Sports Picks For Sale - Nelly's Sports

Hot Streaks and Achievements

  • 18-9, 67% start to the 2022-23 season in college basketball
  • 10-3 our last 13 in the NBA, 43-27, 61% all basketball in 2022-23
  • 30-21 NCAA Football Run since Oct. 22, 16-8 in TNF/MNF NFL selections


Nelly’s Sportsline has been at the forefront of the handicapping world since the 1990 football season, Joe Nelson has been the lead handicapper since 2003.

Active since: 1990

Location: Madison, Wisconsin

Widely known for the Nelly’s Sportsline Green Sheet weekly newsletter in the football season, Nelly’s Sportsline has provided consistent returns for scores of clients nationwide for more than three decades. In the lead role for nearly two decades, Joe Nelson has earned significant acclaim for contest wins, top rankings on national leaderboards, impressive win percentages, as well as being recognized for providing outstanding content and analysis showcasing an intimate understanding of the workings and cycles of the three major American sports and the active wagering marketplace.

Some recent highlights:

2020-21 Football: In the atypical 2020-21 football season Nelly’s Sportsline delivered an impressive showing in both college and NFL football, posting an incredible closing run through the bowls and NFL Playoffs. Nelly’s finished at exactly 60.0% in the 2020-21 NFL season including a 10-1 run through the playoffs and the Super Bowl, backing Tampa Bay and turning in a perfect card on a handful of Super Bowl props. Nelly’s finished the 2020-21 college football season with a winning selection on Alabama in the championship game to complete the college season with a 62.5% winning percentage, closing the season on an epic 75.0% run from November 7 on, including a 77.8% winning percentage in bowl releases.

2020-21 Basketball: Nelly’s finished the NBA regular season winning at a 62.0% pace, for a fourth consecutive NBA regular season above a 60.0% winning percentage. Nelly’s finished the 2020-21 college basketball regular season at 62.7%.

2020 Baseball: Nelly’s turned in a profitable MLB season for the fifth time in the previous six years in the abbreviated 2020 baseball season. Totals were a standout with a 61.1% winning percentage on MLB over/under selections in the 2020 regular season.

2019-20 Basketball: Nelly’s hit 62.9% in the 2019-20 NBA regular season before the pause in March. Nelly’s added a 63.6% winning percentage in the NBA restart to complete a 63.1% regular season. Nelly’s was also profitable in college basketball before the season was cancelled at 54.5%.

2018-19 Football: Nelly’s had winning records and slightly profitable results in both the NFL and NCAA seasons.

2018-19 Basketball: Nelly’s finished at 57.7% in the 2018-19 college basketball season including a 62.5% winning percentage in the 2019 NCAA Tournament capped off by selecting Virginia for the championship. Nelly’s had a historically great NBA regular season finishing at 66.1% in 2018-19 including an 84.2% run in December 2018 that included an 11-game winning streak while also posting a 14-game winning streak late in the season.  

2018 Baseball: Nelly’s grinded out a profitable MLB regular season at 52.7% with the vast majority of those selections being underdogs or totals. Nelly’s had a 62.2% winning percentage in the 2018 MLB postseason including hitting 77.8% in postseason totals.

2017-18 Football: Nelly’s turned in an incredibly profitable 2017-18 NFL season hitting 60.7% in the regular season and 71.4% in the NFL playoffs, backing the Eagles in all three of their playoff games through the Super Bowl upset. Nelly’s also hit 63.6% in the 2017-18 college bowl season.

2017-18 Basketball: Nelly’s hit 61.1% in the 2017-18 college basketball season including a 68.8% winning percentage in the 2018 NCAA Tournament after backing Villanova in both Final Four games. That season included a 73.5% pace in February 2018 college basketball. Nelly’s hit 63.1% in the 2017-18 NBA regular season including a 66.7% mark in the first half before the All-Star break, while posting a winning record in every single month of that NBA regular season.

2017 Baseball: Nelly’s turned in a third straight profitable MLB season in 2017 including a 66.7% mark in the World Series. In that season Nelly’s posted two separate eight-game winning streaks with solely underdog selections.

2016-17 Football: Nelly’s closed the season on a strong note with a 69.4% mark in the 2016-17 college bowl season.

2016-17 Basketball: Nelly’s turned in a phenomenal March Madness run hitting 65.0% in NCAA Tournament selections and a 62.2% winning percentage from March 1 through backing North Carolina in early April for the championship. Nelly’s also turned in a 60.0% record in the NBA Playoffs in 2017.

2016 Baseball: Nelly’s hit 54.6% in the 2016 MLB regular season with almost exclusively underdogs and totals for a massive profit return, including hitting 60.5% on totals in the regular season and 66.7% on totals in the 2016 MLB postseason.

2015-16 Football: Nelly’s hit 61.9% in the 2015-16 NFL season including posting an 85.7% winning clip in the NFL playoffs, while backing the Broncos to blast the Panthers in the Super Bowl. Nelly’s hit 71.4% in the 2015-16 college bowl season including riding Clemson as an underdog in their narrow loss to Alabama for the playoff title.  

2015-16 Basketball: Nelly’s hit 61.9% in the 2015-16 college basketball regular season including three huge months with an 87.5% November 2015, a 65.8% January 2016, and a 61.9% February 2016. Nelly’s also had a profitable NBA regular season in 2015-16.

2015 Baseball: A 63.6% month of April with almost exclusively underdogs buoyed a profitable MLB season in 2015, a season finished off by backing the Royals as an underdog in each of their four World Series wins.

2014-15 Football: Nelly’s had an 85.7% winning percentage in the 2014-15 NFL playoffs for a great closing run.

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NCAAB - Point Spread - Tue, Dec 06 at 6:30 PM

Nelly's Free NCAA Selection Tuesday

Yale vs Butler

Yale +6.5 (-105) (BetMGM)

The 8-1 start for Yale has come through a weak schedule but they lost by just three at Colorado in the most difficult game on the path and the Bulldogs have a pair of top 200 wins. The numbers on both sides of the ball are appealing for any underdog however as this is an offense that doesn’t turn...

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NCAAB - Point Spread - Tue, Dec 06

Nelly’s Tuesday Big Ten Best Bet 67% NCAA

Nelly’s was 2-1 yesterday and we have won two thirds of our college basketball selections this season with an 18-9 st...


NBA - Over / Under - Tue, Dec 06

Nelly’s NBA Total of the Week 10-3 RUN

Nelly’s went 2-1 overall yesterday including another NBA winner, riding a 10-3 run in the NBA over the past 15 days. ...


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World Cup Futures Look: Group F

Tuesday, Nov 22, 2022

World Cup Futures Look: GROUP F The 2022 World Cup kicks off Sunday, Nov. 20 in Qatar with 32 teams in eight groups with daily matches round-robin group play through Dec. 2. Group F starts play Wednesday, November 22 and features Belgium, Canada, Croatia, and Morocco.   Written by Nelly’s Sportsline contributor Forrest Allen ODDS TO QUALIFY FROM GROUP F (TOP 2 TEAMS ADVANCE)  Belgium -450 Canada +300 Croatia -175 Morocco +200 If your politics, patriotism, or purse does not suit an underdog like Iran to advance to the knockout round, allow me to suggest a “chalkier” pick that does not carry the downside risk of tournament favorite such as Argentina or England at -1200 and -2000, respectively. Croatia, the darlings of the last World Cup who came oh so close to hoisting the trophy, are back to prove that 2018 was no fluke. After dropping their initial match to Slovenia, Croatia went undefeated in its next 9 fixtures with 7 wins on their way to winning its group filled with respectable competition to qualify for this year’s World Cup. Similarly, Croatia won its group in the UEFA Nations League highlighted by two wins over Denmark, a team ranked 10th in the world, and taking four points from France, winners of the most recent World Cup and one of the favorites to win in Qatar. The team’s only loss in the group stage was to Austria, which it later avenged with a 3-1 win.  On offense, Croatia features a balanced attack which prevents the defense from focusing on a single player. Luka Modrić will likely be the centerpiece of Croatia’s attack. A bonified international superstar for Real Madrid, the midfielder can do it all, leading the team in goals and second on the team in assists in aforementioned international competitions. His experience and successes are similar to those often cited as the best in the world; champion multiple times over in La Liga, SuperCopa de Espana, Champions League, and UEFA Super Cup. While certainly not as decorated, but every bit as capable will be fellow midfielders Ivan Perisci of Tottenham Hotspur and Mateo Kovacic of Chelsea. Perisic has been masterful at creating opportunities for Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son as evidenced by his 7 assists in the EPL, good for 7th in the league. Named Player of the Year for a Chelsea club that finished 4th in the EPL for the 2019-20 season, Kovacic or “The Professor”, is a master technician who can advance the ball up the pitch to create chances for his teammates. Defensively, Croatia is stout as evidenced by a +17 goal differential and 4 goals allowed in the 10 matches of World Cup Qualifying. Primary goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic’s 0.27 post shot expected goals minus goals against (PSxG-GA) puts him in the 98th percentile of goalkeepers.  For the 1 percent of readers who know what that means, hopefully you’re impressed and feel as though your money was well spent. For the 99 percent of people who have no idea what I just said, I’ll put it more plainly. This metric attempts to convey a goalkeeper’s ability to stop shots that would be expected to be goals. Positive numbers suggest an ability to do exactly that, while a negative number indicates a keeper is allowing goals others keep out of the back of the net.  If you’re still lost, Livakovic saves over 78% of the shots on target, which is better than 94% of other goalkeepers.   In front of Livakovic, two plucky center backs have enabled, arguably, the best trio of midfielders in the world to remain on the attack. The Athletic calls Josko Gvardiol “one of the best young defenders in the world” and “admired by a number of clubs across Europe.”  Josip Suatlo is a teammate of Livakovic on Dinamo Zagreb, the winner of the Croatian HNL, Croatia’s top league.  He excels in all of the areas you would hope a defender would, tackles, interceptions, and blocks, ranking in the 84th, 94th, and 96th percentiles respectively.  Selection: Croatia -175 Forrest Allen has a Masters of Science in Business Analytics from NYU specializing in the development of machine learning models for sports application. 

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World Cup Futures Look: Group B

Saturday, Nov 19, 2022

World Cup Futures Look: GROUP B The 2022 World Cup kicks off Sunday, Nov. 20 in Qatar with 32 teams in eight groups with daily matches round-robin group play through Dec. 2. Group B will be a group of great interest to a Western audience featuring England, USA, Wales, and Iran.  Written by Nelly’s Sportsline contributor Forrest Allen ODDS TO QUALIFY FROM GROUP B (TOP 2 TEAMS ADVANCE)  England -1000 Iran +450 USA +100 Wales +150  If you’re willing to hold your nose and take two showers to make some money, Iran advancing to the group stage is the ultimate contrarian play. For you to profit, they’ll do it against teams and players most familiar to US fans. It begins with England and all the players we’ve grown to love at 7AM on Saturdays. Next is a Welsh team whose highest profile player starred in the MLS final, and concludes against the US national team.  It won’t be a pretty start for our anti-heroes (there’s a Taylor Swift reference here I just can’t bring myself to make much to my daughter’s chagrin) as England, one of the favorites to win the tournament. They will likely have their way with Iran in what will likely be an easy trip through the group stage.  It is the next two games is where it gets interesting. My model gives Iran a 74% chance to win or draw against the US and Wales. Wales will be led by MLS-Final hero Gareth Bale. However, an MLS hero, an international hero does not make. Besides, this team selected exactly 0 players from Wrexham; perhaps a smart tactical decision, but a poor marketing one. Super Paul Mullin and Phil Parkinson’s “enthusiasm” would certainly attract some extra eyeballs, but I digress.  While there is certainly excitement around the United States team led by Captain America, Christian Pulisic, there are real questions about whether he can shoulder the load for one of the youngest, least experienced teams in the tournament. With all the hoopla surrounding Pulisic’s record-breaking transfer to Chelsea, the results have been disappointing to the point he’s been relegated to a part time player for a team currently outside the top 6. If Pulisic maintains the same form he’s had since his arrival in Chelsea, taking all 3 points from this match wouldn’t be a surprising result.   Now that we’ve covered everything not about the team in the headline, let’s actually turn our attention to the team in question; Iran. They got to Qatar by going 14-3-1 in the World Cup Qualifying round and finishing first in their group. These results were built on an exceptionally strong defense producing clean sheets in 80% of these games. Perhaps equally impressive was the 49 goals the team scored in those 18 matches. The offense is led by Sardar Azmoun who netted 10 of those goals in only 14 games. More familiar to fans of the Champions League will be Medhi Taremi who plays for perennial Champions League participant, Porto, and leads the team in both goals and assists.   The combination of a rock-solid defense and capable strikers have resulted in Iran being ranked as a top 20 team in the world rankings. Carlos Queiroz manages this team and is a known commodity for both his players and fans. He brings a wealth of experience coaching at the highest levels of international soccer including stints as the head man with Real Madrid, an assistant with legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, and Team Melli, the country's nickname for their team, in the previous two World Cups. In looking back at how Queiroz’s Iranian teams played, I’d expect the opposition to possess the ball the overwhelming majority of the time and in favor of staying very compact and prioritizing goal prevention. In the 2018 World Cup, Iran never possessed the ball more than 34% of the time and looked very comfortable doing so. This approach should facilitate quick strikes on the counterattack with Azmoun and Taremi.  Forrest Allen has a Masters of Science in Business Analytics from NYU specializing in the development of machine learning models for sports application. 

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MAC West Race November Outlook

Sunday, Oct 30, 2022

MAC West Race November Outlook  With the turn of the calendar to November, MACtion returns with Tuesday and Wednesday night college football and the MAC suddenly in the spotlight. Here is a look at the current MAC West standings and what to expect in the division race in the final month of the regular season. Toledo Rockets 4-1 – Remaining schedule: Ball State, Bowling Green, At Western Michigan Toledo has routinely been among the MAC favorites in the Jason Candle era, with Candle the head coach since 2006 but with the program in some capacity since 2009. Toledo has just one MAC title win in 2017 however despite a 34-17 MAC record under Candle, and that is the only year he has won the division title as the head coach. At 4-1 in league play Toledo is a heavy favorite to take the division this season as every other team in the MAC West has at least two losses and three of those five teams have three losses.  Toledo played without star quarterback Dequan Finn last week but got just enough from backup Tucker Gleason for a win at Eastern Michigan. The only MAC loss for Toledo came at East leader Buffalo but the Rockets still must play the two 2-2 teams in MAC play as Toledo is one upset loss away from inviting another team back in the division race. Toledo has the #1 total defense in the MAC and is one of the top rushing teams, but a prolonged absence of Finn would change that equation. Western Michigan 2-2 – Remaining schedule: At Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, At Central Michigan, Toledo  Western Michigan gets to host Toledo in the season finale as the Broncos have the best chance to catch the Rockets. Western Michigan won at Ball State early in the season for a key potential tiebreaker and snapped a two-game slide in the last game with a win at Miami, OH to reach 2-2.  Jack Salopek has been the wort rated quarterback in the MAC completing just 51 percent of his passes with 10 interceptions, but last week’s win was led by freshman Treyson Bourguet. His numbers did not impress with 123 yards on 16 completions, but he did avoid big mistakes and the Broncos have one of the better defenses in the MAC. Three toss-up games are ahead for Western Michigan before the finale with Toledo as this group can’t be ruled out yet and is the team with the best chance to catch Toledo.  Ball State 2-2 – Remaining schedule: At Kent State, At Toledo, Ohio, At Miami OH The Cardinals blew a fourth quarter lead in the last game hosting Eastern Michigan, a devastating result that likely ends MAC West hopes for Ball State. The Cardinals have wins over Northern Illinois and Central Michigan but the head-to-head loss against Western Michigan bumps Ball State to third place. The remaining schedule is daunting as well, facing four of the better teams in the conference in November with three of four games on the road.  Ball State is the second worst rushing team in the conference but the second best passing team, but this is a below average defense even with a favorable conference schedule so far. Quarterback John Paddock has thrown nine interceptions and has the lowest yards per attempt rate of any qualified MAC quarterback. Close games have ben the norm with four one-score results in MAC play for the Cardinals but having the next four games all land in favor of Ball State seems rather unlikely.  Northern Illinois 1-3 – Remaining schedule: Central Michigan, At Western Michigan, Miami OH, Akron  Northern Illinois got Rocky Lombardi back for the win over Eastern Michigan, but he returned to the sidelines in a loss to Ohio that dropped the Huskies to 1-3 in MAC play. Northern Illinois is better than its record but with losses to Toledo and Ball State there will need to be a lot of help with those teams getting upset down the stretch. The Huskies play at Western Michigan and the rest of the schedule is at home as it is a favorable closing run and a run to 5-3 can’t be ruled out.  The Huskies are the #2 MAC rushing team and the #2 MAC run defense for appealing traits and after making a run to the MAC title last season this is the long shot in the West that should climb upward. Toledo would need to lose twice, and the Huskies would need to win out including beating Western Michigan to force a multi-team tie scenario as it is quite an unlikely scenario, but this is a team that may pick up a few wins down the stretch despite sitting in last place at the moment.   Eastern Michigan had a three-point loss to Toledo last week that takes the Eagles out of the race in almost all scenarios. This group has lost by blowout margins twice in conference play and has been outscored by 25 points in five MAC games.  Central Michigan has been one of the biggest disappointments in the MAC, scoring fewer than 20 points per game in a 1-3 start to league play. Central Michigan still has Buffalo on the schedule plus two road games and the only MAC win came vs. 0-5 Akron as this squad has not looked like a threat.

