Articles

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

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Jan 14, 2021

The Thursday card features action in the NBA and college basketball, the English Premier League, and the NHL.There are five games in the NBA headlined by a double-header on TNT. The first game on TNT tips off at 7:35 PM ET with San Antonio hosting Houston. The Spurs have raised their record to a 6-5 mark by winning four of their last five games. They last played on Tuesday when they defeated Oklahoma City on the road as a 2.5-point favorite. The Rockets will be playing their first game in the post-James Harden era after the four-team blockbuster trade shipped Harden to Brooklyn. Houston received Victor Oladipo back in the deal from Indiana, but it is yet to be determined whether he will suit up in this game. The Rockets are 3-6 with four losses in their last five games after a 117-100 loss to the Lakers on Wednesday as a 5-point underdog. The nightcap on TNT has Denver hosting Golden State. The Nuggets fell to 5-6 on Wednesday with their 116-112 loss at Brooklyn as a 2-point favorite. Golden State dropped to 6-5 on Wednesday after getting upset at home to Indiana by a 104-95 score as a 3.5-point favorite. Denver is a 4.5-point favorite with the total set at 228 (all odds from BetOnline). The college basketball card tips off at noon ET in an American Athletic Conference clash between Central Florida and Temple. The Knights are 3.5-point road favorites with a total of 136.5. Stanford visits Utah at 5 PM ET on ESPN2. The Cardinal have won seven of their last eight games to raise their record to 8-3 with their 75-60 victory against Washington State on Saturday. The Utes have lost four straight games to fall to 4-5 after a 65-58 loss to Colorado on Monday. Stanford is a 1.5-point road favorite with a total of 138. UCLA hosts Washington at 5 PM ET on FS1. The Bruins have won four in a row for their 9-2 record after they defeated Arizona on the road, 81-76, on Saturday. The Cougars have lost two of three to fall to a 9-2 record after their 75-60 loss at Stanford on Saturday. UCLA is a 10-point favorite with an over/under of 131.5.At 7 PM ET, Winthrop hosts Longwood in Big South action on ESPNU. The Eagles remain unbeaten in 11 games after their 91-82 win over Gardner Webb on Sunday. The Lancers won their third game in 14 contests this season on Sunday with their 78-69 win against Campbell. Winthrop is a 16.5-point favorite with a total of 151.5. Gonzaga hosts Pepperdine at 9 PM ET on ESPN. The Bulldogs are 12-0 after they defeated Portland on the road, 116-88.  Pepperdine fell to 4-5 with two straight losses back on December 23rd with a 79-51 loss to Cal-State Bakersfield. Gonzaga is a 25.5-point favorite against the Wave coming off their long layoff with the over/under at 164.Eastern Illinois is at home against Morehead State at 9 PM ET on ESPNU. The Pirates fell to 5-6 with their 74-71 loss to Austin Peay on Saturday. The Eagles have won three straight games to raise their record to 7-6 after their win against Jacksonville State by a 56-55 score on Saturday. Eastern Illinois is a 6-point favorite with a total of 135.Saint Mary’s plays at home against BYU at 11 PM ET on ESPN. The Gaels are 9-2 after losing two of their last three games after their 66-64 win against Santa Clara on Saturday. The Cougars had their four-game winning streak snapped with an 86-69 loss at Gonzaga. Saint Mary’s is a 1-point favorite with an over/under of 132.5.The NHL has ten games on their schedule for their second day of the new season. Three games drop the puck at 7 PM ET, with two games ending the card at 10 PM ET. None of the games are on national television. Matchweek 17 of the English Premier League concludes at 3 PM ET with Arsenal hosting Crystal Palace. The Gunners are -1.0 goal line favorites with a total of 2.5. The NBC Sports Network has the broadcast.

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NCAA Thursday Night Basketball: Gonzaga/Pepperdine Preview

