Articles

NCAA Basketball: Baylor/Kansas Preview, Odds, Prediction 02/27/2021

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Feb 27, 2021

The Saturday night game on ESPN features a battle in the Big 12 between two teams ranked in the Associated Press’s top-twenty.Baylor ranks second in the Associated Press poll with an 18-0 record. They returned to the court for the first time since February 2nd after a COVID shutdown with a 77-72 victory against Iowa State as a 24-point favorite on Tuesday. The Bears were rusty from the three-week hiatus as they fell behind by 17 points in the first half. Jared Butler scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half to help lead his team to the comeback victory. The junior guard is the team’s leading scorer with a 17.1 points-per-game average. Adam Flagler led the team with 22 points coming off the bench. The sophomore is averaging 10.4 points-per-game and is one of six players that score at least 7.8 points-per-game for the Bears. Head coach Scott Drew has a deep rotation with nine players averaging over 13 minutes per game. Drew had six players return from the rotation that finished 26-4 last year.Baylor has high-profile victories against Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. They are in first place in the Big 12 with a 10-0 record. Baylor has the fourth-best offense in adjusted offensive efficiency according to the numbers at kenpom. They lead the nation with a 43.2% shooting percentage from 3-point land. The Bears rank fifth by rebounding 37.7% of their missed shots. Drew’s team is also the tenth-best in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They force turnovers in 25.9% of their opponent’s possessions, ranking fifth. If there was a weakness to this team, it might start with their defensive rebounding. Baylor allows their opponents to rebound 29.7% of their missed shots, 251st in the nation. The Bears do not get as many freebies on the charity stripe given a free throw rate that is 274th.Kansas had their five-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday in a 75-72 loss in overtime at Texas as a 3-point underdog. Ochai Agbaji scored 17 points to improve his team-leading 13.8 points-per-game scoring average. David McCormack poured in another 12 points with the 6’10 junior averaging 13.0 points-per-game and 6.0 rebounds-per-game. Jalen Wilson contributed 16 points with 13 rebounds. The freshman is scoring 12.8 points-per-game and leads the team with an 8.2 rebounds-per-game mark.The Jayhawks’ improved play stems from a change in defensive tactics by Bill Self. After losing five of seven games, Self instructing his players to be more aggressive in their ball screen coverage. Kansas held their five opponents during their recent winning streak to just 0.81 points-per-possession, which would be the stingiest in the nation if extended to the entire season. The Longhorns scored at a 0.95 points-per-possession clip on Tuesday, which was well below their season average.Kansas can struggle to score baskets. Their 48.7% shooting percentage inside the arc this season is 216th in the nation. The kenpom adjusted offensive efficiency numbers still rank the Jayhawks 55th in the nation. They pull down 31.3% of their misses, 77th in the country. They rank 11th in adjusted defensive efficiency, with their interior defense leading the way. Kansas leads the Big 12 by holding their opponents to just 44.9% shooting inside the arc.The Jayhawks have climbed to 17th in the nation in the Associated Press poll with a 17-8 record. Their 11-6 conference record puts them in third place in the rugged Big 12. Kansas has quality victories against Creighton, West Virginia, Texas Tech (twice), Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. Their five conference losses are against Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Texas (twice). The Jayhawks have also lost to Gonzaga and Tennessee in non-conference action.Baylor won the first meeting between these two teams on January 18th in a 77-69 victory at home in Waco as a 10.5-point favorite. BetAnySports lists the Bears as a 3.5-point road favorite with the total set at 142.Computer Prediction:  Baylor 73 Kansas 70

Read more

Big Al's Daily Angle: NCAA Basketball, NHL and NBA Odds and Previews - 02/26/2021

