Sports Picks For Sale - Team Del Genio

Hot Streaks and Achievements

  • 37-22 (63%) all-sports run, 10/16
  • 22-13 (63%) NFL run, 10/16
  • 72-35 (67%) MLB run, 10/16

Biography

Founded by Bally Casino’s former sportsbook director, Team Del Genio provides winners from an oddsmaker’s perspective.

Active Since: 1999

Location: Las Vegas, NV

Team Del Genio continues the sports handicapping legacy of former oddsmaker, Lenny Del Genio.  After heading the sportsbook operations at the Frontier and then Bally’s, Lenny moved to the other side of the window when he started his sports handicapping service where he later mentored the next generation of handicappers.  By maintaining the perspective of the oddsmakers, Team Del Genio represents a consensus service of a small group of handicappers that Lenny personally trained.

Lenny Del Genio was one of Las Vegas’ most influential and iconic Race and Sports Book Directors from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s.  Lenny headed the sportsbook operations at the Frontier and Bally’s during that time.  During those years, Lenny also made frequent on-camera appearances for ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and most cable television networks where he commented on major sporting events and gaming trends.  Lenny became internationally known as the unofficial oddsmaker of the Academy Awards and the Emmy Awards with the Del Genio line carried by both the Associated Press and Reuters.  Lenny was featured on many national and international news and entertainment programs, including Entertainment Tonight, Good Morning America, The Today Show, and NBC Late Night.  Lenny later held the position of Vice President/General Manager at Bally’s in charge of casino development while serving as a consultant to Indian gaming.  He then moved on to become the General Manager of Racing Services de Mexico, with special responsibilities in international expansion.  Finally, Lenny moved to the other side of the window in the late 1990s when he started his sports service.  Lenny was an integral part of the gaming industry for more than three decades before passing away in September 2012. 

Team Del Genio was founded by Lenny to provide the best sports wagering information to gambling clients with a keen eye kept on the perspective he gained from his decades of work as an oddsmaker.  Lenny trained and mentored a small group of individuals who served as his right-hand men over the years.  It is this group of handicappers that now maintain Lenny’s legacy with their consensus Team Del Genio picks.  Besides their prestigious Game of the Month/Year plays, the Team offers packages such as their Vegas J*A*C*K*P*O*T, Oddsmaker Error, and their rare 30* Vegas Icon Signature Play which celebrates the decades-long legacy of Lenny Del Genio.  Team Del Genio's reports are available exclusively at Big Al’s Sports Picks.

The Detroit Lions: For Those Who Bet Numbers (Not Teams)

Thursday, Sep 30, 2021

The betting public tends to want to bet for or against teams. Those looking to share the perspective of the oddsmakers look at the numbers before assessing a team’s ability to cover that point spread. These bettors may develop the habit of consistently backing the Detroit Lions this season.After 33 losses in Matt Patricia’s three seasons as the Detroit head coach, it is of little surprise that bettors are not fond of betting on the Lions. Detroit has been an underdog of more than a touchdown in each of their first three games. Dan Campbell is the new head coach after serving as the interim head coach for the Miami Dolphins in 2015 after Joe Philbin was let go after four games. Campbell led the team to win five of their remaining twelve games while drawing national attention for doing gimmicky things like bring the Oklahoma drill to practices. After serving on Sean Payton’s coaching staff as the tight ends coach, Campbell got hired by the Lions in the offseason. His eccentric nature was ridiculed by the sports media when he talked in introductory press conferences about his team biting knee caps to demonstrate the fight and resolve he expects from his players. Yet these comments may have hit the right cord for the fans (and players) in Detroit who found Patricia aloof and a beneficiary of being a former defensive coordinator for Bill Belichick. Campbell knows the city and the mentality of the fanbase as a former player for the Lions himself.Campbell has assembled an intriguing coaching team around him. Anthony Lynn is a good offensive mind at offensive coordinator who is now being rumored as a candidate for the heading coaching job at USC. Lynn’s biggest failing as the head coach of the Chargers was his game management late in games. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn is one of the hot young coaches in the game. After being a leader for many of Bill Parcel’s defenses for the New York Jets and later the Dallas Cowboys, he shined as the defensive backs coach at New Orleans, where he first worked with Campbell. Veteran defensive coach Dom Capers is a special consultant. Campbell is a Bill Parcells-disciple, as well, who is taking on the role of CEO head coach. The national media may not have bought in right away, yet the players seem to have become believers in Campbell. It would be easy for the Lions to fold after falling behind to San Francisco, 38-10, midway through the third quarter in their opening game of the season. Yet Detroit kept fighting by outscoring the 49ers 23-3 the rest of the way including making both of their 2-point conversions to put the game within one scoring possession before losing 41-33. The Lions then held a 17-14 halftime lead in Green Bay on Monday Night Football. A failed fourth-down attempt deep in Packers’ territory early in the second half changed the momentum of that game. The final score, 35-17, does not accurately reflect how competitive that game was. Detroit won the yardage battle, 344-323. Detroit then rallied from a 10-0 halftime deficit to take a 17-16 lead against Baltimore last week before the Ravens’ kicker, Justin Tucker, kicked an NFL record 66-yard field goal to win the game. Perhaps it was only a former Lions’ player who could appreciate the bad turn of events for the club when replays revealed that the referees failed to call a delay of game penalty on Baltimore that should have nullified the successful kick. Campbell acknowledged the error, dismissed any eventual apology from the league as useless, and then got his team focused for their next game. It is going to take some time to rebuild the roster that Patricia left behind. Yet what this team may lack in talent, they will make up for by being prepared and not giving up. Detroit will probably be underdogs in most of their games this season. For those who bet numbers not teams, the Lions will present some interesting possibilities as the season moves forward.Good luck - TDG.

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Dan Quinn's Immediate Impact on the Dallas Cowboys' Defense

Thursday, Sep 30, 2021

Mike McCarthy knew the Dallas defense needed all the help it could get after allowing 29.8 points per game last season. His new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has energized the unit. Even after three games this season, his impact on the defensive unit is quite apparent.After getting fired as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, Quinn conducted a self-assessment of his defensive principles from his time as the defensive coordinator for Pete Carroll in Seattle to update his ideas for the ever-evolving offenses in the NFL. Quinn became the head coach for the Falcons after serving as the Seahawks defensive coordinator for two seasons culminating with their Super Bowl victory in 2014. His reputation as a defensive mastermind only strengthened with the steady improvement of the Atlanta defense in their Super run in the 2016-17 season, which ended in their epic fourth-quarter collapse to New England. Disappointing play from his defenses since that year and three straight losing seasons eventually led to owner Arthur Blank letting Quinn go in the off-season. McCarthy quickly scooped him up to replace his defensive coordinator last year, Mike Nolan.Quinn has played less cover-3 defense with the Cowboys with more single-high safety or two-zone safety looks. He is adapting to the talent he inherited, and he is simplifying schemes, so his players play fast. One of the problems that Dallas had last year was the system change to a 3-4 under new coordinator Mike Nolan. The COVID pandemic made that transition more challenging, and Nolan did not adjust well to teaching his concepts from zoom meetings. The Cowboys signed six new defensive players in free agency and drafted eight rookies to contribute to the defense, including their top-six picks. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones hit a home run in the drafting of linebacker Micah Parsons out of Penn State. After the injury to DeMarcus Lawrence, Quinn moved Parsons to defensive end, a position he had not played since high school. Parsons has thrived in that role. Quinn’s defense is making big plays. They have forced eight turnovers in their first three games, with three of them in the red zone. Dallas may be allowing over 400 yards per game, but they have played against two strong offenses in the Buccaneers and Chargers. They held those two offenses to 24.5 points per game. They only allowed 14 offensive points to Philadelphia on Monday, with the Eagles’ third touchdown being from a Dak Prescott fumble that they recovered in the end zone. The Cowboys were second-to-last in the NFL last season by allowing 159 rushing yards per game. Four opponents gashed them for over 200 yards on the ground. This year, they have not given up 100 or more rushing yards in a game while holding their three opponents to 70 rushing yards per game. The Cowboys lead the NFL with ten different players all moving at a speed of at least 19 miles per hour. Quinn deserves the credit. His schemes are helping his players play faster, with less thinking and more instinctual reacting. Good luck - TDG.

