Boston Celtics @ Los Angeles Lakers Free NBA Pick & Preview: The Celtics and the Lakers, you hate one or the other, maybe both, but you definitely hate one of them if you care one bit about NBA basketball. One of these two teams have been NBA Champs in each of the last 3 seasons, and they’ve played each other for the title twice in those years, the Celtics winning in 6 games in 2008, the Lakers winning in 7 games in 2010. This is a rivalry, and those don’t come around very often these days. The Celtics have 17 championships, the Lakers have 16; they are the two winningest franchises in NBA history.
But this isn’t history, this is Sunday afternoon, and these are still two of the best teams in the NBA despite their aging veterans. For the Celtics it’s Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and now Shaquille O’Neal (among other old players). For the Lakers, Kobe is getting up there in age, as is Derrick Fisher, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom. At least the team has looked older this season.
At 35-11, the Celtics have the 2nd best record in basketball (behind the Spurs). The Lakers are tied with the Bulls for the 3rd best record in basketball at 33-14. The Celtics are 13-8 on the road, which means they’ve lost 8 of their 11 away from home. The Lakers are 18-6 at home, compared to 15-8 on the road, so they’re the same team wherever they play. Both teams are 7-3 over their last 10 games.
In this one, I have to take the Celtics. I’m sure they’ll be up to play the Lakers at home in LA, and though Boston has been struggling lately, losing games to Houston, Washington, and Phoenix in their last 10 (those 3 teams all have losing records), the Lakers are coming off a loss to Sacramento, and are just 3-3 over their last 6 with losses to the Mavericks and Clippers. I think the Celtics hustle will get the best of a Lakers team that is getting softer and softer.
Boston Celtics (+3) @ Los Angeles Lakers (ABC) (1/30)
Georgetown Hoyas @ Villanova Wildcats NCAA Basketball Free Pick: Georgetown and Villanova is always a great game, but it’s even more important now with Georgetown really struggling against top-ranked teams. Villanova took down Syracuse and now they have a chance to oust another Big East power – the Hoyas, well they need to prove they’re still a Big East power. Lots of great players in this one, it will be fun.
The Hoyas are 15-5 and 12-7 ATS, when they win, they cover – but on the road they are just 4-3 this season, already losing games at Notre Dame and St. Johns – two unranked opponents. They’ve been playing better on the road lately, however, beating Rutgers and Seton Hall (covering both) and they laid a beating on St. John’s back on the Georgetown campus on January 26th. Those three wins followed 5 straight ATS losses (and three straight losses straight up). The Hoyas haven’t beaten a ranked team since they got Missouri on a neutral court back on November 30th, losing recently to Pittsburgh and getting beat by West Virginia.
After starting the season with 16 wins in their first 17 games the Wildcats have lost 2 of 3, but that one win came at Syracuse where they beat the Orange by 11 points. Still, sandwiched by losses at Connecticut and Providence has made the latter half of January a tough one for ‘Nova.
Still, at home, with just 5 points to make up, I have to take the Cats. They’ve been great there and the Hoyas haven’t been good on the road.
#20 Georgetown Hoyas @ #7 Villanova Wildcats (-5) (1/29) (ESPN)
Kansas State Wildcats @ Kansas Jayhawks NCAA Betting Free Pick: I know Kansas is a Top 10 team while Kansas State has fallen out of the Top 25, but this is probably a bigger game for K-State. They need Big 12 wins and they need them quick. They missed a ton of easy shots and still beat Baylor last time out. If they just turn those misses into makes, they have a shot at one heck of a road upset against their in-state rivals.
The Wildcats are 14-7 on the season, just 5-10 ATS, and it hasn’t been a great year thus far for Jacob Pullen and his teammates. Still, it’s not too late to turn it around. Before beating Baylor on the 24th (their last game), the Wildcats had lost 4 of 5, looking ugly in losses to Missouri, Colorado, and Oklahoma, and getting beat at Texas A&M by 8. Even in their win against Baylor, they greatly outplayed the Bears but couldn’t finish easy shots so the game stayed close. They’ll need those buckets to go against Kansas.
The Jayhawks have been impressive so far, but got beat by Texas on the 22nd for their first loss of the season. Kansas is 19-1 straight up, 8-10 ATS. They are led by the Morris brothers and Josh Selby, the young guard, and they can be as good as anyone.
Still, I think Kansas State’s toughness, and need to stay afloat will keep them closer to the 6th-ranked Jayhawks. 11 points is a lot, and this game has become a nice in-state rivalry lately as K-State has an improving program. Give me the big dogs!
Kansas State Wildcats (+11) @ #6 Kansas Jayhawks (1/29) (ESPN)
The No. 23 Florida Gators have a lot to play for when they visit the unranked Mississippi State Bulldogs in a nationally televised SEC conference clash at Humphrey Coliseum on Saturday (1 pm ET, CBS).