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Feb 26, 2021

The Friday sports card features action in NCAA basketball, the NBA, and the NHL. The college basketball card tips off at noon ET with Canisius visiting Niagara as a 2-point road favorite with the total set at 137.5 (all odds from BetOnline).The nationally-televised college basketball card starts at 7 PM ET. Penn State hosts Purdue on FS1. The Nittany Lions, 8-12, snapped a four-game losing streak with an 86-83 victory at Nebraska as a 6.5-point favorite on Tuesday. The Boilermakers improved to 15-8 with a 75-58 win at Nebraska as a 7.5-point favorite on Saturday. Penn State is a 1-point favorite with an over/under of 140.Saint Louis plays at home against Richmond on ESPN2 at 7 PM ET. The Billikens fell to 11-5 on Tuesday with their 67-65 upset loss at VUC as a 3-point favorite. The Spiders raised their record to 13-5 on Tuesday with a 79-65 win against UMass as a 10-point favorite. Saint Louis is a 5-point favorite with a total of 144.5.Marshall is at home against North Texas on ESPNU at 7 PM ET. The Thundering Herd, 12-5, won their fifth in six games with a 96-85 win against Middle Tennessee as a 17-point favorite back on February 13th. The Mean Green, 12-6, have won seven of their last eight after winning at Southern Mississippi, 68-56, as a 9.5-point favorite on February 13th. Marshall is a 4-point favorite with an over/under of 142.5.Northern Iowa visits Illinois State on ESPNU at 9 PM ET. The Panthers fell to 7-15 with a 77-69 loss to Drake as a 4-point underdog on February 17th. The Redbirds improved to 7-15 with an 88-71 upset win at Bradley as a 2.5-point underdog last Thursday. Northern Iowa is a 3-point road favorite with the total at 142.Utah State hosts Nevada on FS1 at 9 PM ET. The Aggies dropped to 14-7 with an 81-77 loss at Boise State as a 2-point underdog last Friday. The Wolf Pack, 13-7, won their fourth in a row with a 73-62 upset win against Boise State as a 5-point underdog on February 7th. Utah State is a 7.5-point favorite with an over/under of 142.Georgia State plays at South Alabama on ESPN2 at 9 PM ET. The Panthers, 12-5, won their fourth in a row on Tuesday with their 85-71 win against Appalachian State as a 6.5-point favorite. The Jaguars, 16-8, won their eighth straight game with a 56-54 win at Appalachian State as a 3-point underdog on Saturday. Georgia State is a 2-point road favorite with a total of 143.5.UNLV is at home against Fresno State on the CBS Sports Network at 11 PM ET. The Rebels fell to 10-12 with a 67-64 upset loss at Fresno State as a 7-point favorite on Wednesday. The Bulldogs improved to 10-9 with the victory. UNLV is a 6-point favorite with an over/under of 130.5.UC-Santa Barbara travels to UC-Riverside on ESPN2 at 11 PM ET. The Gauchos improved to 15-3 with a 63-44 victory against UC-Bakersfield as an 8-point favorite on Saturday. The Highlanders fell to 10-6 with an 83-82 upset loss at Cal-San Diego as an 8-point favorite last Saturday. UC-Santa Barbara is a 3-point road favorite with the total at 131.5.Nine games are on the NBA docket. An ESPN doubleheader begins at 7:30 PM ET with Boston hosting Indiana. The Celtics have been upset in three straight games after losing at Atlanta, 127-112, as a 1-point favorite on Wednesday. The Pacers have lost two of three after their 111-109 upset loss to Golden State as a 2-point favorite. Boston is a 3-point favorite with an over/under of 219.5.The Los Angeles Lakers play at home against Portland in the nightcap on ESPN at 10 PM ET. The Lakers lost their fourth in a row on Wednesday in a 114-89 loss at Utah. The Trail Blazers have lost three in a row after a 111-106 loss at Denver as a 6-point underdog on Tuesday. Los Angeles is a 5.5-point favorite with the total at 222.Three games are on the NHL schedule. The card begins at 7 PM ET, with Boston visiting the New York Rangers. The slate concludes at 9 PM ET with Colorado visiting Arizona as a -169 money line road favorite with an over/under of 6.5.

Read more

NCAA Basketball: Richmond/St. Louis Preview, Odds, Prediction - 02/26/2021

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Feb 26, 2021

A Friday ESPN2 college basketball doubleheader tips off at 7 PM ET with a battle between Atlantic 10 teams on the NCAA tournament bubble.Richmond won their fourth game in five contests on Tuesday in a 79-65 victory against UMass as a 10-point favorite. Blake Francis paved the way with 20 points, and the senior is the team’s leading scorer with a 16.6 points-per-game scoring average. Nathan Cayo added 18 points with seven rebounds. The senior forward is adding 12.2 points-per-game and is one of five players scoring at least 11.4 points-per-game. The Spiders returned the top-seven scorers from the team last year that finished 24-7. Chris Mooney benefitted from five seniors in his starting lineup before losing guard Nick Sherod to a season-ending knee injury in the fall. Richmond ranks 24th in the nation and tops in the Atlantic 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency. They make 55.3% of their shots inside the arc, ranking 25th nationally. They are also seven in the nation, with a turnover rate of 14.7%. The Spiders rank 96th nationally and ninth in the A-10 in adjusted defensive efficiency. Opponents make 55.6% of their 2-point shots, ranking 326th nationally. Richmond is 54th in the kenpom ratings with a 13-5 record. They have an impressive quality win against a Loyola-Chicago team ranked ninth in the nation by kenpom. They also have a victory against Kentucky in non-conference play. Their three losses to West Virginia, St. Bonaventure, and VCU are against teams ranked higher by kenpom. However, a pair of losses to Hofstra and LaSalle ranked 175th and 179th at kenpom dog their at-large NCAA tournament possibilities. Their 6-3 record in the Atlantic 10 puts them in a tie for third place. Saint Louis was upset at Dayton, 76-53, as a 6-point favorite last Friday. The Billikens followed that up on Tuesday by suffering a 67-65 upset loss at VCU as a 3-point favorite. Javonte Perkins had a chance to win the game but missed his 3-point attempt at time expired. The senior scored 16 points and added seven rebounds, and he leads the team with a 17.1 points-per-game scoring average. Jordan Goodwin had 16 points with 12 rebounds. The 6’3 stats-machine scores 14.7 points-per-game while contributing 10.5 rebounds-per-game and 3.6 assists-per-game. Hasahn French scored a season-high 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds. The senior forward scores 8.4 points-per-game and pulls down 7.1 rebounds-per-game. Travis Ford has back all five starters and nine of the ten rotational players from the team that finished 23-8 last season. He has one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. Saint Louis pulls down 35.8% of their missed shots, ranking 13th nationally. They hold their opponents to second-chance opportunities in only 22.6% of their possessions, ranking 16th nationally. The Billikens rank 60th and 51st nationally in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency at kenpom.Saint Louis is 51st in the nation in the kenpom rankings with a 13-5 record. They are in eighth place in the rugged Atlantic 10, 4-4, where they rank fifth in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. The Billikens have a high-profile victory against LSU along with wins against North Carolina State and St. Bonaventure. They have two losses to Dayton and setbacks to VCU and Minnesota. But it is a loss to LaSalle that sticks out like a sore thumb on their NCAA tournament resume.This showdown is the first meeting between these two teams this season. BookMaker lists Saint Louis as a 4.5-point favorite, with the total at 144.Computer Prediction:  Saint Louis 74 Richmond 67