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Jan 14, 2021

The number one ranked team in the nation plays on ESPN at 9 PM ET. Gonzaga has rattled off twelve straight victories to start the season against a rigorous non-conference schedule that has included powerhouses Kansas, West Virginia, Virginia, and Iowa. The Bulldogs have the country's top adjusted offensive efficiency number according to metrics at kenpom. They lead the nation with an effective field goal percentage of 60.8%. Gonzaga scores 96.1 points-per-game with a 55.6% field goal percentage. The Zags also rank 21st in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. Opponents are shooting 42.7% against them and average 73.4 points-per-game. Gonzaga last played on Saturday when they defeated Portland by a 116-88 score at Portland as a 32.5-point favorite. The Bulldogs made 62.9% of their shots against the Pilots. That victory raised Gonzaga’s record in West Coast Conference play to 3-0.Head coach Mark Few returned three players from his seven-man rotation that finished 31-2 last season and looked poised to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament as a number one seed. Senior Corey Kispert leads the team this year with a 21.1 points-per-game after contributing 13.9 points-per-game last season. Sophomore Drew Timme is adding 18.5 points-per-game after averaging 9.5 points-per-game last year. Junior forward Joel Ayayi is averaging 11.8 points-per-game and adds 8.1 rebounds-per-game as the leading rebounder on the team. Jalen Suggs is a five-star freshman who is scoring 13.8 points-per-game. This group may be Few’s most talented roster in his 22 seasons as the Gonzaga head coach. Pepperdine returns to the court after their basketball program went on pause due to COVID issues. The Waves are 4-5 this season after suffering two straight upset losses. They last played on December 23rd when they lost at Cal-State Bakersfield, 79-51, as a 6.5-point favorite. Head coach Lorenzo Ramor returned four starters from the team last year that finished 16-16 and 8-8 in the West Coast Conference. They have a dangerous leader at point guard in senior Colbey Ross, who scores 19 points-per-game and adds 7.2 assists-per-game. Junior forward Kessler Edwards contributes 17.2 points-per-game. Ross has the talent to keep the Waves in this game. He scored 33 points earlier this season in a triple-overtime loss against UCLA. He scored 43 points in an overtime loss to Saint Mary’s last season. Pepperdine is scoring 77.9 points per game on 47.1% shooting from the field. They rank 104th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. The Waves' opponents are shooting 42.5% against them and scoring 73. 6 points-per-game. They rank 190th in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Waves have wins against UC-Irvine and California, along with St. Katherine and Concordia. In addition to their setbacks to UCLA and Cal-State Bakersfield, Pepperdine's losses were against San Diego State, Cal-State Northridge, and UC-Santa Barbara. This contest is Pepperdine's first game against a West Coast Conference opponent this season. BookMaker lists Gonzaga as a 25.5-point favorite with the total set at 166.

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Who's the Best Super Bowl Longshot Remaining?

by ASA, Inc.

Wednesday, Jan 13, 2021

With Kansas City and Green Bay holding down the best odds to win the Super Bowl we need to find an underdog that could yield a better return on investment. The Bills and Ravens are on serious hot streaks but a team that is even more intriguing is the Buccaneers. The road to the Super Bowl seems to be easier in the NFC than in the AFC this year. Tampa Bay has won five in a row and Tom Brady has begun to find his rhythm with Bruce Arians.    SB Odds KC +200GB +380NO +550BUF +600BAL +800TB +850LAR +1600CLE +2500 Either the Ravens or Bills will be eliminated this weekend, and the winner gets a date with the defending champs in the AFC Championship Game. That alone is a tall task, while the Buccaneers have arguably an easier path to yield more money.  This Sunday will be a major hurdle for the Bucs, however, the Saints have had major struggles of their own come playoff time in recent years. Brady has only been hit 16 times in their last 8 games and protecting him will be the absolute key to winning in New Orleans. Washington’s defensive front could not get consistent pressure last week which was surprising considering they were 6th in sacks during the year. Antonio Brown has mixed in nicely and will be tough to account for now that all of Tampa Bay’s weapons are up to speed.  If they can win this weekend a matchup at Lambeau for the NFC Championship Game would be likely. Brady is used to playing in the cold and the lack of crowd noise makes road games less intimidating. Looking deeper, Tampa owns the 5th best defensive efficiency rating or DVOA according to Football Outsiders. They also are 3rd in offensive DVOA only behind the Chiefs and Packers.  After slaughtering the Packers in week six it is not hard to imagine Brady winning the NFC Championship and getting a shot at his seventh Super Bowl ring. For the biggest return on investment the Bucs would be the best bet and are led by a QB who has been there plenty of times before. 