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Handicapping College Football After a Season Played During a Pandemic

Tuesday, Aug 31, 2021

After a 2020-21 college football season played without fans, the new ’21-22 season appears to return to looking like the game we observed in 2019-20. COVID is still here, and positive tests threaten to wreak havoc once again with the eligibility of players on game day (even if vaccinated). Yet fans will be back in stands, and each of the 130 teams representing the FBS appears poised to play full schedules. But normalcy has not yet returned for those of us who handicap college football games. After an extremely unusual college football season last year, those games remain the most recent relevant data points to use when assessing the early games for this season. Team Del Genio is a collection of handicappers that worked with and who were influenced by former oddsmaker turned sports handicapper Lenny Del Genio. We hope we analyze these early college football games the way he would, from the perspective of someone thinking about how the point spread and over/under lines were decided. Three principles will guide our early thinking.(1) Last Year’s Sample Sizes were Low. Most FBS teams play at least twelve games each season. Many Pac-12 teams played only four times. Many Big Ten teams did not play more than seven times. Non-conference schedules were abandoned. For many of these teams, there is just not much to gather from playing a third to a half of a typical season. With opt-outs and teams declining bowl games, the stakes changed for many programs. The lack of games between conferences makes the data regarding relative conference strength limited. Handicappers and gamblers making strong conclusions from last year’s results do so at their own risk.(2) Returning Starters/Production is Less Important. Perhaps this has been an overrated factor when handicapping early-season games. A team returning all five starters from an offensive line that was not very good may not be all that advantageous. Talent is probably more important than experience and chemistry. Yet with the NCAA granting all players an extra year of eligibility if they played last year, every FBS team is returning a high number of starters from last year. Returning experience is simply not as important this season since it is an area most programs have benefiting them.(3) More Than Ever, Coaching Matters. After a year impacted by COVID that precluded practice time and coaching opportunities in the spring and the fall, every FBS program got in spring and fall practice sessions. The surprises relative to point spread expectations will probably come from the better-coached programs. Good luck - TDG.

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Starting Pitcher Observations from August

Tuesday, Aug 31, 2021

The Team ended the month of August by winning their MLB National League East Total of the Month with the Philadelphia/Washington over on August 31st. The Phillies won the game, 12-6, as they scored at least seven runs for the fourth straight game. We concluded that they would continue swinging hot bats against the Nationals’ Patrick Corbin. The left-hander entered the game with a 7.59 era and a 1.41 whip in eight starts since the all-star break. He has allowed at least four earned runs in seven of his last eight starts. His strikeout rate of 18.6% of the batters he has faced is the lowest mark in his career. Sure enough, Corbin allowed two home runs and six runs overall in his six innings of work in taking his thirteenth loss of the season. Corbin gave up nine hits and walked four batters. While he struck out four batters, that represented only 14.2% of the batters he faced. Washington has allowed 33 combined runs in their last three games. The Phillies’ Matt Moore struggled in this game as well. He has been rotating back and forth between the bullpen and starting rotation. He has a 2-4 record with a 6.12 era and a 1.55 whip on the season. Since the all-star break, Moore has a 6.82 era and a 1.45 whip in six starts and eight overall appearances. His walk rate of 10.2% of the batters he has faced is the highest since 2014. He walked five batters in this game in his 3 1/3 innings for a 23.8% walk rate. He was pulled after getting one out in the bottom of the third inning after allowing five runs. Our 25* MLB Total of the Month on Monday, August 30th, was scratched when the San Francisco starting pitcher, Johnny Cueto, tested positive for COVID which forced the Giants to resort to a bullpen game. Much of the reasoning for the under in that game was the expected strong pitching performance from Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes. The Brewers won the game, 3-1, with the final score still finishing well below the number. Burnes pitched great by allowing only one run in six innings. He allowed only four hits and did not walk a batter. He struck out nine Giants. He entered that game with an 8-4 record with a 2.30 era and a 0.95 whip in twenty-two starts. The hard-throwing right-hander had a 1.67 era and a 0.85 whip in his four starts this month before that effort. Burnes had a 1.87 era and a 0.86 whip in his previous ten starts on the road. We lost our MLB ESPN Sunday Game of the Year on August 29th when the Yankees lost at Oakland, 3-1. We were surprised that New York did not generate more runs against the A’s starting pitcher Paul Blackburn. Our assessment of Yankees’ starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery was on the money. Montgomery allowed just one unearned run in his six innings where he gave up only six base hits and did not offer a free pass. The left-hander had a 5-5 record with a 3.69 era and 1.20 whip in twenty-three starts entering the game, yet that did not tell the full story. Since the beginning of June, Montgomery had a 2.98 era and a 1.16 whip with 43 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings before that start. His strong efforts were not restricted to Yankee Stadium either during this run. In his previous four starts on the road before pitching at the Coliseum on Sunday, Montgomery has a 0.87 era and a 1.11 whip. When pitching at night, Montgomery held a 2.84 era and 1.15 whip in fourteen starts before that effort.Good luck - TDG.

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Starting Pitcher Observations from July

Saturday, Jul 31, 2021

What started as a hot month for TDG in baseball carried through until the final few days of July where we have gotten stuck behind some teams that hit below our expectations. Bad days at the plate will happen. If we continue to identify starting pitchers of value opposing starting pitchers with red flags, we should see good results.Our July Game of the Month was on Saturday, the 31st, on the Milwaukee Brewers. Brandon Woodruff had only allowed one run through five innings before getting in trouble in the top of the sixth with Atlanta scoring two more runs. Yet it was the Brewers' offense that was the bigger disappointment as they managed to score only once against Braves’ rookie starting pitcher Kyle Muller. The Milwaukee bullpen then gave up another five runs in an 8-1 loss. Woodruff will remain on our radar despite the setback. Woodruff entered the game with a 7-5 record with a sparkling 2.14 era and a 0.84 whip. The right-hander was striking out 30.4% of the batters has faced due to a nasty combination of a curveball and changeup that keeps batters chasing. In his previous start against the White Sox last Sunday, he induced 22 swinging strikes with 45% of his pitches resulting in a called-strike or a swinging strike. He combines his elite strikeout skills with a ground ball rate of the balls he allows into play of 45.6% before the start against the Braves. Woodruff’s hard-hit rate of the balls allowed into play of 25% is a career-best. Woodruff had been even better when pitching on the road where he has a 1.96 era and a 0.72 whip in ten starts. Milwaukee had won eleven of their last twelve games when Woodruff is pitching in a game where the oddsmakers install the over/under at 9 or 9.5. He should be fine. We will monitor Eduardo Rodriguez closely after getting burned with him in our American League Total of the Month on Thursday. With hindsight, perhaps Rodriguez was rusty after only pitching one inning in his previous start due to a migraine headache. Reports coming out of Boston is that he felt fine. Yet he struggled in the opening frame against Toronto before leaving that game on Thursday, July 29th, after allowing six runs in 3 1/3 innings. We thought the 5.23 era and 1.38 whip he had at the time was sending the wrong message to bettors. The left-hander did not pitch last year due to COVID, and he started slowly in spring training. Yet he was striking out 27.4% of the batters he faces while walking just 5.8% of the batters he had faced before that final start of the month. The hard-hit rate of the balls he was allowing into play of 27.8% is the second-lowest in his career. In his four previous starts, Rodriguez had a 2.15 era and a 1.08 whip as he appeared to have found his stride. Opponents were hitting just .209 against him this month. He had struck out 20 batters and walked five in his 17 2/3 innings in July. If his start against the Blue Jays was just one of those things after not pitching much, there could be quite a bit of value with him in the next two months (and playoffs).We looked poised to win our FS1 Game of the Month on Saturday, July 24th, in part because of the value we identified in Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. He allowed only two runs in 7 2/3 innings of work. Yet the Boston bullpen allowed four runs in the eighth inning and failed to rally in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 4-3 loss. Eovaldi began the game with a 9-5 record with a 3.57 era and a 1.20 whip in 19 starts this year. The right-hander had a 2.55 era and a 1.01 whip in his previous four starts which did not include the scoreless inning he pitched against the National League in the All-Star game. Over those 24 2/3 innings, he had struck out 28 batters and walked just two. He is combining his elite strikeout-to-walk ratios with a hard-hit rate of the balls he is allowing into play of 26.3% which is the lowest mark in his last nine seasons. Some tough luck results. Yet we begin August on a 39 of 51 (76%) MLB run. Good luck - TDG.