Read more

NCAA Basketball: Iowa/Michigan Preview, Odds, Prediction 02/25/2021

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Feb 25, 2021

A Thursday ESPN college basketball doubleheader tips off at 7 PM ET with a battle between Big Ten teams ranked in the national top-ten.Iowa won their fourth straight game on Sunday against Penn State, 74-68, as a 10-point favorite. Luka Garza scored 23 points, and the senior All-American leads the nation with a 24.7 points-per-game scoring average. He adds 8.5 rebounds-per-game and 1.6 blocks-per-game while making 56.0% of his shots and 44.4% of his 3-pointers. Head coach Fran McCaffery returned all five starters while getting three additional players back from injury from the team that finished 20-11. The Hawkeyes, 17-6, are ranked 9th nationally by the AP. They have high-profile wins against Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. Their six losses are against Gonzaga, Minnesota, Indiana (twice), Illinois, and Ohio State. Iowa's 11-5 conference record puts them in fourth place in the Big Ten.The Hawkeyes are the number one team in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They make 40.3% of their 3-point shots, fourth-best nationally, while posting an effective field goal percentage of 55.6%, 19th in the country. They are also second in the nation, with a turnover rate of 13.6%. But Iowa is 75th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They allow their opponents to make 34.7% of their 3-point shots, 228th nationally. The Hawkeyes’ opponents rebound 30.3% of their missed shots, 261st nationally.Michigan comes off another showdown with a top-ten team when they won at Ohio State on Sunday, 92-87, as a 2-point favorite. The Buckeyes were ranked fourth by the AP at the time. Hunter Dickinson scored 22 points with nine rebounds. The 7’1 freshman is scoring 15.0 points-per-game while contributing 7.8 rebounds-per-game, 1.6 blocks-per-game, and making 63.9% of his shots. Michigan took the court for the first time since January 22nd last Sunday at Wisconsin after a three-week pause after the athletic department shut down all activities. The Wolverines fell behind by 14 points before holding the Badgers to 7 of 28 shooting in the second half in a 67-59 victory as a small favorite.Senior Isaiah Livers' 14.4 points-per-game scoring average is second on the team. Sophomore Franz Wagner contributes another 12.4 points-per-game. Three other players score at least 8.5 points-per-game for head coach Juwan Howard.The Wolverines have won five in a row to improve their record to 16-1. They rank third in the nation in the Associated Press poll. Michigan leads the Big Ten with an 11-1 record. Their lone loss was at Minnesota. The Wolverines have high-profile wins against Purdue, Wisconsin (twice), and the Buckeyes on Sunday. Michigan ranks sixth in adjusted offensive efficiency according to the metrics at kenpom. The Wolverines are 15th with a 56.4% shooting percentage inside the arc, which helps elevate their effective field goal percentage to 56.9%, sixth nationally. They are making 38.7% of their 3-point shots, ranking 16th nationally. Michigan registers an assist in 57.9% rate of their made field goals, 51st nationally. Only 6.3% of their shot attempts are getting blocked, 19th nationally.The Wolverines are 12th in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They are fifth in opponent’s effective field goal percentage with a 44.2% mark. Michigan is also second nationally by limiting their opponents to just 41.4% shooting inside the arc. This team does not foul as they rank 19th nationally in foul-rate. They block 12.2% of their opponent’s shots, 35th nationally. They hold their opponents to just a 42.8% assist rate, 16th nationally.This showdown is the first meeting between these two teams this season. BookMaker lists Michigan as a 5-point favorite with the total set at 154.Computer Prediction:  Michigan 78 Iowa 75

Read more

2021 Major League Baseball: American League Preview

by Ben Burns

Thursday, Feb 25, 2021

The American League has a 66-50 all-time edge over the National League, in terms of World Series titles. However, the "senior circuit" has now taken two in a row. Let's take an early look at some of the teams which will try and right the ship for the A.L. this season. While the American League East appears to be New York's to lose, the other two divisions are up for grabs. The White Sox and Twins are essentially co-favorites to win the Central while the Astros and A's are expected to receive a challenge from the Angels, in the West. Fans of the Rangers, Orioles and Royals: you're likely in for a long season. Don't completely give up yet though. Opening Day brings new hope to every clubhouse and there's almost always at least one team which defies preseason expectations. Though I'm not currently recommending any futures wagers, I do find it helpful to know what is expected from each team, after factoring in the usual flurry of offseason activity. I've listed the odds to win each division (courtesy of Pinnacle) below. Spring training games don't begin until Sunday but the players have already reported to camp. The actual season starts April 1st. Notes From The First Few Days Of Camp- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. reportedly lost 42 pounds this offseason. - Shohei Ohtani threw 97 mph in a live batting practice session. - Reigning AL MVP Jose Abreu has tested positive for COVID-19. AL EASTYankees -198Blue Jays +390Rays +449Red Sox +2209Orioles +4276AL Central White Sox -109Twins +123Indians +845Tigers +3244Royals +4035AL West Astros +116A's +166Angels +359Mariners +2374Rangers +3920