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Jan 13

by Larry Ness

Wednesday, Jan 13, 2021

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."CBB: There were two top-25 matchups in Tuesday's play (No. 2 Baylor home to No. 13 West Va was postponed), No. 7 Michigan hosting No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 19 Duke playing at No. 20 Va Tech. Juwan Howard's Michigan team is "for real," as it overwhelmed No. 9 Wisconsin with a 36-3 outburst spanning the two halves and rolled to a 77-54 victory at Ann Arbor. Michigan's lead topped out at 40 points midway through the second half and maintained sole possession of first place in the Big Ten at 6-0. The Duke/Va Tech contest marked the first ACC game this season with both teams holding national rankings at the time of the game. Duke was playing only its second road game of the season and Virginia Tech opened an 18-point lead in the first half. Duke climbed within 64-59 with less than eight minutes remaining but the Hokies held on for a 74-67 win. Two top-10 teams were scheduled to play last night but No. Tennessee had its game at Vandy postponed. No. 6 Kansa played at unranked Oklahoma St and lost 75-70.No. 4 Texas (10-1) is home to No. 15 Texas Tech (10-3) in the lone Wednesday game involving ranked opponents. Texas returns home off a thrilling 72-70 win at then-No. 14 West Virginia on Saturday in which Andrew Jones hit the game-winning three-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining. Texas continued its best start in Big 12 play since the 2010-11 season, when it began league play with 11 straight wins. Higher ranked teams are 25-11 (.694) SU but just 20-16 (55.6%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents Y-T-D. Texas is favored by 2 1/2-points. Three ranked teams are in action against unranked opponents. 8-1 Louisville went from unranked to No. 16 in Monday's poll and will play at 3-3 Wake Forest (Cardinals are favored by eight points). 7-2 Virginia is ranked 18th and is home to 3-7 Notre Dame (Cavs are favored by 9 1/2-points points), while 9-3 Ohio St is back in the top-25 at No. 21, after a one-week absence. The Buckeyes will host 6-4 Northwestern, which comes in on a three-game slide. Ohio St is favored by eight points.NHL: The league announced that 27 players had confirmed positive COVID-19 tests during training camps, which concluded Tuesday.  Seventeen of those players were members of the Dallas Stars, who shut down their training facilities last Friday after an outbreak. Dallas' first three games -- at Florida on Thursday and Friday and at Tampa Bay on Sunday -- have been postponed. The defending Western Conference champions are now tentatively set to open at the Lightning on Jan. 19 in a Stanley Cup Final rematch. Wednesday's Opening Night features a tripleheader on NBCSN: Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (5:30 ET), Chicago at defending champion Tampa Bay (8:00 ET) and St Louis at Colorado (10:00 ET).NBA: More news comes from the NBA, which postponed four games this week because of COVID-19 issues, including three that involved the Boston Celtics. Along with Celtics, the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls are all dealing with significant issues in fielding the required eight players because of positive tests and contact tracing. The Lakers beat the Rockets 117-100 last night (2nd win in three nights at Houston) to up their NBA-best record to 9-3. ESPN features a Wednesday doubleheader, as the 6-6 Nets are in MSG to take on the 5-6 Knicks at 7:35 ET (Nets are favored by 5 1/2-points). The nightcap is at 10:05 ET In LA, as the 4-5 Pelicans take on the 7-4 Clippers (LA is favored by 7 1/2-points). Speaking of LA, the Lakers are "back at it" again tonight in OKC, where they are favored by eight points over the 5-5 Thunder.LSU 2019 vs Alabama 2020 comparison moved to Thursday's Notes with NFL Division Round preview set for Friday.Good luck...Larry

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

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Jan 13, 2021

The Wednesday card features action in the NBA and college basketball, the English Premier League, and the NHL.The puck drops to begin the 2021 season of the National Hockey League with five games. The NBC Sports Network has a triple-header starting at 5:35 PM ET with Philadelphia hosting Pittsburgh as a money line favorite priced at -109 with a total of 6 (all odds from BetOnline). At 8:05 PM ET, Tampa Bay begins the defense of their Stanley Cup championship by playing at home against Chicago as a -237 money line favorite an over/under of 6.5. The nightcap is at 10:35 PM ET with Colorado playing at home against St. Louis as a -134 money line favorite with a total of 5.5The NBA eight games on tap. The Utah/Washington and Orlando/Boston games scheduled for today got postponed because of COVID issues. ESPN has a doubleheader starting at 7:35 PM ET with Brooklyn visiting New York. The Nets snapped a two-game losing streak last night by defeating Denver, 122-116, as a 1.5-point favorite to raise their record to 6-6. New York fell to 5-6 with their third straight loss on Monday with a 109-88 loss at Charlotte as a 5-point underdog. Brooklyn is a 6-point road favorite with an over/under of 219.The second game on ESPN has the Los Angeles Clippers hosting New Orleans in the Staples Center at 10:05 PM ET. The Clippers are 7-4 with two wins in their last three games after their 130-127 victory against Chicago on Sunday as a 12.5-point favorite. The Pelicans have lost three in a row to fall to 4-5 with their 118-110 loss to Charlotte as a 7.5-point favorite. Los Angeles is a 6-point favorite with the total at 220.5.The college basketball card begins at 2 PM E with two games in the Atlantic 10. St. Bonaventure visits Fordham as an 11.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 124.5. VCU plays at George Washington as a 10-point road favorite with a total of 143.Dayton hosts Duquesne at 7 PM ET on the CBS Sports Network. The Flyers are 6-3 after winning two of their last three games with their 89-78 upset victory at Davidson as a 7-point underdog on Friday. The Dukes moved to 3-3 after their 48-43 win against Fordham as a 13.5-point favorite on Saturday. Dayton is a 6.5-point favorite with a 133.5 total.LSU plays at home against Arkansas at 7 PM ET on ESPN2. The Tigers are 8-2 with two straight victories after they upset Ole Miss on the road, 75-61, as a 2-point underdog on Saturday. The Razorbacks snapped a two-game losing streak to raise their record to 10-2 with a 99-69 win against Georgia as a 5.5-point favorite on Saturday. LSU is a 2.5-point favorite with an over/under of 145.5.At 8:30 PM ET, Georgetown plays at home against DePaul on FS1. The Hoyas fell to 3-8 with their fifth straight loss in a 74-69 loss at Syracuse on Saturday as a 10-point underdog. DePaul is 1-4 after losing their fourth game in a row in a 60-53 loss at home to UConn as a 4.5-point underdog on Monday. Georgetown is a 2-point favorite with a total of 145.5.Texas hosts Texas Tech at 9 PM ET on ESPN in a battle of top-15 ranked Big 12 foes. The Longhorns are ranked fourth in the Associated Press poll with a 10-1 record. They last played on Saturday when they upset West Virginia on the road by a 72-70 score as a 1.5-point underdog. The Red Raiders rank 15th by the AP with a 10-3 mark. They have won four of their last five games after defeating Iowa State on the road by a 91-64 score as an 8.5-point favorite. Texas is a 3-point favorite with an over/under of 135.Boise State plays at Wyoming at 9 PM on the CBS Sports Network in a rematch of their contest in Laramie on Monday. The Broncos won that game by an 83-60 score as a 7-point favorite to improve their record to a 10-1 mark. The Cowboys fell to 7-3 with the loss. Boise State is a 10-point road favorite with a total of 135.Matchweek 18 continues in the English Premier League with two matches on the NBC Sports Network. Manchester City hosts Brighton and Hove Albion as a -2 goal line favorite with an over/under of 3.25 at 1 PM ET. Tottenham visits Fulham at 3:15 PM ET as a -1.25 goal line road favorite with the total at 2.75.

