Dinero Tracker - Feb. 8
February 8, 2018
By Tony Mejia
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Last night's ATS Records
NBA: 4-1-1 | NCAA BB: 9-14-1
Wednesday was one we’ll all have no trouble storing away in the memory bank. There are always going to be rough nights, so an ugly college hoops performance isn’t what I’m referring to. For the third time in the last calendar year, three Top 10 teams lost at home on the same night, something that hadn’t happened since 1977 before it happened last season on Feb. 4. Mix in a historic regular-season NBA game that has to rank among the most entertaining over the past few years since it featured a league-record 40 3-pointers made and Feb. 7 is going to be hard to top as far as being the wildest night of 2018. Pelicans-Pacers got canceled because of a roof leak. The upset bug was biting all night long, even catching Hawai’i at home against a UC-Riverside team that hadn’t won a Big West game all season. An intense few hours on a night where lines were razor sharp and made it feel like March. Hopefully far better results will be in store in a month’s time, because I got lit up in college for the first time this month and was too often on the receiving end of bad breaks given all the wild twists. Four college losses came by one point or fewer. The lone NBA loss, which came on my guarantee to snap a seven-game winning streak, was cemented on a rare LeBron James’ buzzer-beater that’s going to be pretty unforgettable given the Cavs’ dire state. It was an incredible night, both riveting and frustrating. Of the three Top 10 teams that were beat outright, I was only on Texas A&M against Auburn. The NBA lock is now 17-for-24 (70.8%) since Jan. 11. Here's Wednesday's recap, complete with some of the highlights (and lowlights):
THURSDAY'S FREE SELECTION
The pick: Oregon -5
The Ducks have slipped back to 5-5 in Pac-12 play in a season where the conference is undeniably down, so Dana Altman's team badly needs to get on track over the next three weeks. Look for an increased sense of urgency to fuel Oregon here since its a big swing game considering it will be favored against Washington State this weekend and then can make significant closing statements in a four-game stretch against the league's top teams, USC, UCLA, Arizona State and Arizona. The Ducks can still rescue their season. It just has to start tonight against the sizzling Huskies, who have pulled off four straight league wins, three of them upsets. Look for Elijah Brown and Payton Pritchard to have big games and lay the points, riding Oregon.
WEDNESDAY'S FREE SELECTION
The pick: Villanova -16.5
Wildcats head coach Jay Wright will certainly have an easier time getting his top-ranked team's attention thanks to Duke's weekend assist. The Blue Devils managed to lose to St. John's 81-77 at Madison Square Garden, looking they couldn't be bothered to defend for an entire afternoon. The Red Storm are still 0-11 in the Big East but now carry a target on their back as a team that beat one of the nation's most talented teams. A 'Nova squad that surrendered 37 points to Shamorie Ponds in their Jan. 13 78-71 win at the Garden knows exactly what it could have on their hands at home if they allow him to find a rhythm, so I'd expect a focused effort to prevent this from being even remotely close. Lay the points and ride Villanova.
Result: Our three-game freebie win streak ended with a spectacular failure, as Villanova got beat at home 79-75. I didn't expect Eric Paschall to sit, but there's no excuse for this loss. They settled for too many jumpers when the shot, reliable all season, stopped falling for a change. St. John's outright win paid +1500 if you chose to ignore my opinion, since I'd have given the Red Storm absolutely no shot to pull this off. It was St. John's first win over a top-ranked foe since 1985, back when Chris Mullin was playing. Now he's coaching, suddenly doing so remarkably well.
The pick: Minnesota -2.5
The Cavs took their struggles to a new low in last night's crippling defeat at the hands of the Magic in Orlando. Blowing a 16-point lead to a team down its two most talented players shows both no heart or cohesion, so with Jimmy Butler leading the Timberwolves into town as one of the few athletes capable of locking down LeBron James while making him work on defense, this is a great situation to pile on and ride Minnesota-2.5, guaranteed. For the in-game parlay, back the over.
Result: James and Butler were brilliant, delivering down the stretch in a fantastic duel. LeBron prevented his Cavs from losing another game by turning in an epic performance (37 points, 10 rebounds, 15 assists), making 3-pointers to answer Minnesota makes in regulation and then blocking Butler's game-winning shot attempt on its last possession of OT. He then caught a pass he should've had no access to since he should've been double-teamed, wheeled and drilled a game-winning fadeaway to close a 140-138 win. The over obviously came in, but the Timberwolves not coming through stung.
