Friday, March 21, 2014

Day 4 Open Thread + Picking The Lines

There are a few too many narratives going on about the Louisville game. Louisville struggled against an inferior team. Manhattan is not Cal Poly - they are a team that started the season thinking potential at-large bid. In the end, Louisville recovered and came up 9.5 points short of covering the spread. You know what other team recovered late but still ended up exactly 9.5 points short of covering the spread? Florida. But they played a significant weaker opponent, so it didn't look like they might lose, and so there isn't the same angst about them.

In the end, I went 10-4-2 against the spread yesterday, with some luck going both ways. I still can't understand how NC State blew things against St. Louis. At the same time, I got lucky with the UConn and Michigan State covers. This kind of luck evens out over the long run.

Let's get to Friday's games and hope for a day as good as Thursday.

Please join me in the comments below for a discussion or catch me on twitter. Below are my picks against the spread:

Yesterday ATS: 10-4-2
2014 Tournament ATS: 14-4-2
2013 Tournament ATS: 36-30-1
2012 Tournament ATS: 30-35-2
2011 Tournament ATS: 40-26-1
2010 Tournament ATS: 35-25-3

Duke (-12.5) over Mercer: This is a reasonably fair line, but this a game where Duke can really blow the doors off an opponent. This is a trendy upset pick, but I'm not sure why. Duke scores on everybody, and the one part of their defense that is working pretty well is preventing threes, which are the most important part of Mercer's offense. Could be a rout.

Nebraska (+3.5) over Baylor: Baylor does match up well with Nebraska, I think. Nebraska is not built to take advantage of Baylor's weaknesses (such as poor defensive rebounding). And certainly Nebraska is a team that can shoot themselves out of a game... but what stands out to me with this spread is that as good as Baylor has been over the month, Nebraska has been just as good. I think this is going to be a really tight one, and easily could come down to the final possession. I feel like taking the points is the safer bet.

New Mexico (-3) over Stanford: I'm concerned about Stanford's lack of depth in this game. Also, against Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk, you either need a monster front line of your own or you need to be strong offensively on the perimeter, and Stanford is neither of those. The Cardinal rely on getting in the paint and scoring from there, but that's going to be difficult unless New Mexico's front line gets in foul trouble.

Weber State (+20) over Arizona: The dreaded 1-16 betting line. As always, I advise laying off these lines. I'll give Weber State a shot at getting hot in this game, though. They have shooters all over their lineup, and hit 41.7% behind the arc in conference play. Arizona's perimeter defense is good, of course, so let's not take seriously the idea of Weber State winning this game, but I can see them shooting well enough to make Arizona sweat this game like Florida sweat out their game yesterday.

Tennessee (-4.5) over UMass: If anything, this spread should be larger. Tennessee was the significantly better team this season. They also have a match-up advantage in that they aggressively go after the offensive glass, while UMass was a below-average defensive rebounding team in the Atlantic Ten. If UMass wins this game, it'll be the second-most surprising upset of the tourney so far (after Dayton over Ohio State).

Creighton (-14) over Louisiana-Lafayette: Louisiana-Lafayette was the fifth best defense... in the Sun Belt. Creighton should light them up. I always feel better with these 12-16 point spreads when the score should be high. Creighton could easily have 50 points at halftime in this game.

Eastern Kentucky (+14) over Kansas: Looking for a 2/15 game that could prettaaay, prettaaay interesting on Friday? Look at this game. Eastern Kentucky plays an aggressive, feisty perimeter defense that could give the Kansas ball handlers some trouble. We all know that Kansas is always a Naadir Tharpe stinker from losing to a fairly mediocre team. They're not likely to lose here, but don't be surprised if this one is pretty close.

Oklahoma State (-3) over Gonzaga: It's possible that Sam Dower goes for 25 points against this undersized Oklahoma State front line and wins this game, but this year's Gonzaga team hasn't really been able to take advantage of smaller opponents like they could the last couple of years. This year's team is more of a defense-first, low-scoring team. In my opinion, this Oklahoma State team is awfully good, maybe one of the 15 best teams in the nation. They should win this game and give Arizona a really tough game in the next round.

George Washington (+3) over Memphis: Well, I picked George Washington to win this game outright, so I have to take the points. Read my reasoning here.

Wichita State (-16) over Cal Poly: In games with a spread this big, you need a reason why the underdog can potentially keep the game close. But what would be the reason Cal Poly can keep this game close? Where is their match-up advantage? What's the "Cal Poly pulled Wichita State into the final minute because [/something]" headline?

Providence (+4) over North Carolina: North Carolina is the favorite, and deservedly so. I took them in my bracket. But as you see in my breakdown, I view this as almost a toss-up game. If this is a physical game with a lot of free throws, which it very well might, Providence has a substantial FT% advantage (78.1% vs 62.5%). The Friars can definitely win this game outright.

VCU (-6.5) over Stephen F. Austin: Everybody you know who never saw Stephen F. Austin play this year is telling you that they're underrated. As I mentioned on twitter yesterday, and it's basically a tautology, but if everybody tells you that a team is "underrated", they're almost certainly overrated. I explain here just why I expect a romp here.

Virginia (-21) over Coastal Carolina: As always, please remember, lay off 1/16 games. This is a fair line. But while in other years you'd say Virginia's lack of scoring is a problem for a spread this large, the reality is that Virginia had the second best offense in the ACC this season. They definitely can score, and I think they'll be motivated to come out aggressive after the lack of respect they've gotten all week.

Kentucky (-6) over Kansas State: It's weird to have a Kentucky team that's underrated, but here we are. And one of the big concerns is that Kansas State is much better at home. They won two games on the road all season long, and they came over Texas Tech and TCU. Kansas State failed to crack 1.00 PPP in Big 12 play five times this season, and all five times came on the road. Considering that the way to exploit this Kentucky team is to score efficiently against their inconsistent defense, and Kentucky is the clear favorite.

Iowa State (-8) over NC Central: This is a fair line. Iowa State is the weakest 3 seed and NC Central might be the strongest 14 seed. But 8 points is a pretty small spread, particularly when Iowa State loves to push pace and play high scoring games. I'm also a little bit concerned by the fact that NC Central is a defense-first team that isn't great offensively. Iowa State could go on a 12-0 spurt and NC Central won't have the firepower to get back in the game.

Tulsa (+8.5) over UCLA: Other than the 1/16 games, there's no game where I have a worse feel the spread than this one. This seems like too large of a spread, but at the same time Tulsa doesn't really have the personnel to defend a guy like Kyle Anderson. And as I've made clear, I don't believe in the "[/so and so Coach] can't win in March" narratives. So my recommendation is to lay off.


Unknown said...

Spot on with Eastern Kentucky Kansas so far. I felt like Mercer-Duke would be close, but I understood where you were coming from. Mercer just had the game of their life.

Anonymous said...

Did you give up then?