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Sheldon Adelson - A Retrospective

by Will Rogers

Wednesday, Jan 13, 2021

Coming as it did in the midst of a pandemic claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans and less than a week after a mob’s deadly attack on the nation’s Capitol building, the death of Las Vegas icon Sheldon Adelson received less notice than it deserved.Adelson may not have been the self-promoter that Steve Wynn has been, but his influence in the tourism, gambling, and convention businesses range just as far, if not further. And who among us can say we were a major influence in the moving of a United States embassy?Raised in Boston during the Depression, Adelson’s entrepreneurial drive took hold when he was a teen in the post-World War II era and led him to Las Vegas in the post-Mafia 1980s. He purchased the Sands Hotel-Casino (where the Rat Pack had held court a few decades earlier) and quickly attached a convention center to it.A decade later the Sands was razed and its footprint rose the Venetian. Its companion property, the Palazzo, opened next door in 2007 along with a new convention center. While all this was going on, Adelson somehow found time to stretch his empire to the China gambling empire of Macau, where the Sands Macau supposedly was so successful that it returned his $265 million investment in 12 months.While Adelson was certainly passionate about making money, it did not come without controversy. He was an early and vocal critic of online gambling, and more than a few critics said that as a bricks-and-mortar casino owner his stated reason (children’s access to gambling via the Internet) was disingenuous. Adelson also took more than a few hits for ardently opposing efforts to ban smoking in casinos.A fervent supporter of Israel and Jewish causes in the United States, Adelson was a conservative whose political activism led him to the Republican Party. “I’m against very wealthy ¬people attempting to or influencing elections,” he once said. “But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it.” He gave millions to the campaigns of Republican candidates, most notably one Donald J. Trump. The two were tied to the hip (Adelson wanted the U.S. Embassy moved to Jerusalem, and Trump was only too happy to accommodate him) for years until Trump pushed things a little too far.Last August the two spoke on the phone. Adelson wanted to talk about the pandemic and the economy; Trump wanted to talk about why Adelson wasn’t writing checks with more zeroes. Whether they ever made up is uncertain, but not long after that Adelson’s cancer forced him to the sidelines.Hard-right conservative politics notwithstanding, Adelson did receive credit for helping out his workers during the 2008 recession and most recently as jobs were jeopardized during the pandemic, making sure all his employees retained health care insurance. With a net worth of $35 billion, it didn’t put much of a dent in his bottom line.Adelson lived to age 87, blowing past the normal retirement age by more than two decades and giving credence to one other Adelson quote: “The key factor in my strategy is longevity.”

