Articles

NHL Monday Night Hockey: Penguins/Rangers Preview

by Big Al Staff

Monday, Feb 01, 2021

The NBC Sports Network on Monday features a rematch of East Division rivals from their Saturday thriller. Pittsburgh won their fifth game in their last seven contests with their 4-3 victory over the Rangers in overtime. Trailing 3-2 in the third period, Jake Guentzel tied the game at the 9:18 mark of the third period. Sidney Crosby then won the game at the 2:27 mark in overtime to pick up the two points. The Penguins began their season with two losses at Philadelphia. Since that slow start, Pittsburgh has gone 5-1-1, with their 11 points putting them in fourth place in the East. They tie with Toronto with five victories decided by just one goal. Crosby’s team has been living on the edge this season. They are 3-3-1 when trailing after two periods. Pittsburgh has won four times in overtime already this year, including twice against the Rangers. The Penguins defeated New York at home by a 4-3 score on January 22nd via the shootout. Pittsburgh is thin on their blue line right now, with defenseman Kris Letang suffering a lower-body injury in the first period of the game on Saturday. He is out for tonight. The Penguins already placed defensemen Marcus Pettersson, Brian Dumoulin, Juuso Riikola, and Mike Matheson on their Injured Reserve last month. New York is just 1-3-2 in their last six games after the overtime loss on Saturday. All six of these games were decided by one goal. The Rangers are struggling to protect leads. They blew three leads against the Penguins on Saturday. They are also just 2-1-2 in games when entering the third period with a lead. New York had playoff aspirations to begin the season after drafting the number one player in the 2020 draft, Alex Lafrenierre. Yet the Rangers find themselves in last place in the eight-team East Division with only six points. Head coach David Quinn has been rotating his two goaltenders this season with Alexander Georgiev between the pipes in the loss on Saturday. Igor Shesterkin should get the start tonight. He last played on Thursday in a 3-2 win in Buffalo in overtime where he allowed only two goals. Shesterkin has a 2.73 goals-against-average with a .894 save percentage in five games and four starts.Penguins’ head coach Mike Sullivan will keep Casey DeSmith in goal tonight after he allowed four goals in holding on to the victory on Saturday against the Rangers. DeSmith is 3-0-0 this season in four games and three starts. He has a 3.05 goals-against-average with a .875 save percentage. New York has won only one of their four games at Madison Square Garden this season. They shutout the Islanders on January 16th, 5-0. Pittsburgh’s lone victory this season away from home in five games this season was their triumph in MSG on Saturday. BetAnySports lists the Penguins as a -108 money line road favorite with the total set at 6.5. The NBC Sports Network broadcast starts at 7 PM ET.

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NCAA Monday Night Basketball: Texas Tech/Oklahoma Preview

by Big Al Staff

Monday, Feb 01, 2021

A college basketball doubleheader on ESPN concludes at 9 PM ET in a battle between two Big 12 teams nationally ranked in the top 25 coming off victories in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.Oklahoma has won five games in a row to improve to an 11-4 mark after upsetting Alabama in Norman on Saturday, 66-61, as a 3.5-point underdog. The Sooners were without their leading scorer, Austin Reaves, and Alondes Williams against the Crimson Tide due to COVID quarantine protocols. They will not be available for tonight’s game.Lon Kruger’s team has now pulled off three straight upset victories against ranked opponents. Oklahoma defeated Kansas and Texas in conference play before upsetting an Alabama team that was ranked ninth in the nation by the Associated Press. The Sooners took the Crimson Tides’ ninth spot in the new AP poll this week. Kruger has over 70% of the production return last year's 19-12 team. Reaves leads the way this year with a 15.8 points-per-game scoring average while adding 5.1 assists-per-game and 5.1 rebounds-per-game. De’Vion Harmon is second on the team with a 13.1 points-per-game scoring average after pacing the team with 18 points on Saturday. Brady Manek is adding 11.0 points-per-game along with 4.0 rebounds-per-game. Oklahoma is 25th in the nation adjusted offensive efficiency and 28th in defense at kenpom. The Sooners have been tough to score on inside the arc, with opponents making only 45.6% of their 2-point shots. But Oklahoma is allowing opposing shooters to convert 35.8% of their 3-pointers, 262nd in the nation. The Sooners are second in scoring in the Big 12 with a 76.9 points-per-game average.Kruger’s team has high-profile victories against Texas, Kansas, and West Virginia to go along with their win against the Crimson Tide. Oklahoma is 6-3 in Big 12 play with losses to Baylor, Kansas, and Texas Tech. They also lost to Xavier in non-conference play. Texas Tech ended a two-game losing streak on Saturday with a 76-71 victory in Baton Rouge against LSU as a 4.5-point favorite. The Red Raiders trailed 71-64 but scored the final 12 points of the game to pull out the victory. Texas Tech dropped to 13th from 10th in today’s new Associated Press poll with a 12-5 record. The Red Raiders return home, where they have won only once in their four games in conference play. This group is likely Beard’s most talented team in his five years as head coach of this program. While he lost three starters from the team that finished 18-13 last season, he was aggressive in attracting some high-level transfers while bringing in a good freshman class to join junior Kyler Edwards and sophomore Terrence Shannon. Some of the depth Beard had established diminished when five-star freshman Nimari Burnett decided to leave the team to transfer to another school. He was averaging 17.7 minutes-per-game but only scoring 5.3 points-per-game. Georgetown transfer Mac McClung has adapted to Beard’s system to lead the team with a 17.5 points-per-game scoring average. Shannon is second on the team by scoring 13.6 points-per-game. Texas Tech is once again an outstanding defensive team under Beard. They are 13th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to kenpom. The Red Raiders are also seventh in the country by forcing turnovers in 25.0% of their opponent’s possessions. This team thrives in getting second-chance shots. Texas Tech rebounds 35.2% of their missed shots, 22nd in the country. They also get to the free-throw line as they rank 20th in free throw rate. The weakness of this team is shooting the basketball. The Red Raiders make only 33.0% of their 3-pointers and 49.2% of their shots inside the arc, ranking 189th and 202nd, respectively. Kenpom ranks their adjusted offensive efficiency at 24th. Texas Tech is 4-4 in the rugged Big 12 with losses to Baylor, West Virginia, Kansas, and Oklahoma State. They lost to Houston in non-conference play. Their highest-profile wins are against Texas and Oklahoma, along with Saturday’s victory against LSU. BookMaker lists Texas Tech as a 7.5-point favorite with the total set at 131.