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The Underlying Greatness of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s NBA Title Run

Saturday, Jul 31, 2021

Giannis Antetokounmpo deserved to win the Most Valuable Player award of the NBA finals. He put up incredible offensive numbers. He averaged 35.2 points per game, rebounded 13.7 boards per game, and added 5.0 assists per game in their triumph against the Phoenix Suns in six games. For the entire postseason, Antetokounmpo averaged 30.2 points per game, 12.8 rebounds per game, and 5.1 assists per game. Antetokounmpo was a force on the defensive end of the court as a rim protector and defender throughout the playoffs. He took away the Suns’ Deandre Ayton in the finals as that series moved on. Yet perhaps the more impressive aspects to Antetokounmpo’s first NBA title go beyond those numbers. For starters, the fact that Antetokounmpo evened played in the NBA finals was extraordinary. When he hyperextended his knee in the Eastern Conference finals, his ability to even compete for a championship looked in doubt. He was questionable up until tip-off for Game 1 of the finals against Phoenix. But not only was he able to play, but he also seemed to have no ill effects with that knee injury. The physical and mental conditioning he went through to prepare to play through that injury was incredible. Antetokounmpo worked through a mental battle with his free-throw shooting. He lost his confidence at the free-throw line somewhere in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Brooklyn Nets. After making 67.5% of his free throws in the opening round against Miami, he made only 6 of 19 free throws in the first three games against the Nets. Then came the jeering from fans and his taking all ten seconds at the line as his battle with what the golfers call the yips was for all to see. Antetokounmpo missed more than half his free throw attempts in both the Brooklyn and Atlanta Hawks series in the Eastern Conference finals. Removing Antetokounmpo from the game in clutch situations became a topic of conversation. Yet he worked through the problem. Free throw shooting has never been the strength of his game, yet he recovered to shoot 62% from the charity stripe on his 85 free throw attempts in the NBA finals. In the Game 6 clincher, Antetokounmpo nailed 17 of his 19 free throw attempts. His success over this mental battle was critical in leading his team to a championship. Antetokounmpo led his team to a title by accepting his limitations. After struggling with his 3-point shooting despite defenses begging for him to take open 3s, he changed his game and shot fewer 3s. After going 1 of 8 from 3-point land in Game 4 of the Brooklyn series, he does not even attempt a 3-point shot two games later in a critical Game 6 when they are down 3-2 in the series. In his ten games against Atlanta and Phoenix, only once does he attempt more than three shots from 3-point land. Antetokounmpo also accepted not being the primary ball-handler in crunch time as the playoffs went on with Kris Middleton having success making key shots. Antetokounmpo’s offensive numbers and outstanding play on defense made him the obvious choice for the NBA finals MVP. Yet what may have been more impressive during this championship run was his perseverance, his success in confronting adversity, and his growth as a player by accepting his limitations. These are all qualities that will serve him quite well as his career continues to progress.Good luck - TDG.

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Starting Pitcher Observations from June

Wednesday, Jun 30, 2021

Starting Pitcher Observations from JuneWe started with caution to the new Major League Baseball season amidst plenty of uncertainty in handicapping starting pitching. Most starting pitchers only had up to 12 or 13 regular season starts last year in the shortened season that starting late because of COVID. That presented a smaller sample size from which to project early season performance this year. The absence of fans continued to introduce an unusual dynamic that may have affected MLB pitchers differently. Major League Baseball threw another knuckleball into the mix with the changes they made to the baseball. As we observed last month in our article, “It’s the Year of the Pitcher. Does that Mean to Play More Unders?”: “The ball is slightly lighter after new production standards. The new ball is easier to throw but does not travel as far off the bat given the lighter mass.”MLB has since added a new wrinkle into the mix with their crackdown on foreign substances pitches uses to get a better grip on the baseball to improve spin rate. Yet amidst all these new factors to consider, some actionable data began to accumulate around the 1/3rd mark into the season. Here are some of the observations about starting pitchers that has helped our 23-3 MLB money line sides run through the end of the month.Shohei Ohtani may the story of the league with Most Valuable Year campaign with his spectacular contributions with his bat and his pitching arm, yet there are some cracks in the armor in his pitching profile. For our MLB Game of the Month report on the Yankees for Wednesday, June 30th, we made these comments on Ohtani:“Ohtani has been a surprise as to just how good he has been on the mound. The right-hander has a 3-1 record with a 2.58 era and a 1.18 whip in 11 starts. Yet it might be premature to begin pricing him as an elite starting pitcher. Command remains a challenge for Ohtani who is walking 12.5% of the batters he faces. In his last two starts on the road, he has walked six batters in 11 innings for a 4.9 bases-on-balls per nine innings average. In four starts on the road, Ohtani has a 3.91 era. Seven of his eleven starts have been at home, so this looks to be a good opportunity to fade him in this high-profile matchup where the pressure will be high.”The prospect of Ohtani pitching in fabled Yankee Stadium, not the literal “House that Ruth Built” but nearby to the baseball legend that Ohtani gets most compared to because he stars as both a hitter and a pitcher, may have put too much pressure on the young superstar. He walked the first three batters he faced in the first inning before allowing seven earned runs on four walks and two hits when he got pulled with two outs in the inning. Ohtani’s command remains the weakness in his pitching profile, and he may not be as effective when pitching away from Angels Stadium. Unfortunately, the Yankees’ bullpen let us down in that game by giving up seven runs in the top of the ninth inning to blow an 8-4 lead and lose the game. If he handicap the starting pitcher matchup accurately, we will win more than we lose even with the occasional back door loss from a bullpen blowup.Kenta Maeda had one of the most disappointing starts to the season before showing signs that he might have righted the ship this month. We were not sold, particularly with him pitching on the road against the White Sox on Tuesday, June 29th. In our report for our AL Central Game of the Month, we noted:“After a disastrous start to the season, he finally went on the disabled list last month to rest his right shoulder. He has been a shadow of the pitcher that went 6-1 last season with a 2.70 era and a 0.75 whip. His strikeouts are way down. After striking out 32.3% of the batters he faced last season, he is punching out 21.7% of batters this year. He is walking 6.5% of the batters he faces, up from 4.0% last season. His ground ball rate is down from 49.0% last year to 41.9% this year. Opposing hitters are connecting on more line drives which are up from 20.4% to 24.4% of the batted balls he is allowing into play. Maeda’s era is 5.40 in his 8 starts on the road, and his teams have won just three of their last sixteen games on the road when the oddsmakers install the over/under from 7 to 8.5.”Maeda did get out of the fifth inning in that game, giving up seven runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. He walked five batters representing 18.5% of the batters he faced. He only struck out four batters, just 14.8% of the White Sox hitters he pitched against in a clip even lower than his declining strikeout average this season. Maeda will likely continue to be a starting pitcher we will target to play against in side and over plays. The news is not all bad, as we saw encouraging things from Adam Wainwright. We made these comments in our NL Central Game of the Month on the Cardinals versus the Pirates on Saturday, June 26th:  “They (Pittsburgh) face Adam Wainwright who has pitched better at home for most of his long career. The veteran right-hander is 5-5 with a 3.74 era and a 1.12 whip in 14 starts. When pitching at home, Wainwright has a 2.66 era and a 0.95 whip in nine starts. The 39-year-old started strong in April with a bump up in velocity. Yet his velocity dropped in May as he struggled in some starts. Wainwright has turned it around this month by not allowing more than three runs in any of his four starts while pitching at least six innings in each outing. He has a 2.67 era and an 0.89 whip in June.”Wainwright’s strong month continued as he allowed only one run in six innings work to register a 3-1 victory against the Pirates. He struck out eight batters and walked only one to continue his consistency when pitching at home at Busch Stadium. We will continue to look for opportunities where the veteran is undervalued, especially when pitching at home. Good luck - TDG.

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What Happened to the Vegas Golden Knights?