Read more

Big Al's Daily Angle: NBA, NHL and NCAA Basketball Odds and Previews - 02/25/2021

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Feb 25, 2021

The Thursday sports card features action in NCAA basketball, the NBA, and the NHL. The college basketball card tips off at noon ET with Miami (OH) visiting Western Michigan as a 5-point road favorite with the total et at 135 (all odds from BetOnline).The nationally-televised college basketball card begins at 7 PM. Michigan hosts Iowa in a battle of Big Ten teams ranked in the top-ten nationally. The Wolverines are third in the Associated Press poll with a 16-1 record after winning their fifth straight game in a 92-87 victory at Ohio State as a 2-point favorite on Sunday. The AP ranks the Hawkeyes ninth with a 17-6 record with their fourth straight win against Penn State, 74-68, as a 10-point favorite on Sunday. Michigan is a 4.5-point favorite with an over/under of 155.5. Houston plays at home against Western Kentucky on ESPN2 at 7 PM ET. The Cougars are ranked 11th in the nation with an 18-3 record. They won their third game in their last four on Sunday with a 90-52 victory against Cincinnati as a 12.5-point favorite. The Hilltoppers, 15-4, won their sixth straight game back on February 13th with an 89-66 win against Rice as a 9.5-point favorite. Houston is an 11.5-point favorite with a total of 136. Arizona State is at home against Washington on FS1 at 7 PM ET. The Sun Devils, 8-11, defeated the Huskies by a 97-64 score on Tuesday as a 9.5-point favorite. Washington fell to 5-18 with the loss. Arizona State is a 10-point favorite with an over/under of 155. Gonzaga hosts Santa Clara on the CBS Sports Network at 7 PM ET. The number one-ranked Bulldogs are a 31-point favorite with a total of 155.Ohio State visits Michigan State on ESPN at 9 PM ET. The Buckeyes are ranked fourth in the nation with an 18-5 record. Their seven-game winning streak end on Sunday in a 92-87 loss at home to Michigan as a 2-point underdog. The Spartans, 12-9, upset Illinois by an 81-72 score as an 8.5-point underdog on Tuesday. Ohio State is a 3.5-point favorite with an over/under of 145.5.Colorado is at home against USC on ESPN2 at 9 PM ET. The Buffaloes fell to 17-7 with a 61-57 upset loss at Oregon State as a 5.5-point favorite on Saturday. The Trojans are ranked 19th in the nation with a 19-4 record. They won their eighth of nine games on Monday with their 72-58 win against Oregon as a 3.5-point favorite. Colorado is a 2.5-point favorite with a total of 136.5.At 9 PM ET, San Diego State hosts Boise State on FS1. The 22nd ranked Aztecs are a 6.5-point favorite with an over/under of 138. BYU is at home against San Francisco on the CBS Sports Network as a 10-point favorite with the total set at 141.5. Stanford plays at home against Oregon on ESPNU as a 1-point favorite with an over/under of 136.5. At 11 PM ET, Saint Mary’s is at home against Pacific on ESPN2 as a 7-point favorite with an over/under of 124. Arizona hosts Washington State on FS1 as a 9-point favorite, with the total at 133. Six games are on the NBA slate. A doubleheader on TNT begins at 7 PM ET with Dallas playing at Philadelphia. The Mavericks won their sixth of their last seven with a 110-107 upset victory against Boston as a 2.5-point underdog on Monday. The 76ers won their third game in four with a 109-102 win at Toronto as a 2.5-point favorite on Tuesday. The TNT nightcap at 9:30 PM ET has New Orleans playing at Milwaukee. The Pelicans upset Boston on Sunday, 120-115, as a 2-point underdog. The Bucks won their third straight on Tuesday with a 139-112 victory against Minnesota.Eleven games are on the NHL docket for Thursday. Seven games begin the card at 7 PM ET. The slate concludes at 10 PM ET with Edmonton playing at Vancouver as a -138 money line road favorite with an over/under of 6.5. None of the games are on national television.

Read more

2021 Major League Baseball: National League Preview

by Ben Burns

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2021

While some are still shovelling driveways, baseball is right around the corner. Spring training gets underway February 28th. The "real thing" begins April 1st. So, what will baseball look like in 2021? Though they hope to play a full 162 games, doubleheaders will still be two seven-inning games. Each offense will get a runner on second to start each extra inning. However, there will be no universal designated hitter. What about the fans?Everyone hopes for there to be fans in the stands. When and where fans return to the ballparks, however, remains to be seen.Before the exhibition season starts, I find it helpful to see what the oddsmakers are projecting for each team. Looking at the division odds (courtesy of Pinnacle) gives an idea of which clubs are expected to compete. I've provided the National League below and will check back soon with the American League. The NL Central appears to be up for grabs with any team, except Pittsburgh, capable of winning. The Dodgers are heavy favorites in the West, the Padres their only possible competition. You'll see that the NL East is expected to be a 2-team race between the Mets and the Braves. Fans of the Nationals and the Phillies probably feel differently. Bryce Harper, reportedly healthy and excited about his team, surely does.  Harper had this to say of Philadelphia's offseason: "We needed to be able to spend money, because we don't have the prospects to actually trade and do that. We were kind of in a predicament of, 'What can we do right now, but how can we prolong this for the next four or five years and not just one year?' So being able to kind to get a new GM, get a new president of baseball operations and kind of go from there. I mean, when Dombrowski came in, I was really excited, because I saw what he did in Boston, what he did in Detroit. I was sitting there thinking to myself, 'Man, well, yeah, we can possibly spend money. But do we have the prospects to kind of get the guys that we need to?' And I mean, I trusted so much in what Dombrowski was going to do, what Sam Fuld is going to do for us. I know how smart Sam is. I know how smart Dombrowski is. So I knew they were going to be able to do what they did. But I didn't know they were going to be able to do what they did like this. I was really pumped about it. And I was, quite frankly, a little shocked that they were able to do what they did."NL East Braves +150Mets +150Nats +600Phillies +850Marlins +1500NL CentralCardinals +153Reds +278Brewers +341Cubs +384Pirates +4087NL WestDodgers -258Padres +201Giants +3038Diamondbacks +5063Rockies +5063

