March 24, 2016 (3:25 PM ET)
There are two picks tonight.
1: Take New Orleans Pelicans +13 spread against Indiana Pacers for 3% of the bankroll.
As handicappers, it's our job to identify matchups that provide 'value' and take advantage of them. This particular spread is a good example of that. That's because while this is a mismatch in some ways, the Vegas line is certainly inflated on the favorite! The Pelicans will in all likelihood lose this game but are they being spotted too many points? Yes. They shoud be 10 or 11 point underdogs by our estimates but have been installed as a hefty +13 dog! It would not surprise us to see them stay within this generous spread and put up a better fight than most expect.
When a team has its star player out, others often form a strong bond and step up in his absence. That is the case here tonight as Anthony Davis among others will be missing from action. The Pels have battled injuries all season long and have by now found ways to remain competitive despite their unfortunate luck. This is a season that from the very onset, saw them have multiple players sidelined and that trend has continued since. Alvin Gentry has figured out ways for this team to battle those issues and even win a game here and there and while we don't expect them to cause an upset tonight, we don't believe they'll just lay down. Even if we're wrong about that however, laying 13 points is very dangerous because it leaves them open to giving up a backdoor cover. That means even a 20-point lead going into the 4th quarter isn't necessarily enough as the underdog may then win the final interval 28-20 and sneak in for the cover! A lot can go wrong, in relation to the spread, when people decide to back a big favorite like Indiana tonight and yet that's what the majority are doing with Frank Vogel's side being a public favorite.
Indiana wants to win this game to keep its playoff spot intact but whether they win it by 10 or 16 makes no difference to them. In fact, they'd much rather win (by any margin including a smaller one) and give their stars some rest to avoid injuries than win by 13+ but potentially pick up an untimely injury to a player that didn't have to play intense minutes in the 4th quarter, and severely hurt their playoff aspirations. You can therefore expect fringe players like Glenn Robinson, Joe Young and Solomon Hill to maybe get some playing time if the Pacers mount a comfortable lead in this one. Some of those players are rusty and are unlikely to contribute positively! That's when the lead often gets diminished and the visitors might get a second life. The Pacers are simply focused on getting the 'W' and the margin of victory does not matter to them which means their backers' interests are not necessarily aligned with theirs.
The depleted New Orleans squad has shown that it can surprise teams that overlook them as the Clippers did a few nights ago! They then lost to Miami Heat on Tuesday which was expected but even in that game, they displayed their grit and determination by rallying from a huge 22-point deficit to pull within 5 points of Wade and company! This is a tenacious squad that fights until the final buzzer and has a number of players finally getting a chance to showcase their abilities. Guys like Luke Babbitt, Toney Douglas, Alonzo Gee and Dante Cunningham have rarely started games, meanwhile young PG Tim Frazier is on a 10-day deal and fighting for a contract after being waived by the Blazers earlier this season! In short, the team won't be making the playoffs but it is made up of players that have a point to prove as well as the exceptional talent and skill of former All-Star Jrue Holiday, who is coming off an inefficient performance where he shot the ball poorly. He'll be keen to bounce back against Indiana tonight and will be helped by a group of low profile teammates that no one is expecting much from and fly under the radar.
All the pressure is on the home side in this matchup and that means the visitors can play loose and free. Indiana's superior quality will see them pull away at some stage and win this game but this is an inflated spread that should not see them as 13-point favorites! That means there's value backing the underdog tonight. One note-worthy trend is that the Pacers are an ugly 0-8 ATS since December after Paul George was their highest scorer in a home win! Finally the fact that New Orleans has not beaten Indiana since 2011 means the Pacers might well look past them and assume this should be an easy one. Complacency is a killer in the NBA and while it doesn't always cost the team in terms of wins and losses, it often does have an impact on the Vegas line and what is known as the 'great equalizer' aka the spread! New Orleans wants to exact revenge and avoid being dominated by this franchise and will be motivated to at least put in a good showing to keep the final score respectable.