Wednesday, Jun 30, 2021

After the Vegas Golden Knights upset the Colorado Avalanche in the West Division finals, it looked like the franchise was well on their way to make their second appearance in the Stanley Cup finals in the four years of their existence. Yet despite an easy 4-1 victory in Game 1 of the NHL semifinals against Montreal, they were exposed by the Canadiens in the next five games despite being a 5-1 favorite to win that series before it started. With three straight disappointments in the postseason after their inaugural season run to the finals, the Golden Knights are suddenly a franchise at the crossroads. What happened?Management took a big chance in trading with the very same Montreal Canadiens for Max Pacioretty before their second season. At the time, the move was designed to bring superstar talent into the organization that they could not acquire in the expansion draft. They later traded for Mark Stone at the trade deadline that gave them a top forward line of Pacioretty, Stone, and Paul Stastny, another offseason acquisition, that took the pressure off the William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith line that was such a surprise from the expansion draft. But a key piece in that trade with the Canadiens was Nick Suzuki who Vegas drafted as the 13th pick in the first round in their first draft. Suzuki outperformed Pacioretty in that series with five points, tied for the most for Montreal in that series. With hindsight being 20/20, the Golden Knights are weak down the middle. The injury to Chandler Stephenson exposed this deficiency even more. When Vegas drafted Cody Glass sixth in the 2017 draft before selecting Suzuki seven picks later, management had, in theory, laid the foundation for how their team would look at center for the next decade. Instead, Glass has failed to develop yet, he was not on the postseason roster, and Suzuki starred for the team that defeated them in the playoffs. At 21-years-old, Suzuki is 11 years younger than Pacioretty. Besides holes at center, depth was a concern for the team all season. They were only able to dress 15 skaters in their final home game of the year against Colorado which determined home ice in the playoffs and the President’s Trophy. Over $12 million were invested in their goaltending duo of Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury. Having two top-notch goaltenders is a luxury that teams probably cannot afford when operating under a salary cap. But the adage in the NFL regarding the problems of having two worthy starting quarterbacks on a roster may apply to goaltenders in the NHL. Rumors were that the team tried to unload Fleury before the start of the season after they signed Lehner to a five-year, $25 million contract. After Fleury saved the team during the regular season with Lehner dealing with a host of injuries, he won the Vezina Trophy for the first time in his Hall of Fame career. That cache will likely lead to the team being able to get a better deal from him in the offseason. If it was not clear that the team committed to Lehner when they signed in the fall to that $25 million deal, when head coach Peter DeBoer chose him to start in Game 6 of their series with the Canadiens, the writing was written on the wall for all to see. Next season likely becomes a make-or-break year for DeBoer. He was hired immediately after management made the surprising move to fire Gerard Gallant midway through the 2020-21 season. Having taken the New Jersey Devils and the San Jose Sharks to the Stanley Cup finals, DeBoer’s ability to made adjustments from game to game was considered a strength that Gallant lacked. Yet DeBoer was unable to push the buttons to get Stone, Pacioretty, and the other Knights’ forwards going against Carey Price and the Montreal defense. In the meantime, Gallant has been hired to be the head coach of the New York Rangers in the biggest market in the National Hockey League. With the windows beginning to close on the prime years of Stone, Pacioretty, and Alex Pietrangelo (the team’s major offseason acquisition last year) all 29-years-old or older, the urgency for the Vegas franchise to win their first Stanley Cup only intensifies. Expect many moves in the offseason. Good luck - TDG.

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Would the Toronto Maple Leafs Beat Montreal if Mike Babcock Was Still their Head Coach?

Monday, May 31, 2021

The Toronto Maple Leafs failed to win a playoff series for the 18th straight season tonight after losing to Montreal, 3-1, in their North Division Game 7. The loss was the final nail in the coffin that will be considered an epic collapse by Toronto who seemed in control of this series with a 3-1 lead. The Maple Leafs finished in first place in the North Division with 77 points, 18 points ahead of the Canadiens. They are priced as a money line favorite at -195 at BetOnline to win Game 7.Auston Matthews registered an assist tonight, but he ended the series with just one goal and four assists. Matthews led the NHL with 41 goals in 52 games during the regular season. He centered the top line alongside right wing Mitch Marner who had 20 goals and 47 assists in 55 regular-season games. Yet Marner managed only four assists in this seven games series. When the autopsy of what happened to the Maple Leafs in the postseason, it will start with why the productivity of Matthews and Marner declined. Mike Babcock was fired as the Toronto head coach in November of 2019 after a 9-10-4 start to the season. One of the biggest criticisms of Babcock was that he was not giving his stars enough ice time. In the 2018-19 season, the last full regular season under Babcock, Matthews averaged only 18:33 minutes per game. Marner averaged 21:33 minutes per game during that regular season. When general manager Kyle Dubas promoted Sheldon Keefe from the team’s top minor league team to replace Babcock, one of the directives was to get more ice time for Matthews and Marner.Matthews saw his ice time rise to 22:27 minutes per game after the all-star break after averaging 20:20 minutes before that. These numbers are a bit muddy because the pre-all-star break numbers include both Babcock and Keefe-coached games and the second half of the season was shortened because of COVID. Yet the increased ice time under Keefe is notable. Marner saw his ice time rise to 24:39 minutes after the all-star break in 2019-20 after averaging 22:32 before that. This season, Matthews averaged 21:33 minutes per game in the regular season. His ice time increased to 23:44 minutes per game in the playoffs. Marner averaged 22:26 minutes per game in the regular season while seeing that ice time increase to 24:52 in the playoffs. Could the decline in Matthews and Marner’s production be a product of them being tired? Matthews and Marner’s playoff production under Keefe last season left much to be desired. In their upset loss to Columbus in the qualifier for the NHL playoffs in the bubble hosted at their Scotiabank Arena last year, Matthews scored two goals and had four assists in five games. Those are decent numbers. Yet in the 2019 postseason under Babcock, Matthews scored five goals with an assist in their seven-game series with a Boston Bruins team that reached the Stanley Cup finals. Marner did not score in last year’s postseason under Keefe while assisting on four goals. Yet in the 2019 playoffs under Babcock against tougher competition, Keefe scored two goals and added another two assists. Could it be that Babcock’s strategy all along was to keep his stars’ legs fresh for when it mattered most in the playoffs? The production was certainly better. But what does Babcock know? After all, he has won only one Stanley Cup title with Detroit in 2008. He has only coached three teams to the Stanley Cup finals (Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2003, Detroit in 2008 and 2009). Babcock is the only head coach to take two different teams to a Game 7 in a Stanley Cup final. Maybe he does know something about preparing for a deep playoff run?On the other hand, Sheldon Keefe did lead the minor league Toronto Marlies to the Calder Cup in 2018. But Keefe has yet to lead a team in the NHL to a playoff series win despite being favored in the last two seasons.Dubas hired Keefe to move the team in a different direction. Dubas was elevated to the general manager of the Maple Leafs to replace Lou Lamoriello. Where is Lamoriello now? He was hired by the New York Islanders in 2018. The Islanders are playing the East Division finals against Boston after they upset Pittsburgh in the opening round of the playoffs. The Islanders played in the Eastern Conference finals last season. Draw your own conclusions.Good luck — TDG.

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It’s the Year of the Pitcher. Does that Mean to Play More Unders?

Monday, May 31, 2021

Major League Baseball has already seen six no-hitters this season, and that does not even count Madison Bumgarner’s no-hitter in a seven-inning doubleheader game which MLB did not officially count as no-no since the game did not go nine innings. The MLB record for no-hitters in a season in the modern era is seven, which has previously occurred four times.Pitching numbers are up, and hitting numbers are down so far this season as we take a look at some data on Memorial Day. Entering the day, the across-the-league Earned Runs Average sits at 4.02. That is the league-wide ERA since 2015. Strike-out rates continue to rise as well. Pitchers are striking out 24% of the batters they face (as of 5/20). Pitchers struck out 23.1% of the batters they faced in 2019, and they struck out 23.4% of opposing hitters in 2020.The Year of the Pitcher is demonstrated in declining hitting statistics as well. The league-wide MLB batting average after Sunday (5/30 is .236. That is the lowest number since 1968, the most recent Year of the Pitcher. MLB lowered the height of the pitching mound after the dominance pitchers enjoyed over hitters that year. Teams are scoring 4.33 runs per game this season. That average is a decline from the 4.65 runs per game mark in 2020. In 2019, teams averaged 4.83 runs per game, so the decline in scoring is part of some larger trends. What is happening? Several reasons help explain these trends. Velocity rates from pitchers continue to rise. Starting pitchers and relievers are being asked to make fewer pitchers per appearance but to throw harder when they do. Spin rates are on the rise as well as analytics departments influence their teams to rely focus on this intangible. The rise of defensive shifts has made things even more difficult for hitters to generate base hits. With pitchers throwing more heat, batters are being instructed to attempt to hit more home runs to take advantage of the acceleration produced from the batted ball. Yet home run rates are down this season after a steady recent rise in that number. 1.2 homers are being hit per 9 innings this season, the fifth-highest mark of all-time. But there was an average of 1.34 home runs and 1.40 home runs hit per 9 innings in the previous two seasons. Changes to the baseball this season have played a role. The ball is slightly lighter after new production standards. The new ball is easier to throw but does not travel as far off the bat given the lighter mass. Given all this, should bettors be investing in more unders? The numbers do not bear this out. The under is 382-374-25 after Sunday’s games (as measured by VSIN). The oddsmakers appear to be ahead of the game when it comes to adjusting their numbers. There may be value in betting the over as the season moves on. Warmer weather tends to favor the hitter with the ball carrying farther in the warmer air.Good luck - TDG.