Read more

NCAA Basketball: Alabama/Arkansas Preview, Odds, Prediction 02/24

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2021

The college basketball doubleheader on ESPN2 for Wednesday concludes with an SEC showdown between two nationally-ranked teams at 9 PM ET.Alabama has the opportunity to claim a share of the SEC regular title for the first time since 2002 with a victory tonight. The Crimson Tide won their third straight game with an 82-78 victory against Vanderbilt on Saturday. Sophomore Jaden Shackleford scored a season-high 27 points to improve his team-leading 14.5 points-per-game average. Nate Oats has four starters back from his first year with the program, where they finished 16-15. He fortified this core by bringing several talented players, including former five-star recruit from Villanova, Jahvon Quinerly, and Jordan Bruner, a graduate transfer from Yale. Oats also recruited three four-star freshmen to the program to give this team depth. Alabama is scoring 80.9 points-per-game executing Oats’ “pace-and-space” scheme that plays fast and shoots plenty of 3-pointers. The Crimson Tide is 2nd in the nation in possessions per game, and their average possession length of 14.2 seconds is third quickest. They average 30 shots from behind the arc, with these 3-pointers representing 47.6% of their shots from the field, 16th in the nation. Their 36.0% shooting mark from downtown is 71st nationally, with the team leading the SEC by making 39.1% of their 3-points in conference play. The Tide also rebounds 30.2% of their missed shots, 102nd in the country. Their offense ranks 24th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency by kenpom for the season. The Alabama defense is second nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They force turnovers in 20.7% of their opponent’s possessions, 80th nationally. They also hold their opponents to a 29.2% shooting mark from 3-point land, 13th nationally. Oats’ team is vulnerable to opponents committed to crashing the offensive glass. The Crimson Tide allow their opponents to rebound 29.0% of their missed shots, 218th in the nation. For the first time since 2002, the Alabama basketball team ranks in the top-ten with their current sixth spot in the Associated Press poll. The Crimson Tide is 18-5 overall with a 13-1 mark in conference play with high-profile wins against Tennessee, Florida, LSU twice, and these Razorbacks. Their five losses are against Stanford, Clemson, Western Kentucky, Oklahoma, and their lone loss in the SEC is against Missouri.Arkansas is nationally-ranked for the first time since January of 2018, with their current standing at 20th in the AP poll. The Razorbacks won their fourth game in a row with a 75-64 win against Florida on February 16th. Davante Davis scored 18 points, with Moses Moody and Jalen Tate adding 14 points apiece. Arkansas had their next game with Texas A&M postponed given the COVID outbreak in the Aggies’ program.Seven Razorbacks are scoring at least 7.2 points-per-game. Moody leads the way with a 16.2 points-per-game scoring average, with the freshman making 37.1% of his 3-pointers. Connor Vanover is an intriguing contributor. The 7’3 250-lb redshirt sophomore transfer from California is scoring 7.2 points-per-game with 5.5 rebounds-per-game and 2.0 blocks-per-game. Eric Musselman’s team is 17-5 with a 9-4 record in conference play which is good for second place in the SEC. Their highest-profile victories are against Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri. Their four losses in the SEC are against Tennessee, LSU, Alabama, and the Tigers. They also lost to Oklahoma State last month in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Arkansas is 32nd nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. The Razorbacks are also 23rd nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. They rank 20th nationally with a block rate of 13.4%. They are also second in the SEC with a defensive rebounding rate of 72.3%.Alabama won the first meeting, 90-59, as a 3.5-point favorite on January 6th. The Crimson Tide made 15 of their 36 shots from 3-point land, and Arkansas scored only 19 points in the first half. Arkansas gets this rematch in Fayetteville, where they are 13-1 on their home court with an average winning margin of 20.6 points-per-game. BetAnySports lists the Razorbacks as a 2-point favorite, with the total set at 158.5.Computer Prediction:  Arkansas 82 Alabama 78