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MAC East Race November Outlook

Sunday, Oct 30, 2022

MAC East Race November Outlook  With the turn of the calendar to November, MACtion returns with Tuesday and Wednesday night college football and the MAC suddenly in the spotlight. Here is a look at the current MAC East standings and what to expect in the division race in the final month of the regular season. Buffalo Bulls 4-0 – Remaining schedule: At Ohio, At Central Michigan, Akron, Kent State Buffalo has been the top scoring team in the MAC East in a 4-0 conference start and the Bulls are a win away from bowl eligibility. Buffalo has been in the MAC Championship two of the past four seasons but has not won the title since 2008. After slipping to 4-8 in the first season under Maurice Linguist, the Bulls are the top contender in the East thanks to a big late October win over Toledo in one of the season’s toughest games on the schedule. A 6-1 edge in turnovers was a huge factor in that game as Buffalo rallied from a 27-10 deficit in the fourth quarter for an incredible comeback.  Sophomore Cole Snyder has solid numbers leading the offense and the Bulls are a top five MAC offense in both rushing and passing, the only team in the MAC that can say that. Road game the next two weeks in weeknight MAC play will determine the fate of the Bulls with this week’s game at Ohio likely the biggest game of the season in the MAC East race.  Ohio Bobcats 3-1 – Remaining schedule: Buffalo, At Miami OH, At Ball State, Bowling Green Tim Albin took over for longtime head coach Frank Solich just before the 2021-22 season and the Bobcats had a challenging 3-9 campaign. This year Ohio is in better position, climbing to 5-3 following a 2-3 start to the season. Ohio took an overtime loss in the MAC opener to Kent State, last season’s East champion, as this week’s game with Buffalo will be critical in the division race.  Kurtis Rourke is the MAC’s top rated quarterback with 16 touchdowns and only three interceptions with Ohio the top passing team in the conference, averaging more than 308 passing yards per game. That has been a departure from the typical Ohio offense under Solich and Ohio surprisingly has the worst total defense in MAC play, allowing nearly 510 yards per game. Ohio benefitted from facing a backup quarterback in the win over Northern Illinois while still having a road game at Ball State makes the remaining path difficult for the Bobcats.  Bowling Green Falcons 3-1 – Remaining schedule: Western Michigan, Kent State, At Toledo, At Ohio  The Falcons have not topped four wins since 2015 as the 4-4 start has been encouraging for Bowling Green. Climbing to bowl eligibility in Scot Loeffler’s fourth season might be a stretch however though it appears to likely be a second straight season of improvement. Two of three MAC wins came by slim margins and the Falcons still must face Toledo on the road as well as two of the other MAC East contenders.  Against Buffalo, Bowling Green lost 38-7 at home as the gap between the Falcons and being a serious division contender remains steep despite sitting in a tie for second place in the division right now. The Falcons are 9th in total defense in the MAC and 10th in total offense but quarterback Matt McDonald has good numbers, and he missed the team’s ugly non-conference loss to Mississippi State. A few upsets and a chaos scenario could remain a long shot for Bowling Green in this race, but more likely the Falcons slide in the final month with this week’s game with Western Michigan critical in bowl hopes for the program.  Kent State Golden Flashes 2-2 – Remaining schedule: Ball State, At Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, At Buffalo The Flashes took back-to-back losses on the road in October MAC games as it will be an uphill battle for Kent State to repeat as East division champions. Kent State is 0-5 on the road this season but the Flashes took on an incredibly difficult non-conference schedule facing Washington, Oklahoma, and Georgia, results which have had an impact on the numbers. Kent State did win head-to-head with Ohio and will get to face Buffalo in the regular season finale as they will have a potential path in the division race, particularly if Ohio beats Buffalo this week.  Kent State has the #1 total offense in the MAC but has the second worst total defense as higher-scoring games are the norm for this group that plays at an up-tempo pace under Sean Lewis in his fifth season with the program. Marquez Cooper is one of the top running backs in the MAC and this would be the group to support in long shot futures options as the Flashes should be favored in the next three games before the finale at Buffalo that could be for the division title if Kent State gets some help with a Buffalo loss along the way.  Miami, OH did beat Kent State and played Buffalo tough as this is a better team than the fifth place 2-3 record indicates, especially now with Brett Gabbert back. Ultimately the Redhawks are effectively relegated to playing spoiler at this point facing Ohio in November and then drawing two MAC West teams. At 0-5 Akron has been eliminated from the MAC race, though three conference losses have been one-score results as the Zips have made a measure of progress. Two of the final three conference games will be on the road with the home finale in early November against Eastern Michigan. 

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MLB Postseason Futures Outlook

Thursday, Sep 29, 2022

MLB Postseason Futures Outlook  The MLB Playoffs have a new format this season and there may be some inefficiency in the futures market as four teams will have a bye in the first round for a dramatic change to the mechanics of the tournament. The eight teams playing immediately in the playoffs will play a best of three series to bring higher variance to the picture and potentially help the case for a possible series upset.  The division series games will start on October 11 as the four teams not playing in the wild card round will have six days off after the regular season, perhaps a less than ideal situation for lineups to maintain their peak form. The ALDS and NLDS pairings will remain best of five games before the standard seven-game series format goes in place for the League Championship Series.  With a week to go in the regular season the wild card teams are still jostling for positions. While Baltimore has not yet been eliminated in the AL, the three likely wild card teams Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Seattle are separated by only two games as the positions are still in flux. In the National League Milwaukee is just a half-game out of the final playoff position as they will compete with San Diego and Philadelphia in the final week with only two of those three teams making the field.  The NL East race is the most critical piece of the futures picture as the Mets lead Atlanta by one game in the standings with those teams entering the NL field as the #2 and #4 seeds. This distinction will be severe as the #4 seed will not only have to face a do-or-die three-game series in the wild card round, but they will also be paired with the Dodgers in the NLDS should they survive that round.  In the American League the case can be made that the #6 seed may be the preferable wild card position, drawing the AL Central champion Cleveland Guardians, a team that might wind up with a lesser record than some of the wild card teams. The victor of the 3/6 pairing will be matched with a Yankees team that slumped in the final two months of the season rather than the AL leading Astros.  Likewise the case can be made that it may be preferable to be the #2 seed compared to being the #1 seed in this format as the top wild card team if often a stronger team than the #3 division winner, as would likely be the case in both leagues this season.  Worthy Long Shots: Atlanta Braves: +950 to win the World Series (9/29 at FanDuel)  The Braves are catching nearly double the price that the Mets have while just one game out of the NL East lead heading into the final week of the regular season. Atlanta has the better scoring differential on the season and is on a 74-32 run since June 1. Atlanta will host New York for three games this week before finishing the season in Miami as the Braves have a great opportunity to win the series this week to move into at least a tie for the division lead. The Mets close the season hosting Washington, a team that has been playing well down the stretch as Atlanta has a realistic chance to climb to the #2 seed.  Even if the Braves do wind up in the wild card route, the Padres, Phillies, and Brewers don’t offer an overly intimidating draw in the 4/5 pairing. The Braves also are the biggest threat to the Dodgers as Atlanta is 36-16 vs. left-handed starters while posting some of MLB’s best offensive splits vs. left-handed pitching. All four starters in the Los Angeles rotation right now are left-handed until Tony Gonsolin comes off the IL and it is unlikely Gonsolin would get a start in the NLDS anyhow. Atlanta took the Dodgers to seven games in the 2020 NLCS and won the NLCS 4-2 against the Dodgers last season as the Braves are a serious NL threat in whatever path they wind up in.  Tampa Bay Rays: +1000 to win the American League (9/29 at DraftKings)  The Rays could wind up in any of the three wild card positions. The #6 spot opposite Cleveland is a favorable place to be but even if they match up with Toronto, the Rays won the season series with the Blue Jays and the pricing gap between those teams in this market is difficult to justify. Toronto’s offense has been streaky and the starting pitching for the Blue Jays is marginal. Shane McClanahan has been one of the top pitchers in MLB this season to give the Rays a true ace while Tyler Glasnow’s recent return provides a boost to the pitching staff even if he is only used in relief or as an opener as he works his way back to full strength. Corey Kluber and Drew Rasmussen have had fine seasons and the pitching staff for Tampa Bay can carry it to a series win, particularly in a three-game set where McClanahan can start Game 1.  The Rays play at Houston in the final week of the regular season to provide some familiarity and comfort level should they advance and match up with Houston in the ALDS. Tampa Bay went just 8-11 vs. the Yankees but with near-even scoring and the Rays went 5-4 vs. New York in the final three series between those teams. The Rays beat the Yankees in the 2020 ALDS and New York’s starting pitching has left plenty of question marks down the stretch as they could be a vulnerable group.  Seattle Mariners: +1400 to win the American League (9/29 at BetMGM) The Mariners have not made the playoffs since their 116-win 2001 season and after narrowly missing the postseason last year Seattle is in a good position to not only get in but to emerge as a threat to win several games. Seattle closes the season on a long home stand to avoid hectic late season travel and this team is well-suited for a three-game series with Luis Castillo and Robbie Ray as elite starting pitchers from each side. Seattle has not played its best ball in September and the recent injury to star rookie Julio Rodriguez is a setback, but he is expected to be cleared to return in early October in time for the playoffs. Cleveland has been a great story this season but right now the Mariners have a stronger scoring differential than Cleveland and own 15 more wins vs. winning teams than the Guardians. Seattle also went 6-1 head-to-head with Cleveland this season with a 29-11 edge in scoring. Seattle won four of six with the Yankees this season as the Mariners would be a threat to get in a position for a competitive ALDS series to provide profitable opportunities for those holding a piece of a long shot ticket with Seattle.  Milwaukee Brewers: +5000 to win the National League (9/29 at PointsBet)  The Brewers are not even in the playoffs right now as this is a serious long shot proposition. The closing schedule is dramatically favorable for Milwaukee compared to Philadelphia however, playing at home vs. Miami and Arizona for the final two series. A Phillies team with a 10-13 record in September while -16 in scoring will be on the road for the final two series, playing Washington and Houston. The Astros may not have anything to play for in that final series, but Washington is on pace to have its best month of the season in September even if the Nationals have played poorly head-to-head with the Phillies. If Milwaukee finds a way into the playoffs as the #6 seed they would have a familiar draw in the Cardinals, who they went 9-10 against. Milwaukee’s starting pitching with Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes would be formidable in a three-game series and while St. Louis added left-handers Jordan Montgomery and Jose Quintana mid-season in part to match up with Milwaukee, the Cardinals would almost certainly start right-hander Adam Wainwright in Game 1 for a possible advantage in the huge swing game for a Brewers team that excels vs. right-handers. Holding this ticket comes with no serious expectation that Milwaukee will make it to the World Series but even entering the playoffs or providing a Game 1 win in the wild card round would provide a profitable hedging situation.  If you are looking to play on one of the favorites in the postseason futures market, truthfully, you’re too late. At the current prices you are better off waiting to see how the bracket plays out to see if one of the top contenders would lose an opening game of the division series to provide a window to jump back in at a more favorable price. In the division series round last season, three of the four teams that advanced lost Game 1 in the ALDS or NLDS. The MLB playoffs rarely go according to seeding form and with the new format the advantage for the #1 seeds has been reduced with a case to be made the #2 seeds could have a more favorable position.  Remember, playing the futures market is not about guessing who will win it all, it is about consistently adjusting your positions to ensure that you profit no matter what team wins. 

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FBS Coaching Change ATS Results since 2018

Thursday, Sep 29, 2022

FBS Coaching Change ATS Results since 2018 The calendar has not even turned to October yet and three major conference FBS head coaches have already been fired. In most recent seasons there are only a handful of mid-season changes at FBS schools, but last season 15 head coaches were fired or resigned before the end of the regular season as there seems to be a quickening pace for programs to get in front of the line for the next hiring cycle.  Nebraska was a popular play-on team after Scott Frost was fired and there is a general perception that a coaching change might provide a spark for a program and could be a catalyst to saving the season if the move is made early. Nebraska and Arizona State both lost badly in their first games after making September coaching changes this season and the track record the past few years has a negative correlation in the games following a move, albeit with a small sample size and many circumstantial differences in each case.  An argument can be made that administrators don’t necessarily want interim coaches to succeed, potentially thwarting their preferred coaching choice for the future, and in the case of the three firings this season, the move came preceding one of the most difficult games of the season rather than ahead of a more favorable stretch of the schedule. Nebraska fired Frost ahead of hosting Oklahoma, Arizona State fired Herm Edwards ahead of hosting Utah. Geoff Collins was just fired ahead of playing at Pittsburgh for a tough pairing in the transition.  Below is a list of the mid-season FBS coaching changes since 2018 and the result immediately following the move. In the next game after a coaching change, those teams have gone 7-24 S/U and 10-21 ATS. Only eight teams out 29 mid-season coaching changes from 2018 and 2021 finished the season with a winning ATS record the rest of the way following making a move.  Most schools making a mid-season coaching change are having a difficult season, so it is not a surprise that losing results continue. There is however not much support in the recent instances to suggest there is any sort of coaching change spark provided to teams, nor a valuation decrease significant enough to warrant playing on teams in this situation. It is likely best to avoid Georgia Tech this week even with an elevated underdog price and it is likely worth steering clear of backing most teams that have made a coaching change during the season.  10/14/2018 Bowling Green 1-6 S/U, 2-5 ATS Mike Jinks firedNext Game: At Ohio (+16) S/U and ATS Loss 14-49Record after coaching change: 2-3 S/U, 2-3 ATS 10/31/2018 Maryland 5-3 S/U, 5-3 ATS DJ Durkin firedNext Game: At Michigan State (+3.5) S/U and ATS Loss 3-24Record after coaching change: 0-4 S/U, 1-3 ATS  11/4/2018 Kansas 3-6 S/U, 4-5 ATS David Beaty firedNext Game: At Kansas State (+8.5) S/U Loss and ATS Win 17-21Record after coaching change: 0-3 S/U, 3-0 ATS  11/11/2018 Louisville 2-8 S/U, 1-9 ATS Bobby Petrino fired Next Game: Hosting NC State (+16) S/U and ATS loss 10-52Record after coaching change: 0-2 S/U, 0-2 ATS 11/18/2018 Colorado 5-6 S/U, 5-6 ATS Mike MacIntyre firedNext Game: At California (+11.5) S/U and ATS Loss 21-33Record after coaching change: 0-1 S/U, 0-1 ATS 11/18/2018 Texas State 3-8 S/U, 6-4-1 ATS Everett Withers firedNext Game: Hosting Arkansas state (+14) S/U and ATS Loss 7-33Record after coaching change: 0-2 S/U, 0-2 ATS 11/18/2018 Charlotte 4-7 S/U, 6-5 ATS Brad Lambert firedNext Game: AT Florida Atlantic (+16.5) S/U and ATS Win 27-24Record after coaching change: 1-0 S/U, 1-0 ATS 9/30/2019 Rutgers 1-3 S/U, 1-3 ATS Chris Ash firedNext Game: Hosting Maryland (+14) S/U and ATS Loss 7-48Record after coaching change: 1-7 S/U, 3-5 ATS  11/3/2019 Florida State 4-5 S/U, 3-5-1 ATS Willie Taggart firedNext Game: At Boston College (+1) S/U and ATS Win 38-31Record after coaching change: 2-2 S/U, 1-3 ATS (lost bowl game)  11/10/2019 Arkansas 2-8 S/U, 2-8 ATS Chad Morris firedNext Game: At LSU (+41) S/U Loss and ATS Win 20-56Record after coaching change: 0-2 S/U, 2-0 ATS  11/22/2019 UNLV 2-8 S/U 4-6 ATS Tony Sanchez was fired but remained to coach the final two games – which were both S/U and ATS wins  9/7/2020 Southern Miss 0-1 S/U, 0-1 ATS - Jay Hopson resignedNext Game: Hosting Louisiana Tech (-7) S/U and ATS Loss 30-31Record after coaching change: 2-6 S/U, 4-5 ATS  11/7/2020 Utah State 0-3 S/U, 0-3 ATS - Gary Andersen firedNext Game: Hosting Fresno State (+11) S/U and ATS Loss 16-35Record after coaching change: 1-2 S/U, 1-2 ATS 11/16/2020 South Carolina 2-5 S/U, 4-3 ATS - Will Muschamp firedNext Game: Hosting Missouri (+5.5) S/U and ATS Loss 10-17Record after coaching change: 0-3 S/U, 0-3 ATS  11/29/2020 Vanderbilt 0-8 S/U, 4-4 ATS - Derek Mason firedNext Game: Hosting Tennessee (+15.5) S/U and ATS Loss 17-42Record after coaching change: 0-1 S/U, 0-1 ATS 9/6/2021 Connecticut 0-2 S/U, 0-2 ATS - Randy Edsall resignedNext Game: Hosting Purdue (+35) S/U and ATS Loss 0-49Record after coaching change: 1-9 S/U, 6-4 ATS  9/14/2021 USC 1-1 S/U, 1-1 ATS - Clay Helton firedNext Game: At Washington State (-3.5) S/U and ATS Win 45-14 Record after coaching change: 3-7 S/U, 3-7 ATS  9/26/2021 Georgia Southern 1-3 S/U, 1-3 ATS - Chad Lunsford firedNext Game: Hosting Arkansas State (-2) S/U and ATS Win 59-33Record after coaching change: 2-6 S/U, 5-3 ATS 10/19/2021 LSU 4-3 S/U, 3-4 ATS - Ed Orgeron resignedNext Game: At Mississippi (+9.5) S/U and ATS Loss 17-31 Record after coaching change: 2-3 S/U, 2-2-1 ATS  10/20/2021 Washington State 4-3 S/U, 4-3 ATS - Nick Rolovich firedNext Game: Hosting BYU (+3.5) S/U Loss and ATS Win 19-21 Record after coaching change: 3-3 S/U, 4-2 ATS  10/25/2021 Texas Tech 5-3 S/U, 4-4 ATS - Matt Wells firedNext Game: At Oklahoma (+19) S/U and ATS Loss 21-52 Record after coaching change: 2-3 S/U, 3-2 ATS 10/31/2021 TCU 3-5 S/U,1-7 ATS - Gary Patterson resignedNext Game: Hosting Baylor (+7.5) S/U and ATS Win 30-28Record after coaching change: 2-2 S/U, 1-3 ATS 11/4/2021 Akron 2-7 S/U, 4-5 ATS - Tom Arth firedNext Game: At Western Michigan (+25) S/U Loss and ATS Win 40-45Record after coaching change: 0-3 S/U, 1-2 ATS  11/8/2021 Massachusetts 1-8 S/U, 3-6 ATS - Walt Bell firedNext Game: Hosting Maine (+4.5) S/U and ATS Loss 10-35Record after coaching change: 0-3 S/U, 1-2 ATS  11/14/2021 Washington 4-6 S/U, 3-7 ATS Jimmy Lake – fired – had been suspended for final game Next Game: At Colorado (-6.5) S/U and ATS Loss 17-20 Record after coaching change: 0-2 S/U, 0-2 ATS  11/15/2021 Florida International 1-9 S/U, 2-8 ATS Butch Davis firedNext Game: Hosting North Texas (+10.5) S/U and ATS Loss 7-49Record after coaching change: 0-2 S/U, 0-2 ATS 11/16/2021 Virginia Tech 5-5 S/U, 4-6 ATS Justin Fuente firedNext Game: At Miami, FL (+7) S/U and ATS Loss 26-38 Record after coaching change: 1-2 S/U, 1-2 ATS (lost bowl game)  11/21/2021 Florida 5-6 S/U, 3-8 ATS Dan Mullen firedNext Game: Hosting Florida State (-3.5) S/U Win and ATS Loss 24-21Record after coaching change: 1-1 S/U, 0-2 ATS (lost bowl game)  11/23/2021 New Mexico State 1-10 S/U, 6-5 ATS Doug Martin firedNext Game: Hosting Massachusetts (-7) S/U and ATS Win 44-27Record after coaching change: 1-0 S/U, 1-0 ATS 11/21/2021 Troy 5-6 S/U, 4-7 ATS Chip Lindsey firedNext Game: At Georgia State (+6.5) S/U and ATS Loss 10-37Record after coaching change: 0-1 S/U, 0-1 ATS 9/11/2022 Nebraska 1-2 S/U, 0-3 ATS Scott Frost firedNext Game: Hosting Oklahoma (+10.5) S/U and ATS Loss 14-49 9/18/2022 Arizona State 1-2 S/U, 1-2 ATS Herm Edwards firedNext Game: Hosting Utah (+16.5) S/U and ATS Loss 13-34 9/25/2022 Georgia Tech 1-3 S/U, 1-3 ATS Geoff Collins firedNext Game: At Pittsburgh (+22) October 1 

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July American League Overachievers