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NHL, NBA and NCAA Basketball Preview

by Big Al Staff

Monday, Feb 01, 2021

The Monday sports card features college basketball with action in the NBA and the NHL.The college basketball card tips off at noon ET with Western Carolina hosting the Citadel. The Catamounts are a 6.5-point favorite with the total set at 169.5 (all odds from BetOnline). Duke visits Miami (FL) at 7 PM ET on ESPN. The Blue Devils had fallen to 5-5 with three straight losses. But a win against Georgia Tech followed up by a 79-53 victory against Clemson as a 5.5-point favorite on Saturday has head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team on the upswing. The Hurricanes were 6-6 in the middle of January before enduring a four-game losing streak to end the month on a sour note. Miami was upset at Wake Forest on Saturday, 66-54, as a 1.5-point favorite. Duke is a 10.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 139. Texas Tech hosts Oklahoma in a battle of nationally-ranked Big 12 teams on ESPN at 9 PM ET. The Red Raiders, 12-5, rank 10th in the Associated Press poll. They defeated LSU on the road in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday, 76-71, as a 4.5-point favorite. The Sooners are 24th in the AP poll with an 11-4 record. They have won five in a row after upsetting Alabama at home, 66-61, as a 3.5-point underdog in their Big 12/SEC Challenge matchup on Saturday. These two teams played on December 22nd, with Texas Tech winning by a 76-71 score. Texas Tech is a 7-point favorite in this rematch, with the total at 138.5.North Carolina Central plays at home against South Carolina State at 9 PM ET on ESPN2 in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference action. The Eagles improved to 3-2 with a 94-61 victory against Carver Bible School on Friday. The Bulldogs remained winless after playing their last game on January 10th in a 70-68 loss at Florida A&M. UNC Central is a 10-point favorite with an over/under of 140.5.Ten games are on the NBA schedule. Two games tip-off the card at 7:30 PM ET with the Los Angeles Clippers visiting Atlanta and Charlotte playing at Miami. The slate concludes at 9 PM ET, with Denver playing at home against Detroit. None of the games are on national television. Five games are on the NHL docket. The New York Rangers host Pittsburgh on the NBC Sports Network at 7 PM ET. The Penguins have won five of their last seven games after defeating the Rangers in Madison Square Garden on Saturday, 6-5. New York has lost five of six games. This showdown is the fourth meeting this season between these Metropolitan Division rivals, with Pittsburgh winning all three games by a goal. The game is a pick ‘em with both teams listed as a money line favorite at -105 with the total at 6.5.The NHL card concludes at 8 PM ET with Calgary traveling to Winnipeg as a -121 money line road favorite with an over/under of 6.