Read more

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

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2021

The Wednesday sports card features action in NCAA basketball, the NBA, the NHL, and the UEFA Champions League. The college basketball card tips off at noon ET with Holy Cross visiting Boston University. The nationally-televised schedule begins at 5 PM ET, with North Carolina Central hosting North Carolina AT&T on ESPNU at 5 PM ET. The Eagles, 4-5, play for the first time since February 9th when they were upset at Florida A&M, 60-47, as a 3-point favorite. The Aggies improved to 9-10 on Sunday with their 70-63 upset win at Florida A&M as a 5-point favorite. North Carolina Central is a 3.5-point favorite with the total set at 139.5 (all odds from BetOnline).North Carolina plays at home against Marquette on ESPN2 at 7 PM ET. The Tar Heels improved to 14-7 with their 99-54 victory against Louisville as a 4.5-point favorite on Saturday. The Golden Eagles, 10-12, snapped a three-game losing streak last Wednesday with their 73-57 upset loss at Butler as a 1.5-point favorite. North Carolina is an 8-point favorite with an over/under of 144. Seton Hall visits Butler on the CBS Sports Network at 7 PM ET. The Pirates, 13-9, come off an 81-75 upset loss at Georgetown as a 4.5-point favorite on Saturday. The Bulldogs fell to 7-13 with a loss to Xavier, 63-51, as a 12.5-point underdog on Sunday. Seton Hall is a 7.5-point road favorite with the total at 131.South Florida is at home against Temple on ESPNU at 7 PM ET. The Bulls improved to 8-8 with their 83-76 win at Temple as a 1.5-point favorite on Sunday. The Owls have lost six in a row to drop to 4-10. South Florida is a 5.5-point favorite with an over/under of 135.5.Arkansas hosts Alabama on ESPN2 at 9 PM ET. The Razorbacks are 20th in the Associated Press poll with a 17-5 record after winning their fourth straight game last Tuesday against Florida, 75-64, as a 4-point favorite. The Crimson Tide, 18-5, is ranked sixth by the AP after winning three in a row against Vanderbilt, 82-78, as a 12.5-point favorite on Saturday. Arkansas is a 1-point favorite with the total at 155.5.Creighton plays at home against DePaul on the CBS Sports Network at 9 PM ET. The Bluejays are ranked 13th by the AP with a 16-5 record. They have won six of seven after their 86-70 upset win against Villanova as a 2-point underdog back on February 13th. The Blue Demons snapped a five-game losing streak to improve to 4-10 with an 88-83 upset win at St. John’s as an 11.5-point underdog on Saturday. Creighton is a 15-point favorite with an over/under of 141.Xavier visits Providence on FS1 at 9 PM ET. The Musketeers raised their record to 12-4 with a 63-51 win against Butler as a 12.5-point favorite on Sunday. The Friars fell to 11-11 with a 73-61 loss at UConn as a 6.5-point underdog last Tuesday. Xavier is a 1.5-point road favorite, with the total at 141.Tulsa is at home against Cincinnati on ESPNU at 9 PM ET. The Golden Hurricane improved to 10-9 with their 72-66 victory against Temple as a 5-point favorite last Tuesday. The Bearcats, 7-8, ended a four-game winning streak with their 90-52 loss at Houston as a 12.5-point underdog on Sunday. Tulsa is a 1-point favorite with an over/under of 131.5.UNLV hosts Fresno State on FS1 at 11 PM ET. The Rebels improved to 10-11 with a 67-64 win at San Jose State as a 14-point favorite on Sunday. The Bulldogs dropped to 9-9 with a 75-57 loss to San Diego State as a 14-point underdog on Saturday. UNLV is a 7-point favorite with the total at 131.Nine games are on the NBA docket. A doubleheader on ESPN begins at 7:30 PM ET with Golden State playing at Indiana. The Warriors ended a two-game losing streak on Tuesday with a 114-106 win at New York as a 4-point favorite. The Pacers have won three of four with their 134-128 win at Minnesota as a 5.5-point favorite. The nightcap on ESPN has the Los Angeles Lakers visiting Utah. The Lakers have been upset in three straight games after losing at home to Washington as a 6.5-point favorite, 127-124, on Monday. The Jazz won their tenth game in their last eleven with a 132-110 victory against Charlotte as a 12.5-point favorite on Monday. Seven games are on the NHL schedule. A doubleheader on the NBC Sports Network starts at 7 PM ET, with Philadelphia playing at home against the New York Rangers. The Flyers have lost four of five after their 7-3 loss to Boston in Lake Tahoe on Sunday. The Rangers have won two in a row with their 4-1 win at Washington on Saturday. Philadelphia is a -116 money line favorite with the total at 5.5.St. Louis hosts the Los Angeles Kings in the second game on the NBC Sports Network at 9:30 PM ET. The Blues have lost three of four after their 3-0 setback to the Kings on Monday. The Kings are on a five-game winning streak. St. Louis is a -157 money line favorite with an over/under of 5.5.The first leg of the UEFA Champions League concludes with two matches at 3 PM ET. Manchester City visits Borussia Monchengladbach as a -1.5 goal line road favorite with a total of 3.25. Atalanta plays at home against Real Madrid as a -0.25 goal line favorite with an over/under of 3.25. Both matches are available on CBS All-Access.