Saturday, Jul 30, 2022

July American League Overachievers   Four months through the Major League Baseball season it is clear there are some overachievers on the mound. Some pitchers may be having career seasons, but others may be worth fading in August and September at favorable prices. Here is a look at a few American League starters to avoid playing on in most situations down the stretch.   Justin Verlander, Houston Astros: As one of the most recognizable pitchers in baseball and a two-time Cy Young winner, Verlander’s pricing has already gotten a bit out of hand. His win count is at 14 in 19 starts for incredible results while his ERA is just 1.81. By many measures Verlander isn’t having one of his better seasons in a Hall of Fame career however as his K/9 of 8.8 is his worst since 2015 and he is on pace to have his worst xFIP since 2017. Home runs have always been part of the equation for Verlander, but he currently has his lowest HR/9 since 2014 for some great fortune while his BABIP of .233 is well below his career average of .279. A pitcher of Verlander’s ability and experience can continue to succeed, but his current six-start run with a 0.86 ERA has been one of great fortune, including a strand rate of nearly 94 percent. The Astros have an 18-8 record in one-run games and have kept winning even with a decline in the offensive production for the team in recent weeks. Houston is cruising to the AL West title and is going to face steep pricing with Verlander on the mound, even though he hasn’t been nearly as dominant as his best seasons.   Jameson Taillon, New York Yankees: The Yankees have received incredible starting pitching this season, but the numbers are the most suspicious for Taillon, who entered this season with a rather average career path through five seasons. Taillon had a much better K/9 and a lower xERA last season when he went just 8-6 but with a great Yankees team this year, he has a 10-2 record in 20 starts. Taillon has one of the lowest groundball rates of his career going despite his success but after a charmed first two months, his profile is eroding. His ERA Is 5.36 over his last 10 starts even while only picking up one loss and he has a 1.79 HR/9 in that span while his groundball rate fell to just 35 percent. He has had some breaks in the schedule facing a lot of the weaker lineups in the AL this season and he has not pitched well on the road where far fewer of his innings have taken place. Taillon is the pitcher in the New York rotation to target to fade in most series as he is still drawing pricing equivalent to starters with much more proven potential.   Triston McKenzie, Cleveland Guardians: McKenzie has a 3.24 ERA for Cleveland but with a 4.15 xFIP. He has a modest K/9 at just 8.4 and he has allowed 17 home runs in 18 starts. McKenzie had a big month of July that included three scoreless outings, but he faced Kansas City and Detroit in two of those games. He has very poor numbers against Minnesota this season and he is likely to see the Twins again in September while Cleveland has a difficult August schedule ahead facing several playoff threats. McKenzie is just 24-years-old with a thin frame as a career high in innings is approaching and so far in 52 career MLB appearances, he owns a .226 BABIP, an average really no starter has ever maintained. McKenzie will likely face teams that now have some experience against him the rest of the way and he could prove to be the more erratic starter Cleveland saw early this season in August and September.   Alek Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays: 20-7 in 40 career starts and an All-Star this season at age 24, Manoah is on the fast track to stardom. His ERA is 2.43 this season but nothing else in his numbers suggests that he is an elite AL starter. His xFIP is 3.84 and his K/9 just 8.1 He has been fortunate with a low BABIP while stranding over 81 percent of his baserunners. He has already surpassed a career high in innings and Manoah did not pitch in 2020 as a minor leaguer at the time. He has shown signs of trouble ahead with three recent starts allowing four or more runs. He has allowed elevated hit counts in several recent outings with July so far being his worst month in most categories by a significant margin. Manoah was a 2019 1st round pick and still has great potential but with the elevated pricing Toronto’s offense commands, he isn’t worth the cost right now as really a slightly above average starter disguised as an ace thanks to his 11 wins and low ERA. Toronto has a lot of games remaining with Tampa Bay and New York and will play 16 of 22 on the road in the heart of August as the current grip on a wild card spot could loosen for the Blue Jays with Manoah numbers also likely to deteriorate. 

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July National League Overachievers

Saturday, Jul 30, 2022

July National League Overachievers   Four months through the Major League Baseball season it is clear there are some overachievers on the mound. Some pitchers may be having career seasons, but others may be worth fading in August and September at favorable prices. Here is a look at a few National League starters to avoid playing on down the stretch.   Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins: Alcantara is about even-money in NL Cy Young futures, and he deserves the attention with nearly 150 innings under his belt in 21 starts to boost his WAR. He ultimately has a nearly identical xFIP to last season when he finished 9-14 and his K/9 and BB/9 rates are slightly worse this season compared to his 2021 line. The difference has been cutting his HR/9 nearly in half this season along with a career low .245 BABIP. The huge innings count in the first half of the season may be adding up as he has had a pair of marginal starts out of the break with six runs allowed and six walks allowed in just 11 innings. The Marlins also have a tough August schedule ahead including facing the Dodgers seven times while also facing Philadelphia, Atlanta, and San Diego. Alcantara is going to command pricing he doesn’t deserve the rest of the season while he is still pitching for a losing team.   Tony Gonsolin, Los Angeles Dodgers: An All-Star with an 11-1 record through 18 starts it has been a career year for Gonsolin, who wasn’t even expected to be in the rotation to start the season. He has been a huge overachiever with a .202 BABIP and an over 84 percent strand rate, currently the most favorable rates in both of those categories among all qualified NL starters this season. Gonsolin took the loss in the All-Star game and has turned in marginal starts on both sides of the break, his first two starts in which he allowed more than two earned runs all season. Pitching for the Dodgers with a glowing record and a 2.26 ERA, Gonsolin is commanding prices like the elite starters for the Dodgers the past few seasons like Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. He isn’t in that category and currently owns an xFIP that is nearly twice as high as his ERA. Gonsolin has made two thirds of his starts this season vs. losing teams and he is already over his career high in MLB innings in a season as the late-season returns could suffer.  Joe Musgrove, San Diego Padres: In his first 11 starts of the season Musgrove had a 1.50 ERA while going 7-0 for a simply incredible run. In six starts since he has a 4.82 ERA, even with little change in his strikeout and walk rates. The difference has been home runs, with six allowed in his last six starts. He did pitch in Colorado in a recent start and has faced road starts vs. the Mets and the Dodgers as ultimately his path the final two months will likely land in the middle of those two stretches. Musgrove has seen his strikeout rate shrink significantly in consecutive seasons and he is still getting away with a career low HR/9 at this point in the season. Musgrove is still listed as a top three Cy Young threat in the NL odds, but the Padres still have 12 games remaining with the Dodgers and a very difficult September schedule overall as a late season slide for Padres and Musgrove’s numbers seems very possible.  Merrill Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks: Arizona has been playing rather competitive ball of late and Kelly has been a big part of that, going 4-0 in his last five starts with a 1.57 ERA. His xFIP in that span is 4.05 and he has just a 6.6 K/9 in that span, catching some big breaks with a .204 BABIP. Kelly is 10-5 this season in 20 starts and he has been a pitcher that often beats his ERA estimators since joining Arizona after four years in the KBO. Kelly has a career low K/9 this season and a career low HR/9 by a wide margin at 0.53 compared to a career average of 1.14. Not surprisingly his recent run of success has come with three starts against the sinking Giants while he has been hit hard against quality teams this season including allowing 14 runs over three starts vs. the Dodgers. Kelly has been a streaky starter in his career and ultimately the current run is not likely sustainable. Arizona has two upcoming trips to Denver plus several more series vs. NL playoff threats as Kelly won’t be able to match his July pace the rest of the way.

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May American League Overachievers

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

May American League OverachieversWith two months of the Major League Baseball season underway there is sufficient pitching data to draw some early conclusions and offer some predictive analysis for the duration of the season. The marketplace has adjusted to the current season numbers more than history and reputation at this point even though most starters have made only eight-to-ten starts. There will be opportunities to fade some of these American League Overachievers in the coming weeks at favorable prices.   Cal Quantrill – Cleveland Guardians: Cleveland has not received the caliber of starting pitching it expected so far through two months but Quantrill has done his part with a 3.42 ERA through eight starts. He has a 4.96 xFIP however for a huge gap between his ERA and most of his ERA estimators. His 5.3 K/9 is among the worst of any AL starter and he has had great luck with a low BABIP of .255 and a HR/9 of just 0.57. Quantrill beat some of his metrics last season in a nice 2021 campaign but he is doing so by a more severe margin this season and it is not likely to be sustained.   Justin Verlander – Houston Astros: The Astros again appear to be a serious AL contender and Verlander is 6-2 in nine starts even after pitching minimally the past two seasons. Verlander is not close to his previous numbers in his K/9 and CSW% figures however as he should not be valued like a perennial Cy Young contender of the past. Verlander has a .213 BABIP and an over 95 percent strand rate as even for a pitcher with his experience and past success, those are outrageous numbers that won’t hold up over time.  Logan Gilbert – Seattle Mariners: A 2018 1st round draft pick, Gilbert has always had great potential. He put together a strong rookie season in 2021, mostly skipping over AAA entirely. This season he looks like Seattle’s top starter on the surface. He had had some big breaks in the early season numbers compared to last season’s line however and it seems unlikely he’ll go through the 2022 season having halved his 2021 ERA of 4.68, currently with a 2.29 ERA through 10 starts. His K/9, BB/9, and CSW% are all worse this season compared with last season despite having more success in his conventional numbers so far.  Jameson Taillon – New York Yankees: From 2016 and 2021 Taillon was the epitome of a slightly above league-average starter, going 37-30 with a 3.82 ERA. His 8.2 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 are also right in line with that assessment as well. In the great two-month start for the Yankees, Taillon has a 5-1 record and a 2.49 ERA, even while his K/9 has fallen to just 6.9 while his CSW% is 25.8 percent, among the worst of any regular AL starter. Taillon has faced Baltimore in a third of his starts this season to help the cause and he has stranded over 83 percent of his base runners. Taillon didn’t suddenly develop into an elite starter as he remains a rather average option and should be considered a fade option given New York’s elevated pricing as the AL leader.   

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May National League Overachievers

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

May National League Overachievers With two months of the Major League Baseball season underway there is sufficient pitching data to draw some early conclusions and offer some predictive analysis for the duration of the season. The marketplace has adjusted to the current season numbers more than history and reputation at this point even though most starters have made only eight-to-ten starts. There will be opportunities to fade some of these National League Overachievers in the coming weeks at favorable prices.   Miles Mikolas – St. Louis Cardinals: Among qualified NL starters Miles Mikolas has the third worst CSW% at just 25.8 percent. Mikolas did not pitch in 2020 and made only nine starts last season and his revival as a solid starter for the Cardinals has been a nice story. He had had some great fortune in the early going however, allowing only five home runs in more than 60 innings, well below his career HR/9 rate. Mikolas isn’t a great strikeout threat with a K/9 below 7.0 and he has had good fortune with a .263 BABIP and an 80 percent strand rate through 10 starts in 2022.  Zac Gallen – Arizona Diamondbacks: After three seasons of inconsistency, many are seeing this as the breakthrough season for Gallen, a third-round draft pick in 2016. Gallen is 4-0 in decisions with a 2.32 ERA for a terrific start as Arizona’s de facto ace. He has his lowest K/9 of his career so far and has gone from a 1.41 HR/9 last season to a 0.54 HR/9 rate so far through nine starts. His BABIP of .237 is also way below his career average as a lot has gone right in the first two months for Gallen. Gallen had three scoreless outings in his first five starts which will water down his numbers all season. Over his past three starts he has allowed nine runs while walking seven and his numbers are likely to worsen as the season goes on.  Carlos Carrasco – New York Mets: The 35-year-old Carrasco has been through a lot in his career and has been a great story so far in 2022 after it appeared his career might be over with disastrous results for the Mets last season. He has reversed last season’s 1-5 record at 5-1 already through nine starts this season but he has HR/9 that is a fourth of his rate last season and less than half of his career average. Carrasco is on pace to have his worst K/9 since 2013 and his success has come almost exclusively at Citi Field this season as his road ERA is 5.06. Carrasco has faced only two games this season vs. winning teams as the schedule will stiffen in the weeks ahead.  Walker Buehler – Los Angeles Dodgers: Considered one of the best pitchers in baseball Buehler will command significant pricing pitching for the Dodgers. He had a charmed 2021 season going 16-4 with a 2.47 ERA, next to a 3.57 xFIP and this season he is getting results that look truer to his averages. Buehler has just a 7.5 K/9 this season through 10 starts and his CSW% is just 26.3 percent, by far the worst of his career. In in past four starts heading into June Buehler has allowed 28 hits and 14 runs for a 5.32 ERA while his K/9 keeps dropping. Buehler remains a good starter on a great team, but it will be difficult to justify his upcoming valuations. 

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April American League Overachievers

Friday, Apr 29, 2022

April American League Overachievers With a month of the season underway there is enough pitching data to draw some early conclusions and the marketplace will start to adjust to the current season numbers more than history and reputation. In a four-start sample, several starters have had fortunate results however and here are four AL starters that could see adjustments in their upcoming outings.  Michael Wacha – Boston Red Sox: An instant star early in his career with the Cardinals, postingseveral great starts in the 2013 postseason before St. Louis lost to Boston inthe World Series, Wacha was an upper tier NL starter for several seasons.Things have fallen apart for Wacha now with his fourth team in four seasons.Wacha graded as one of the least successful starters in MLB from 2019-2021including posting just three wins over 23 starts with a 5.05 ERA with Tampa Baylast year. Wacha is only 30 years old as it makes sense for teams to continueto take a chance on him as Boston did with a one-year contract. So far, theresults have been promising with a 1.77 ERA in four starts and a 2-0 record indecisions. Wacha has just a 7.5 K/9 however and a 4.0 BB/9 that would be thehighest of his career. He has stranded nearly 93 percent of his base runnersand has a .154 BABIP so far this season compared to a .300 career average. Ashis 4.00 FIP suggests, the current pace for Wacha is unsustainable. Jordan Montgomery – New York Yankees: The Yankees lead the AL East with a 13-6 start and the pitchingstaff has excelled with some of the better numbers in MLB through the firstmonth of the season. Montgomery has been an important piece of that successwith a 2.70 ERA in 20 innings of work, even though he is winless. Montgomeryhas benefitted from facing Baltimore in two of his starts while also posting astrong outing vs. a light hitting Tigers lineup. Montgomery had average results last season for New York in over157 innings and a season line like last season is likely the ceiling for theleft-hander at age 29. The April success for Montgomery has come with the worstK/9 of his career at 6.8 while his xFIP of 4.16 looks much more realistic thanhis current 2.70 ERA. The Yankees should not count on Montgomery being amainstay in the rotation all season if they want to stay on top of the AL Eastand the opportunity to fade New York at an elevated price may be there whenMontgomery’s takes his turns in the rotation in May. New York has a pair of serieseach with Toronto and Chicago in May, both teams that hit left-handersextremely well. Zack Greinke - Kansas City Royals: A closing stop in Kansas City should be a nice way to end aremarkable career for Greinke; a storybook 2022 season is however not likely tocontinue for Greinke who has had some great early season fortune. Greinke hasnever been reliant on elite strikeout rates, but his current K/9 is 2.5compared to his career average of 8.1. Greinke has pitched exclusively in theAL Central in his four starts this season as there will be tougher matchupswaiting as the schedule moves on for the Royals. Greinke has a 4.75 xFIP next to his 2.86 ERA and he has so farallowed only one home run in 22 innings, after he allowed 30 home runs in 171innings last season pitching for Houston. Greinke has had his lowest groundball rate this season since 2007 as more home runs are likely to happen in hisfuture starts and unless Greinke can start to generate a few more strikeouts,it will be difficult for the Royals to count on Greinke to be a leader in therotation. The pricing to fade the Royals won’t often be appealing but Greinkestarts may be worth an ‘over’ look, particularly in a May schedule for KansasCity that features several formidable offenses. Cal Quantrill – Cleveland Guardians: Quantrill pitched well over his head last season in nearly 150innings for Cleveland going 8-3 with a 2.89 ERA. That was with a mediocre K/9of 7.3 and his xFIP of 4.43 was almost exactly his career average despite thebig improvement over his career ERA. This season Quantrill has a 5.15 xFIPagainst a 3.27 ERA as he again is overachieving. His groundball rate has beenjust 37 percent so far this season for by far a career low and his CSW% is justover 23 percent, among the worst of any AL starter at this point in the season. Quantrillwas a 1st round pick in 2016 but he doesn’t have a first-round secondary pitchesand his current BABIP of .221 will be hard to sustain. Quantrill has only 10strikeouts this season in 22 innings while also walking 10 batters. Despite astrong 3.27 ERA at this point in the season Quantrill has allowed at least tworuns in all four of his starts as he has not had a dominant outing and he hashad great fortune to only surrender one home run at this point in the season.With the Cleveland offense off to a decent start, the ‘over’ may be worth alook in upcoming Quantrill outings. 

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April National League Overachievers

Friday, Apr 29, 2022

April National League Overachievers With a month of the season underway there is enough pitching data to draw some early conclusions and the marketplace will start to adjust to the current season numbers more than history and reputation. In a four-start sample several starters have had fortunate results however and here are four NL starters that could see adjustments in their upcoming outings.   Drew Smyly – Chicago Cubs:  The Cubs have competed reasonably well in the first month this season with a positive scoring differential and the pitching has been capable with Smyly off to a solid start to the 2022 season. Smyly has bounced around significantly in recent years without sustained success but wound up in the right spot last season as a contributor for the World Series champion Braves. That led to a one-year deal with the Cubs that so far has paid off with a 2.79 ERA in four starts.  Smyly has a K/9 of only 6.1 this season while he has had unusual ground ball success this season at nearly 55 percent compared with a career average of around 37 percent for a huge difference. Smyly has the best strand rate in the NL at this point in the season as more than 97 percent of his base runners have failed to score and his CSW% below 27 percent that is the lowest of his career at this point in 2022 despite his solid conventional line through four starts. Smyly has allowed four home runs in last two starts as things are likely going to head in the wrong direction moving forward.  Julio Urias – Los Angeles Dodgers: Urias was a slight overachiever last season going 20-3 in 32 starts with a 2.96 ERA despite a 3.73 xFIP. His career xFIP is 4.10, more than run higher than his career ERA but the gap in those numbers is more than two runs at this point in 2022, with a 2.50 ERA compared to a 4.51 xFIP. Fading the Dodgers will always be difficult, but compared to the other options in the rotation, Urias looks beatable for several opposing lineups.  Urias faced struggling Cincinnati and Arizona in his two most successful starts this season and he has a 7.5 K/9 and a 4.0 BB/9 so far in the 2022 season, hardly elite figures that would suggest a front-line starter that Urias will often be valued as. Urias is only 25 and has a bright future but he has managed a .170 BABIP so far this season as a lot of things have gone right in the first month.  Dakota Hudson – St. Louis Cardinals:  Hudson has been lucky so far in 2022 with a 2.75 ERA built on a .180 BABIP through four starts. His xFIP is 4.48, right in-line with his career average but he has managed to get away with a high walk count and a low strikeout rate this season. Hudson has always been an effective ground ball pitcher but so far this season his ground ball rate would be the lowest of his career. Hudson has topped 40 innings in an MLB season just once in his career back in 2019 and he is likely to be an erratic option as the season moves on. Hudson has a CSW% of below 25 percent, a rate that will be among the worst of NL starters by season’s end and right near 25% has been the career norm for Hudson whether as a starter or a reliever. St. Louis looks like a playoff threat in the NL with a solid first month from the offense, but Hudson is not in the same class as the rest of the rotation even if the early season numbers are right there at first glance. Sandy Alcantara – Miami Marlins:  Alcantara has been deserving of a breakthrough season, 22-34 in his career despite elite potential pitching for typically lousy Marlins teams. This year Miami looks like a group that can compete and so far, Alcantara has a 1.78 ERA. He is going to face steep pricing moving forward even through the current clip is not likely sustainable. Alcantara was a dramatically worse pitcher in his road starts last season and in 2022 his two road starts have been favorable pairings.  Alcantara has stranded nearly 85 percent of his baserunners this season and has only allowed one home run after allowing 21 last season and only stranding 72 percent of baserunners in 2021. Alcantara’s xFIP is 3.94 in 2022, with a career xFIP of 4.31. His strikeout rate so far in 2022 is down from the past two seasons while his BB/9 is as high as it has been since 2019. Alcantara is one of the better NL starters, but he may start to be valued as one of the very best, which just hasn’t been the case this season or in his career. 