Florida has not lost in six road games this season, the only SEC team without a setback away from home. The last time the Gators won six straight on the road was eight seasons ago, and the last time they won this many road games in a season was 2005-06, when they beat out every other team in March Madness and won it all at the NCAA Tournament.
Another source of motivation for the Gators is that Mississippi State was the last SEC West team to beat them – but it’s when that loss occurred that will give Florida its best and biggest reason to blow out the Bulldogs Saturday.
Mississippi State knocked Florida out of the SEC Tournament last March with a 75-69 win, thanks in large part to the Bulldogs’ Barry Stewart hitting five free throws in the last minute. It was Mississippi State’s third win over the Gators in the last four meetings.
And the Bulldogs (10-9 SU, 3-10-1 ATS, 2-3 SEC) appear ripe for the picking, losing seven of their past 10. They’re also at the bottom of most SEC defensive categories, giving up a league-worst 70.6 points per game.
Florida (16-4 SU, 6-8 ATS, 5-1 SEC) has won three straight, the latest a 104-91 win against the Georgia Bulldogs on Tuesday. The Gators cashed as a 3-point road underdog.
Gator guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton each had season highs with 24 points.
The Bulldogs’ latest loss was an 81-74 setback against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Thursday.
I really like the Gators in this one as a 6-point favorite. Check out my latest video at www.smpicks.com.
AFC VS NFC 2011 NFL Pro Bowl Free Pick & Preview: Give me the AFC in this one. I like the Vick/Brees dynamic for the NFC, but Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers give the AFC a nice chance to do work through the air. I doubt Vick will be running all that much, so the threat there isn’t as great. The NFC has nice running backs, but with Chris Johnson, Foster, and Jamaal Charles, the AFC is loaded with game breakers that should do well in this format. I also just think the AFC is the tougher conference, no NFC West on that side. I like them to win this week.
I also think the NFC loses more star power in the Super Bowl. I mean, the Steelers didn’t get a receiver in the pro bowl, Big Ben wasn’t voted in, Mendenhall had a great season, but he wasn’t voted in. I guess they lose something defensively, but the Steelers are full of blitzling linebackers and the Pro Bowl is 4-3 based. Both sides will miss big playmaking stars that are Super Bowl bound, but I think the NFC loses the most with the Packers’ players missing the game.
The AFC just has the tougher group of guys defensively, at least guys that are too competitive to play soft, even in a game like this. They have those key play-makers that I mentioned earlier, CJ and Charles (among many others) and with Manning and Rivers leading the way, accuracy won’t be missing from the AFC.
I like the AFC by a touchdown.
AFC (+1.5) @ NFC
Orlando Magic @ Chicago Bulls Friday Night NBA Basketball Pick: The Magic and the Bulls are two of the best after the Celtics and Heat, and many people see both as possible players for the Eastern Conference Title. I know the Bulls are without Noah, a player who means a ton to them, especially against a guy like Howard – but this game still has some intrigue. Are the Magic playing well enough as a team to get Derrick Rose and the Bulls?
Last time these two teams played, December 1st, the Magic won 107-78 in Chicago, embarrassing the Bulls by out-rebounding them 44-21. That’s one of the most lopsided rebounding games I’ve seen all season. And that was when the Bulls had both Boozer and Noah healthy (though Boozer was just getting his legs under him and Noah did pull down ZERO rebounds in 25 minutes). The Magic also had a different roster as Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, and Marcin Gortat were still on the team. But I don’t see them getting out-worked by Chicago on the glass despite the different circumstances now. The Bulls are without Noah, and the Magic play a better rebounder (Bass) more now that Lewis is in Washington.
The Bulls have won 8 of 10 while the Magic are just 6-4 in their last 10 games. Derrick Rose has been very impressive and Kurt Thomas has filled in nicely of late, though I don’t know who has a chance against Dwight Howard in this one.
Expect the Magic to pound it in the post and win easily if Dwight stays out of foul trouble. Rose is also “questionable” so that’s just one more piece of the puzzle working for the Magic.
Orlando Magic (-1) @ Chicago Bulls (1/28)
Miami Heat @ New York Knicks NBA Free Pick & Preview: The Knicks’ most recent return to being a player in the East has taken a turn for the worse, and they’ve struggled. But it’s nothing that a big win against the Big 3 of Miami couldn’t cure. The Knicks, unlike some other contenders, really get up for games of this magnitude, and it will be interesting to see if they can pull off a win against the D. Wade and the Lebron’s. Let’s be honest, this is more of a Big 2 with Bosh playing the role of Horace Grant. Either way, the bigs inside for Miami should have trouble with Amare, and this one might be a fight.
Neither team has been great of late: the Heat have struggled without all three pieces of their summer in tact, losing 4 of their last 5 and playing 3 overtime games in their last 7 contests. The Knicks, as I mentioned above, have really fallen off after their run of success earlier this season. They’ve lost 6 of their last 7, and health isn’t an issue for them. They’ve had tough opponents, sure, but losses to Phoenix, Sacramento, and Houston won’t get anybody feeling sorry for them. The losses to Sac-Town and the Suns were both at home, too, making matters worse.