Read more

NCAA Tuesday Night Basketball: Kansas/Texas Preview

by Big Al Staff

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2021

The college basketball doubleheader on ESPN for Tuesday concludes with a Big 12 battle between two nationally-ranked teams. Kansas won their fifth in a row with their 67-61 win against Texas Tech as a 3-point favorite on Saturday. David McCormack scored 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. The 6’10 junior is scoring 13.0 points-per-game while adding 6.1 rebounds-per-game. Chai Agbaji poured in 14 points and grabbed another 13 rebounds. The junior leads the team with a 13.7 points-per-game scoring average. Jalen Wilson contributed 11 points. The freshman is scoring 12.7 points-per-game and leads the team with an 8.0 rebounds-per-game mark.The Jayhawks’ improved play stems from a change in defensive tactics by Bill Self. After losing five of seven games, Self instructing his players to be more aggressive in their ball screen coverage. Kansas has held their last five opponents to just 0.81 points-per-possession, which would be the stingiest in the nation if extended to the entire season. Kansas can struggle to score baskets. Their 48.9% shooting percentage inside the arc this season is 201st in the nation. The kenpom adjusted offensive efficiency numbers still rank the Jayhawks 54th in the nation. They pull down 31.7% of their misses, 66th in the country. They rank 12th in adjusted defensive efficiency, with their interior defense leading the way. Kansas leads the Big 12 by holding their opponents to just 44.5% shooting inside the arc.The Jayhawks have climbed to 17th in the nation in the Associated Press poll with a 17-7 record. Their 11-5 conference record puts them in third place in the rugged Big 12. Kansas has quality victories against Creighton, West Virginia, Texas Tech (twice), Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. Their five conference losses are against Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and these Longhorns. The Jayhawks have also lost to Gonzaga and Tennessee in non-conference action.Texas lost their fourth game in their last six contests on Saturday in an 84-82 upset loss at home to West Virginia as a 4.5-point favorite. The loss is troubling for Shaka Smart for several reasons. The Longhorns blew a 19-point second-half lead. Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones got into a verbal altercation on the sidelines in the final 20 minutes of that game, with the team getting outscored, 34-18, after the dustup. This loss was the fourth loss in their last six games at home in Austin. Ramey did score a career-high 28 points in the loss on the strength of hitting seven of his eight shots from 3-point land. The junior is second on the team with a 14.1 points-per-game scoring average. Jones leads the team with a 15.6 points-per-game clip. The Longhorns returned twelve players, including all five starters from last year. Smart added a likely one-and-done freshman in Greg Brown, who is contributing 10.6 points-per-game and 7.6 rebounds-per-game. Texas has six players scoring at least 8.1 points-per-game.Texas ranks 12th in the AP poll with a 13-6 record. They have several impressive victories against Indiana and North Carolina en route to winning the Maui Invitational while adding wins against Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and these Jayhawks. Their six losses are against Villanova, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Baylor, Oklahoma State, and the Mountaineers on Saturday. Their 7-5 record in the Big 12 puts them in fifth place.The Longhorns had their games with Oklahoma and Iowa State last week canceled because of the winter storm in Texas. Smart’s team has also had several games lost this season due to the COVID, with both the players and the coaching staff missing time.Smart’s job was in jeopardy last season. The team hit a low point in an 81-52 loss at Iowa State. Yet Smart rallied his team to win five of their last six games to finish with a 19-12 record in a season interrupted to COVID. Texas was on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament. Smart's team has won 18 of their last 25 games since that drubbing to the Cyclones. Texas ranks 19th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. On defense, the Longhorns are 33rd in adjusted defensive efficiency fueled by their half-court defense as they hold their opponents to a 45.9% effective field goal percentage, 21st nationally.Kansas suffered the worst loss at home in Self’s tenure with the program in the first meeting between these two teams, which Texas won, 84-59, as a 4.5-point underdog. Smart described this rematch as a “watershed moment” given his team's recent struggles. BookMaker lists Texas as a 2.5-point favorite with the total set at 137.5.