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Early Look at the Final Eight Teams in the Sweet 16

Monday, Mar 21, 2022

Early Look at the Final eight teams in the Sweet 16  Eight teams moved on Sunday to complete the Sweet 16 field in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Here is an early look at those eight teams heading on to new venues for the next contests Thursday and Friday.  South #5 Houston – defeated UAB (-9) 82-68, defeated Illinois (-3.5) 68-53 After making the Final Four last season Houston in back in the Sweet 16, pulling away from Illinois in the early game on Sunday. After early season non-conference wins over Virginia, Oregon, and Oklahoma State wound up carrying little weight, Houston has picked up two of its best wins in postseason action beating Memphis in its third try in the AAC Championship and beating Illinois.  Only Fabian White was a significant contributor on last season’s Final Four team as it is completely different starting five for Kelvin Sampson due to two key injuries early in the season (Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark). Houston also had one of the weakest paths to the Final Four last season beating a #11 seed and a #12 seed in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, after an incredible comeback escape against Rutgers in the Round of 32.  Houston’s efficiency numbers are incredible if you respect the schedule the Cougars have faced, now climbing into the national top 10 on offense and defense. Forcing 17 turnovers against a veteran Illinois team was a stunning result and the free throw woes that have hurt Houston this season have not come into play so far in the tournament. This is not a great 3-point shooting team, but the addition of Josh Carlton gives the Cougars the size they lacked last season and this team should be considered a serious Final Four threat.  South #2 Villanova – defeated Delaware (-14.5) 80-60, defeated Ohio State (-5) 81-71 Villanova lost to Baylor in the Sweet 16 last season, competing better with the eventual champion Bears than any other team on the six-game title run for the Bears. Four of five starters are back from that team this season as the Wildcats finished second in the Big East regular season (playing three more games than Providence) while winning the Big East tournament to land a #2 seed. Villanova plays at a very deliberate pace and is the best free throw shooting team in the nation. The Wildcats also played a formidable non-conference schedule despite losing three of four big games, losing close games with UCLA and Purdue, and losing badly in a rematch with Baylor in Waco. The Wildcats did beat Tennessee in November by 18 for a strong result.  Villanova is not an elite shooting team with average scoring numbers from 2-point range on both sides of the ball and slightly above average numbers from 3-point range on both sides of the ball. Turnovers are rare on offense, but the Wildcats don’t have elite height in the paint for the some potential problematic pairings moving forward in the bracket.  Next Up is #11 seed Michigan in San Antonio on Thursday.  West #2 Duke – defeated Cal-State Fullerton (-18.5) 78-61, defeated Michigan State (-6.5) 85-76 Some questioned Duke’s seeding on the 2-line in Coach K’s final run but the Blue Devils have avoided an early upset to reach the Sweet 16, after escaping a very tough game with Michigan State. Early season wins over Kentucky and Gonzaga are on the resume for Duke and so far the ACC has surpassed its regular season ratings with three Sweet 16 teams. Duke has elite talent with four potential 1st round NBA draft picks, but the defense has not been at a championship level. Duke rarely forces turnover including getting only seven against Michigan State while five of Duke’s last six opponents have scored at least 76 points Duke has excellent shooting numbers all over the floor but the ACC schedule did not feature a single top 40 defensive efficiency team and Duke’s path to the final four includes three top 15 defenses still remaining in the region. Duke scored at a 63% clip on 2-point shots in the Round of 32 and that will be tough to match in any upcoming game.  Next Up is #3 seed Texas Tech Thursday in San Francisco.  West #3 Texas Tech – defeated Montana State (-15) 97-62, defeated Notre Dame (-8) 59-53 Mark Adams has done a terrific job in taking over for Chris Beard at Texas Tech and the Red Raiders survived a tight Sunday contest with Notre Dame to reach the Sweet 16 after also delivering a blowout win in the Round of 64. Only one of five starters for the Red Raiders was with the team last and this group went 3-1 vs. Kansas and Baylor in the regular season.  This is the best defense in the nation in many measures and so far the Red Raiders have kept their turnover counts in check after having issues with turnovers in the season numbers. The offense is a below average 3-point shooting team but has tremendous size and scores inside at a very successful rate.  The non-conference schedule was one of the weakest paths in the nation however as the case that the defensive numbers could be overstated is valid for this team. Texas Tech was still the top defense in the top-rated conference this season however.  Next Up is #2 seed Duke Thursday in San Francisco. Midwest #11 Iowa State – defeated LSU (+3.5) 59-54, defeated Wisconsin (+4) 54-49 Iowa State is one of two #11 seeds to make the Sweet 16, relying on it defense to defeat LSU and Wisconsin in tight low-scoring games. The Cyclones are an amazing story as this was a 2-win team last season before T.J. Otzelberger transformed the roster, riding a 12-0 start as one of the great early season surprises.  In Big XII play the Cyclones were less successful and the offensive numbers were among the worst in the conference in many areas. Iowa State scored 59 and 54 points in its wins with marginal shooting rates. With a trapping defense Iowa State is a difficult team to prepare for, particularly on a short turnaround and the Cyclones caught a huge break in the Round of 32 as Wisconsin lost its point guard to injury early in the game.  Iowa State’s edge on defense may be less pronounced moving forward against a Miami squad with good quickness and elusive ball handlers, featuring on the lowest turnover rates in the nation. Kansas would be a potential draw in the Elite 8 and Iowa State lost both games in the regular season to the Jayhawks even with key players absent for Kansas.  Next Up is #10 seed Miami, FL Friday in Chicago.   Midwest #10 Miami, FL – defeated USC (+2) 68-66, defeated Auburn (+6.5) 79-61 Miami is a surprise third team in the Sweet 16 for the ACC after blasting #2 seed Auburn on Sunday following a Round of 64 escape against USC. The Hurricanes started 5-0 and wound up 14-6 in the ACC with a win at Duke likely critical in staying on the right side of the bubble.  Miami has a top 20 offensive efficiency rate with one of the lowest turnover rates in the nation and this was the second-best team in the ACC in 2-point success rate at over 55 percent. Miami only had three wins vs. tournament teams this season and went 0-4 vs. Virginia and Florida State, two of the better defensive teams in the ACC as this group can have off games, including suffering five home losses.  Miami’s defense was near the bottom in the ACC in effective field goal rate allowed and the Hurricanes faced a rather light ACC path this season. Jim Larranaga’s teams have not gone past the sweet 16 since he took over the program in 2011-12.  Next Up is #11 seed Iowa State Friday in Chicago.  East #4 Purdue – defeated Yale (-16.5) 78-56, defeated Texas (-3.5) 81-71 The Boilermakers were able to hold off Texas in a game with big swings Sunday to reach the Sweet 16, avoiding what could have been an 0-5 Sunday for the Big Ten. This is the sixth Sweet 16 appearance for Matt Painter, only advancing to the Elite 8 once in 2019.  Purdue as some of the top-rated offensive numbers in the nation led by future NBA draft pick Jaden Ivey while also possessing rare size with 7’4” Zach Edey. The Boilermakers have avenged a round of 64 loss last season with this run, though in the Round of 32 a lot went right for Purdue, handed a 46-12 edge in free throw attempts. Purdue did dominate the defensive glass in that game and will draw what would conventionally be considered the most favorable matchup in the Sweet 16.  Purdue’s defense is vulnerable, ranking ninth in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency while turnovers are a weak spot for the Boilermakers on both sides of the ball. Purdue was the worst free throw shooting team in the Big Ten at just 68 percent but delivered a slightly better success rate Sunday in the huge volume of opportunities.  Next Up is #15 seed Saint Peter’s Friday in Philadelphia.  South #1 Arizona – defeated Wright State (-22) 87-70, defeated TCU (-9.5) 85-80 Arizona is one of the Championship favorites after a brilliant first season under Tommy Lloyd. The Wildcats have been tested so far including needing an overtime escape Sunday night against TCU, surviving despite shooting below 20 percent on 3-point shots. Arizona’s talent is immense with size and length few teams can compete with. Benedict Mathurin is a star and a strong shooter all over the floor and this team is now 33-3, dominating a Pac-12 conference that made a lot of noise in last season’s tournament.  Arizona is one of the least experienced teams in the nation however with a first-year coach and no NCAA Tournament experience for the starting five with only a few reserves having token postseason minutes at other schools. The 3-point shooting and turnover numbers are not at an elite level for Arizona and the strength of the Pac-12 can be questioned with several teams declining from last season. Arizona will face a shorter turnaround than most this week going from the last game Sunday to playing Thursday with the move from San Diego to San Antonio, playing in the home state of its Sweet 16 opponent. This is a team with all the pieces to continue winning in March, but the group is a bit less proven than some of the other remaining contenders.  Next Up is #5 seed in Houston in San Antonio Thursday. 

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Early Look at the first Eight Sweet 16 Entrants

Sunday, Mar 20, 2022

Early Look at the first Eight Sweet 16 Entrants  Eight teams moved on to the Sweet 16 on Saturday with Round of 32 wins in another exciting day of the NCAA Tournament. Here is an early look at those eight teams heading on to new venues for the next contests Thursday and Friday.   East #8 North Carolina – defeated Marquette (-4) 95-63, defeated Baylor (+5.5) 93-86 OT The Tar Heels went 15-5 in an ACC conference that appears to have been undervalued. North Carolina took on four heavyweight non-conference games going 1-3 but saw the bar they needed to reach in a transition season under Hubert Davis. The Round of 32 win over Baylor was one of the wildest games in tournament history, filled with controversial calls as North Carolina needed overtime to win despite leading by 25 points with about 10 minutes to go.  For a team known for its size and rebounding under Roy Williams, this year’s team is an excellent 3-point and free throw shooting team, that takes good care of the ball. This was one of the fastest paced teams in the ACC and forcing turnovers and allowing 3-point success has been a weak spot.  Next up is UCLA in a pairing of prominent college basketball royalty on Friday in Philadelphia.  Midwest #1 Kansas – defeated Texas Southern (-21.5) 83-56, defeated Creighton (-13) 79-72 The Jayhawks tied for the Big XII title at 14-4 and won the Big XII tournament to land #1 seed in what many feel looked like the weakest of the four regions. The Jayhawks did not dominate in the Round of 32 however with Creighton within a point in the final two minutes as Kansas was tested even with good numbers across the board on Saturday. Kansas has all the components to be a serious championship contender, and this was the Big XII’s #1 3-point shooting team and #1 3-point defense, despite surrendering 12 3-point makes to Creighton. The Big XII graded as the #1 conference this season and Ocahi Agbaju was one of the top scorers in the nation to lead the team.  Kansas only had one major non-conference test and they lost badly at home to Kentucky. Kansas also lost a non-conference game to Dayton, and this has not been one of Bill Self’s best defensive teams. Self has a championship from 2008 and a Final Four in 2018 but there have been many more March disappointments for the program that is routinely a top seed.  Next up is Providence in a 1/4 pairing in Chicago on Friday.  South #11 Michigan – defeated Colorado State (-1.5) 75-63, defeated Tennessee (+7) 76-68 A team many felt didn’t deserve to be in the tournament, Michigan landed a favorable spot in the bracket and has made the most of it with a redemptive run to the Sweet 16 as a #11 seed. An inconsistent disappointment much of the season Michigan is one win away from matching last season’s Elite 8 run as a #1 seed.  7’1” Hunter Dickson proved to be a significant matchup advantage in the first two games for the Wolverines, backing up the Big Ten’s best 2-point scoring rate with 48 points so far in the tournament. Michigan is an excellent free throw shooting team and rebounding team as well. This is one of the lesser defensive teams remaining in the field as Michigan ranked 11th in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency. Point guard DeVante’ Jones did not play in the Round of 64 win but did return for 12 minutes on Saturday and should see a bigger role in the Sweet 16.  Next Up is the winner of the Ohio State/Villanova game in San Antonio.  East #4 UCLA – defeated Akron (-13.5) 57-53, defeated Saint Mary’s (-3) 72-56 After making a First Four to Final Four run last season UCLA lived up to elevated expectations with a strong season but the Round of 64 victory was a very close call. The Bruins had an excellent game on both sides of the ball Saturday to beat a dangerous Saint Mary’s team to return to the Sweet 16 and the path in the East region no longer includes the #1 or #2 seeds.  The Bruins had the #1 defense in the Pac-12 and the lowest turnover rate on offense. Five upperclassmen lead a tight rotation and the Bruins picked up wins over Villanova and Arizona this season despite having a few surprising losses in Pac-12 play.  UCLA does not have great depth and Jaime Jaquez left the Round of 32 game with an ankle injury to cast a shadow on the prospects for the Bruins. UCLA is not an elite shooting team as the offense can go through droughts, but this is a team that has a favorable opportunity ahead.   Next Up is North Carolina in a 4/8 pairing in Philadelphia Friday. Midwest #4 Providence – defeated South Dakota State (-2.5) 66-57, defeated Richmond (-3.5) 79-51 The Big East regular season champions had more than their share of narrow wins this season but despite being a popular fade in the opening round, the Friars moved on and wound up not having to face the Iowa team many penciled in for a deep tournament run.  Providence was the #1 3-point shooting team in the Big East and has made 20 3-point shots in its two tournament wins so far. Allowing 57 and 51 points in those wins has been an impressive showing for the Friars on defense after an uneven year defensively in Big East play, finishing seventh in the conference in defensive efficiency despite the best regular season record.  Providence rarely creates turnovers and can struggle to score inside, hitting just 48 percent in 2-point looks in the conference season. Wins over Wisconsin and Texas Tech early in the season grew in stature as the season went on and this is a 27-5 team, though three losses came by blowout margins. Next Up is the Midwest #1 seed Kansas in Chicago on Friday.  East #15 St. Peter’s – defeated Kentucky (+18) 85-79 OT, defeated Murray State (+8) 70-60.  The story of the tournament has been St. Peter’s who knocked off one of the tournament favorites on in the Round of 64 and like two of the previous three #15 seeds to win the opener, also won in the Round of 32. The Metro Atlantic tournament champions have now nine in a row with great defensive performances.  The season numbers for St. Peter’s offered little indication of this potential as while the defense has been solid, the offense has a very poor turnover rate and greatly struggled with interior scoring this season. St. Peter’s won against Kentucky despite a turnover and free throw deficit thanks to hitting 50 percent on 2-point shots and 53% on 3-point shots while holding its own in rebounding. The Peacocks did not shoot as well against Murray State but flipped the turnover and free throw advantages.  The ability to maintain that scoring clip will be very difficult for the Peacocks and now as one of the central stories of the tournament, the attention on the long layoff in-between games may not be helpful. It also seems likely that head coach Shaheen Holloway could return to his alma mater Seton Hall after this run, though heading to Philadelphia should provide a favorable atmosphere.  Next Up is the winner of the Purdue/Texas game in the Sweet 16 in Philadelphia.  West #4 Arkansas – defeated Vermont (-5) 75-71, defeated New Mexico State (-6.5) 53-48 Arkansas has provided tight games in almost every NCAA Tournament game under Eric Musselman, rallying back from big deficits in all three wins last season before running into Baylor in the Elite 8. This season Arkansas has been caught in tight finishes in defensive grinds but emerging with a pair of wins to reach the Sweet 16 while other top SEC teams have disappointed.  Arkansas has elite defensive numbers finishing with the top ranking on defense in the SEC. The Razorbacks force turnovers and are very difficult to score on inside even without presenting top tier size. The Razorbacks play at a relatively fast tempo and take good care of the ball while usually creating high percentage shots and getting to the free throw line frequently, where they were one of the better teams in the SEC. Arkansas can run into big stretches of offensive futility however and this is a very poor 3-point shooting team hitting below 31 percent. JD Notae brings great energy to the floor on both sides of the ball but routinely takes low percentage shots while only Stanley Umude presents a quality 3-point success rate. Umude is the second biggest player on the roster for Arkansas as he often needs to take on a challenging defensive responsibility. Arkansas is facing a bit more significant travel than most teams after playing in Buffalo last week.  Next Up is #1 seed Gonzaga in San Diego on Thursday.  West #1 Gonzaga – defeated Georgia State (-22.5) 93-72, defeated Memphis (-9.5) 82-78 Gonzaga is back in the Sweet 16 but it has not been easy for the #1 overall seed. Georgia State pushed the Bulldogs for 30 minutes in a tight opening game and Gonzaga barely got by Memphis, delivering a narrow comeback win after being down 10 at halftime.  Gonzaga did not have any close calls until the Final Four in last season’s run and the early tests could prove beneficial for the Bulldogs as few teams are likely to be as physically imposing as Memphis on the remaining path. Gonzaga will take some criticism for the shaky performances in Portland, but they also faced a pair of grossly under seeded teams. This team still has elite offensive numbers and still won despite shooting well below average from 3-point range in the first two games and having disastrous results at the free throw line.  Gonzaga has missed 25 free throws in the first two games of the tournament despite connecting at nearly 77% in the WCC season for an alarming decline. Gonzaga has also not come close to its 41 percent 3-point rate in the conference season while the defense has forced only 12 combined turnovers in two games. Gonzaga has a lot of room to play better but there have been enough red flags to question whether this team should still be considered a Final Four favorite.  Next Up is #4 seed Arkansas in San Diego on Thursday. 