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That First 2.3 Million Dollar Super Bowl Bet

by Wayne Root

Monday, Feb 01, 2021

alAll Super Bowl sports bettors should be focusing on many things other than those million-dollar bets that the media loves to report. Sportsbooks are filled with very smart $1000 bettors and right next to them in line to wager is that anonymous ego driven wealthy casino customer. It's a guarantee the hotel/casino PR Department will make his bet a media sensation. ESPN, Yahoo Sports and BETMGM, Caesars or the Las Vegas Westgate will be the first to call them for this story. But what does it really mean? Who cares what some anonymous millionaire bet or how much he wagered? In reality, which side does the bettor who actually earns his living from sports gambling like? The Handicapping Professional is your BEST BET!! Successful sports bettors don’t parade around town bragging about the size of their bets. They are stealth as they don't need everyone to know information which may affect the betting number as they bet at many different sports books grabbing the best numbers.  Someone bet $2.3 million dollars on the Buccaneers in a single wager this week. ESPN was all over it as were others. They reported everything except the person's identity. That's fair but do you want to follow a ghost bettor? What happens when another gambler bets $3.0 million on the Chiefs two days later? Now who do you follow? Neither!! Because they don't matter. Their bets are a creation by the media about someone that has too much money with the casinos not missing a beat.   If a celebrity makes the wager, sure, that’s news just not entertainment news. If Bill Gates makes a $3.0 million bet, that's newsworthy to some but not gambling news. If the "mattress-man" from Houston makes a huge bet, that's worthy of business news tying bets into a self serving store-wide promotion. The absolute real joke is back on those bettors. If the betting line didn’t move, we immediately know that even the sports books had no respect for those wagers.  Public money, even this large, doesn’t move anything. It just goes into their accounting department to be added to the balance sheet.   This is where astute bettors, sharps, math gurus and wise guys along with sports handicapping professionals such as Wayne Allyn Root are truly smarter than the house. And that’s why they win. These guys are your line movers. These players are respected and someone you should follow. Those other guys are basically some millionaire media creation. The real sports betting professionals such as Wayne Allyn Root will not only give great information on the side and total but in this new age era of 400 prop bets is second to none in terms of how to bet the Super Bowl.  Consider this one example of clearly thinking out of the box and using a prop bet for a huge score. When Denver met Carolina, that game was played with an older Peyton Manning at quarterback who could barely launch the football downfield. Wayne Root liked the Broncos side. But why bet $1100 to win $1000 without breaking down why the Broncos would win? His conclusion was that Manning would NOT throw them into the winners circle. It had to be won by defense. So if that was the case, Wayne Allyn Root made and advised all to bet on Von Miller to win the MVP at 16/1 odds. Von Miller did win the MVP and that same $1000 wager PAID A STAGGERING $16,000. That's the difference between an ego driven wealthy media and casino creation and your seasoned sports betting professional such as Wayne Allyn Root. His side, total and top 15 Super Bowl Prop bets are highly anticipated and will be released by Wednesday for all. 

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NCAA Basketball: Overrated and Underrated Teams

by Power Sports

Sunday, Jan 31, 2021

I did this last month and thought it was somewhat instructive. So I’ll once again compare the current Top 25 rankings (AP/Coaches) and my own power ratings and give you a list of teams I think are overrated and underrated.OVERRATED Missouri (#12 AP/Coaches) - The Tigers did lose earlier this week, so they figure to fall a bit when the new rankings are published Monday. That fall won’t be as precipitous though after holding off TCU (in overtime) on Saturday. In my own power rankings, Mizzou barely cracks the top 40 and I’m pleased that the KenPom ratings say the same. Do not expect this team to make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.Virginia Tech (#20 AP/#19 Coaches) - Admittedly, now is not a good time to call the Hokies “overrated” as they just upset Virginia on Saturday. They’ve also beaten Villanova! But this team has done the bulk of its damage in Blacksburg, where last I checked the NCAA Tournament WON’T be taking place. The Hokies are going to move up in the next rankings and I feel it might be a good time to fade as they are just ahead of Missouri in my own power ratings, outside the top 30. UNDERRATEDIllinois (#19 AP/#24 Coaches) - So the Illini are going to move up after beating Iowa on Friday. But they still won’t be high enough, at least in my estimation. This is easily a Top 10 team in America and maybe even Top 5. There are only seven teams in the Top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency (per KenPom). The Illini are one of the seven.Colorado (NR) - So the Buffaloes loss to Utah on Saturday pretty much guarantees they won’t be moving into the Top 25. Believe it or not, I faded the Buffs on Saturday. So it may seem strange I’m still calling them “underrated.” But consider that they led the Utes 65-46 with just under nine minutes to go. This is definitely one of the 25 best teams in the country.Arkansas (NR) - The Razorbacks went just 4-5 in January after I called them “underrated” in last month’s column. That’s not enough to dissuade me. All of their losses have been to good teams. Admittedly, most of their wins have been against bad teams. But the SEC remains wide open and I’d put the Hogs up against anybody in the conference with the exception of Tennessee.  