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Don’t Crown the Brooklyn Nets the NBA Champions Yet

Friday, Apr 30, 2021

The alliance of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to a Brooklyn Nets roster that was already a playoff team already made them a strong contender to win the NBA Eastern Conference. Yet when they traded for James Harden earlier in the season to form a “Big Three” of superstars, it was understandable when many observers thought this team was destined to win the NBA championship this season. The later additions of stars like LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin elevated their collection of players into a super team. However, any coronation of this team is premature. As the month of May begins just a few weeks away from the start of the NBA playoffs, the questions that have dogged this team remain unanswered.First, will the chemistry of this group of players work? The Los Angeles Clippers were considered the super team of destiny last season. Their former head coach Doc Rivers later revealed that the lack of cohesion that never developed between Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with each other and the rest of the team played a big role in their early exit in the Western Conference playoffs to the Denver Nuggets. Developing chemistry on the fly in the playoffs is easier said than done. Yet the Nets’ Big Three of Durant, Harden, and Irving has only played together in seven games this season. Can all three share the ball? Will Harden and Irving defer to Durant as the presumptive alpha of the group? Should Durant be considered the alpha? Will Harden be content being a ball distributing point guard? Will Irving take more personal days? These stars have all said the right things up to this point. They seem to be on the same page of all wanting to just win a championship. But the platitudes of January are not under the same weight of pressure as the urgency these players will encounter if they happen to fall behind, 2-1, in a seven-game playoff series. That is when the chemistry of this group will be tested. The regular season should be building the foundation for this group of players to prepare for the inevitable adversity coming in the playoffs. Instead, this group has dealt with injuries and load management as they await the playoffs. Second, can this team simply outscore their opponents without playing at least decent play on defense? The offense numbers are quite impressive. Brooklyn averages 118.9 points per game. They make 49.4% of their shots and 38.9% of their 3-pointers. They lead the league in offensive efficiency, scoring 118.9 points per 100 possessions. These are numbers with the Big Three playing only seven games together so the ceiling could be even higher. But the defense is an eyesore. Opponents make 46.2% of their shots which is resulting in 114.1 points per game. The Nets have the sixth-worst defensive efficiency in the NBA, with opponents scoring 113.2 points per 100 possessions. Can a defense this suspect survive in the playoffs against the very best teams? Mike D’Antoni’s coaching career has attempted to have his great offensive teams score their way past defensive liabilities, including his time in Houston with Harden. This approach never won a championship. Coincidentally or not, D’Antoni is an assistant coach with this team. Steve Nash is the head coach of this group. He was the point guard for D’Antoni’s Phoenix Suns teams that never reached an NBA Finals. Nash’s strengths were never defensive basketball. He is a rookie head coach, handling a large collection of big egos. It simply does not take much to imagine these circumstances taking a bad turn. Third, will the superstars stay healthy? Proclamations of teams of destiny never take into account the prospect of injuries. Given the recent histories of Durant and Irving, and with Harden’s hamstring issues this season, it may be unrealistic to expect these three players to remain healthy throughout the postseason. On paper, Brooklyn looks formidable. They have looked spectacular at times this season. Yet the challenge of the NBA playoffs is different than the regular season. Those are untraveled waters for the 2021 Nets. Good luck - TDG.

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Will the 2022 NFL Rookie Quarterback Class be as Weak as Expected?

Friday, Apr 30, 2021

In the run-up to the 2021 NFL draft, many observers commented that teams may feel more pressure to find their quarterback of the future since the incoming rookie class for next year’s draft looks to be thin. Yet, isn’t this the same thought every year? Perhaps a draft class that finally featured Trevor Lawrence who was winning National Championships as a freshman three years ago makes the 2021 quarterback group special. At this time last year, one would be hard-pressed to find someone confidently predicting that BYU’s Zach Wilson would develop into the second player taken in the draft. As Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian commented about the potential lack of quality quarterback prospects next year: “Somebody always crops up.” A quick glance at the prospects in college shows plenty of names that observers and NFL brain trusts might fall in love with. It is challenging to accurately assess the returning college quarterbacks next fall after a shortened season with limited practices given COVID protocols. Hopefully, college football will be able to return to a normal practice regimen which will help the development of the quarterbacks looking to impress NFL scouts. Observers are more likely to be surprised than disappointed with another year of development. Below is a list of ten players who may grow into being a first-round draft pick in April of 2022.Spencer Rattler: NFL scouts have learned to trust quarterbacks groomed by Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley. If Jalen Hurts becomes the starting quarterback in Philadelphia, he will join Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray as NFL starting quarterbacks that went through Riley’s program. Rattler started slowly last year before settled down to throw 15 touchdowns to two interceptions in his final seven games. J.T. Daniels: The former five-star quarterback was in the shortlist conversations with Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields coming out of high school before injuries marred his growth at USC. With a full season as the starter at Georgia, Daniels will draw plenty of attention.Sam Howell: The North Carolina quarterback is considered the most polished passer in the class. He demonstrated his potential last year with 443 passing yards against Virginia and 550 passing yards against Wake Forest. Daniel Jones and Matt Ryan are comparables of quarterbacks with big arms who came from the ACC to find success in the NFL.Kedon Slovis: He is the quarterback who beat out J.T. Daniels for the starting job at USC, and he is the reason Daniels now plays in the SEC. Slovis has a quick release that NFL scouts covet. USC quarterbacks remain attractive to NFL brass.Tyler Shough: He was the heir apparent to Justin Herbert before a disappointing 2020 compelled him to transfer. He can put up big numbers against Big 12 defenses at Texas Tech, and then his 6’5 frame will take over to entice scouts. Matt Corral: He completed 71% of his passes in his first year at Ole Miss under head coach Lane Kiffin. He will likely put up video game numbers next season in the Rebels' offense. While just 6’1, his accuracy could make scouts think of Baker Mayfield or even Drew Brees.Bo Nix: The Auburn quarterback suffered from a sophomore slump last season after a freshman campaign that compelled quarterback coach guru Jordan Palmer to proclaim him the future top pick in the 2022 draft. A resurgent junior season in the SEC would elevate Nix once again. Desmond Ridder: The Cincinnati quarterback may be the closest comparison to a dual-threat Kyler Murray-type in the class. He completed 66.2% of his passes last season, and he has demonstrated himself as a winner with a 30-5 record with the Bearcats. Grayson McCall: The Coastal Carolina quarterback is still considered raw as he enters his redshirt junior season, but he came off a breakout campaign where he completed 69% of his passes with 26 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. The Chanticleers do not run a pro-style offense, but all it takes is one NFL offensive coordinator convinced he can lift enough of the Coastal Carolina offense to find success at the next level for McCall.Mystery Player to Come Out of Nowhere: This list above is not exhaustive of the potential quarterbacks who could make a big jump in development under a full year of coaching and competition. No one was predicting that Mac Jones would be picked by the New England Patriots in the first round at this time last year. Call it the “recency effect” or call it being a “prisoner of the moment”. It is human nature to overestimate the value of what is most recently experienced. For NFL scouts worried about finding a quarterback in the 2022 NFL draft, there are plenty of intriguing candidates. Good luck - TDG.