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NCAA Tournament Bubble Prospects: Big Ten

Friday, Feb 25, 2022

Coming off a very disappointing NCAA Tournament last season the Big Ten will be in the spotlight again this season, projecting to lead the nation with as many as nine bids in the Big Dance depending on how the bubble lands.  Last season the Big Ten produced two #1 seeds and two #2 seeds, in effect holding four of the top eight spots in the nation at the start of the NCAA Tournament. Only one of those teams made it out of the opening weekend and the conference failed to produce a final four team. The Big Ten did display some depth as Wisconsin, Rutgers, and Maryland all won Round of 64 games from #9 or #10 seeds. Michigan State was a #11 seed in the First Four and lost a very close game to UCLA before the Bruins made an incredible run to the Final Four.  This year five Big Ten teams look certain to have spots in the NCAA Tournament at this point in the season (Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Iowa) while four more are likely to be on the right side of the bubble for the moment. The Big Ten will not likely have a #1 seed however and may not even earn a #2 seed depending on how the season shakes out as the overall strength of the conference is considerably lower than last season. The conference rating is the worst for the Big Ten since 2017-18, a season where the Big Ten produced only four NCAA Tournament teams. That season Michigan made it to the national championship game as a #3 seed however and there are teams in the Big Ten this year capable of making a similar run.  Here is a look at the four teams sitting on the edge of the bubble and the remaining paths they will face, as each has work to do the next two weeks and could face a high-pressure game(s) in Indianapolis for the Big Ten tournament.  Michigan State: 18-9 overall, 9-7 Big Ten Best Wins: (N) Loyola-Chicago, (N) Connecticut, (A) Wisconsin, (H) Michigan Michigan State is in the field right now, projecting as high as a #7 seed but the Spartans are on a 1-5 slide in the past six games to fall from 8-2 in conference play to 9-7. The remaining schedule is very difficult facing three of the top teams in the conference in the next three games with two of those games on the road. A realistic scenario is the Spartans falling to 10-10 in conference play with a closing run of 2-8 in the final 10 games.  Michigan State’s inclusion in the field was a bit controversial last season but that group put together a 5-2 run to close the season including beating two teams that earned #1 seeds and a team that earned a #2 seed before losing its first Big Ten Tournament game. This year’s team doesn’t have that caliber of wins to fall back on unless they pick them up in the next two weeks. The best win of the Big Ten season came at Wisconsin and that was a bit of a fluke as Tyler Wahl didn’t play for the Badgers and the Spartans had a huge shooting and free throw edge.  Michigan State gets credit for playing Kansas and Baylor, but they lost those games by double-digits with uncompetitive second halves. Non-conference wins over Loyola-Chicago and Connecticut are helping the profile but the Big Ten path has bene favorable and losses to Northwestern and Penn State are blemishes. This year’s team has Tom Izzo’s worst defensive efficiency ranking since 2005-06 and this is the worst team in the Big Ten in turnovers on both sides of the ball as this has not been a typical year for the Spartans.  Rutgers: 16-11 overall, 10-7 Big Ten Best Wins: (H) Purdue, (H) Michigan, (H) Iowa, (H) Michigan State, (H) Ohio State, (A) Wisconsin, (H) Illinois Rutgers has some bad losses from November to work through and has had mixed results in the Big Ten season, losing to non-tournament contenders Penn State, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Maryland. The Scarlet Knights have put together several quality wins however to offset some of those misses and still a great shot to reach 12-8 in Big Ten play, a record that would make it tough to exclude them.  Five Big Ten teams are certain to make the field and Rutgers has defeated all five of those teams. Most of the wins came at home but Rutgers did win at Wisconsin to match Michigan State’s best current Big Ten win. Holding home court this weekend to sweep the Badgers would provide a big boost to the resume. After that game, Rutgers is at Indiana in a big bubble comparison game before a finale hosting Penn State. Winning two of the final three should be enough for Rutgers to stay on the right side of the bubble in most scenarios.  Early season losses to DePaul and Massachusetts on the road are damaging but the home loss to Lafayette just before Thanksgiving is the real sore spot for Rutgers. Rutgers did beat Clemson in the ACC/Big Ten challenge and has some of the best defensive numbers in the conference while also being a top three 3-point shooting team. Rutgers won its Round of 64 game as a #10 seed last March and had #2 seed and eventual Final Four team Houston on the ropes before a late collapse as this is a group that has shown it can play with anyone.  Michigan: 15-11 overall, 9-7 Big Ten Best Wins: (H) San Diego State, (A) Indiana, (H) Purdue, (A) Iowa  Michigan has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons after the incident in Madison last week, leading to Juwan Howard’s suspension for the rest of the regular season. Michigan picked up a big win hosting Rutgers on Wednesday in a key battle of likely bubble teams, offsetting a loss at Rutgers from earlier in the Big Ten season. The Wolverines are still trending upward late in the season going 8-4 in the past 12 games including wins over Purdue and Iowa, but the remaining schedule is difficult. Michigan is at home for three of the final four regular season games, but they draw Illinois, Michigan State, Iowa, and Ohio State in those games as finishing 10-10 in the Big Ten might be a realistic outcome. Michigan doesn’t have any terrible losses with defats against Minnesota and UCF being the worst, but the only non-conference wins of note came against UNLV and San Diego State. Michigan also doesn’t have the depth of quality wins in conference play of some of the other Big Ten teams, getting two wins against Nebraska among the current nine in the win column.  Head-to-head wins in the only meetings with Indiana and Rutgers could be critical for the Wolverines but they also may need to even the series with rival Michigan State next week. Michigan is going to need a strong finish to the season to stay on the right side of the bubble, likely needing to win at least two of four in a very difficult closing two weeks before the Big Ten tournament, even while dealing with the recent drama while now being led by Phil Martelli.  Indiana: 17-10 overall, 8-9 Big Ten Best Wins: (N) Notre Dame, (H) Ohio State, (H) Purdue  Indiana broke a five-game slide this week beating Maryland at home and the Hoosiers may need to win out to hold a NCAA Tournament spot, barring a great Big Ten tournament run. Indiana has only two wins against Big Ten teams that will make the tournament and while Notre Dame is one of the ACC contenders, the Irish don’t even qualify as a top 50 team in the win column as the best win from a very weak non-conference schedule.  Indiana has lost several close games and has a well-regarded defense but even through one of the weakest paths in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers are still below .500. Upcoming games against Minnesota and Rutgers will be critical for Indiana unless they can upset Purdue for a second time this season in the regular season finale.  Six of eight Big Ten wins for Indiana came against Maryland, Nebraska, Penn State, and Minnesota as there is not much quality depth in the win column but they did defeat both Ohio State and Purdue in Bloomington for two high-end results that are currently stronger than the top two Big Ten wins for either Michigan State or Michigan.  Indiana last made the NCAA Tournament in 2015-16, delivering a Sweet 16 run as it has been a long absence for the storied program. With the top-rated defense in the Big Ten the Hoosiers are capable of a March run. Mike Woodson’s team has rarely looked out of place in tough games but having double-digits losses may be difficult to overcome. Getting a head-to-head win vs. Rutgers next week in the home finale will be critically important to keeping hopes alive for a bid. 

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NCAA Tournament Bubble Prospects: ACC

Monday, Feb 21, 2022

The ACC has sent seven teams to each of the past two NCAA Tournaments and had nine in the field in both 2017 and 2018. The conference has fallen in stature in a big way this season as many projections call for five or fewer teams making the bracket this year. Here is a look at the remaining path and prospects for the ACC squads that are likely to land near the bubble on Selection Sunday.  Duke is really the only ACC team firmly in the NCAA Tournament field right now, projecting as a likely #2 seed at 23-4. While three of the final four are on the road for Duke to close the regular season, it is a reasonable path as the Blue Devils look likely to hold that line. It would take quite a lot for Duke to climb to the #1 line in the current projection as the Blue Devils are currently much closer to a #3 spot than a #1.  Beyond Duke there are only five other teams with winning records in ACC play (as of Feb. 21) as the powerhouse basketball conference may have another quiet March. Last season only two of seven ACC teams in the field won their first games with Florida State and Syracuse reaching the Sweet 16 for the best performances. No ACC team was seeded better than a #4 last season however as Duke is capable of being in a better position and would likely land a favorable Greenville placement for its opening game(s). Here are seven ACC teams on a generous consideration of the current NCAA Tournament bubble.  Notre Dame: Second place in the ACC belongs to Notre Dame for the moment, even after last week’s loss to Wake Forest. Mike Brey’s team has delivered a great turnaround from starting the season 4-5 but there is not a great margin for error for the Irish. The home win over Kentucky in December continues to provide a huge boost to the profile but that is one of only two top 50 caliber wins all season. The ACC schedule for Notre Dame has been favorable and will continue to be favorable as the Irish should be in a safe position projecting to finish with at least 14 wins, which would clearly warrant inclusion in the field.  Miami, FL: The Hurricanes have been a surprise performer in the ACC reaching 11-5 with four games to go. With games against Pittsburgh and Boston College remaining, a 13-win ACC campaign should be enough to keep the Hurricanes on the right side of the cut line. Miami did not accomplish many noteworthy wins in the non-conference schedule, but this team has quality wins in ACC play at Duke and at Virginia Tech, home against North Carolina, and sweeping Wake Forest. They were swept by both Florida State and Virginia but ultimately winning at Duke is likely to carry enough weight for the Hurricanes barring a major collapse.  Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have one of the weakest non-conference profiles in the nation as this is a squad that could be more at risk of falling out of the field than some of the others on this list. Wake Forest went 11-1 in non-conference play but lost by 14 against LSU in the most meaningful contest. Overtime wins over Oregon State and Northwestern don’t carry as much weight as they did earlier in the season and the 11-6 ACC record is a bit empty, with the only notable results being home wins over North Carolina and Notre Dame plus a road win at Virginia Tech in the December ACC opener. The win over the Irish last weekend was a huge result that likely keeps Wake Forest in the field but avoiding multiple losses in a favorable three-game stretch to close the season would be advised.  North Carolina: The Tar Heels took on a heavyweight schedule but the only win in an early season quartet facing Purdue, Tennessee, Michigan, and Kentucky, came against the Wolverines team that is also bound for the bubble as one of the nation’s biggest disappointments. A sweep of Virginia Tech is really all the success the Tar Heels can point to in an 11-5 ACC path through a favorable conference schedule. North Carolina is 0-4 against the teams above them on this list but they will get a rematch opportunity against Duke in the regular season finale. Getting to 14-6 in ACC play without beating Duke would be enough for the Tar Heels in most scenarios but a slip-up in an upcoming game against Louisville, NC State, or Syracuse could be damaging.  Virginia Tech: The metrics like the Hokies better than a casual glance at the resume would as the Hokies get credit for a solid non-conference path even without winning any of the important games while producing a few lopsided wins vs. similar caliber teams has helped the cause. The current form with a 6-1 run in the past seven games has Mike Young’s team trending upward but three of the final four in the regular season are on the road including toss-up games with Miami and Clemson. The offensive efficiency for the Hokies is impressive but only one win has come against a team that would earn an at-large tournament spot, beating Notre Dame at home in January. With the possible exception of losing at Boston College, there aren’t bad losses for the Hokies, but there are 11 and counting as this squad feels like a group that will have plenty of reasons for exclusion unless they put together a very strong finish.  Virginia: The Cavaliers are not a NCAA Tournament team right now, but the case could get there if they are able to beat Duke for a second time this week. Virginia has a solid 11-6 record in ACC play including the road win at Duke plus four other ACC road wins. Sweeping Miami is also a positive boost on the resume depending on where the Hurricanes wind up in the final standings. Virginia also won at Syracuse for a head-to-head trump card against another potential bubble team. The ACC record includes going 4-0 vs. Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Georgia Tech and Virginia will have a hard time overcoming multiple bad losses, falling in the season opener vs. Navy and at James Madison, in addition to dropping an ACC game at NC State.  Syracuse: The Orange under Jim Boeheim routinely weasel their way on to the bubble with enough quality wins to offset a high loss count. The path is there for a similar outcome for Syracuse this season, and last year after barely being included the Orange were able to win two games. 5-1 in the past six, Syracuse is trending upward and while the final four games on the schedule are all difficult, it will provide the quality Syracuse may need. The big fish will be the home game with Duke next weekend before closing with games against North Carolina and Miami, as getting to 12-8 through remaining path would make a compelling case. Syracuse has three losses to teams outside the top 100 right now and while the non-conference schedule was challenging, the only notable win over Indiana has diminished in value of late.  The ACC is having a rough season overall and hopes for a swan song campaign for Coach K’s final run may be the conference’s best path to having a team make a deep March run. There are a few teams trending upward down the stretch that could have a chance to climb into the field, however. Meaningful action with the season on the line could provide good experience to propel one of those teams to be tournament-ready, hoping to deliver an upset or two from a #9-#10 seed line where several ACC teams currently project to land. 

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BIG XII Hoops Risers and Fallers

Saturday, Jan 29, 2022

BIG XII HOOPS RISERS AND FALLERS The Big XII has been one of the toughest and deepest conferences in college basketball in recent years and contains the defending national champion. The Big XII has had a final four team in four of the past five tournaments and several teams have the credentials to make a big run this season. As February approaches, here are three teams likely to climb and three teams that could fall from its current placement in the standings.  BIG XII RISERS OKLAHOMA (3-5): The Sooners have had a difficult start to conference play and three of the team’s five losses have come against Baylor and Kansas. Oklahoma didn’t look out of place in any of those games and while it has been an expected transition season for Porter Moser, the shooting numbers are excellent, and this is a top 20 defense nationally. The sooners will face highly ranked Auburn this weekend before a pair of winnable games in league play. There are still several difficult games remaining for Oklahoma, but this group is likely better than its current record, sitting with two overtime losses and with numbers that could improve down the stretch.  IOWA STATE (3-5): T. J. Otzelberger is a prime Coach of the Year candidate with Iowa State 15-5 after he inherited a team that finished 2-22 last season under Steve Prohm. There were several high-quality wins in the non-conference season but in Big XII play Iowa State has struggled with five losses already. The wins have been quality results however and they have already lost to the top two teams in the conference with a five-point loss to Baylor and a one-point loss to Kansas. Two games each with Kansas State and West Virginia remain in the Big XII path and this has been a top 10 defense nationally as the Cyclones will be tough to pull away from.  OKLAHOMA STATE (3-5): The Cowboys have a win at Baylor this season for a result that commands a lot of respect and the past two Big XII losses came by five on the road while allowing only 56 points, and by three in overtime. They still have three games remaining against the bottom two teams in the conference and this is an elite defensive team for Mike Boynton with some of the best numbers in the conference. Bryce Williams has missed the past two losses for Oklahoma State with ankle injury and his eventual return should provide a boost for the Cowboys to climb to at least a .500 finish in league play.  BIG XII FALLERS BAYLOR (6-2): Casual fans will assume Baylor is on a similar trajectory to last season but this group lacks the great backcourt play of last season and the current injury for James Akinjo could lead to some inconsistency in the coming weeks. Baylor’s two conference losses both came at home and there are several high-quality defensive teams in the conference that can stall the Baylor offense. While Baylor has a top seven grade in efficiency on both sides of the ball nationally, they are not #1 in the Big XII in either, while currently #4 on defense. The non-conference schedule proved to be incredibly weak for the Bears overall and the 6-2 Big XII start has already included half of the wins coming against TCU, West Virginia, and Kansas State. Baylor is a serious threat to win the conference again but a few more losses are likely on the way.  TEXAS (5-3): Chris Beard has taken Texas to 15-5 in his first season since moving up from Texas Tech. The defensive numbers are excellent, but Texas played the nation’s 354th ranked non-conference schedule to pad the numbers. The 5-3 start has not featured a win against any of the top three teams in the Big XII yet as Texas has not played Baylor, Kansas, or Texas Tech yet, meaning six of the team’s final ten conference games will be against that elite trio. Needless to say, several losses for the Longhorns are ahead and this group could possibly fall to the middle of the pack in the conference standings.  TCU (3-3): Most power ratings call TCU the worst team in the conference, yet TCU is in fifth place in the current standings with a .500 record through an abbreviated early-season schedule. TCU has some of its best remaining opportunities in the next two weeks, but the late season schedule is brutally difficult as they will play Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech, and Kansas five times in six games starting in late February. Six Big XII road games remain for TCU and seven games vs. top 20 caliber teams are still ahead with TCU posting zero such wins on its current 13-4 resume. In Big XII play TCU is last in offensive efficiency, turnovers, and free throws as the Horned Frogs could crash to the bottom of the league by early March. 

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SEC Hoops Risers and Fallers

Tuesday, Jan 25, 2022

SEC HOOPS RISERS AND FALLERS The SEC is a deep quality conference this college basketball season with several teams that have the potential make a big run in March. After Auburn on top of the standings, 11 teams have between two and four losses for a tightly packed group in the early season standings. Here is a look at teams likely to rise and fall in the SEC over the next few weeks.  SEC RISERS TENNESSEE (4-3): The Volunteers have elite defensive numbers and only have losses vs. top SEC teams on the road in a 4-3 start. The remaining five SEC road games are all against weaker teams than the three teams that have defeated Tennessee in SEC play so far. The Vols also draw top ranked Auburn only once this season and that game is in Knoxville at the end of February, as are most of the remaining difficult games on Tennessee’s schedule. Currently tied for fifth place in the SEC standings, this looks like a team that will finish in the top four.  LSU (3-4): The Tigers have lost three consecutive games, but two of those three games have been road games vs. top tier squads. LSU still has the #1 defensive efficiency in the nation and the Tigers have battled through a truly difficult SEC schedule so far this season. Incredibly, each team that LSU will face in the next seven SEC games is a weaker team than every team LSU has faced so far in its 3-4 conference start. It would not be a shock if LSU went from 3-4 to 10-4 or 9-5 before facing Kentucky in late February in a big late season rematch.  MISSOURI (2-4): At 8-10 overall the Tigers aren’t even in the NCAA Tournament conversation right now, but this is a team that could climb closer to that picture in the coming weeks while holding one of the toughest strength of schedule ratings in the nation. Missouri has a notable SEC win over Alabama and had faced elite SEC teams in its three road losses in league play. Losing badly at Kentucky and at Arkansas early in the SEC weighs on the numbers but after facing Auburn this week, the Tigers have a nice path in early February with winnable games for three weeks straight. The past nine losses for Missouri have been vs. top 100 teams including non-conference losses to Kansas and Illinois as the numbers, particularly in 3-point shooting, should improve in the coming weeks.  SEC FALLERS KENTUCKY (5-2): The Wildcats didn’t hold up in last week’s big showdown at Auburn and while Kentucky will be favored to get to 7-2 in the next two SEC games, it is likely going to be a difficult February in Lexington. The defensive numbers remain mediocre for this team and this season’s non-conference schedule was much weaker than usual for the program with only one notable win over North Carolina. Only one of the first five wins in SEC play for Kentucky has come against a likely contender while the gauntlet of consecutive quality games on the schedule in the middle of February is likely to take a toll on this group. Kentucky won’t have to play Auburn again but the schedule features two meetings each with Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and LSU this season.  MISSISSIPPI STATE (4-2): The Bulldogs have a nice 4-2 record in SEC play, but they have already faced rival Ole Miss twice and lost one of those games. They do have home wins over Arkansas and Alabama but four of six games in SEC play have been in Starkville and they have already played the only meeting with last place Georgia. Mississippi State will be in an underdog in five of the next six SEC games as it will be a shock if the Bulldogs reach mid-February above .500. This squad has played one of the weakest schedules of any team in the conference as there are no quality non-conference wins to suggest that this group can maintain a position as a SEC contender.  TEXAS A&M (4-2): The Aggies may be having a breakthrough season for Buzz Williams, or more likely they have made the most of a favorable early path in conference play. Texas A&M started 4-0 in SEC play but a narrow home win over Arkansas is the only high-quality result and three of four SEC wins have been by five or fewer points. The Aggies have terrible free throw shooting numbers and will face top tier SEC teams in four of the next six games as going from 4-2 to 6-6 is likely for the Aggies. 