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NCAA Wednesday Night Basketball: Texas/Texas Tech Preview

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Jan 13, 2021

A college basketball doubleheader on ESPN2 concludes at 9 PM ET in a battle between two Big 12 teams nationally ranked in the top fifteen.Texas Tech ranks 15th in the nation in the Associated Press poll after their 91-64 thrashing of Iowa State on the road as an 8.5-point favorite on Saturday. The victory raised the Red Raiders’ record to 10-3 on the season. This group is likely Chris 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. Georgetown transfer Mac McClung has adapted to Beard’s system to lead the team with a 15.3 points-per-game scoring average. Shannon is second on the team by scoring 13.6 points-per-game. Once again, Texas Tech is an outstanding defensive team under Beard. They are fifth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to kenpom. The Red Raiders are also fourth in the country by forcing turnovers in 26.7% of their opponent’s possessions. This team also thrives in getting second-chance shots. Texas Tech rebounds 35.1% of their missed shots, 23rd in the country. They also get to the free-throw line as they rank seventh in free throw rate. The weakness of this team is shooting the basketball. The Red Raiders make only 33.1% of their 3-pointers and 50.2% of their shots inside the arc, ranking 165th and 189th, respectively. Kenpom ranks their adjusted offensive efficiency at 37th.Texas Tech’s three losses were to Houston, Kansas, and Oklahoma State. Their highest-profile win is against Oklahoma. Beard’s team could use another resume-building victory after compiling several wins against lesser competition. Texas has several impressive victories against Indiana and North Carolina en route to winning the Maui Invitational while adding wins against Kansas, West Virginia, and Oklahoma State. Their lone loss was at home to Villanova. They have since won six games to raise their record to 10-1 and earn a number four ranking by the AP. The Longhorns last played on Saturday when they upset the Mountaineers by a 72-70 score as a 1.5-point underdog. Head coach Shaka 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 15 of their last 17 games since that drubbing to the Cyclones. The Longhorns returned twelve players, including all five starters from last year. Smart added a likely one-and-done freshman in Greg Brown with his 12.0 points-per-game and 7.9 rebounds-per-game. Texas has five players scoring at least 9.0 points-per-game, led by Courtney Ramey with his 13.9 points-per-game average.Texas ranks 12th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. On defense, the Longhorns are fourth in adjusted defensive efficiency fueled by their half-court defense as they hold their opponents to a 42.3% effective field goal percentage, ninth-best in the country. BetAnySports lists Texas as a 2-point favorite with the total set at 131.

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NHL North Division Preview for 2021

by Scott Rickenbach

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021

NHL North Division Preview for 2021Finally hockey is back as we are heading into the New Year and we will have the NHL season underway by mid-January in this unusually scheduled 2021 hockey season that has been impacted by the pandemic. The impact of the pandemic has also resulted in some divisional shuffling for this season. Below I give a quick hitter report on each of the seven teams in the North Division:North:Calgary – Look for Jacob Markstrom to thrive in Calgary. The change of scenery will be great for the goaltender and he continues to show signs he is on the verge of being able to put a team on his back. Overall this is a quality Flames team that should end up in the post-season once again this year. With Giordano and Tkachuk leading by example, this team also has some solid leadership in the lockerroom. Factor in top talent like Gaudreau and Monahan and this is a team that could make some noise if Markstrom comes through between the pipes. Edmonton – The Oilers are another high-quality team that should be playoff bound. Amazingly, even with McDavid and Draisaitl as well as Nugent-Hopkins, this is a team that has missed the playoffs far too often. However, they appear to finally be turning the corner and the Oilers do get a boost with the signing of Tyson Barrie too. I also like the fact that Edmonton was the best team in the league on the power play and 2nd best on the penalty kill last season. Special teams go a long way toward success in this league including in the post-season. Montreal – This team was similar to Chicago last season. By that I mean they were very fortunate to get a shot to make it into the playoffs with the revised format and they took advantage. However, this was not and still is not a true playoff team. The Canadiens are simply a middling team that is trending a bit downward as Drouin underachieved after coming here from Tampa Bay and he was close to Domi who now got sent to Columbus because of not getting along with head coach Claude Julien who is not returning from heart surgery during the post-season. This once-proud franchise hasn’t won a playoff series since 2015 and this year they are unlikely to even have the opportunity as they don’t make the playoffs given the tough North Division they’re in. Ottawa – This is the one team that will keep Montreal out of the basement. Ottawa is in a rebuild mode as they have had 3 straight tough seasons now. The Senators also lost a number of contributors in the off-season. Long-range this team will be better off as a result of the changes made but short-term it will challenge this team’s compete level. A lot of youth on this team plus new personnel to work into the roster. That said, we’ll likely see some improvement with this hockey club as it gets a chance to jell as the season goes on but there will still be some early season struggles and, overall, this team is unlikely to get out of the basement in this division. Toronto – This could finally be the year for the Maple Leafs. The divisional re-alignment for this season only really helps Toronto as they get away from the Lightning and Bruins and I expect the Leafs to take advantage and earn the top spot in this division. That is not to say it will be easy but it does position them well to then make a playoff run too. So much top tier talent plus then they added the veteran presence of Joe Thornton and they will be hungry right along with him as he goes for the Cup at the age of 41. The Maple Leafs certainly can score well with big guns like Matthews and Marner and Tavares. They also can get solid goaltending from Frederik Andersen but will this team get enough defense. They need all the skaters to step up in that department not just the blue line guys. That said, this is a team to keep an eye on for plenty of “overs” too depending on how much “buy in” is seen in terms of team defense. Vancouver – Braden Holtby in goal backed up Thatcher Demko after shining in the post-season and a ton of talent up front where guys like Miller, Pettersson, Horvat, and Boeser lead the way. This is a talented team and they added Nate Schmidt from Vegas to pair with Quinn Hughes on the blue line. It will very likely be between the Canucks and Maple Leafs for the top spot in this division. This team has a great power play and if they can be a little stronger on the penalty kill and their 5 on 5 play at both ends this a team that is absolutely on the cusp and on its way up. Their point totals the last 3 seasons went from 73 to 81 to 93. Another solid season on tap for the Canucks as they have responded well to coach Travis Green. Winnipeg – It was just a couple seasons ago that the Jets were one of the top teams in the NHL. Then they have regressed some each of the past two seasons and the regression is likely to continue this season. Too many issues, too many question marks, problems with chemistry, and a blue line in a state of flux. That latter issue is of particular concern because goalie Connor Hellebuyck is off a fantastic campaign but has had trouble going to back to back with strong seasons. If the D in front of him struggles or he falters some this season, it could be a long campaign for the Jets. The whole Patrik Laine situation took a lot out of this team and guys like Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele are simply being asked to do too much. The result is this team will have to battle hard just to make the post-season this year.