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Early Season 76ers' Data with/without Joel Embiid

by Hollywood Sports

Sunday, Jan 31, 2021

In handicapping the Philadelphia/Minnesota contest in the NBA on Friday (January 28th), I was looking closely at playing the Over until discovering that Joel Embiid was questionable with a sore back. The possibility that the Sixers would be without Embiid prompting to investigate how they have performed with their star center so far this season.Embiid has not played in four of their first 19 games going into that contest on the road against the Timberwolves. Philadelphia lost all four games. On December 27th, they lost at Cleveland by a 118-94 score. On January 9th, they lost at home to Denver, 115-103. On January 16th, the Sixers lost at Memphis by a 106-104 score. Then on January 25th, they lost at Denver, 119-104. The average score of those losses was 115-101.3. The 76ers have a field goal percentage of 42.5% in those four games with Embiid not playing while allowing their opponents to make 49.0% of their shots.In comparison, Philadelphia averages 116.7 PPG while making 50.7% of their shots in the 15 games Embiid played this season going into the weekend. That translates into +15.4 more PPG and a net 8.2% improvement in their shooting. On defense, the Sixers have held their 15 opponents when Embiid played to 109.4 PPG on 43.2% shooting from the field. While Philadelphia allows 8.1 more PPG without Embiid this season, opponents are shooting 5.8% better from the field. In regards to my potential Over play, the Sixers averaged 226.1 combined PPG in their 14 games with Embiid as opposed to them averaging 216.1 combined PPG in the four games they played without Embiid. So far, the loss of Embiid’s presence on defense has been overwhelmed by the loss of his offensive skills — although analyzing the possible slowing of the tempo without Embiid deserves consideration. I passed on the Over. Embiid took part in the shootaround and later played 27 minutes in Philly’s 118-94 victory that finished well below the 225 total. Fortunately, I avoided losing money on the Over bet I was considering. But the data regarding how Philly plays without Embiid could be valuable moving forward.The 76ers gave Embiid the night off on Sunday to end the month in their game at Indiana. Philadelphia rallied from a 95-82 deficit entering the fourth quarter to defeat the Pacers, 119-110. Analyzing how and why the Sixers scored 37 points in the fourth quarter while limiting Indiana to only 15 points in the final 12 minutes will be interesting. Of initial note is that the 76ers made 45 of their 92 shots for a 48.9% shooting percentage which is well above the 42.5% clip they had shot without Embiid in their previous four games. Yet they also allowed the Pacers to nail 41 of their 84 shots for a 48.8% clip which remains almost identical to the opponent’s field goal percentage of 49.0% they had without Embiid in their previous four games. Perhaps the decline in the Sixers’ defense will continue in the games Embiid does not play this season? That would make sense. Was Philly’s offensive effort against Indiana (without Embiid) an aberration? Or was their big fourth-quarter shooting effort the result of the Regression Gods finally making an appearance for this team that simply been underachieving how they should be playing on offense even without Embiid? This will be interesting to continue to track. Best of luck for us — Frank.

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Our Two Favorite Super Bowl Prop Bets

by Team Del Genio

Sunday, Jan 31, 2021

The long list of Super Bowl prop bets offers the betting public many avenues to increase their viewing pleasure in watching the big game. However, for savvy bettors, Super Bowl prop bets provide an avenue to hedge their primary side and totals bets for the game. There are also prop bets that can access the logic of those side and total bets while offering significant value on their own.Here are two prop bets offered by BetOnline that Team Del Genio finds intriguing.(1) Kansas City under 95.5 rushing yards for the game.Running the football against Tampa Bay is going to be difficult for the Chiefs. The Buccaneers allowed only 81.4 rushing yards-per-game this season. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense allows opposing rushers to average just 3.7 yards-per-carry which is also the top mark in the NFL. To make running the ball even more difficult, Kansas City will be without their top two starting tackles with left tackle Eric Fisher and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz both out for this game with injuries. Tampa Bay allowed only five teams to rush for more than 94 yards in their 19 games this season. The Chiefs ran the ball 20 times for just 87 yards with their bookend tackles healthy in that game. Under 95.5 rushing yards in the Super Bowl for Kansas City looks good. (2) Tampa Bay over 87.5 rushing yards for the game.After not having more than 14 rushing attempts in a game in the regular season, the Buccaneers turned to their midseason acquisition, running back Leonard Fournette, in the playoffs. The former Jacksonville first-round draft pick ran the ball 19 times for 93 yards against Washington before rushing 17 times against New Orleans and then 12 times against Green Bay. He gained 93, 63, and 55 yards in those games. Head coach Bruce Arians will likely get Fournette going early against a Kansas City run defense that allows 121.9 rushing yards-per-game. That mark is 21st in the league but is perhaps a deceptive number considering teams fall behind against the potent Chiefs’ offense under quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Kansas City allows opposing rushers to average 4.6 yards-per-carry, 24th in the NFL.Arians is likely to commit to running the football early in this game. Tampa Bay’s worst game of the season was on November 8th when they lost to New Orleans, 38-3. Arians had Tom Brady throwing the ball on early downs in the first quarter of that game. When the Bucs fell behind in that game, Brady got stuck trying to throw his way back into the game. By the end of the game, Tampa Bay had run the ball only five times for eight yards. That is a mistake Arians will likely not make again. In their 27-24 loss to the Chiefs on November 23rd, the Buccaneers ran the ball only 13 times of 75 yards. Tampa Bay rushed for only 76 yards against the Packers in the NFC Conference Championship Game but did hand the ball off 24 times. That was the first time that the Buccaneers had not gained at least 94 rushing yards in their previous five games going back to December 26th which was just two games removed from their loss to the Chiefs. Arians' recipe for success likely involves gaining more than 87.5 rushing yards in this rematch. Good luck - TDG.