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AFC Futures Snapshot

Friday, Dec 31, 2021

AFC FUTURES SNAPSHOT With two weeks left in the NFL regular season the playoff picture still has plenty of question marks. Here is a look at the futures market in the AFC with a few possible opportunities to consider this week.  OVERVALUED: BUFFALO BILLS +350 Few teams have seen as large of swings in the futures market this season as Buffalo has spent time as the Super Bowl favorite but also not long ago was on the edge of the AFC playoff picture. Buffalo is back in front of the AFC East but this team has not resembled the team that had a huge run last season to make the AFC Championship. While Buffalo beat Kansas City earlier this season they are unlikely to catch the Chiefs in the race for the #1 spot and will need to go through a formidable foe in the AFC playoffs to get another shot at Kansas City, with the Chiefs looking like a much better team than in October. Buffalo has great scoring numbers but that figure was inflated with shutout wins over Miami and Houston vs. backup quarterbacks, accounting for a 75-point swing.  UNDERVALUED: TENNESSEE TITANS +900 The Titans look likely to finish as the #2 seed in the AFC but this team has the best record in the NFL vs. quality teams, going 7-2 vs. the top half of the league while 6-1 vs. the league’s top 10. The return of A.J. Brown is incredibly impactful for the potential of the offense and this team was in the AFC Championship just two years ago as there is strong playoff experience for the Titans coaching staff and several key players. The Titans have featured a strong home field edge at 6-2 and while they would certainly be an underdog in Kansas City if these teams met in the AFC Championship, the Titans turned in a dominant 27-3 win vs. the Chiefs earlier this season and are a squad that continues to beat its suspect season statistics to lurk as a complete squad that can win against more conventionally impressive teams.  LONG SHOT – Los Angeles Chargers +2200 The Week 16 loss to Houston was a devastating result for the Chargers that for the moment knocked the team out of the AFC field. The AFC North teams are going to knock each other out in some fashion however while Miami has a very difficult closing path as there is still a good opportunity for Los Angeles to make the playoffs, closing the season with winnable division games against Denver and Las Vegas. The Chargers have played the league’s #5 schedule, a tougher path than likely any team that will make the playoffs this season. In his second season Justin Herbert has been one of the top rated quarterbacks in the NFL and with a win and a tough overtime loss vs. Kansas City, the Chargers are likely the team best suited to knock off the defending AFC champions if they get the opportunity.  

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NFC Futures Snapshot

Friday, Dec 31, 2021

NFC FUTURES SNAPSHOT With two weeks left in the NFL regular season the playoff picture still has plenty of question marks. Here is a look at the futures market in the NFC with a few possible opportunities to consider this week.  OVERVALUED: GREEN BAY PACKERS +200 The Packers are in line to be the #1 seed in the NFC but that is the role they were in last season. While this team is a serious threat for a third straight NFC Championship trip, Green Bay has been blown out in that game the past two seasons. While Aaron Rodgers is likely to win another MVP this season, last season he led the #1 scoring offense and #2 total offense in the NFL. This year’s team is #13 in scoring and #15 in total offense and the defense for Green Bay has been among the very worst in the NFL in recent weeks even while facing the likes of Justin Fields, Tyler Huntley, and Baker Mayfield.  UNDERVALUED: DALLAS COWBOYS +500 If Dallas wins out and Green Bay loses one game, Dallas will be the #1 seed in the NFC, a not so improbable scenario given that Minnesota is playing for its postseason life this week and has won back-to-back meetings with the Packers. Dallas is the NFL’s #1 scoring offense and #1 total offense this season for a profile much more consistent with a potential championship team than Green Bay, or even last year’s Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, currently priced at +300. Dallas has faced a weaker schedule than the other NFC contenders but is 5-2 vs. the top half of the league, the best record of any NFC team (Green Bay 4-3, Tampa Bay 5-3, LA Rams 4-4).  LONG SHOT: SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS +1600 Only Tampa Bay has more wins vs. the top 10 in the league than San Francisco and this is a great pricing window on the 49ers with the current injury news on Jimmy Garoppolo while the 49ers are coming off a loss to still sit without a playoff spot confirmed. The 49ers play Houston this week as this is going to be a wild card team and the finale with the Rams may not be a meaningful game for Los Angeles depending on how things shake out this week. San Francisco’s scoring differential is only 13 points worse than Green Bay’s and the 49ers have a 5-3 record on the road this season. With two NFC West teams already in the playoffs the 49ers would have a good chance of facing a familiar foe in the postseason and this team has battled injuries all season as its full potential has not been reached yet. 

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NCAA Basketball Rankings: Overrated/Underrated

Monday, Nov 29, 2021

NCAA Basketball Rankings: Overrated/Underrated While the college football rankings will provide endless debate in the next week, it is time to start dissecting the college basketball rankings now that most teams have a few meaningful games under their belts. Here is a look at a few teams checking in a bit too high and a few teams that may be underrated at the end November in the current AP Poll.  POSSIBLY OVERRATED: #2 Purdue: The Boilermakers have wins over North Carolina and Villanova but those results may not be quite what those program’s reputations suggest at least at this point in the season. North Carolina is in a major transition season and lost by 17 to Tennessee the day after giving Purdue a good test. That game was very tight late despite the nine-point final, even with the Tar Heels missing one of their top players. Purdue’s win over Villanova featured an epic comeback in the final nine minutes with hot 3-point shooting while Villanova uncharacteristically shot 53 percent on free throws. Purdue will be a good team this year but a loss or two in December looks possible with five top 100 games upcoming as this is not a team that is going to create separation in a tough top tier of the Big Ten.  #10 Arkansas: The Razorbacks are 6-0 but without a top 50 win and they struggled vs. Cincinnati in their most difficult game so far this season, winning by six but trailing in the final minutes. Arkansas was handed a 32-13 edge in free throws in that game for a fortunate result in Kansas City. Arkansas could wind up 12-0 before the SEC season as the schedule is incredibly weak outside of a game with Oklahoma in early December. Eric Musselman’s team made the Elite 8 last season but wasn’t far from being eliminated in each of the first three games last March as some of his game management has been questionable. The starting five is very small by major conference standards with the addition of Miami transfer Chris Lykes and this team has shot below 30 percent on 3-point shots this season.  #17 Connecticut: The Huskies finished 15-8 last season before being bounced in the Round of 64 as a #7 seed. This year’s team is 6-1 but the only meaningful wins were both overtime results, beating Auburn in double-OT and VCU in OT while going 2-1 in the Bahamas. So far this season Connecticut has shot more than five percent better from 3-point range compared to last season and has been a big beneficiary of turnovers, something that isn’t typical of Dan Hurley defense. The Huskies could climb further with two light games this week but tests vs. West Virginia and St. Bonaventure lurk as difficult games ahead of the Big East season.  #19 Iowa State: The Cyclones picked up two double-digit wins in Brooklyn last week surprising Xavier and Memphis to reach 6-0. Iowa State also beat Oregon State early in the season for a promising start for T.J. Otzelberger in his first season with the program, coming from UNLV. Two wins have been against teams outside the top 300 however and the offensive numbers have been marginal for this group. Iowa State had 33 free throw attempts for a big edge vs. Memphis and shot 50 percent from 3-point range vs. Xavier, things that are not likely to be repeated often for this group that is still in a significant transition season.  POSSIBLY UNDERRATED:  #15 Houston: One loss has bumped the Cougars down in the rankings despite five top 150 caliber wins including likely top 50 results against Virginia and Oregon. Houston has endured a tough non-conference path and simply got caught in Las Vegas with a red-hot shooting game from Wisconsin, who won the Maui Invitational. Houston shot 53 percent from the line in that game and was out of sync on offense but still nearly rallied for an epic comeback, losing by just two despite trailing by 20 at halftime. This squad has the makings of a team capable of another Final Four run and they will have a prominent opportunity to show it playing at Alabama next week.  #20 USC: Evan Mobley is impossible to replace but Isaiah Mobley has done his part while Memphis transfer Boogie Ellis joins a veteran roster with great size. Free throw shooting has been an adventure this season, but the Trojans are 6-0 with only two home games. The only high-quality win was a 15-point win over San Diego State with a dominant defensive performance. USC may be overshadowed in Los Angeles with UCLA’s Final Four run and early season win over Villanova, but it won’t be a surprise if USC is ahead of UCLA in the Pac-12 standings by the end of the season. The Trojans have a favorable pair of games to open the conference season and should be in good form before the tougher games on the schedule hit in late December and early January.  Unranked Illinois: The Illini have started just 4-2 but this team should not be discounted as a Big Ten and national contender again this season. Kofi Cockburn’s three-game suspension was well publicized but four other regular contributors have missed time as Brad Underwood has had six different starting lineups in six games. The ACC Challenge, two Big Ten games, and a big game with Arizona are the next four games on the schedule as Illinois will have an opportunity to deliver a few quality wins and once the roster issues are sorted out this team still has a very high ceiling.  Unranked Louisville: The Cardinals are getting penalized for a loss at home to Furman in early November. That game was an overtime game where Furman had a big edge at the line and made 12 3-point shots. Furman has been an elite Southern Conference team for the past four years under Bob Richey and the Paladins nearly beat Cincinnati and Alabama in early season action last year, while beating Villanova in November 2018. Louisville has two top 50 wins away from home with decisive results in the Bahamas and they should provide Michigan State a test this week. Overall, the non-conference path is quite tough for the Cardinals relative to their ACC peers as this group may be underrated ahead of the conference season. 

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Big Ten Draw in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Friday, Nov 26, 2021

Big Ten Draw in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge  After the chaos of the Thanksgiving week tournaments, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge provides compelling matchups next week in this year’s 14-game draw. A reliable event of interest that often signals the start of the college basketball season in earnest, here is a quick look at this season’s pairings from the Big Ten perspective for games Monday, Nov. 29 to Wednesday, Dec. 1.  Monday Iowa at Virginia: Iowa has quietly started the season 5-0 after being in the headlines a lot last season in an uneven 22-9 season that ended abruptly with a Round of 32 blowout loss to Oregon as a #2 seed. Sophomore Keegan Murray leads this year’s team and Iowa remains one of the highest scoring teams in the nation. This will be a big test however as the Hawkeyes have had a very light early-season schedule and are yet to play a road game. The line on this game will likely be near-even as Iowa’s offense will face the usually elite Virginia defense.  CHANCE OF BIG TEN WIN: 50% Notre Dame at Illinois: Illinois has already lost twice this season while the roster has been in flux in several games with a few injuries and the suspension for the first three games for Kofi Cockburn. The Illini entered the NCAA Tournament as one of the overall favorites last March but lost in the Round of 32 for a disappointing finish. Ayo Dosunmu is in the NBA now but there is still a strong roster in place for Brad Underwood. Turnovers and free throw shooting have been problem spots for Illinois so far this season as the defense has held up its end but the offense has been hard to count on. Losses away from home to Marquette and Cincinnati are not overly damaging but the Illini are a risk to continue to be overvalued: CHANCE OF BIG TEN WIN: 75% Tuesday Clemson at Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights were a Round of 32 NCAA Tournament team last year just like Iowa and Illinois but Rutgers will have a hard time living down the collapse against Houston, the team that eventually made the Final Four after delivering a great comeback to beat the Knights. Rob Harper and Geo Baker are familiar leaders for Rutgers this season but the 3-2 start has offered plenty of concern, with losses to DePaul and Lafayette. Rutgers has shot below 25 percent from 3-point range so far this season as the offense has really struggled. Clemson has had some up-and-downs as well but the losses came in close games to much better teams than Rutgers lost to. CHANCE OF BIG TEN WIN: 45% Duke at Ohio State: Ohio State may have a bit of a break in this scheduling as Duke will be coming off Friday’s huge national game with Gonzaga in Las Vegas before traveling to Columbus. Ohio State was upset in the Round of 64 as a #2 seed in one of many failures for the conference last March. The Buckeyes have EJ Liddell back and he has been among the most productive players in the nation so far. Penn State transfer Jamari Wheeler also joins the starting five along with freshman Malaki Branham as the Buckeyes have some questions to answer still this season. Ohio State is 4-2 with a nice win over Seton Hall but two narrow losses away from home to top 40 caliber teams. CHANCE OF BIG TEN WIN: 45% Florida State at Purdue: Purdue has started the season 5-0 with notable wins over North Carolina and Villanova in close games in Connecticut in the Hall of Fame Classic. The offense has tremendous numbers this season including scoring at least 80 points in every game and all five wins have been top 200 foes. The depth and size for Purdue will attract some attention for the Boilermakers to be among the Big Ten favorites this season. Purdue won’t draw a top ACC contender in this pairing but Florida State beat Purdue two years ago in non-conference play and the Boilermakers lost to Miami in this event last season. Florida State will be one of the few teams with a size edge against Purdue and the 5-1 start has featured good defensive numbers so far. RayQuan Evans missed the last game for Florida State and will impact the number on this game. CHANCE OF BIG TEN WIN: 80% Minnesota at Pittsburgh: The Gophers are quietly 5-0 under new head coach Ben Johnson. The schedule has not been difficult with no top 100 results but that won’t change this week drawing a Pitt squad sitting towards the bottom of the ACC. This is almost a completely different team from last season as Eric Curry is the long holdover in the starting lineup as Johnson has filled the roster with transfers from all over the country. The offensive efficiency has not been as strong as last season’s team so far but the defense has made some noise with most strong performances. 5-0 could swing the other quickly for this group with Mississippi State next weekend plus starting the Big Ten season with Michigan State and Michigan in the first two games. CHANCE OF BIG TEN WIN: 55% Indiana at Syracuse: In what was a great season for the Big Ten last year outside of the NCAA Tournament results, Indiana struggled falling far from its typical place as one of the prominent programs in the conference. Archie Miller’s fifth season in Bloomington should draw elevated expectations and this was a competitive game that had three overtime losses last season, including losing to Florida State on the road in this event. ACC transfer Xavier Johnson is now the leader of this team as this is a rather inexperienced group but the Hoosiers have started the season 5-0 including a win over St. John’s. This game is going to be the first road game of the season however. Syracuse has drawn a tough path and has two losses already but this has been an excellent shooting team and is always a challenge to play. CHANCE OF BIG TEN WIN: 50% Northwestern at Wake Forest: The Wildcats were 9-15 last season for Chris Collins and only returns two starters with a couple of transfers out of Evanston. So far so good for the Wildcats however with a 5-1 start and the only loss coming in a close game with Providence away from home. Heading to Wake Forest is a manageable draw for the Wildcats as Wake Forest has started 5-0 but through an incredibly weak schedule under Steve Forbes. CHANCE OF BIG TEN WIN: 55% Wednesday Wisconsin at Georgia Tech: The Badgers had a huge Thanksgiving week, delivering three excellent wins to win the Maui Invitational in Las Vegas, including the notable upset over Houston. Johnny Davis had a star-making tournament and he missed the only loss for Wisconsin, a five-point home defeat to Providence. As usual the defense has been excellent and Wisconsin takes good care of the ball, while being an exceptional free throw shooting team so far this season. Georgia Tech has won five straight since losing the season opener but none of the wins offer great substance with the only top 200 win coming against Georgia. CHANCE OF BIG TEN WIN: 55% Louisville at Michigan State: The Spartans have had five top 100 games already as while the 5-2 record has been a slight disappointment, the defeats have come against Kansas and Baylor, elite national title contenders. Wins over Loyola-Chicago and Connecticut are quality results and the Spartans have featured a top tier defense so far this season. 3-point shooting has been a problem as have turnovers for this veteran roster joined by freshman Max Christie. Louisville had a nice win over Mississippi State on Thanksgiving and this will be a second straight Big Ten foe after facing Maryland over the weekend.  CHANCE OF BIG TEN WIN: 75% Miami at Penn State: Penn State has its first big test coming up facing LSU before this game as the Nittany Lions lost to Massachusetts in its only noteworthy early season game. Micah Shrewsberry is the team’s new coach coming from Purdue and with NBA experience as an assistant with the Celtics for several years. The roster from last season mostly was retained as Penn State is one of the most experienced teams in the nation filled with upperclassmen. Miami has had mixed results and is a bit of a wild card at this point and 3-point shooting has been a problem sot on both sides of the ball. CHANCE OF BIG TEN WIN: 65% Michigan at North Carolina: The Wolverines have two losses already and only one top 100 win as it has been a shaky start for the Wolverines against very high expectations. Michigan has top 15 efficiency numbers on both sides of the ball as the losses were puzzling. 3-point shooting and free throw shooting have been poor so far for Michigan and turnovers have been an issue as newcomers Caleb Houstan and DeVante’ Jones try to fit into the lineup. North Carolina lacks any win of substance but the Tar Heels played Purdue very tough in a non-conference loss. Hubert Davis leads the Tar Heels now and his players are finding good looks with strong shooting rates so far. CHANCE OF BIG TEN WIN: 65% Nebraska at NC State: Fred Hoiberg’s first two seasons in Lincoln have not been successful but this year’s team is already halfway to last season’s win count. None of those wins were top 200 results and Nebraska has a loss outside the top 200. 3-point shooting has been very poor for the Huskers so far but the rest of the offensive numbers offer some promise with three newcomers joining the starting five this season. There is good size on this team but it is a young group without much experience playing together. NC State didn’t make the NCAA Tournament last season but should be a threat this season. The only loss came in a close game vs. Oklahoma State as this could be an overlooked team in the ACC for Kevin Keatts. CHANCE OF BIG TEN WIN: 30% Virginia Tech at Maryland: Mark Turgeon’s team has back-to-back ACC draws as this game comes after facing Louisville in the Bahamas. Maryland has struggled with its outside shooting through a rather easy non-conference path but this is a top 50 team nationally in offensive and defensive efficiency. The loss came at home against George Mason and this will be a difficult draw even with home court advantage. Mike Young’s Virginia Tech team is a tough matchup and the 3-point shooting numbers on both sides of the ball sharply favor the Hokies. The Hokies are coming off tournament play in Brooklyn for a taxing week on the road to help Maryland’s cause. CHANCE OF BIG TEN WIN: 50% The Big Ten should be favored in eight of 14 games in this event and with a few other toss-up games the chances for the conference to win the series is high. The Big Ten has won the even the past two seasons going 7-5 last year and 8-6 in 2019 but the ACC has had the overall edge since the event started in 1999. The Big Ten has seen a few of its high profile teams disappoint so far but the matchups appear to favor the Big Ten this week.     