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UCLA's Defense Spearheads its Final Four Run

Wednesday, Mar 31, 2021

UCLA reached the Final Four on Tuesday in a 51-49 victory against Michigan. The Bruins only shot 38.9% from the field but they stymied the Wolverines to just a 39.2% field goal percentage to hold them off and grind out a low-scoring victory that only had 100 combined points scored. Probably just like their head coach Mick Cronin likes it.In our write-up for UCLA in their upset victory against Alabama on Sunday, we wrote: “(Mick Cronin) may have made a breakthrough with his team after they gave up 44 points in the first half to Michigan State in the play-in game. The Bruins allowed only 36 points in the next 25 minutes which included an overtime session with UCLA rallying from a double-digit deficit to win and advance. The Bruins defense has been suffocating ever since. In their 67-47 victory against Abilene Christian on Monday, UCLA held them to just 29.8% shooting including 15 misses of their 19 shots from the 3-point line. Since halftime against the Spartans, the Bruins have played their next 105 minutes in the NCAA tournament at a defensive rate that would translate into 55.2 points-per-game on 42.4% shooting. This is the formula for success for Cronin.” UCLA’s 88-78 final score victory against the Crimson Tide was misleading since the score was tied at 65 at the end of regulation. That was 9.5 points below the closing over/under number. The Bruins scored a surprising 23 points in the five-minute overtime period to cruise to the victory. They held Alabama to just a 43.5% field goal percentage. Even after the Tide scored 78 points on Sunday, the UCLA defensive numbers continued to look impressive. Since the start of the second half against Michigan State through their game against Alabama, the Bruins were holding their opponents to 42.3% shooting from the field and limiting their opponents to a scoring rate that would see just 59.4 points-per-game. Cronin goes into the Final Four with defensive numbers that translate into holding their opponents to 57.3 points-per-game on 42.1% shooting since that opening first half against the Spartans. This includes UCLA playing three teams that ranked in the top thirty in the nation in offensive efficiency in those 190 minutes of play including a Michigan team that was ranked seventh nationally at the time. Now the Bruins face the nation’s top offensive team in Gonzaga who are putting up historic numbers. It remains to be seen if UCLA can stay competitive in this game. If they can, it will likely be because they turn the game into a rock-fight like they successfully did against the Wolverines. Good luck - TDG.

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Short-Term Value with Portland Trail Blazers' Overs?

Wednesday, Mar 31, 2021

Portland concluded March with four straight overs amidst some recent changes in the players that Terry Stotts has been able to send on the court. C.J. McCollum and Josef Nurcic are healthy again after missing time with injuries. Nurcic is still on a minutes restriction but McCollum seems at full strength again as he was averaging 20.3 points-per-game and 4.1 assists-per-game since his return before scoring 24 points and adding six assists in the Blazers’ 124-101 to end the month on Wednesday. The Trail Blazers added Norman Powell last week in a trade deadline deal with Toronto. The guard is averaging 16.3 points-per-game in his first three games with his new team. Stotts is often playing Powell alongside McCollum and Damian Lillard in a super-charged three-guard lineup. However, what that combination offers Stotts in scoring could come at a cost on the other end of the court. Small-ball lineups can suffer on defense. Portland has won four in a row, and seven of their last nine, after their win in Detroit on Wednesday. Playing a Pistons’ team was averaging only 103.6 points-per-game may not have offered much of a challenge to their play on defense. However, their previous game against Toronto may have been a canary in the coal mine regarding the play of their defense in the coming weeks. The Blazers allowed 74 points in the first half of that game on Sunday to the Raptors. Portland went on to win by a 122-117 score. Going into their game with the Pistons on Wednesday, the Blazers had allowed their last five opponents to make 49.9% of their shots which resulted in 118.4 points-per-game. Portland’s 124-101 victory against Detroit finished above a total that closed in the 219 range. Some bettors may see the Blazers’ holding the Pistons to only 101 points as a sign of improving defense. The value on Portland overs may continue for another few weeks before the market catches up.Good luck - TDG.

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Don’t Worry About the Lakers

Sunday, Feb 28, 2021

The reigning NBA champions have hit their rock bottom earlier this week when they lost their fourth game in a row on Wednesday. Los Angeles put up little resistance in a 114-89 loss at the red-hot Utah Jazz despite being an 8.5-point underdog. That was the Lakers’ fifth loss in six games after Anthony Davis went out with an Achilles’ injury. Yet not all “rock bottoms” are the same. It is usually wise to not overreact when good teams struggle in the dog days of the NBA regular season especially when the All-Star Game is approaching. Losing Davis took away one of the Lakers’ top two players. LeBron James looks tired after playing every game averaging almost 35 minutes per contest. There is an understanding in professional sports that the defending champion always gets their opponent’s best effort. Despite losing five of six (before winning their last two games), only one of the losses would be considered “bad.” Losing at Denver as a 3-point favorite is forgivable. Losing at home to the new-look Brooklyn Nets with James Harden and Kyrie Irving (even without Kevin Durant) as a 3-point favorite is understandable. Getting beaten by Miami as a 3.5-point favorite in their first opportunity to avenge their loss in the NBA Finals might have been expected. Few observers gave the Lakers much of a chance than against the red-hot Jazz in Utah as an 8.5-point underdog. Only a loss to Washington does not look very good in the rearview mirror, yet in that game, Los Angeles took their foot off the gas pedal by blowing a 17-point lead. Sometimes that happens on a Monday night in February. Our Western Conference Game of the Month was on Friday with the Lakers hosting Portland. Help was on the way with Dennis Schroder returning from COVID quarantine. His absence in the previous four games has cost Los Angeles a reliable scorer and a second starter along with Davis. He was averaging 14.2 points-per-game before entering quarantine. Just getting Schroder back on the court made a significant difference. He scored 22 points against the Trail Blazers in helping Los Angeles win, 102-93, and cover the 5-point spread. Schroder’s efforts on defense should not be dismissed either. The Lakers held the Blazers to just 39.1% shooting. Schroder running the point on offense helped Los Angeles get to the free-throw line 28 times where they made 21 attempts. Strong defense and getting to the charity stripe was the recipe on Sunday as well in the Lakers’ 117-91 victory at home against Golden State. LA held the Warriors to 41% shooting. They got to the free-throw line 38 times resulting in 26 points. Schroder contributed 12 points while dishing out six assists. Racing out to a 73-44 lead at halftime allowed for James to only play for under 25 minutes in the game.Los Angeles may not repeat as NBA champions this spring but that is a May and perhaps June problem. Until then, don’t worry. Pick your spots when betting the Lakers in the regular season, just as they pick their spots to exert a little more effort. LeBron James is playing the long game. Good luck - TDG.

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Watch Out for Kansas during March Madness

Sunday, Feb 28, 2021

Kansas upset the number two ranked team in the nation, Baylor, on Saturday, 71-58, as a 5-point favorite. Hopefully, TDG regulars were not surprised by that result since that was our ESPN Game of the Year on the Jayhawks. We had observed at the time that Kansas was going into the month of March a much-improved team on defense. We wrote in the game report:“After a schematic change by Bill Self to play more aggressively against ball-screens, Kansas has held their last five opponents to 38.4% shooting which is resulting in 58.2 points-per-game in the rugged Big 12. Bettors need to keep their eyes on the lookout for late-season improvements from teams that get elite coaching especially in a pandemic-ridden season where practice schedules earlier in the year have been out of the ordinary. This Jayhawks’ team is evolving into a scrappy defense-first juggernaut.”Kansas came to play on defense by holding the Bears to 34.8% shooting while coaxing them to miss 17 of their 23 shots from the 3-point land for a 23.1% clip. Baylor entered that game shooting 50.3% from the field and making 43.2% of their 3-pointers. As Bears’ Scott Drew claimed that a layoff from COVID was his team’s “kryptonite,” head coaches often reach for excuses in the face of frustrating defensive play. The plight of the blue blood programs in college basketball has been of the storylines this season. Duke, Kentucky, and Michigan State are all at risk of not making the NCAA Tournament. We wrote about the trials and tribulations for these traditional powers in college football and college basketball during this year where COVID has impacted every program. As we observed in December about Duke and Kentucky:  “These are two programs that need practice and coaching.” As the calendar turns to March, both of those basketball teams along with the Spartans have seen significant improvement in play over the last few weeks.Keep your eye out for freshman taking their games to the next level in March. The Jayhawks have a talented redshirt freshman in Jalen Wilson. The four-star recruit did not see the court much last year but has stepped up this season to average 12.6 points-per-game with 8.4 rebounds-per-game. In his nine games in February, Wilson improved his scoring average to a 13.3 points-per-game clip while pulling down 11.0 rebounds-per-game. First-year players improve especially when they are getting great coaching. Kansas temporarily fell out of the top-25 in early February after losing five of seven games. All five of those losses were on the road to nationally-ranked teams. The inclusion of the Jayhawks in the plight of the blue-bloods narrative has always been a stretch. Perhaps Kansas is not a top-five team this season as they were last year when their 28-3 record had them destined to take one of the four top seeds in the NCAA tournament. Yet it would be foolhardy to dismiss Self’s ability to navigate this team to another final four appearance in the first weekend in April. Good luck - TDG.

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Our Two Favorite Super Bowl Prop Bets

Sunday, Jan 31, 2021

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

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Does Boston Have the Best Big Two in the NBA?