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Jan 12

by Larry Ness

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."CFB: LSU's 2019 national champions (15-0) were called "a team for the ages" and many (most?) college football experts declared Joe Burrow's LSU squad "the greatest offense of all time." However, just one year later, the 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide stated "their case" for that title with a 52-24 romp over Ohio State Monday night at Hard Rock Stadium. Nick Saban won a record SEVENTH title, saying "Move over Bear Bryant," who won six. SIX of Saban's national championships have come during his 14 seasons at Alabama (all six in the last 12 years), with his first title coming at LSU back in 2013. I want a day to reflect and Wednesday Notes will feature my Alabama/LSU comparison.CBB: The AP's latest poll was released Monday afternoon and for the EIGHTH consecutive week, it's Gonzaga (now 12-0) at No. 1 and Baylor (11-0) at No. 2. The Bulldogs got all but one of the 64 first-place votes, with one holdout ranking the Bears at No. 1. Maybe that voter is looking at Baylor's 9-2 ATS mark, compared to Gonzaga's 6-5-1 one? The only change in the top-10 was Michigan (10-0) moving up to No. 7 (from No. 10). 8-1 Villanova hasn't played since Dec 23 but remained No. 3, 10-1 Texas stayed at No. 4 and 11-2 Iowa remained at No. 5. 9-1 Clemson made a big jump, moving up SEVEN spots to No. 12, while 8-1 Louisville went from unranked to No. 16.  9-3 Ohio St is back in at No. 21 after a one-week absence and 6-1 UConn moved into the top-25 (at No. 25) for the first time since the 2016-17 season. Falling out were No. 15 Rutgers (on a three-game slide), No. 23 Michigan St and No. 25 Florida St.Playing as a ranked team for the first time in four seasons, UConn survived in Chicago with a 60-53 win over DePaul. The Huskies played a second straight game without James Bouknight (No. 2 scorer in the Big East at 20.3 PPG), UConn held DePaul scoreless over the final 4:27 of the game in a closing 8-0 run. Looking ahead to Tuesday's action, the Big Ten has seven teams in the AP's latest poll, including THREE in the top-10. TWO of those teams play each other tonight, as No. 7 Michigan (10-0) hosts No. 9 Wisconsin (10-2) in Ann Arbor. The only other top-25 matchup is No. 19 Duke (5-2) at No. 20 Va Tech (9-2). Michigan is favored by 3 1/2-points and Duke is favored by 1 1/2-points. Higher ranked teams are 24-10 (.706) SU but just 19-15 (55.9%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents Y-T-D. Two other top-10 teams are in action, as 10-2 Kansas (No. 6) is at 8-3 Oklahoma St (Jayhawks are favored by 12 points) and 9-1 Tennessee (No. 10) is at 4-5 Vandy (Vols are favored by 12 1/2-points).NBA: The 2020-21 season tipped off back on Dec 22, so we are three weeks in. Some COVID issues have arisen lately and as I've said since sports returned back on July 23, "fingers crossed." The 76ers opened 7-1 but have lost THREE in a row. Philly is now 7-4 and tied with Milwaukee, a half-game behind East leader Boston (7-3). As noted last week, the Bucks own the NBA's best point-differential at plus-11.8, so there is every indication that the Bucks will win the East for a third straight season. The defending champion Lakers own the NBA's best overall record at 8-3 and at plus-8.3 PPG, rank second to Milwaukee in point differential. Just behind the Lakers are the 7-4 Clippers and Suns. It's all still VERY early but the 2-8 Raptors have shown few signs of looking anywhere close to the team that won the NBA title two seasons ago and had the NBA's second-best regular season record during last year's regular season. Toronto's just 3-7 ATS, tied for worst with the 5-5 Nuggets, who are also 3-7 ATS. Who has the NBA's best ATS record? Naturally, it's the 4-7 Chicago Bulls at 8-3 ATS!Good luck...Larry