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November Paths for Five NFC Contenders

Friday, Oct 29, 2021

Week 8 of the NFL season started with a huge Thursday night clash in the NFC as the Packers narrowly held off the Cardinals in a battle of top NFC contenders. Five teams have created separation in the NFC as top conference title threats, here is a look at the November paths for those teams as the potential playoff bracket is starting to come into form.  These teams are listed in the current standings as of 10/29/2021 Green Bay Packers (+450 to win the NFC as of 10/29/21) Green Bay is 7-1 and on top of the NFC standings after knocking off the league’s final undefeated team on Thursday night in Week 8. The Packers also earned the head-to-head tiebreaker with Arizona in pursuit of earning the top seed in the NFC for a second consecutive season. Winning while short-handed was a great result for Green Bay, now winners of seven straight games since the opening loss to the Saints but Green Bay has the weakest scoring differential of the top threats in the NFC and will have a difficult November path.  The Packers will have an extended turnaround ahead of Week 9 after the early game in Week 8, but they will head to Kansas City next for a difficult game, even if the Chiefs have been vulnerable this season. Green Bay catches a break in Week 10 as a potentially difficult home game with Seattle seems likely to be without Russell Wilson, although some are suggesting his timetable could be moved up. A huge division game at Minnesota is ahead in Week 11 while on Thanksgiving weekend the Packers host the Rams before a Week 13 bye week. A 2-2 November might be considered an acceptable result for Green Bay with some of the season’s most difficult games ahead in the next few weeks.  Arizona Cardinals (+550 to win the NFC as of 10/29/21) Falling from the ranks of the unbeaten was a tough result for Arizona last week, particularly given the golden opportunity to escape with a win that was there in the final minute last week vs. Green Bay. Given how difficult the NFC West was projected to be this season, any Cardinals fan must still be thrilled that the team is 7-1, a year after finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs entirely last season. The Cardinals have the top scoring differential in the NFC and while there are wins over Houston and Jacksonville included to boost the numbers, Arizona has road wins over Tennessee, the LA Rams, and Cleveland as this is not an empty 7-1 resume.  The Cardinals have two difficult division games remaining in November but playing at San Francisco and at Seattle no longer looks quite as difficult as expected. Russell Wilson could be back for the Seahawks in time for that Week 11 game but with a home game with Carolina in Week 10, the next three weeks are a very manageable path for the Cardinals as moving back ahead of the Packers is certainly a possible outcome by the end of the month. Getting a long layoff ahead of the Week 9 game with San Francisco could be greatly beneficial given the lingering injury issues for a few key players but it is clear that Arizona isn’t going anywhere as a serious NFC threat even after taking its first loss.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+250 to win the NFC as of 10/29/21) The Buccaneers haven’t necessarily looked like the defending Super Bowl champions in a 6-1 start but a big reason the Buccaneers were the prohibitive favorite in the NFC while having a great chance to repeat as Super Bowl champions is a favorable schedule. Tampa Bay’s best win so far this season was the narrow opening week win over Dallas as they lost their big road test to the Rams. Tampa Bay won’t play the other three NFC contenders on this list and the most formidable remaining game is a December home game with Buffalo as the path to the best record in the NFC remains clear for Tampa Bay. October closes with a big division game in New Orleans and a win in that game would give Tampa Bay a significant cushion in the division race. Tampa Bay has a bye week in Week 9 before a playoff rematch at Washington in Week 10. The Buccaneers will complete its series with the four NFC East teams hosting the Giants in Week 11 before a potentially dangerous game in Indianapolis in Week 12. With only three November games, the bye week may be the most important factor for Tampa Bay this month and it is hard to see this group having more than two losses heading into December.  Los Angeles Rams (+400 to win the NFC as of 10/29/21) The Rams have started 6-1 but they are behind in the NFC West race by virtue of the head-to-head loss hosting Arizona in Week 4. Los Angeles does have a big potential tiebreaker under its belt from beating Tampa Bay in Week 3 and five of six wins for Los Angeles have been against the NFC as Los Angeles will be facing AFC teams in three of the next five games. The Week 14 game at Arizona will loom large in the division race and the chances for the Rams to be the top NFC seed are hurt by a late season schedule closing with Minnesota, Baltimore, and San Francisco, all teams that seem likely to need late season wins in the wild card race.  In the short term the Rams have a serious shot to move up to being the #1 seed in the NFC in November as they close the month at Green Bay after a bye week for a great opportunity to earn a key tiebreaker. After playing as a big favorite in Houston this week, a big AFC test is ahead Sunday night in Week 9 with the Titans before a Monday night game in San Francisco in Week 10 as the Rams will be in the spotlight in November with a chance to move up in the NFC pecking order.  Dallas Cowboys (+600 to win the NFC as of 10/29/21) As strange as it sounds Dallas may be the overlooked and undervalued team in the NFC race. There is not much of a case for Dallas being the most complete nor the best team in the NFC, and the current Dak Prescott injury situation is a big shadow over that prospect. The NFC East will provide Dallas with a better opportunity than the rest of the conference however. The only noteworthy wins for Dallas so far are narrow road escapes vs. the Chargers and Patriots but Dallas has an incredibly favorable remaining schedule and still has a realistic chance to end up with the top record in the NFC. Dallas was off in Week 7 and Prescott’s status remains up in the air for Week 8 at Minnesota in one of the most difficult remaining games of the season. If Dallas can win that game, they have home dates with Denver and Atlanta the next two weeks before a big Week 11 game in Kansas City that should be a highly anticipated game. Dallas closes November with the Raiders on Thanksgiving Day and while four of the final six games will be road games for the Cowboys, four of those final six games will be division games. Dallas has a substantial lead in the NFC East and may not face much pressure to go for the #1 seed in the NFC, but at full strength the Cowboys are only likely to be an underdog in two of three remaining games from November to January.  Last season there was much talk of how much more valuable being the #1 seed was in the NFL playoff field with the switch to a 14-team field and only two teams getting playoff bye weeks, but the Super Bowl champion wound up being the #5 seed in the NFC team as a wild card that won three road games before catching a big advantage with a home Super Bowl. The #1 seed did win the NFC in 2019 and 2017 with the Eagles winning the Super Bowl as the #1 seed in 2017 as the last NFC team to do so and over time it should play out to be a significant advantage in the new playoff format. The standings are likely to shuffle significantly in the upcoming weeks and while Green Bay has the current momentum as the top spot, they appear to have the most difficult path in the coming weeks to hold as they try to repeat as the #1 seed in the NFC again this season. 

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Four 2021-22 NBA Win Total Projections

Thursday, Oct 14, 2021

The NBA season will officially start on Tuesday night and for the first time in two years the league will have an 82-game schedule as traditional win total assessments are back in order. Here are a handful of win total selections worthy of consideration ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season.  Toronto Raptors OVER 35.5 Toronto failed to make the playoffs last season going just 27-45 but the Raptors had a -0.4 average scoring differential, a figure that was better than three teams that did reach the play-in games. After going 53-19 in 2019-20 with one of the best home courts edges in the league, Toronto was only 16-20 at home last season but remember all those games were played in Florida, not in Toronto. The Raptors have clearance to play north of the border this season and stricter protocols and penalties in Canada could lead to some opponents being shorthanded when visiting.  While Kyle Lowry being traded this summer signals a rebuild, Nick Nurse is still regarded as one of the best coaches in the league in terms of adjustments and personnel management and the roster looks strong enough to compete in an Eastern Conference that has a few great teams but looks wide open after that. Pascal Siakam will miss several weeks to start the season, but Toronto played through multiple different rosters last season. OG Anunoby had a breakthrough season while midseason acquisition Gary Trent proved to be a nice fit. Malachi Flynn had a nice rookie season while Goran Dragic adds stability to an excellent backcourt alongside Fred VanVleet as this looks like a .500 caliber team that can climb back into the playoff race.  Chicago Bulls OVER 42.5 Not unlike Toronto, Chicago had a 31-41 record last season despite a -0.9 average scoring differential as this was a competitive team that likely deserved a slightly stronger record. The opportunity to move up in the Eastern Conference is there with Washington and Charlotte much worse scoring teams than the Bulls last season while the Knicks, Hawks, and Heat have metrics that suggest a regression is ahead this season after being solid playoff teams in the top six last year.  Not too much stock should be put on the NBA preseason, but the Bulls have been one of the more impressive teams this October. The pairing of Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine in the backcourt has a lot of potential while having Nikola Vucevic for the entire season should pay dividends. Patrick Williams had a solid rookie season and acquiring DeMar DeRozan does add some experience to this team even if his impact may be overstated. The Bulls were a winning team from mid-April to the end of the season last year despite falling short of the play-in field. Billy Donovan’s only losing season as an NBA head coach was last year as his track record does deserve some respect as well.  Portland Trailblazers UNDER 44.5 The Western Conference is stacked with quality teams and the expectations from most expect that the Warriors and Lakers are going to jump back to being top tier contenders this season. Those wins will have to be taken from someone else in the West as a few of the teams that were in the middle of the playoff pack last season seem likely to tumble in the standings in 2021-22. Portland is a prime candidate for a slide after going 42-30 last season but with just a +1.8 average scoring differential. Portland was only 32-28 before a 10-2 run to close the regular season last year, passing up the Lakers for the #6 spot in the West and this team does not project to be much better than a .500 squad over 82 games.  Portland had a minimal home court edge last season at just 20-16 and this is a team with a first-time head coach in Chauncey Billups after Terry Stotts was let go despite eight straight playoff appearances and a trip to the conference finals in the last full season. It isn’t clear what Billups will offer in that role but the preseason returns for Portland have been poor so far. To what extent the rumblings about Damian Lillard seeking a trade in the offseason are true remain unknown but this does seem like a situation with more volatility than most. The Blazers are opening the season with a lengthy injury report right now and eight of the first 14 will be road games as a slow start in the transition seems likely.  Dallas Mavericks UNDER 48.5 With a matching 42-30 record to Portland last season and an average scoring differential of just +2.2 Dallas was a clear step below the top four in the Western Conference last season. Add improvement to the Lakers and Warriors this season and Dallas could lose some ground after being the only top six playoff team in the West last season that didn’t have a winning record in the Western Conference. Luka Doncic is a serious MVP threat that will post big numbers, but the roster does not look much different than last season with Reggie Bullock and Frank Ntilikina the only notable additions.  Josh Richardson and JJ Redick are notable departures from last season and Richardson was the team’s fifth leading scorer last season. While Dallas has plenty of quality outside shooters on the roster, the team looks thin up front and Kristaps Porzingas and Maxi Kleber both battled injuries much of last season. Dwight Powell is moving into a starting role despite mostly being a reserve in his career. A bigger issue may be the coaching change with Rick Carlisle owning a tremendous track record as the head coach of the Mavericks. Jason Kidd is a below .500 NBA coach in 373 games with two teams and his personal baggage will add extra pressure to question the hire if things don’t start smoothly. 

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NFL Review: 5 Undefeated Teams

Wednesday, Sep 29, 2021

NFL REVIEW: FIVE 3-0 TEAMS Five teams have made it to 3-0 in the NFL and only one of those teams were among the top dozen or so favorites to win the Super Bowl before the season started. There is good reason to be skeptical of all five of those teams and being 3-0 this season is not quite as valuable as in past seasons with the move to a 17-game schedule. This is a breakdown of the chances to remain on a playoff path in the 2021-22 NFL season for the five 3-0 teams through Week 3.  3-0 DENVER BRONCOS (76-26 scoring) The Broncos are tied with the Bills for the top scoring differential in the NFL and with just 26 points allowed no defense has had a better start through three weeks. Denver had quite a buzz in the off-season as one of the few logical fits for Aaron Rodgers as the discussion of his possible departure from Green Bay was a common focus in the NFL media for several months. Once Rodgers reunited with the Packers, Denver was mostly a forgotten squad in a difficult AFC West with several high-profile teams.  Many did peg Denver for the playoffs however and a big factor in that logic was a rather favorable schedule which the Broncos have made good use of so far. The three wins for Denver have come against a trio of 0-3 teams and arguably the three worst teams in the NFL right now. Two of Denver’s opponents have featured rookie quarterbacks, but Denver has had convincing results in all three games while picking up two road wins as plenty of teams do not take care of business in favorable opportunities.  Teddy Bridgewater was picked up in the off-season after an uneven and mostly mediocre season for the Panthers in 2020 and he won the job over Drew Lock in August. Bridgewater has played exceptionally well through three weeks, featuring a top five QB Rating and QBR and still without an interception. He has taken seven sacks but has terrific numbers against the blitz and is averaging over 275 yards per game as he hasn’t simply been a game manager. Known for his accuracy, Bridgewater has completed nearly 77 percent of his passes and the Broncos have had adequate balance in the running game as well.  FUTURE OUTLOOK: Denver has been favored in all three games as they have not done anything noteworthy yet and the schedule in October is very difficult as four of five foes made the playoffs last season while the other is their fellow 3-0 division leader Las Vegas.  The Broncos have six difficult AFC West games remaining while also drawing all four teams in a deep AFC North. Denver does have enough winnable games remaining on the schedule for this team to stay in the playoff race all season, but this squad has been hit hard with injuries of late. KJ Hamler joined Jerry Jeudy on injured reserve last week to take two receivers out of the equation while the offensive line and linebacker group also has been thinned out. Denver should not be dismissed completely due to the early schedule, but this is not a team that should be confused for a serious AFC championship contender.  3-0 CAROLINA PANTHERS (69-30 scoring) The Panthers may be the biggest surprise to be 3-0 as this was a 5-win team last season now in the second season under Matt Rhule and Sam Darnold’s NFL track record was about the worst of any regular starter in recent years. Darnold is producing in the passing game and has only one interception so far as the Panthers have won even with limited production on the ground. Christian McCaffrey has 201 rushing yards but left the Week 3 win over Houston and will be out for several weeks for a Panthers team that is gaining just 3.4 yards per rush.  In wins over New York and Houston the Panthers faced rookie quarterbacks including facing Davis Mills on a short week Thursday night game, meaning that two of three wins have been in the first NFL start for a pair of rookie quarterbacks. The win over New Orleans deserves praise however as it was a dominant defensive performance. It was perhaps a poor scheduling spot for the Saints, but the Panthers have been very impressive defensively through three weeks, leading the NFL in yards per play allowed while second in scoring defense.  FUTURE OUTLOOK: Carolina’s schedule should remain rather favorable in the coming weeks. They will face three NFC East teams in October while also drawing Minnesota and Atlanta teams that have losing records this season after having losing records last season. Two games with Tampa Bay are not until late in the season as the Panthers have a good chance to produce a playoff caliber record this season. The final four weeks are a beast however with three of four games on the road playing at Buffalo, home vs. Tampa Bay, at New Orleans, and then at Tampa Bay. A collapse in the final month to lose out on a postseason spot might be the most likely scenario for this group depending on how important those late season games are for the expected contenders.  3-0 ARIZONA CARDINALS (103-65 scoring) Arizona has risen in stature significantly with a 3-0 start as the Week 1 performance against Tennessee was a dominant outing that may wind up as one of the more impressive game scores of the season. The Cardinals managed to survive the home opener against Minnesota as the Vikings missed a 37-yard-field goal at the end, while the team took care of business in Week 3 vs. Jacksonville. Arizona is tied with Tampa Bay for the most points scored in the NFL through three weeks and Kyler Murray is now the betting favorite for MVP.  The Cardinals were 8-8 last season as it is not a surprise that this team is already in the NFC mix as the off-season brought the team a few notable additions. Murray has already thrown for over 1,000 yards but he does have four interceptions and is not close to last season’s rushing pace with only 70 yards so far, although he has rushed for three touchdowns already. Arizona does have an excellent group of wide receivers and star players on both sides of the ball as this is a team that can stay in the spotlight. Arizona allowed 7.0 yards per play vs. Minnesota and last week the Cardinals allowed 361 yards against Jacksonville while falling behind 19-10 late in the third quarter vs. the winless Jaguars. A pick-six late in the fourth quarter helped keep Arizona in the win column in a game they were +3 in turnovers in, as this group hasn’t looked like a serious NFC contender outside of the opening week.  FUTURE OUTLOOK: Tennessee and Minnesota could wind up as quality wins for Arizona as the team deserves a great deal of credit, but it is hard to envision this team staying undefeated much longer. Difficult division games are up the next two weeks while games with Cleveland and Green Bay also lurk in October as this group is much more likely to be 4-4 by the end of the month than 8-0. Playoff hopes will hinge on winning games in the very difficult NFC West as the Cardinals might still wind up right near the cut, just like last season. 3-0 LOS ANGELES RAMS (95-62 scoring)  The Rams are the one team in this quintet that most expected to have a good chance to be 3-0 as one of the highest regarded teams in the NFC. The Rams are 3-0 through a difficult schedule facing three 2020 playoff teams including last week’s big win over Tampa Bay for the current notion of NFC supremacy. The opening week win over the Bears may not be that valuable while the Colts are 0-3 as those two teams could be headed for seasons of decline. The Bears moved the ball fairly well against the Rams while the Colts were in a position to win vs the Rams even while having to play a backup quarterback at the end of the game.  Overall there is a lot to like about the pairing of Matthew Stafford with the Rams so far as he has nine touchdowns and one interception and the top QBR in the league at this point. The Rams have allowed just over 20 points per game this season but the defense did allow a great deal of yardage last week and has rather average defensive numbers overall, even with Andy Dalton and Carson Wentz accounting for two thirds of the statistics. Last season’s elite defensive numbers were likely a bit overstated with a few scheduling breaks as this squad risks being overvalued.  FUTURE OUTLOOK: The Rams don’t look likely to go anywhere as a top NFC threat as while they could certainly take a loss in division games the next two weeks facing Arizona and Seattle, they also have upcoming games with the Giants, Lions, and Texans. The late season schedule is quite difficult however as this is a group that might hit the Week 11 bye week at around 8-2 but then could take several losses in the final seven. That closing stretch includes three division games plus games on the road vs. Green Bay and Baltimore in potential late-season conditions for the southern California squad. Things look good so far for the Rams, but this team should not be the favorite for the #1 seed in the NFC just yet.  3-0 LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (scoring 90-72) The Raiders have had a lot go right to reach 3-0 as both home wins have required overtime. It has been a quality schedule however beating Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Miami, three winning teams in the AFC from last season and expected AFC playoff threats. Pittsburgh may be in a great decline however and Miami played with a backup quarterback as there are some potential reasons for caution with the start for Las Vegas.  The Raiders have continued to win with Josh Jacobs injured however and Derek Carr has the most passing yards in the NFL by a significant margin. While the Raiders have allowed decent scoring, they are actually a top 10 team in yards per play allowed and the suspect offensive line has played better than expected so far. Las Vegas is not allowing many big plays in the passing game and while the run defense has been poor on a per carry basis, the Raiders have pushed the scoring pace in most games to make the running game less important.  FUTURE OUTLOOK: The 3-0 start is certainly unexpected for the Raiders as it came through what looked like a rather difficult stretch of the schedule. The path before a Week 8 bye week to close October is reasonable as the Raiders should pick up a few more wins and ultimately the schedule is well-balanced as Las Vegas rarely has consecutive games against top teams outside of facing the Chiefs and Browns in back-to-back road games in December. The Raiders have likely boosted their season projection the most of these five 3-0 teams and Las Vegas should now be considered a very realistic playoff threat in the AFC even in a loaded AFC West.  3-0 teams have done quite well in Game #4 in the NFL historically, going 116-80 S/U and 101-90-5 ATS since 1980. Last season seven teams reached 3-0 and six of those teams made it to 4-0, going 6-1 S/U and 6-1 ATS in the fourth games. 3-0 teams fare best at home with an over 62 percent ATS rate historically though that edge has lessened since 2000. When 3-0 teams face 3-0 teams, the host has gone 12-4 S/U and 13-3 ATS since 1986 as the Rams may have a favorable opportunity this week to reach 4-0. 

