a full 40 minutes and control the pace, especially on the defensive side. Fatigue is the number one reason why defenses breakdown and Wichita State has been solid at keeping their defensive pressure. Since New Year’s Eve (21 games), their defense has only allowed 60 or more points only 5 times and the most they’ve given up in that span is 68!
The Shockers have the experience and likely the motivation edge in this contest to come away with a victory and move on to the next round. This will likely be a closely contested matchup, however Wichita State's ability to make critical stops on defense late in the game while also closing things out with free throws should be enough for them to come away with the win and cover this short spread.
Other notable facts to consider:
- Vanderbilt is 1-4 ATS in their last five NCAA Tournament games!
- Wichita State is 7-3 ATS in their last 10 NCAA Tournament games!
- Wichita State is a perfect 4-0 ATS in their last four games following a defeat!
- Vanderbilt 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games against teams with winning percentages over .600!
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