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NCAA Tuesday Night Basketball: Michigan/Wisconsin Preview

by Big Al Staff

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021

A college basketball doubleheader on ESPN tips off at 7 PM ET in a battle between two Big Ten teams nationally ranked in the top-ten.Michigan is one of the surprises of the college basketball season. They join Gonzaga and Baylor as the only programs from major conferences that have yet to lose this season. The Wolverines raised their record to 10-0 last Wednesday with an 82-57 victory at home against Minnesota as an 8-point favorite. They begin the week ranked seventh in the nation in the Associated Press poll.Head coach Juwan Howard had three starters return from the team that finished 19-12 last season. Isaiah Livers averaged 12.9 points-per-game while shooting 40.9% from 3-point range. Franz Wagner was on the Big Ten All-Freshman team with an 11.6 points-per-game average. Eli Brooks added 10.6 points-per-game in his sophomore season. Howard brought-in two impact transfer players in seniors Mike Smith from Columbia and Chaundee Brown from Wake Forest. Yet it has been freshman Hunter Dickinson who has been the difference-maker for this team. The four-star recruit is scoring 18.0 points-per-game while adding 8.1 rebounds-per-game.Michigan ranks sixth in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom while also ranking 20th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Howard’s team shoots the ball well and while playing strong fundamental defense. The Wolverines are seventh in the nation with an effective field goal percentage of 59.0%. Their opponent’s effective field goal percentage of 43.8% is 13th best in the country. Yet Michigan will face their stiffest test this season against the Badgers. The Wolverines' highest-profile victory was against the Golden Gophers last week. Their best non-conference opponent was Central Florida. They have played eight of their ten games at home. Howard’s team started fast last season as well in his first year as a head coach. Michigan rose to rank fourth in the nation after a 7-0 start with victories against Creighton, North Carolina, and Gonzaga before they went 12-12 the rest of the way. Yet before presuming a similar slide is destined for this year’s team, remember that Livers suffered an injury that kept him out of ten games in the second half of the season. Wisconsin has won their last two games and seven of their last eight after outlasted Indiana in double-overtime on Thursday by an 80-73 score as a 9-point favorite. The Badgers are 10-2 and rank ninth in the nation by the AP.Head coach Greg Gard has one of the most experienced teams in the nation. Five seniors who scored at least 8.7 points-per-game on the team that shared the Big Ten title with Michigan State and Maryland are back. This core is all averaging at least 9.8 points-per-game this season, with D’Mitrik Rice leading the way with a 14.8 points-per-game scoring average along with 3.3 rebounds-per-game and 3.7 assists-per-game.Wisconsin ranks tenth in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom while also ranking seventh in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Badgers are making 41.4% of their 3-point shots, fourth-best in the nation. Gard’s group is also 12th in the country by holding their opponents to 41.9% shooting inside the arc. They have high-profile victories against Louisville, Michigan State, and the Minnesota team that the Wolverines just beat. Wisconsin’s two losses were at Marquette and home to Maryland. BookMaker lists Michigan as a 3.5-point favorite with the total set at 134.

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The Browns Actually Won A Playoff Game