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Using Shots-Gained Data to Handicap Golf

by Hollywood Sports

Sunday, Jan 31, 2021

When the PGA started using ShotLink data to provide more information for its golf events, it provided a remarkable resource for bettors. ShotLink uses proprietary data accumulated from cameras and lasers that track information each shot a golfer takes per round. I have written previously about the expected goals metric used in soccer. This data works similarly. ShotLink collects the data for every golfer from every one of his or her strokes during an event. This information can provide a point of comparison than for individual golfers. The concept of “strokes-gained” represents how an individual golfer's performance compared to the average from the field. This ShotLink data facilitates the statistical breakdown of each aspect of a golfer’s skill set. As an example, this information can be used to compare how a golfer performs 200 yards out from the pin versus the rest of the field. More generally, this data helps to create six different categories to help analyze a golfer’s strengths and weaknesses. Shots-Gained: Off-the-Tee measures a golfer’s first shot proficiency. Shots-Gained: Approach-the-Green measures a golfer’s ability to reach the green after their first shot. Shots-Gained: Around-the-Green measures a golfer’s pitching and sand wedge play. Shots-Gained: Putting measures how a golfer performs on the greens. Shots-Gained: Tee-to-Green measures the performance of a golfer off the tee to get to his or her putter.This collected data can be quite helpful in handicapping the field for PGA tournaments. When assessing the field for the PGA Farmers Insurance Open earlier this week, I gave considerable weight to the following statistics: Shots-Gained: Approach-the-Green, Par-4 Scoring, Bogey-Avoidance, Driving Distance. I did this given the nature of the South Course at Torrey Pines where three of the four rounds would be played this weekend. Past winners have excelled in those statistical categories. The South Course is a beast at 7465 yards with Poa Annua greens. The metrics I used to handicap this event given course history include Shots-Gained: Approach-the-Green, Par-4 Scoring, Bogey-Avoidance, Driving Distance. This event was graded as the fourth-most difficult on the PGA Tour last season with the average professional finishing +0.534 strokes above par.These considerations led me to choose Patrick Reed as my Top Overlay Bet to win this tournament with him having +2800 odds at BetOnline. Reed ranked third in Shots-Gained: Birdies or Better so far for the 2020-21 season. He finished last season 11th on the tour in Shots-Gained: Total. Reed’s short game is one of the best in the world. He is eighth in the field in Bogey-Avoidance over his last six months. He ranked 32nd last year in Par-5 Scoring. He finished the ’19-20 campaign 26th on the tour in Shots-Gained: Tee-to-Green. Reed was sixth on the tour in Par-4 Scoring. He is also great with the blade. Reed was fifth last year in Putting: Birdies or Better and 10th on the tour in Shots-Gained: Putting. Reed rewarded this work by winning the 2021 PGA Farmers Insurance Open by five strokes with his 14 under par. On to the PGA Waste Management Open, next week where analyzing the statistics that past winners have shared can help identify which of the professionals in next week’s field offers value.Best of luck for us — Frank.