2: Take Oregon -3 spread against Duke for 3% of the bankroll. (Released on Tuesday)
There is no doubt the Duke Blue Devils are an elite program in the college basketball world and a lot of that has to do with head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Their victory over Yale in the round of 32 marked Coach K's 90th NCAA Tournament victory! That is an incredibly impressive accomplishment, especially considering that only one other coach has even competed in 90 NCAA Tournament games in their career (UNC’s Roy Williams), let alone win them. This will also be Coach K's 23d appearance in the Sweet 16 which is yet another NCAA record. There is no question that Coach K has the experience, however we don’t believe that experience will be enough this season as the Ducks are the team that we believe have the most talent.
For the most part, the Blue Devils had a rather mediocre regular season. They went 25-10 and just 14-18 against the number, which is not something that is really expected from the defending National Champs. There is no question that this is a much different team than the one who managed to win the title last season and a big part of that is due to their lack of playmakers and depth. While Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram do a bulk of the heavy lifting offensively for the blue Devils, they have a very thin rotation which typically only utilizes a 6 or 7 players in the rotation. We believe their lack of depth will hurt them in this matchup against an Oregon team that not only plays a very similar style of game to that of the Blue Devils, but also employs a very deep bench.
The Ducks were certainly tested in their last contest and many believe they were fortunate to come away with a victory over the St Joe's Redhawks. Oregon was down by 7 with 5 minutes to go before a pair of 3-pointers changed the landscape of the game. What was most impressive to us was the fact that not only did the Ducks manage to rally for the win, but they did so despite not having their best performance. Oregon shot just 25% from beyond the arc and also managed to get outrebounded by the smaller Redhawk players. The fact that they were able to handle the adversity and also rally for the victory despite having a mediocre performance is a testament to just how good this team is and that heart and determination will pay dividends in this contest.
On offense, the Ducks typically like to play a run and gun style of basketball, similar to that of the Blue Devils. They have the ability to play inside, are solid rebounding the basketball and can shoot the three-pointers; everything that Duke does well. The glaring difference between these teams however is on the defensive side. Oregon has held their opponents to just an average of 68 points per game and that will likely be the difference in this contest. Oregon prefers to use a press-style of defense and defends in the full court. What this is going to do is force the Duke players to consistently run up and down the court trying to shake the defender. For a team that has a lack of depth, this could be an issue as the game wears on a fatigue sets in. The Yale Bulldogs employed a similar press against Duke in their matchup and managed to cut a 23 point second half deficit to just 3 points! The Duke players cracked under the consistent pressure and force the ball handlers into mistakes which is exactly what we expect the Ducks to do in this contest.
Also, as good as the Blue Devils are offensively, this team is also solely reliant on the production of both Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram. If the Ducks can get one (or both) players into some early foul trouble, it could potentially turn this game into a blowout. This will be the Ducks first meeting against an ACC team, but both programs share a common opponent this season. Duke fell to the Utah Utes, 77-75 in double overtime on a neutral court in New York. Meanwhile the Ducks were a perfect 3-0 on the season against the Utah.
Duke is a big name program and undoubtedly will see quite a bit of love getting a full basket, however we believe the line is set where it is at for a reason. The Ducks are a solid team that matches up with the Blue Devils extremely well. They have been undervalued as a legitimate number 1 seed and we expect them to play like it against their biggest named opponent of the season. This will likely be a close game in the early going, however the Oregon defense will get some critical stops while their offense makes the plays necessary to get the win and cover and punch their ticket into the Elite Eight!
Other notable facts to consider:
- Duke is 1-7 ATS in their last 8 neutral site games!
- Oregon is 7-2 ATS in their last 9 NCAA Tournament games!
- Oregon is 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games following a win!
- Oregon is 11-4 ATS in their last 15 games vs. teams with a winning record!
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