LOCK THAT DIDN'T CLICK
The pick: Virginia Tech/N.C. State OVER 161
Kevin Keatts has finally gotten the Wolfpack to turn the corner as they take a three-game winning streak into Blacksburg. Currently fourth in the ACC, NC State is just one game up on Virginia Tech, which is sitting in the ninth spot at 5-5 in a tightly-packed race. Both teams will be comfortable playing at a fast pace since the visitors will be able to do damage around the rim and the Hokies should use their speed to excel at home. Ride the over for Wednesday's college hoops guaranteed winner in what should be a high-scoring affair where both teams top the 80-point mark.
Result: This one hurt, coming on the heels of the OT loss in Cleveland. It looked great when the Wolfpack closed to within 61-55 with just under 12 minutes still left, but the rally hit a wall after that. Keatts opted not to foul late in the game, pressing but then pulling back and defending once the Hokies broke it. Virginia Tech won 85-75, taking us to the brink by shooting 63.5 percent from the field. We fell short due to N.C. State's lulls and 10-for-30 3-point shooting. Had State made just one more, chicken dinner would've been served.
The pick: Kansas State/Texas UNDER 133.5
The expectation here is that Bruce Weber will take his chances with his experienced guards in a low-possession game where they will be able to break pressure but then must be wary of rushing down and wasting possessions. Mo Bamba's presence should limit second chances and slow the tempo down considerably in this Big 12 clash. Ride the under.
Result: While this one went as expected, I consider this my most fortunate win on a night where games consistently fell just short. If there hadn't been a lack of foul calls in the second half of Kansas State's 67-64 win in this Big 12 bubble battle, we'd have hit the bonus early and seen a much higher score. It also helped that the teams combined to shoot 6-for-23 in the second half, combining for just 10 fast-break points.
The pick: Penn State -4.5/OVER 140
The Terps go out on the road looking to try and improve on a 1-6 road record after beating Wisconsin over the weekend, but they haven't won consecutive games in Big Ten play. With Michael Cekovsky still expected to be out with his heel issue, Maryland is down another rim protector and have no safety net if Bruno Fernando gets into foul trouble. The Nittany Lions have put together four straight strong efforts and have an elite scorer in Tony Carr capable of sealing a win down the stretch. Lay the points with Penn State and ride the over for the in-game parlay.
Result: This early start set the tone for a disappointing night. The Nittany Lions had this parlay looking great for most of the second half, going up double-digits with eight minutes left. They struggled against pressure, got Mike Watkins the ball as an outlet in their press break and suffered the consequences since he's their worst free-throw shooter. Still, after the Terps missed their final shot attempt, Watkins wound up with the rebound and could've delivered the cover by making just one of two free-throws. He missed both. Penn State won 74-70
SWING AND A MISS
The pick: Purdue -10
Chris Holtmann is back in Indiana coaching a game for the first time since leaving Butler, and the Boilermakers aren't going to make it an enjoyable experience. This group of Buckeyes didn't have to play in West Lafayette last season and has yet to play an excellent team in a true road game. Ohio State's depth issues should be glaring tonight, especially with Kam Williams suspended. Lay the points and ride Purdue to roll here.
Result: Holtmann added to his national Coach of the year resume by keeping his team together despite Purdue racing out to a 14-point lead with just over 10 minutes left. Given the atmosphere at Mackey, which Holtmann later called the best he'd ever coached in, it was surreal to see the Boilermakers fade like they did. Keita Bates-Diop continued his dream season and the Buckeyes found a way to outrebound a massive Purdue team in its house, winning the game on a Bates-Diop putback with 2.8 left. At that point, the cover had long been blown and a short-handed group that I expected would wilt had already proven me wrong. Freshmen Kaleb Wesson and Musa Jallow made huge shots. Ohio State ended Purdue's 19-game winning streak, closing its run at home at 21 to take control of the Big Ten race.
PROOF OF CLAIRVOYANCE
The pick: Texas A&M +6.5
The Aggies have fared tremendously against teams that want to press them, beating West Virginia and Arkansas at home. It will be tougher to fare well on the road, but they beat Auburn by 19 points last season and have guards Duane Wilson and Armon Gilder available to help settle everyone down and handle the atmosphere and constant hassling. Rebounding should be a major factor in what should be a tight, exciting game. Take the points with Texas A&M.
Result: The Aggies played with the desperation I expected they would carry into this one and imposed their will in the paint, utilizing that edge in rebounding to pull off a huge upset despite blowing a 17-point lead. A&M guards Wilson and Gilder came up huge, with the former drawing a foul with 3.5 seconds left and making a game-winning free-throw for an 81-80 win to hand Auburn its first home loss of the season in 13 outings.
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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