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Does Boston Have the Best Big Two in the NBA?

by Team Del Genio

Sunday, Jan 31, 2021

The conventional wisdom from NBA observers was the Boston Celtics were likely to take a step back this season. They had an NBA Finals appearance for the taking before being upset in the bubble by a surprising Miami Heat team in the NBA Finals. Boston then lost Gordon Hayward in free agency in the offseason to Charlotte. Without replacing his role on the wing, it appeared to many that this Celtics team would take a step back this season in the Eastern Conference race to the rising Heat along with the star-studded Brooklyn Nets, and the ever-dangerous Milwaukee Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo inking his long-term contract with the franchise.Yet what if the loss of Hayward was a convenient money-saving move for general manager Danny Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens for what was always their grand plan: build a team around their emerging superstar duo Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum?At first glance, Boston’s 10-8 record at the end of January offers little encouragement. But the Celtics have been impacted by COVID. Tatum has missed five games while being in quarantine. He returned on Saturday in Boston’s showdown with the reigning NBA champions. Even in defeat, his performance with Brown demonstrated the potential this team has when at full strength this season.The Celtics rallied late to put themselves in a position to win the game in the final possession but the Lakers held on for the 96-95. We were happy as Boston plus the 3.5 points was our NBA Non-Conference Game of the Month. Tatum scored 31 points in the losing effort. Brown added 28 points. Anthony Davis led the way for Los Angeles with 27 points with LeBron James adding 21 points. Their 48 combined points were 11 points shy of the Tatum and Brown combination. James and Davis are scoring 25.2 points-per-game and 22.2 points-per-game this season. Last year, the duo scored 25.2 point-per-game and 26.1 points-per-game.Tatum and Brown scored 23.4 points-per-game and 20.3 points-per-game last season. However, after last year’s playoff experience and the condensed offseason, these two have returned with a heightened level of confidence and maturity to their games. Tatum is averaging 26.8 points-per-game with Brown raising his scoring average by almost seven points to a 27.1 points-per-game mark. The 53.9 combined points-per-game they are averaging is more than the James/Davis combination both this season and last season. Brown is only 24-years old. Tatum is a mere 22-years old. The arrow would presumably still be pointing up for both young players regarding what their potential could be. Using the eye test from watching their effort against the Lakers on Saturday, these are two players that have acquired more and more ways to beat opposing defenders.If Davis’ move to Los Angeles last year changed the paradigm from a Big Three to a Big Two with good help in what was needed to win an NBA championship, Ainge and Stevens may have had the seeds growing for achieving that level of success for the salt four seasons. With the money freed up from not resigning Hayward, the Celtics may be in a better position to acquire the talent to complement the skill set of their young dynamic duo.Good luck - TDG.

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NCAA Sunday Night Basketball: Nevada/UNLV Preview

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, Jan 31, 2021

The Sunday night college basketball card concludes with UNLV visiting Nevada in Reno on FS1 at 9:30 PM ET.The Runnin’ Rebels had been on a five-game winning before playing their rematch with Utah State on Wednesday. UNLV was defeated by the Aggies, 83-74, as a 7-point underdog after defeating Utah State on Monday, 59-56. Second-year head coach T.J. Otzelberger only returned three rotation players from the team last year that finished 17-15. The former South Dakota State head coach had his team on a five of six winning streak to end the season, headlined by them handing San Diego State their first loss of the year. Otzelberger relied on transfers and freshmen to fill-out the team this year.Bryce Hamilton was an All-Mountain West Conference player last season. This year, the junior leads the Runnin’ Rebels with an 18.2 points-per-game scoring average while adding 5.5 rebounds-per-game and 4.0 assists-per-game. Hamilton scored only 2 points on Wednesday, missing 11 of his 12 shots from the field, including all five of his three-point attempts. He is questionable for tonight’s game with an ankle injury. If Hamilton cannot play, UNLV will have to rely on the supporting cast. David Jenkins, a transfer from South Dakota State, is the second-leading scorer with a 15.8 points-per-game clip. He is hitting 42.2% of his 3-pointers. Caleb Grill, a sophomore guard who transferred from Iowa State, is scoring 9.6 points-per-game. Senior forward Cheikh Mbacke Diong is adding 8.5 points-per-game. UNLV opened the season with an upset loss at home to Montana State before embarking to Maui Invitational relocated to Asheville, North Carolina, this year. They got crushed against North Carolina by 27 points before losing to Alabama by eight points and then Davidson by four points. Otzelberger’s team earned their first win of the season with a 10-point win against Kansas State before getting swept on the road against Colorado State. A four-game winning streak started with a win against Division II St. Katherine before a sweep at home against a struggling New Mexico and then a win against Division II Benedictine, AZ, before their upset win against the Aggies. After playing six straight games at home at the Thomas & Mack Center, this is the Runnin’ Rebels' first game on the road since their loss at Colorado State on January 9th. The Runnin’ Rebels are 3-3 in conference play to go along with their 6-7 overall record. They rank fourth in the Mountain West Conference in adjusted defensive efficiency. Their opponent’s effective field goal percentage of 49.1 is also fourth in the conference. They are forcing turnovers at a 21.1% rate, which is third-best in the Mountain West.Nevada was 9-5 going into a two-game road trip in Laramie against Wyoming last weekend. The Cowboys upset the Wolf Pack twice by 71-64 and 93-88 scores as a 3.5 and 4.5-point underdog in those Friday and Sunday contests. Alford oversaw a Nevada team that finished 19-12 last season, including a surprising 12-6 in Mountain West Conference play, which was good for second place. Yet five of the top six scorers from that team departed, leaving Alford to rebuild this team nearly from scratch from bench players, freshmen, and transfer players. Grant Sherfield leads the team with an 18.5 points-per-game scoring average while adding 5.5 assists-per-game. The Wichita State transfer was granted eligibility in the fall from the NCAA’s blanket transfer exception policy this year due to COVID. Desmond Cambridge, a former transfer from Brown, is second on the team with a 15.2 points-per-game average. The Wolf Pack are 5-5 in conference play. They are fifth in adjusted offensive efficiency while having the top free throw rate in the conference. Nevada is sixth in adjusted defensive efficiency in the MWC while ranking third with an opponent’s effective field goal percentage of 48.7%. They have a bad loss to Air Force on their resume while playing two close games against San Diego State in 2-point and 5-point losses. A victory at home against UNLV would represent their biggest win so far this season for Alford.BookMaker lists Nevada as a 4-point favorite with the total set at 142.5.