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The Best of the 0-3 NCAA Teams

Thursday, Sep 23, 2021

The Best of the 0-3 NCAA Teams  Ahead of the final weekend of September there are nine winless teams in college football. Some of those squads are going to be tough to back in any circumstance this season even with elevated underdog spreads. There are three 0-3 squads that look worthy of consideration in upcoming weeks however and the poor starts in the win column may lead to attractive pricing in the conference season.  TULSA  (17-19 loss to UC-Davis, 23-28 loss at Oklahoma State, 20-41 loss at Ohio State)  Tulsa went 6-0 in American play in the regular season last season before falling by three points vs. Cincinnati in the AAC championship game. The other two losses in a 6-3 season came on the road at Oklahoma State and in bowl action vs. Mississippi State in close games. A similar path of success in conference play is possible again this season for the Golden Hurricane.  The past two weeks Tulsa has not looked out of place on the road against high-quality major conference teams. Two weeks ago, Tulsa lost 28-23 at Oklahoma State in a game they led 14-7 through three quarters and 17-14 later in the final quarter. Tulsa had more yardage in the game and missed on several opportunities as they reached Oklahoma State territory in each of the first four drives of the game without scoring.  Last week Tulsa lost by 21 in Columbus, but it was a seven-point game in the fourth quarter until Ohio State scored twice in the final four minutes. Tulsa put up 501 yards of offense on the road against the Buckeyes while producing several big plays in the passing game.  Tulsa’s overall profile will be downgraded from the two-point loss to UC-Davis at home in the opening week, but Tulsa had 448 yards in that game but lost the turnover battle 3-0. Davis is an FCS team but one of the top-rated FCS teams, and a team that would be favored over about half of the power five teams according to recent power ratings.  Close losses have been common in now the seventh season under Philip Montgomery, as the former Houston and Baylor offensive coordinator has been given more time than most coaches these days even with his record now at 31-43. Tulsa should pick up its first win this week vs. Arkansas State but 1-4 seems like a possibility with a difficult AAC opener against Houston.  From there Tulsa could find some momentum with a winnable home game vs. Memphis and two favorable opportunities to close out October. The team may still be underrated in the final month when they could see underdog spreads with road games in November at Cincinnati, at Tulane, and at SMU. A winning season may be a long shot with the tough start, but Tulsa should be considered a much stronger team than its record.  FLORIDA STATE (38-41 loss vs. Notre Dame, 17-20 loss vs. Jacksonville State, 14-35 loss at Wake Forest) The Seminoles have been an easy team to ridicule and Jay Norvell may have a tough time surviving a 3-9 start to his career in Tallahassee. The valuation of Florida State may be at rock bottom in the coming weeks however and this is a group that could surprise in the ACC season with a few upsets or competitive results as a significant underdog. Last season Florida State won only three times but one of those wins was against an undefeated North Carolina team that had climbed to #5 in the polls.  There was a great build-up for the opening game vs. Notre Dame and Florida State competed well, staging a great comeback bid before losing in overtime against a highly regarded team that remains undefeated and was in the CFP last season. Florida State’s loss to Jacksonville State was inexcusable but it was on a short week following the Sunday night primetime opener and the Seminoles did enough to win that game with a 17-7 lead with five minutes to go before the miracle finish.  The 21-point loss to Wake Forest in the ACC opener can be pinned on six turnovers as Florida State did move the ball effectively in the passing game. The quarterback situation is a concern as Jordan Travis played most of the Notre Dame game, but McKenzie Milton provided a spark in the comeback. Milton has been given the lead role the past two games even though Travis has performed better and adds depth to the playbook with his rushing ability.  Florida State will face several suspect defenses in the next few weeks as the offense has the potential to keep pace in contests with Louisville, Syracuse, and North Carolina. The final five games are all difficult and Florida State will likely take a losing record into games with Clemson, NC State, Miami, Boston College, and Florida to close the season. The points may be alluring for a Seminoles team that has the potential to be the team that competed well in the opener on the national stage, yet this will be a team that may get minimal marketplace support with all the negative headlines.  RICE (17-38 loss at Arkansas, 7-44 loss vs. Houston, 0-58 loss at Texas)  The numbers are terrible for Rice, but the Owls have faced one of the most difficult schedules in the nation facing three high-quality teams. Rice finished just 2-3 last season in five Conference USA games, but they delivered a stunning 20-0 shutout at Marshall and played within five points against UAB in two impressive December performances. Coming into the season the defense graded very well relative to its conference peers and the offense appeared to have the potential for improvement with a few playmakers added to the roster, notably Nebraska transfer Luke McCaffrey.  Rice should find the win column this week hosting an FCS squad Texas Southern but could remain an underrated group in difficult future conference road games vs. UTSA, UAB, and Charlotte in the coming weeks. The home schedule for Rice is quite favorable this season as the Owls have the potential to turn into a winning team by season’s end even with the terrible start through a path in which most teams in the nation would have also gone 0-3 through.  The opener vs. Arkansas was also one of the more misleading scores of the season so far as Rice had a 17-7 lead in the third quarter in Fayetteville and was tied 17-17 in the fourth quarter. Arkansas added two late scores to push the final margin to 21 points, but Rice held a formidable Razorbacks offense to just 373 yards and the Owls stayed in the game despite being -2 in turnovers. The blowout losses the past two weeks came in tough situations with the opposing team entering the game off a humiliating loss in each instance. Houston had blown a 14-point lead with a four-interception game in a loss to Texas Tech in the opening week and was very sharp against Rice in a critical game. Texas meanwhile played Rice after being embarrassed in a 40-21 defeat against Arkansas the previous week as Rice saw the best from both of those teams.  At -116 in scoring so far this season the statistics are not going to look favorable for Rice in the coming weeks but the opportunities on the schedule will improve dramatically. Most may still look at Rice as a similar team to the squad that posted a combined 8-34 record from 2017 to 2020 but Mike Bloomgren’s turnaround plan is still on schedule now in his fourth season with the program. This is a team that should compete well and produce several wins in the Conference USA season yet may rarely be favored.  Considering the other winless teams Connecticut, Ohio, UNLV, and Arizona will be difficult to support as they appear to be a long way off and are battling through recent coaching changes, though the prices may hit a tipping point in some matchups. Massachusetts has been scoring the past two weeks since a quarterback change and may have some potential for underdog covers as the Minutemen may provide some opportunities against the spread even if S/U wins are not going to be common on the horizon. Navy has looked horrible in two games, but Ken Niumatalolo’s solid past track record may leave the Midshipmen with some potential for support later this season. 

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National League MVP Odds and Arguments

Tuesday, Aug 17, 2021

National League MVP Odds and Arguments  The return of Fernando Tatis has caused his MVP odds to jump from around -110 early in August to -300 currently. He is the overwhelming favorite, but the current price shift has greatly increased the plus-money figures on everyone else to create a window of opportunity for those looking for a sizable score. In-and-out of the lineup much of the season, Tatis has a great risk to miss more time down the stretch to leave the door open in this vote, while the Padres now also look like they will be in danger of missing the playoffs. Here are the top candidates in the MVP race including a few that may be worth considering for a long shot wager in case Tatis falls back out of the lineup.  Fernando Tatis, San Diego, -300 Tatis remains the clear favorite in the NL MVP race as the NL home run leader. He has missed 31 games however and while he returned with two home runs last Sunday after sitting for two weeks, his shoulder issue is a lingering concern that could open the door for another candidate in the final seven weeks of the regular season. Tatis isn’t even a qualified hitter right and he is playing for a 3rd place team that may be losing its grip on a playoff position that was assumed most of the season. Those are things that could matter to some of the older block of BBWAA voters who may already begrudge Tatis for the flair he plays with. Priced at around -300 it is his award to lose but there a few candidates that could warrant a look, banking on Tatis missing time and the Padres continuing to slide in the coming weeks.  Bryce Harper, Philadelphia, +475 A past MVP and one of the most recognized players in the game Harper is fourth in the NL in wRC+ thanks to his high walk rate. His rather pedestrian home run and RBI counts will need to grow substantially in September and most importantly his candidacy will hinge entirely on the narrative that he carries the Phillies to the NL East title. While Atlanta leads the division currently and has looked like the much better team overall, the race is close and a rise to the top fueled by Harper is still in the realm of possibility. Unlike the other candidates on this list Harper won’t face a threat of losing votes to his teammates as he has been the clear top performer on the Phillies.  Max Muncy, Los Angeles, +900 Perhaps the best candidate to catch Tatis in home runs is Muncy who has 26 but also has the potential for a big closing run to reach close to 40 home runs as he often has been a streaky performer. Muncy also is a threat to hit conventional benchmarks of 100 runs and/or 100 RBI to bolster his case. His WAR is also currently the highest in the NL among qualified candidates. He doesn’t play a premium defensive position however and he has plenty of competition within his own locker room as emerging as the clear choice among several standouts for the Dodgers will be a challenge.  Trea Turner, Washington/Los Angeles, +1700 The best value on the board might be Turner, who like Muncy will face the challenge of splitting votes with his teammates. Turner also has not hit quite as well since joining the Dodgers as his season line over 96 games in Washington puts him on this list. Turner has been a valuable defender at an important position, and he has a chance to win a batting title while also a possibly a NL stolen base title with Starling Marte now in the AL. A 30/30 performance is not out of the question for Turner but the problem in that argument is that Tatis has a chance to do that as well. It would take quite a finish but hitting leadoff in a highly productive Los Angeles lineup will afford Turner an opportunity to compile great statistics down the stretch.  Freddie Freeman, Atlanta, +1700 The case for Freeman to take a second straight MVP crown does not currently have much traction but a big final month that clinches an NL East title for Atlanta in the absence of the early season MVP frontrunner Ronald Acuna does offer a compelling argument that could resonate with voters. In contrast to Tatis and Harper, Freeman is beloved by the press and his numbers are not too far off what will be the required pace. A subpar defensive performance is hurting his WAR while he also offers little on the basepaths. If he can match the September that he delivered in 2020, hitting .375 with 32 RBI in the final month, it is not an impossible outcome.  Nick Castellanos, Cincinnati, +5000 Joey Votto, Cincinnati, +5000 These Reds stars have matching odds as both continue to push Cincinnati closer to a playoff spot that seemed highly improbable just a few weeks ago. Jesse Winker is not much further down the list as well as Cincinnati has received great production from the lineup. Castellanos is a serious threat to win the NL batting title while Votto is charging in the home run leaderboard. Both have high strikeout counts with not enough walks to support their case, but both are still in the NL’s top seven in wRC+, while top 10 OPS performers, though neither is close enough on the WAR leaderboard for serious candidacy. If one stands head-and-shoulder over the other to carry the Reds past the Padres for the second NL wild card spot there is a chance, but it is not overly realistic as the pricing suggests.  Manny Machado, San Diego, +6000 While much of this article centers on the possibility of the Padres losing Tatis and crashing out of the playoffs, what if they lose Tatis and still finish strong? That scenario would boost Manny Machado’s case and he has rather quietly produced a great season line in the shadow of his teammate. He could reach the 100 run and 100 RBI benchmarks, and a big final month could get him to 30 home runs and close to a .300 batting average. Climbing into the top 10 for WAR and wRC+ would not take a herculean performance down the stretch and Machado has one of the stronger defensive ratings on this list at a valuable position. Winning the comparison case with his teammate will however require Tatis effectively shutting down for the rest of the season.  Juan Soto, Washington, +7000 Given that Washington has faded out of playoff contention Soto’s case will need to overcome a significant hurdle, but he has taken the most walks in all off baseball even in just 107 games and he could hit over .300 with 30 home runs while getting close to 100 runs and RBI for an MVP caliber traditional line. He is certainly one of the best players in baseball even if he is not a serious threat in this discussion barring significant setbacks for most of the other players on this list. Giancarlo Stanton won the 2017 NL MVP and Harper unanimously won the 2015 NL MVP on non-playoff teams as the playoffs may not be as much of a requirement as it is presumed. In 2017 Stanton only received 10 first place votes in a year where six different players received 1st place votes, a scenario that is possible this year.  Brandon Crawford, San Francisco, +7000 15th in the NL in wRC+ and 5th in WAR, Crawford’s case might be better than this pricing represents. The Giants after all have baseball’s best record and Crawford is a good story as a veteran having a career season. He is only two home runs away from a career high and has a chance to reach 100 RBI for the first time in his career. Crawford could also make a charge to the batting title currently only sitting about a dozen points back. His excellent defensive rating at a premium position adds to the intrigue of his candidacy but Crawford has missed 21 games to keep his counting statistics a notch below where they likely need to be. San Francisco has been the surprise story of the season and voters will be looking for someone to reward as he has a chance to garner some votes, though 1st place votes do not currently seem likely.  Justin Turner, Los Angeles, +9000 Turner’s season line could wind up looking somewhat like the lines of his two teammates on this list with a big final month. He hit .394 in September 2020 before the Dodgers went on to win the World Series and for his career, September has been his best hitting month in terms of batting average. Missing significant time in August has bumped his case down on this list but if he surpasses his teammates in the coming weeks as the Dodgers pass up the Giants for the top spot in the NL, the argument would be clear. Turner is a long shot, but the gap in his odds compared to Muncy and Trea Turner should perhaps not be quite so large as he is the face of the team in Clayton Kershaw’s absence. 

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2021 NCAA Impact Transfer Quarterbacks

Saturday, Aug 14, 2021

2021 NCAA Impact Transfer Quarterbacks  After uninspiring results in three years at NC State, Russell Wilson transferred to Wisconsin for the 2011 season and delivered tremendous results. His success set the tone for a new era of college football with transfer acquisitions being a critical component in recruiting. Coming off the abbreviated 2020 season and with relaxed transfer rules in place, there are several proven quarterbacks that changed schools this off-season. Here are a handful of quarterback transfers for the 2021 college football season that could have a big impact in the 2021 season.   Charlie Brewer (From Baylor to Utah) Brewer is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the nation having been the starter for the better part of four seasons at Baylor. He should eclipse 10,000 career passing yards in September and has a career completion rate of 63.5%. His numbers dropped last season in a chaotic season for the Bears with a major Covid pause and a coaching transition, but he should step into a good situation to be successful at Utah. Kyle Whittingham’s program has won consistently riding seven consecutive seasons above .500 and the roster has a significant amount of returning experience. Given his size Brewer isn’t much of an NFL prospect, but he has a chance to end his college career on a high note with a potential Pac-12 contender.  Jack Coan (From Wisconsin to Notre Dame) A steady presence for the Badgers in 2018 and 2019, Coan was named the starter in 2020 ahead of super prospect Graham Mertz before suffering an injury ahead of the season. Coan has good size and is quicker than he appears, though he is not in the mold of Ian Book, the long-time Notre Dame quarterback that was a serious rushing threat. Brian Kelly has not officially named Coan the starter for an Irish team coming off a College Football Playoff appearance, but it would be a surprise if sophomore Drew Pyne beat out Coan. It will be difficult to replicate last season’s success but being Notre Dame’s quarterback is still a high-profile gig and Coan has the potential to have good numbers on a nationally relevant team and will also get a chance to face his former team in Chicago as well.  Grant Gunnell (From Arizona to Memphis)  Gunnell isn’t a household name after being an off-and-on starter for marginal Arizona teams the past two seasons, but he could be by season’s end. He has 15 career touchdowns against only three interceptions however and at 6’6” he will stand out now playing in the American. Ryan Silverfield’s offense should remain a high-scoring unit and Gunnell can go from relative anonymity to being an NFL draft pick like Paxton Lynch was out of Memphis in 2016. Defense has not often been a strength for the Memphis program as Gunnell could produce big numbers in many high-scoring shootout style games with last year’s Memphis quarterback Brady White posting the sixth most passing yards in the nation in 2020.  McKenzie Milton (From UCF to Florida State) A star for UCF from 2016 to 2018 including the undefeated 2017 season, Milton suffered a terrible injury late in the 2018 season. There were questions on whether he would ever play again given the nature of the injury and the subsequent surgeries, but his knee has been rebuilt and he has been cleared to play. He ultimately has won the last 23 games he has started but there are major questions to whether he can return to being the dynamic playmaker he was for the Knights and he will face significantly upgraded opposition in the ACC. Florida State has been a mess in recent years now led by Mike Norvell with the Seminoles going just 3-6 last year. A storybook finish for Milton doesn’t seem likely but it is certainly worth rooting for.  Tyler Shough (From Oregon to Texas Tech)  While Texas Tech has changed coaches and isn’t quite the Air Raid squad of the past, being the Red Raiders quarterback remains a coveted position, especially when the face of the NFL is an alum. Shough was one of the most sought-after recruits after a stellar high school campaign as he has an NFL build and great athleticism. After redshirting behind Justin Herbert, Shough carried high expectations into 2020 at Oregon but ultimately did not have a great statistical season despite a Pac-12 Championship. Texas Tech is not expected to be a Big XII contender but the opportunity to post big numbers in high-profile games will be there.     Terry Wilson (From Kentucky to New Mexico)  An electric playmaker for the 2018 Wildcats team that beat Penn State in the Citrus Bowl, Wilson suffered a season-ending injury early in the 2019 season. He didn’t capture the same level of success last season and with Kentucky having several promising young options at quarterback Wilson found a new opportunity leaving the SEC. His mobility should play well in the Mountain West and while he is heading to a program that has 10 wins combined the past four seasons, he could immediately be among the conference’s top quarterbacks as well as a formidable rusher.  Logan Bonner (From Arkansas State to Utah State)  A two-year starter and quarterback that has played in each of the past four seasons at Arkansas State, Bonner followed coach Blake Anderson to Utah State. That should allow him to have much more comfort and the potential for more immediate success than most transfer quarterbacks. Utah State went just 1-5 last season, but the season had all sorts of challenges with internal Covid issues forcing the cancellation of a game while another game was cancelled due to a player protest. Head coach Gary Andersen left the team after three games as well as not much went right and it showed in the results. Anderson has a 51-37 career record and with Bonner in tow the Aggies could be a mild surprise, as this was an 11-2 team in 2018 and has generally been an above average Mountain West team in the last decade.  Bailey Zappe (From Houston Baptist to Western Kentucky)  Zappe has generated a big buzz now leading Tyson Helton’s offense at Western Kentucky. Zappe set all sorts of records at Houston Baptist, averaging 458 passing yards per game in an Air Raid style offense. The Hilltoppers had a slow start last season but won their final three Conference USA games and they line up as a possible team on the rise in the conference for 2021. Zappe could quickly emerge on the national passing leaderboards if he lives up to the hype and the Hilltoppers have a pair of Big Ten non-conference tests early in the year for showcase opportunities. In Conference USA the Hilltoppers are also a serious contender in the East division and the schedule is favorable for a strong bowl season.  Here are a few other transfer quarterbacks that are worth watching, all of which have a likely path to a starting role at their new school:  Ryan Hilinski (From South Carolina to Northwestern) Tanner Mordecai (From Oklahoma to SMU)  N’Kosi Perry (From Miami, FL to Florida Atlantic)  Chase Brice (From Duke to Appalachian State)  Jacob Sirmon (From Washington to Central Michigan)  D’Wan Mathis (From Georgia to Temple)  Bailey Hockman (From NC State to Middle Tennessee State)  Also worth mentioning is that notable transfers will be fighting for starting roles at several major conference programs including Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, and Arizona. It is too soon to say whether those jobs will be won however. 

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