by Will Rogers

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021

Week 1 of Year 1 of expanded NFL playoffs is in the books, and old-timers who hate change are on the defensive a bit this week. Indianapolis and Chicago, who in any other season would have had the month of January off, became the first 7-seeds in league history to “earn” a playoff berth – and neither completely embarrassed itself.The AFC Colts went into their game against 2-seed Buffalo as solid 7-point dogs, and came within one possession of taking out the Bills. If this was Philip Rivers’s last game in the NFL, he left with his head high (309 yards passing, two TDs) and can tell his grandkids that in his 256th and final game as a pro he at least covered the spread (final 27-24).In the NFC, the 7-seed Bears were a little less tidy. Chicago failed to reach the end zone, was never in the game and failed to cover an 11-point line in losing 21-9 to No. 2 seed New Orleans. Little was expected from Chicago, and little was given.The Big Story, though, took place in Cleveland where the Browns appear to have awoken from a decades-long nap and actually outplayed and out-toughed the Steelers. Outside of the AFC East, where until this year the Patriots have crushed everyone for the last 20 years, no one has owned a team like the Steelers have owned the Browns.All that, though, was tossed out the car window in the first period as the 5.5-point underdog Browns bended, folded and mutilated a tired and depressed Steelers team that only a few months ago was talking about an undefeated season. COVID-ravaged Cleveland led 28-0 before the Steelers coaches even got their virus masks on, and from there it was just filler.Cleveland, seeded 6th, now heads into the Divisional Round against top-seeded Kansas City, and bettors who believe the Browns’ surge has legs can get 10 points in just about any book they want. KC backers can scour books and buy the Chiefs at -9.5, but there has been very little line movement since this went on the board last Sunday night. Bargain-hunters may have to wait until later in the week before they see any line alterations.

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

by Big Al Staff

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021

The Tuesday sports card features action in the NBA and college basketball and the beginning of Matchweek 18 in the English Premier League.Six games are on the NBA docket. The card tips off at 7:05 PM ET with Philadelphia hosting Miami as an 8-point favorite with the total a total of 210 (all odds from BetOnline). Utah visits Cleveland as a 12-point favorite with an over/under of 206 at 7:35 PM ET. Denver visits Brooklyn at 7:35 PM ET with the Nets a 1-point favorite with the total at 230.5. At 8:05 PM ET, San Antonio travels to Oklahoma City as a 2.5-point road favorite with the total set at 216.5. Houston hosts the Los Angeles Lakers at 8:05 PM ET with the Lakers laying 4.5-points as the road favorite and the total at 225.5. Golden State plays at home against Indiana at 10:35 PM ET as a 3-point favorite with an over/under of 228. None of the games are on national television. The scheduled game between Boston and Chicago got postponed due to COVID issues.The college basketball card begins at 2 PM ET in the Mid-American Conference. Buffalo visits Western Michigan as a road favorite with an over/under of 144.5.Wisconsin travels to Ann Arbor to play Michigan in a battle of top-ten ranked Big Ten teams at 7 PM ET on ESPN. The Badgers have won two straight games and seven of their last eight after defeating Indiana at home, 80-73, last Thursday as a 9-point favorite. The victory raised Wisconsin’s record to 10-2. They rank ninth in the Associated Press poll. Michigan ranks seventh in that pool with their undefeated 10-0 record. They last played on Wednesday when they defeated Minnesota by an 87-57 score as an 8-point favorite. The Wolverines are laying 3.5-points as the favorite with a total of 134.Tennessee visits Vanderbilt at 7 PM ET on ESPN2. The Volunteers have won two in a row after defeating Texas A&M on the road, 68-54, as a 10-point favorite on Saturday. Tennessee ranks tenth by the AP, with that win elevating their record to 9-1. The Commodores have lost three in a row for a 4-5 record.  They lost at home to Mississippi State by an 84-81 score as a 2.5-point underdog on Saturday. The Volunteers are a 12-point road favorite with an over/under of 138.St. John’s hosts Butler on FS1 at 7 PM ET. The Red Storm have lost two straight games and five of their last six after losing at Creighton on Saturday by a 97-79 score as an 11-point underdog. Mike Anderson’s group is 6-6. The Bulldogs have dropped three of their last four to see their record drop to 3-6 after losing at home to UConn on Saturday, 72-60, as a 1.5-point underdog. St. John’s is a 2-point favorite with the total at 144.Marquette plays at home against Providence on FS1 at 9 PM ET. The Golden Eagles are 4-5 after losing four of their last five games after their 65-54 loss to UConn last Tuesday as a 1-point underdog. The Friars fell to 7-5 after losing their second straight game on Sunday in a 74-73 loss at Xavier as a 4-point underdog. Marquette is a 3-point favorite with an over/under of 139.Kentucky hosts Alabama on ESPN at 9 PM ET. The Wildcats have won three games in a row after they upset Florida on the road in Gainesville on Saturday, 76-58, as a 5.5-point underdog. John Calipari’s team is now 4-6 this season. The Crimson Tide raised their record to 9-3 with their fifth straight victory on Saturday in a 94-90 win at Auburn as a 4.5-point favorite. Kentucky is a 2.5-point favorite with the total at 147.5.The English Premier League begins Matchweek 18 with three matches. Newcastle United visits Sheffield United at 1 PM ET in a pick ‘em matchup with an over/under of 2. Manchester United plays on the road at Burnley at 3:15 PM ET as a -1.25 goal line road favorite with a total of 2.75. The NBC Sports Network has the broadcast. Wolverhampton hosts Everton at 3:15 PM ET in a pick ‘em match with an over/under of 2.25.

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