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NBA: How Do The Teams Stack Up So Far?

by Power Sports

Sunday, Jan 31, 2021

We’re a little more than one month into the NBA season, so I wanted to share some thoughts on how the two conferences are shaping up. If you’re unaware, the playoff format has been altered. There will be a  "play-in tournament" for teams ranked 7th through 10th in each conference from May 18–21. The 7th place team will play the 8th place team, with the winner earning the 7-seed. The 9th place team will play the 10th place team with the loser of that game being eliminated. The 7th-8th loser will then play the 9th-10th winner, with the winner of that game earning the 8-seed and the loser being eliminated.The top six in each conference do not have to worry about the “play-in tournament” and are assured of playoff berths.Let’s look at who I think has a good shot at finishing in the top six in the East and West. East: The current top six of Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Indiana, Boston & Atlanta are who I expect to be the top six when the regular season concludes. The order will likely shuffle with Milwaukee being my pick to finish on top, which they’ve done the previous two seasons. The Bucks are #1 in the East in both point differential and net efficiency. Brooklyn is #2 in both and now that they have James Harden, will probably finish no lower than third. I expect them to duke it out with Philadelphia for the #2 seed. The Sixers have cleaned up against sub-.500 foes so far (11-2 SU) and did just beat the Lakers, but I don’t see them making the Conference Finals. Atlanta is among the league’s most improved teams so far and as the likely winner of the Southeast Division could finish ahead of Indiana and Boston, if all goes well.  As for the play-in spots, I think you have to look at the likelihood of both Toronto and Miami improving. These teams have been negatively impacted by COVID with the Raptors playing home games in Orlando and the Heat having a thin roster. The East is too weak for these teams not to finish in the top 10. It’s so weak that even teams like Charlotte, New York and Cleveland have a shot at making the playoffs. When all is said and done, expect the Raptors and Heat to round out the top eight. West: The top three have really solidified themselves already. As expected, the Lakers and Clippers are among those three teams. The surprise is Utah, who has won 11 in a row as of this writing, and currently leads the conference. There’s no “smoke and mirrors” either. The Jazz are 12-3 in games decided by 10 points or more and have the best point differential in the NBA. They’ve covered the spread in all 11 games during this win streak as well and have the best ATS record in the league. The Jazz have actually been favored in 17 of their 19 games so far, so the strong start should actually NOT be that surprising. They have yet to face the Lakers, but did beat the Clippers on New Year’s Day.Denver, who has finished top three in the West each of the previous two seasons, would seem like a lock to finish in the top six again this year. I’ve been very disappointed with the Mavericks recently as they’ve lost five straight to fall to 8-12 SU. But like the Raptors and Heat in the East, expect the Mavs to rise up and I’ve got them projected for the top six here. Phoenix is a young and exciting team and I think they’ll also finish above the “cut line” for the playoff scenario.The West is deeper than the East, making the race for the Play-In spots more intriguing. Unlike the East, I think there are some teams that you can easily “write off” though. Oklahoma City, Sacramento and Minnesota are all pretty bad and I would be stunned if any of those three finished in the top 10. That would leave six teams - Memphis, San Antonio, Houston, Portland, Golden State and New Orleans - fighting for the four spots. All of these teams would make the playoffs if they were in the East. They all have significant flaws, Portland’s horrible defensive efficiency for example, but those things can be overcome. I think it’s pretty clear the Warriors are never getting back to their previous championship heights. Memphis and Houston are both solid defensive teams. San Antonio is one of only three teams currently covering at a 60% rate or higher, so they’ve been undervalued. New Orleans is the worst of the six teams, according to every metric. Since it’s so early in the season, I’m not really comfortable choosing which four of these six will get the chance to play playoff basketball.I’ll be checking back in as the season progresses. 