Sunday, Jan 31, 2021

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

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Playoff Scenarios for NFL Week 17

Thursday, Dec 31, 2020

Successful handicapping of the Week 17 NFL card requires understanding what is at stake for the teams fighting for playoff positioning.In the AFC, eight teams remain alive for the seven playoff spots. Kansas City is locked as the top seed. They will host their AFC playoff games. They also get the only bye in the wildcard round of the AFC playoffs.Buffalo clinches the second seed with a victory over Miami. They also inherit the second seed with a Pittsburgh loss to Cleveland.Pittsburgh has clinched the third seed. They can overtake the Bills for the second seed with a win along with Buffalo losing to the Dolphins.The winner of the AFC South slides into the fourth seed. Tennessee wins the division with a victory at Houston. The Titans also win the AFC South if Indianapolis loses to Jacksonville. Even if they lose to the Texans, Tennessee makes the playoffs with either a Baltimore or Miami loss.Miami makes the playoffs as a wildcard with a win over Buffalo. The Dolphins also make the playoffs with a loss by either Baltimore, Cleveland, or Indianapolis. Baltimore makes the playoffs as a wildcard with a victory at Cincinnati. They also make the playoffs with either a loss by the Browns or a loss by the Colts.Cleveland makes the playoffs as a wildcard with a win against the Steelers. The Browns also make the playoffs with a loss by the Colts. Cleveland also slips into the playoffs with a Titans loss along with a win or tie by the Dolphins and a win or a tie by the Ravens.Indianapolis must beat Jacksonville to make the playoffs. The Colts can win the AFC South with a win combining with a Tennessee loss or tie. They can also win the division with a tie along with a Titans loss. Indianapolis makes the playoffs with a victory combined with either a loss/tie from Miami, Baltimore, or Cleveland. Green Bay has won the NFC North which ensures them no worse than the third seed. They clinch the top seed in the NFC with a first-round bye and home-field advantage with a win or tie against Chicago or the Seahawks losing or tying with the 49ers at San Francisco.New Orleans has clinched the NFC South. They can earn the top seed with a win at Carolina along with a Packers’ loss and a Seattle victory.Seattle is the winner of the NFC West. They clinch the top seed with a win at San Francisco and a Green Bay loss along with a Saints’ loss or tie.Tampa Bay has made the playoffs. The Buccaneers are the fifth seed if they defeat Atlanta.The Los Angeles Rams clinch a wildcard spot with a win against Arizona. They also clinch a spot in the playoffs if Chicago loses or ties with the Packers. Chicago makes the playoffs with a win against Green Bay. They also make the playoffs if Arizona loses. If both the Bears and Cardinals tie, Chicago makes the playoffs.Arizona clinches a spot in the playoffs with a victory over the Rams. The Cardinals also make the playoffs with a tie combined with a Bears’ loss.Washington wins the NFC East and inherits the fourth seed with a victory against Philadelphia or a tie combining with Dallas losing or tying against the Giants. Dallas takes the NFC East title with a win over the Giants along with Washington losing or tying against the Eagles. The Cowboys also win the division with a tie combined with a Washington loss.The Giants only win the NFC East if they defeat Dallas and Washington loses to Philadelphia.Good luck - TDG.

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2020: Why is it the Year of the Struggling Blue Bloods?

Thursday, Dec 31, 2020

What do Penn State and Michigan football have in common with Duke and Kentucky basketball? These are four collegiate programs with a rich tradition of excellence. They are also four programs that have experienced unusually disappointing seasons.The Michigan football team under head coach Jim Harbaugh finished with a 2-4 record. That was the first losing season for the Wolverines in six seasons and their second losing season in the last eleven seasons. Penn State under head coach James Franklin lost their first five games this season before winning their final four games to settle for a 4-5 record. This was the Nittany Lions’ first losing football season in sixteen years going back to 2004.Kentucky has lost six straight games in college basketball. The Wildcats begin the new year with a 1-6 record which is the worst start in the eleven seasons John Calipari has been the head coach of the program. In fact, Kentucky’s six losses are already a many as Calipari has had with his teams at Kentucky in five other full seasons. These results make Duke’s 3-2 record this season seem tame in comparison. Things may have looked direr for the Blue Devils if they had not had some games canceled due to COVID. Yet with Duke’s best win on their resume being against a 3-5 Notre Dame squad, it is fair to say that the season has been underwhelming so far for head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Another thing these four programs have in common is they all have highly regarded (and well-paid) head coaches. These veterans did not suddenly forget how to coach their sport. Of course, this year has been unique for all college football and basketball teams because of the COVID pandemic. While every team has been impacted by the virus, some programs have experienced bigger challenges. What these four blue blood programs also have in common is that they were all bringing back young teams that needed the attention of their highly paid and regarded head coaches. Michigan returned only 11 starters from last year’s team that finished 9-4. Ten of their players were drafted into the NFL last April. They then had their top returning player on offense and defense opt-out of the season to prepare for the 2021 NFL draft. Penn State returned 13 starters from the team that finished 11-2 last season. While eight starters were back on offense, the defense experienced turnover with six starters from last year needing to be replaced. Yet when linebacker Micah Parsons then opted-out of the season to prepare for the NFL draft, the Nittany Lions lost perhaps their most important player. Harbaugh and Franklin did not have the benefit of full spring practices. Fall practices were modified because of COVID protocols. It makes sense that the best coaches are the most impacted by disruptions in the practice schedule since that is one of the areas where they excel versus their peers.Opt-outs heightened the challenge. Because it is the blue blood programs that have more future professional players, they are the ones hurt the most when those players decided to not play this season. The pandemic helped to level the talent playing field.Kentucky and Duke are experiencing similar challenges, albeit without the opt-outs. The Wildcats lost their top six players from last season with only Keon Brooks returning who played significant minutes last season. The Blue Devils lost their top three players for last year. They are two programs that need practice and coaching. What is also not fully appreciated is the loss of coaching time college programs experienced with a full March Madness from the NCAA tournament. The Kentucky and Duke supporting cast from last year that is now being asked to take larger roles would have been better served from that postseason experience. The blue blood programs are the easiest targets. However, critics should be mindful of the ways that the COVID pandemic impacted their programs in ways that other teams did not experience. As with everything, appreciating the context can help lead to a better understanding of the circumstances. Good luck - TDG.

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Early College Basketball Trends -- Shooting Percentages are Up

Monday, Nov 30, 2020

The early data regarding shooting numbers for the 2020-21 college basketball season demonstrate clear trends that shooting percentages are on the rise. Using the data at kenpom.com after the first six days of the season, the numbers demonstrate these upward trends. Division I teams are making 69.4% of their free-throw attempts, which is the highest mark ever. D-I teams made 69.1% of their free throws in 2017, which is the highest shooting clip for an entire season. Teams are shooting 49.7% inside the arc, which is the second-highest shooting percentage for 2-point shots. D-I teams made 49.9% of their 2-pointers in the 2018-19 season. The data on 3-pointers is muddier, but the trends are still on the upswing this season. Teams are making 32.6% of their shots from 3-point land with is +0.6% higher than last season. However, teams are also taking 37.7% of their field goal attempts from 3-point land versus last season when 37.4% of the shots were 3-pointers, so teams are more aggressive with their 3-point shooting and still making more of them. This 37.7% clip of field goal attempts being from behind the 3-point line is the second-highest behind the 2018-19 season when 39.0% of field goal attempts were 3-pointers. What accounts for this improved shooting? The most likely reason is the lack of fans in the arenas. The quieter gyms and the lack of activity from the fans lead to fewer distractions for the shooter. This dynamic seems most apparent with the improved shooting at the charity stripe. Players have also commented that the lack of fans in the stands has improved the sightlines for the players. Scottie Pippen has commented that these games without fans bring players back to their extensive pickup game experience. These observations are consistent with the results in the NBA when they played in the Orlando bubble. Until the oddsmakers and the betting public adjust to these trends, there likely will be an increase in the situations where the totals' value is with betting the over the number. Good luck - TDG.

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Why is the NFL Seeing a Record in Double-Digit Comeback Victories?