But Miami is favored by 3.5 points at New York, and while the Knicks haven’t beaten the Heat yet this season, this looks like their best opportunity to do so. This game is in New York, the Heat are missing their only offensive post presence (Chris Bosh would probably eat up the Knicks on the block), and the Knicks finally won a game last time out (even though it was against the Wizards).
Can Wade and LeBron beat the Knicks without their 3rd wheel? I’m saying no, not this time around. I’ll take the home team dog.
You can read some more on this game over at Just Bet
Miami Heat @ New York Knicks (+3.5) (TNT) (1/27)
San Diego State Aztecs @ BYU Cougars NCAA Basketball Free Pick: San Diego State has had one heck of an undefeated run so far, but they’re going to have to do some serious work to go on the road and beat the battle tested Cougars.
The Cougars have this kid, Jimmer Fredette, you may have heard of him. He scored 42 last time BYU took the court and is averaging 26.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists in 20 games this season. But the Aztecs don’t need to stop Jimmer to win this game, they’ll need to hold onto the ball and out-rebound the Cougars. SDSU shared the ball very well, with 5 players over 32 assists this season. This will be the first ranked team BYU has faced all season.
BYU has a pretty great little guard of their own, D.J. Gay. Gay has been awesome running the show for BYU, giving them some big time quickness that most teams haven’t been able to match up with. But this SDSU team really is a team, they have 6 guys averaging 20+ minutes and 7 or more points per game. They can get you in a lot of different ways. Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas both rebound the ball well and fight for points in the paint. I don’t know if BYU can match up with those two guys.
I think SDSU comes in and gives the favored Cougars a game. This 20-0 run is no joke, they are for real. I like them to win, but I’ll take the 5 points to play with just in case.
#4 San Diego State Aztecs (+5) @ #9 BYU Cougars (1/26)
New York Jets @ Pittsburgh Steelers AFC Conference Championships: I know the Steelers didn’t party like it was 1999 when they beat the Ravens to get a spot in the AFC Championship game. I know they are expecting bigger and better things, with the Super Bowl on their “to do” list. I can’t say the same about the Jets, a team that acted like last week was the first time they’ve ever won a football game before. I think they’ve been great thus far, and getting past the Pats was a major stepping-stone. I’m sure the Steelers are happy about that as well. While both defenses are nasty, and the Steelers lost at home to the Jets once already this season, I still think Pittsburgh has the advantage in this match-up. I’ve already seen Pitt win the Super Bowl, a couple times, and I’ve had plenty of that – but picking with my brain has them getting a chance to ring another finger.
Anytime a team is getting as much hype as the Jets, they aren’t a value pick. I’m sure there’s an exception to that rule, but it’s hard to argue that case. Underdogs often out perform super-teams in terms of the spread, and while nobody is trying to claim that the Jets are the super-team in comparison to the Steelers, nobody can argue that they are the media sweethearts headed into the final weeks of NFL football.
This is a Jets team that talks the talk before walking the walk, though so far their walk isn’t far behind their talk. They put on a show for us with HBO’s “Hard Knocks” then told the Patriots they were going to whip them good all week. The Super-Bowl favorite Patriots. And they did.
But it comes down to mentality, and I think the Jets will lose a bit after “finally” conquering the Patriots last week. If they feel like they’ve already won, that chip has less weight on their collective shoulder. Make it two for two with home team picks this week.
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears NFC Conference Championships: The Bears haven’t been my favorite team this season, but they look pretty impressive defensively. The Packers can have some blocking problems, and with Tommie Harris and Julian Peterson playing well up front, that could be dangerous for the Packers. I love the Packers, I really do – they looked great the last two weeks and Aaron Rodgers looked as good as any QB I’ve seen in a long time. But this game has been close both times these two have played. Green Bay won in Week 17 in Green Bay when the Bears played all their starters despite having nothing to play for. The Packers had to squeak out a 10-3 win in one heck of a battle. Earlier in the season the Bears won in Chicago by 3, and they played very well last week against the Seahawks. I don’t know who wins this game, but the value has to be on the home team dogs.
The “experts” are going with the Packers and so are those talented public bettors. In fact, despite getting more than a field goal at home, the Bears are taking in just 37% of the bets – making Green Bay the overwhelming favorite.
Listen, I know the Packers have completely shut down Jay Cutler (Just 199 passing yards in the first meeting, 117 in the 2nd) but despite that horrid play from the frumpy-faced often color-blind former Bronco, the Bears have stuck right with Green Bay.
As I said above, with playoffs on the line for Green Bay, and nothing but a week off ahead for the Bears, Week 17’s game between the Packers and Bears was a battle. It was a 3-3 tie going into the 4th quarter, and a 1-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Donald Lee was the only touchdown of the game.
This is going to be a battle, and while I love the Packers, I love getting a field goal plus with my home team in this one.