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NHL, NBA, EPL and NCAA Basketball Preview

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, Jan 31, 2021

The Sunday sports card features college basketball with action in the NBA, the NHL, and English Premier League.The college basketball card tips off with Temple hosting Tulane at noon ET with the Owls a 7-point favorite with the total set at 130 (all odds courtesy of BetOnline).The nationally-televised college basketball schedule begins at 1 PM ET, with Houston playing at home against SMU on ESPN. The Cougars, 14-1, are ranked sixth in the AP poll with seven straight victories after they defeated Tulane on the road, 83-60, as a 15.5-point favorite on Tuesday. The Mustangs, 9-3, won their third game in their last four with their 67-65 win against Memphis as a 4-point favorite on Thursday. Houston is a 9.5-point favorite with the over/under at 139.Ohio State is at home against Michigan State on CBS at 1 PM ET. The Buckeyes, 13-4, rank 13th by the AP with five wins in their last six games after they beat Penn State, 83-79, as a 7-point favorite on Wednesday. The Spartans, 8-5, played their first game since January 8th on Thursday in a 67-37 loss at Rutgers as a 7.5-point underdog. Ohio State is a 7-point favorite with the total at 143. Loyola-Illinois travels to Missouri State on the CBS Sports Network at 3 PM ET. The Ramblers, 13-3, have won six in a row after their 68-58 win at Bradley as a 7-point favorite on Monday. The Bears fell to 9-3 after their 78-73 loss to Drake as a 4-point underdog on Wednesday. Loyola-Illinois is a 6.5-point road favor with the over/under at 136. Marquette hosts St. John’s on Fox at 3:30 PM ET. The Golden Eagles fell to 8-8 with their 72-63 loss at Providence as a 2-point underdog on Thursday. The Red Storm won their fourth game in their last five to improve to 10-7 with their 81-68 victory at DePaul as a 1-point favorite on Thursday. Marquette is a 4-point favorite with a total of 150.5.Stephen F. Austin plays at home against Sam Houston State on ESPNU at 4 PM ET. The Lumberjacks, 9-3, had their six-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday in their 82-62 loss at Abilene Christian as a 2.5-point underdog. The Bearkats won their tenth straight to improve to 13-5 with their 75-70 victory at Texas A&M Corpus Christi as a 9-point favorite on Wednesday. Stephen F. Austin is a 5-point favorite with an over/under of 149.5. Colgate plays a rematch at Holy Cross on the CBS Sports Network at 5 PM ET. The Raiders, 6-1, won their meeting on Saturday by a 74-63 score in overtime as a 15-point favorite. The Crusaders fell to 2-7 with the loss. Northern Iowa is on the road at Southern Illinois on ESPN2 after winning on Saturday, 74-62, to improve to 5-10. The Salukis fell to 7-6.Nevada is at home against UNLV on FS1 at 9:30 PM ET. The Wolf Pack, 9-7, have lost two in a row after their 93-88 upset loss at Wyoming as a 4.5-point favorite last Sunday. The Runnin’ Rebels had their five-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday to drop to 6-7 with their 83-74 loss to Utah State as a 7-point underdog. Nevada is a 2-point favorite with the total at 142.Six games are on the NBA docket. The Los Angeles Clippers play at New York at 1 PM ET as a 7.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 211.5. The card concludes at 8 PM ET with Cleveland visiting Minnesota as a 3.5-point road favorite with the total at 219. None of the games are on national television.The NHL has eight games on its Sunday schedule. Buffalo plays at home against New Jersey at 1 PM ET as a -155 money line favorite with an over/under of 5.5. The card concludes at 9 PM ET with Ottawa visiting Edmonton. None of the games are on national television. Four matches take place in the English Premier League to conclude Matchweek 21. Chelsea hosts Burnley at 7 AM ET as a -1.5 goal line favorite with the total set at 2.75. Leicester plays at home against Leeds United at 9 AM ET as a -0.75 goal line favorite with an over/under of 3. Liverpool visits West Ham United at 11:30 AM ET as a -0.75 goal line road favorite with a total of 2.75. Tottenham travels to Brighton and Hove Albion at 2:15 PM ET as a -0.25 goal line road favorite with an over/under of 2.25.

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