Read more

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

by Big Al Staff

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2021

The Tuesday sports card features action in NCAA basketball, the NBA, the NHL, the English Premier League, and the UEFA Champions League.The nationally-televised college basketball card begins at 6 PM ET with Saint Louis visiting VCU on the CBS Sports Network. The Billikens, 11-4, had their four-game winning streak end on Friday with their 76-53 upset loss at Dayton as a 6-point favorite. The Rams, 16-5, were upset by George Mason on Saturday as a 10-point favorite to snap their six-game winning streak. Saint Louis is a 3-point road favorite with the total set at 135.5 (all odds from BetOnline).Illinois travels to Michigan State on FS1 at 7 PM ET. The Fighting Illini are ranked fifth in the nation by the Associated Press with a 16-5 record. They won their seventh in a row with their 74-63 win at Minnesota as a 4.5-point favorite on Saturday. The Spartans improved to 11-8 with their 78-71 upset win at Indiana as a 6.5-point underdog on Saturday. Illinois is a 7-point road favorite with an over/under of 145.5.West Virginia plays at TCU on ESPN2 at 7 PM ET. The Mountaineers are ranked 10th by the AP with a 15-6 record. They have won four of their last five games after upsetting Texas on the road on Saturday, 84-82, as a 4.5-point underdog. The Horned Frogs fell to 11-9 on Saturday after getting upset at home to Kansas State, 62-54, as a 7-point favorite. West Virginia is an 8.5-point road favorite, with the total at 146.5.Auburn hosts Florida on ESPN at 7 PM ET. The Tigers dropped to 11-12 with a 104-80 loss at LSU as a 4.5-point underdog on Saturday. The Gators improved to 11-6 after defeating Georgia, 70-63, as a 9.5-point favorite on Saturday. Auburn is a 1.5-point favorite with an over/under of 154.5.Villanova plays at home against St. John’s on the CBS Sports Network at 8 PM ET. The Wildcats raised their record to 14-3 on Saturday with a 68-60 win against UConn as a 7-point favorite. The Red Storm fell to 14-9 with their 88-83 upset loss to DePaul as an 11.5-point underdog on Saturday. Villanova is an 11.5-point favorite with the total at 154.Oklahoma visits Kansas State on ESPN 2 at 9 PM ET. The Sooners are ranked seventh by the AP with a 14-5 record. They won their third in a row with their 66-56 win at Iowa State as a 12-point favorite on Saturday. The Wildcats improved to 6-18 with their 62-54 upset win at TCU on Saturday. Oklahoma is a 10-point road favorite with an over/under of 131.Texas plays at home against Kansas on ESPN at 9 PM ET. The Longhorns fell to 13-6 with their 84-82 upset loss to West Virginia as a 4.5-point favorite on Saturday. The Jayhawks improved to 17-7 by defeating Texas Tech, 67-61, as a 3-point favorite on Saturday. Texas is a 2.5-point favorite with a total of 140.UConn visits Georgetown on FS1 at 9 PM ET. The Huskies dropped to 10-6 on Saturday with their 68-60 loss at Villanova as a 7-point underdog. The Hoyas raised their record to 7-10 with their 81-75 upset victory against Seton Hall as a 4.5-point underdog on Saturday. UConn is a 4-point road favorite with an over/under of 138.The NBA slate has nine games on tap. A doubleheader on TNT tips off at 7:35 PM ET with Boston visiting Dallas. The Celtics have lost four of six after their 120-115 upset loss at New Orleans as a 2-point favorite. The Mavericks have won five of six with their 102-92 victory against Memphis as a 4.5-point favorite on Monday. The nightcap on TNT has Portland playing at Denver at 10 PM ET. The Trail Blazers lost at Phoenix on Monday, 132-100, as a 6.5-point underdog. The Nuggets lost their third game in their last four with a 123-115 upset loss at Atlanta as a 2.5-point favorite on Sunday.Six games are on the NHL schedule. Washington hosts Pittsburgh on the NBC Sports Network at 7 PM ET. The Capitals have won three of four with their 4-3 win against New Jersey on Sunday. The Penguins won their fourth in five games after their 3-2 win against the New York Islanders on Saturday. Washington is a -115 money line favorite with the total at 6.Matchweek 25 concludes on Tuesday with Leeds United playing at home against Southampton at 1 PM ET as a -0.25 goal-line favorite with an over/under of 2.75. The NBC Sports Network broadcasts the game. The Last 16 round of the UEFA Champions League continues with two first leg matches at 3 PM ET. Bayern Munich visits Lazio at 3 PM ET as a -0.75 goal line road favorite with the total at 3.25. Chelsea plays at Atletico Madrid in a pick ‘em matchup on the CBS Sports Network with an over/under of 2.

Read more

NCAA Tournament Handicapping: Defensive Efficiency Is Key!

by Power Sports

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2021

Before you know it, the NCAA Tournament will be underway. With that in mind, I wanted to discuss a key metric I look at every year when handicapping March Madness (well except 2020). Defensive efficiency is key. For those that are unaware, defensive efficiency refers not to the number of points a particular team allows per game, but rather over a given number of possessions. Typically, a team’s defensive efficiency rating is extracted from the number of points it allows per 100 possessions. The site KenPom.com makes even further adjustments and their ratings are the ones I lean on for my own College Basketball picks. Looking at efficiency gives you a better “feel” for how a team really plays defense as opposed to simply looking at the number of points they allow per game. Some teams play at much slower tempos and thus there are a fewer number of possessions per game. Therefore, they are likely to give up a lower number of points per game. (Note: if they don’t, that means they are pretty bad defensively!) Conversely, if a team is giving up fewer points in a game that has more possessions, then they are a significantly better defensive team. Even if you don’t care to understand defensive efficiency, that’s okay. The aforementioned KenPom posts every team’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating and you can view it there. The current top 10 teams in defensive efficiency rating (per KenPom) are: Loyola Chicago, Alabama, Memphis, Gonzaga, Tennessee, Baylor, Houston, Wisconsin, Illinois and VCU. Obviously, you’ve got some names on that list that you’d expect to see. Gonzaga and Baylor are both undefeated and the top two teams in the country. Alabama, Tennessee, Houston, Wisconsin and Illinois are all Top 25 teams you’d expect will perform well in the NCAA Tournament.But there are definitely two names on that list that should jump out to you. First and foremost, you’ve got Loyola Chicago, who is #1 in the entire country in defensive efficiency. The Ramblers are currently ranked in the Top 25, but only projected to be an 8-seed by the “esteemed” Joe Lunardi. In my opinion, this is NOT a team that any #1 seed would want to face in the Round of 32. I would almost certainly take the points with Loyola against any higher seed come tourney time. Remember - they made the Final Four three years ago! VCU is another team to keep an eye on. Right now, the Rams are very much a bubble team. But as a likely double digit seed, they’d make for a very live dog in the Round of 64. Unfortunately for Memphis, they are currently NOT projected to be a NCAA Tournament team. They’d be a real dark horse (to pull an upset or two, not to win the whole thing obviously) if they were somehow to make the field.Underdogs with strong defensive efficiency ratings make for strong plays come NCAA Tournament time. On the flip side, favorites with suspect defensive efficiency ratings are vulnerable to getting bounced early. There are likely to be a handful of teams in this year’s Tourney that will get high seeds despite defensive efficiency ratings outside the top 75. They are: Iowa, Ohio State and Villanova. Ohio State is even in the running for a #1 seed! I would not pick any of these squads to make it to the Final Four. Keep all this in mind when the brackets are released next month. It will help you be a more successful NCAA Tournament bettor. 

Read more

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

© 2024 Al McMordie's BigAl.com. All Rights Reserved.