Monday, Nov 30, 2020

There were another two double-digit comeback victories in Week 12 of the NFL season. New England trailed Arizona by a 10-0 deficit in the second quarter before rallying to defeat the Cardinals by a 20-17 score. Minnesota came back from 21-10 and 24-13 scores shock Carolina by a 28-27 margin.There have now been 35 comeback victories where a team rallied after trailing by at least 10 points. That is an NFL record through twelve weeks of a season. Through the first nine weeks of the season, at least one team had rallied from a deficit of at least 13 points to win their game. The only other time that had happened in NFL history in each of the first nine weeks of a season was in 2015.Why are these big comebacks happening more often? Certainly, some of the reason is the continued sophistication of passing offenses that can strike quickly. What team better embodies this aspect of the game than the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs? Led by Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs demonstrated no double-digit lead was safe in their championship run last season. However, Kansas City is not the reason why 35 teams have rallied from double-digit deficits to win their game.The most significant difference in this season from previous ones is the lack of large crowds in stadiums. There are two reasons why the lack of loud crowd noise helps the offense, especially in critical situations when fans may be at their most energetic. First, fan noise produces pressure. For the road team, loud noise can be rattling. For the home team, loud noise can add to the pressure they are experiencing to execute and succeed. For home and road teams, noise is a distraction. Many players and teams have learned to not find the noise distracting. Yet it is easier to concentrate in a quieter environment. Second, the lack of crowd noise helps the offense execute at the line of scrimmage. This intangible seems particularly important when operating a no-huddle quick offense where the quarterback calls out plays at the line of scrimmage. Often quarterbacks have to resort to hand signals if his voice cannot be heard over the crowd. Communicating plays at the line of scrimmage is much easier without many fans in the building. It is interesting to note that underdogs are 97-74-2 against-the-spread after twelve weeks of the season. The data might uncover a disproportionate number of backdoor covers like with Philadelphia’s late point spread cover against Seattle for Monday Night Football that was cemented after a completed Hail Mary and the subsequent two-point conversion. The success teams have in the passing attack late in games is producing comeback victories and garbage points for the trailing team. The unique circumstances without large crowds this season may add some value to the underdog. This phenomenon may also make in-game betting on some underdogs worthy of consideration.Good luck - TDG.

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Assessing Football Home Field Advantage without Fans

Saturday, Oct 31, 2020

It is generalized that oddsmakers assign a standard home-field advantage in football of three points to the host team. The coronavirus pandemic has challenged this working assumption, with many football teams playing in empty stadiums. Even with limited fans allowed in some cities, it is unlikely that their cheers and boos have the same impact on the game as a jam-packed stadium of emotionally-charged fans in a playoff game. How should oddsmakers adjust in the pandemic when taking into account less-than-full stadiums?Even asking the question illuminates that these circumstances are not so different than situations that oddsmakers commonly encounter. Assigning odds to a home team without a vocal or vibrant fan base is not unusual in football. It would be more accurate to suggest that certain home field situations offer their team more of an advantage because their fan base is consistently louder and more disruptive to the opposing team. Every oddsmaker would likely agree that the home team edge is not as strong with capacity limitations to audiences due to COVID concerns. The challenge for oddsmakers (and then bettors) is determining what, if any, home-field advantage still exists for the home team. Some observers have gone so far as to say that COVID has eliminated the home field edge in football. The current win/loss numbers of home versus road teams offer support for that position. However, these observers should be careful of the limited sample size. There are three reasons why home teams retain an edge even without a cheering crowd backing them up.(1) Familiarity. Home teams simply have more experience playing in their stadium and on their field. This familiarity breeds comfort. A lack of familiarity plants the seeds for potential discomfort. This intangible certainly applies to how the home team feels inside their building. However, the weather and climate also play a significant role that should very much be considered. Dome teams may not be as comfortable playing outdoors and on grass fields. Cold weather teams may not be as comfortable playing in hot weather. Teams used to playing in sunny conditions may struggle in the cold. (2) Situational. Teams playing at home get to stay in their own beds. They stick to their routines. Road teams are in hotels and unfamiliar environments. Sometimes the visiting team has been away from home for an extended period of time. The preparation for the road team may have already put them at a disadvantage relative to their opponent even before setting foot on the field that lacks a cheering section. (3) Territoriality. Do home teams feel a higher sense of purpose in defending their home turf? Some psychological studies suggest this is the case. It is fair to assume that there is a higher expectation for teams playing at home to perform well. There perhaps is a built-in excuse for road teams to underperform when playing away from their “home base.” Perhaps for some visiting teams, these negative expectations create a self-fulfilling prophecy.In conclusion, it is reasonable for oddsmakers do not assign full value to home teams when playing in stadiums without enough cheering fans to impact the play of the visiting team. Maybe this adjustment should have already been made in environments that are not as loud and rabid as others?However, bettors beware if they conclude that a home team no longer retains “any” edge when playing at home.Good luck - TDG. 

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Is It Over for the Early Season NFL Overs Trend?

Saturday, Oct 31, 2020

The 2020 NFL season began as the highest-scoring in league history, with the average combined scores topping the 50-point threshold after the first five weeks of the season. The oddsmakers were slow to adjust as overs had a 43-33-2 (57%) mark after these initial five weeks. Yet in Week 6, nine of the thirteen games finished under the total. Then in Week 7, the under finished 7-6-1. After the Thursday night game between Atlanta and Carolina that finished under the number, the over is now just 53-50-3 (51%) going into November. Are the trends changing? Did the oddsmakers over-adjust The answers to both these questions is probably yes. There were three main reasons that drove the early season higher scoring games. First, the lack of large crowds for these games given COVID-19 precautions and guidelines has prevented loud stadiums. Less crowd noise helps the visiting quarterbacks who no longer have to resort to silent snap counts. This dynamic has not changed even with many stadiums allowing limited crowds. Noise remains a non-factor for the opponent. Second, the referees are calling fewer holding penalties which helps the offense in several ways. Not only are offenses not being penalized ten yards but the interpretation of the rules is helping quarterbacks avoid getting sacked so they can make successful passing plays down the field. Third, the defenses have been behind the offenses when it comes to schemes and cohesion. It was thought that the offenses may start slow without a normal training camp and preseason but, in practice, the evolving offensive philosophies that give the quarterback flexibility to make adjustments on the fly seem to have given the advantage to the offenses. But as defenses get more-and-more in-synch, this factor will continue to be mitigated. With bettors continuing to push the line up by betting overs while defenses get caught up, the under will likely continue to offer value to sharper bettors. As always, maintaining a proper perspective remains essential. The recent market correction is not a reason to start only betting the under just as the early-season over trends were not a reason to only bet overs. The circumstances at hand should always be considered.Good luck - TDG.

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2020 UEFA Champions League: Betting Schedule and Preview

Sunday, Jul 19, 2020

With the Spanish La Liga concluding their 2019-20 campaign and the English Premier in their final week of play, the attention of the soccer world begins to turn to the resumption of the European Champions League in August. The opening round of sixteen elimination stage was in-progress when COVID-19 stopped sports in its tracks in March. PSG, Real Madrid, Atalanta, and RB Leipzig had already completed the two-legs of the matches to advance to the quarterfinals but the final four matches still have second-legs to complete. UEFA has decided that these second legs will take place at the empty home stadiums of the teams that were on the road for the opening leg. The quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals will then take place in a single-elimination knockout tournament on a neutral field in Lisbon, Portugal with all matches taking place as stand-alone daily events at 3 PM ET. CBS Sports Network owns the broadcasting rights in the United States.The competition returns on August 7th with two matches. Lyon travels to Juventus with the french team holding a 1-0 aggregate score lead over the Italian powers. Real Madrid also travels to Manchester City for the second-leg of their match which the newly crowned La Liga champions trailing by a 2-1 score to the recently dethroned two-time English Premier League champions. On August 8th, Chelsea travels to Bayern Munich in a big hole trailing by a 3-0 aggregate score to the Bundesliga champion. Napoli also travels to Barcelona with that aggregate score deadlocked at 1-1. If the aggregate scores after two matches are tied, the first tie-breaker is determined by which team scored the most goals on the road. The quarterfinals begin on Wednesday, August 12th with La Ligue powerhouse Paris-Saint-Germain facing a red hot Atalanta team from the Italian Serie A. The next day, the Bundesliga runner-ups in RB Leipzig will face the third-place team out of La Liga in Atletico Madrid. On Friday, the winner of the Barcelona/Napoli showdown will face the team that advances between Bayern Munich and Chelsea. Then on Saturday, August 15th, the survivor of Manchester City/Real Madrid will face the winner of Lyon/Juventus. The first semifinal match will take place on Tuesday, August 18th between the winners of the Wednesday/Thursday matches. The winners of the Friday/Saturday games will play the next day. Those two winners will precede to play for the UEFA Champions League championship on Sunday, August 23rd in the final match in Lisbon. With the reigning UEFA Champions League title-holder in Liverpool already eliminated from this competition, Europe will crown a new champion on this day.

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