Duke Visits North Carolina in ACC Showdown

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The college basketball regular season is coming to a close and that means each game is vitally important. Tonight, one of the biggest rivalries of the past 20 seasons takes place in Chapel Hill when the North Carolina Tar Heels host the Duke Blue Devils in an ACC showdown.

The first time the two met this season, the game lived up to its billing and more. No. 3 ranked Duke on the season is 27-3 SU and 16-13-1 ATS. No. 19 ranked North Carolina is 21-9 SU and 16-13-1 ATS.

The current line has North Carolina favored by 1 point with the point total on 156.5.

On February 18, Duke rallied from a deficit of 10 points late in the game to send the game to overtime at home versus UNC. In OT, the Blue Devils pulled out the game 92-90.

Senior Quinn Cook and freshman Tyus Jones scored 22 points each in the game. Brice Johnson scored 18 points and grabbed 12 boards for the Tar Heels, while teammate Kennedy Meeks scored 18. UNC easily covered as an 8.5-point visiting dog.

That extended the trend in this series of the visiting team covering. The away team is 12-4 ATS over the past 16 games between the two teams.

Both teams were dominant in their last games played. UNC routed Georgia Tech by 32 points on Tuesday and is 4-1 ATS in its past 5 games overall.

Duke defeated Wake Forest by 43 points on Wednesday. In its past 10 games played, Duke is 10-0 SU and 6-4 ATS.

UNC has won three straight at home over Duke. Last season, UNC rallied to defeat Duke at home 74-66. However, since 1998-99, UNC at home is 6-10 SU against Duke.

Duke will be the No. 2 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament, while the Tar Heels are tied with Louisville and UNC can only keep the fourth seed if Louisville loses.

Duke should be a No. 1 seed in one of the four regions in the NCAA Tournament, while it is thought North Carolina will be a No. 5 or 6 seed.

The UNDER has cashed in 6 of the past 7 games between the two teams in Chapel Hill. UNC has covered the number in just 1 of its past 8 games played at home.

There is not much difference between these two teams. A short number on UNC would be a good pick, while the OVER looks even better.

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Duke in Hot Water Plus Take it Easy on LeBron People

Coach K
Coach K

I certainly hope Mike Krzyzewski did all the right things pertaining to a former player's alleged sexual assault.

Duke University is finding itself once again embroiled in a sexual assault case but this time around it isn’t the storied LaCrosse program. This time around the stakes are much higher because the spotlight is now on the most prominent person at the University and that would Head Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Back in late January, Coach K dismissed Rasheed Sulaimon for “repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations.” Now as it turns out, Sulaimon is alleged to have been in two different sexual assaults at the school.

Both accusers allegedly told people about the alleged attacks but did not go to anyone of authority. Options included the Durham Police as well as the Office of Student Conduct on campus. According to ESPN, the two women chose not to got to authorities because they feared what could come from the Duke fan base. If you think that line of thinking is wrong then read the story about the reporter who covered the Jameis Winston case in Tallahassee, Florida.

He was barraged with death threats and was attacked at every turn for simply doing his job as an investigative reporter.

I have no idea if what took place with Sulaimon and the two women involved but that won’t be the biggest story about this by a long shot if there is evidence that Mike Krzyzewski knew about this and did nothing. Coach K has power beyond belief on the Duke campus but people also said the same thing about Joe Paterno and Penn State and we know how that ended up.

If ESPN’s sources are accurate, then Krzyzewski did indeed know about about the alleged assaults as far back as as March of 2014.

I am in no way suggesting that this is on par with the events of Penn State; hopefully nothing ever will be again. But this can’t be waved away, not in 2015 where the media and more importantly social media are everywhere. We’ve already seen a legendary coach taken down for not doing enough. I sure would hate to see it happen to another.

LeBron

Fans need to check their memories a bit when it comes to the greats missing shots like LeBron did.

Take it easy on King James

I’ve written in these very pages before that I will never view LeBron James in the same stratosphere as Michael Jordan and the most simple reason why is the lack of a killer instinct. That said, the people throwing darts at James for his two missed free throws with just four seconds remaining in Houston the other night need to chill out.

“Jordan would have never missed those! Kobe wouldn’t have missed those either!”

I’ve got news for you folks… Both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant missed plenty of game-winning shots during their careers. To say they didn’t means you have not seen enough of either of them because I’ve seen it and I know many others have too.

Like I said, I will never be able to place James above His Airness simply because he lacks the titles but just as importantly he lacks the killer instinct that drove Jordan so hard. That’s not his fault, it’s just how it is. Either way, lay off LeBron for crying out loud. There isn’t a professional alive who hasn’t missed key shots down the stretch.

Sometimes I wonder what universe you people are living in when you say “Jordan would have never missed those.”

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ACC Coastal Division Odds for 2014

Fedora
Fedora

Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels are looking to capture the ACC Coastal Division.

As my tour around college football continues, today is the ACC Coastal.

North Carolina 7/4 – The Tar Heels have seven starters back on defense but three of those that are gone went to the NFL. The offense returns eight players but one of the three gone is tight end Eric Ebron who was an absolute stud for UNC. Other than Notre Dame, the non-conference schedule is not overly difficult. Besides the Irish, the Heels also have road trips to Clemson, Virginia and Miami. I see UNC finishing with seven to eight wins this year.

Miami 3/1 – Al Golden enters his fourth year with a 22-15 record and seven starters returning on each side of the ball. QB Jake Heaps who is with his third team now, seems to have the keys to the offense but Golden has yet to commit. The Canes were selected as the favorites to win the Coastal and that possibility obviously exists with their talent. Miami opens at the team they last saw in a game and that’s ACC newcomer Louisville who blasted the Canes in last season’s Russell Athletic Bowl. They also have trips to Nebraska, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech as well. They do get Florida State and Duke at home. The division title is there for them but is the schedule too much?

Beamer

I have a feeling Frank Beamer and the Hokies will challenge for the Coastal Division if not win it.

Virginia Tech 3/1 – The Hokies return nine starters on offense but just five on defense from a team that struggled last season with just eight wins and a blowout bowl loss to UCLA. QB Logan Thomas is gone and I think that’s a good thing as he never lived up to expectations. Despite few starters back on D, the talent is there especially in the secondary and on the D-Line. If the offensive line can gel, then the Hokies are a legitimate threat to win the division. The tough road trips are to Ohio State, North Carolina and Duke.

Duke 6/1 – The Blue Devils return eight starters on offense and six on defense as they look to follow up last year’s division title. Duke must replace three starters on the defensive line and Anthony Boone is the only QB with experience. The Blue Devils should roll to a 4-0 record against weak non-conference opponents but then they have four conference road games in their next five and among them are trips to Miami, Pitt, Syracuse and Georgia Tech. I do not see repeat for Duke in 2014.

Georgia Tech 8/1 – The Yellow Jackets return just 10 starters from last year’s team that featured some big wins and heartbreaking losses. Because of the offensive system, losing backs isn’t usually a big deal. Coach Paul Johnson just reloads in the backfield. Other than Georgia to finish the season, the non-conference slate is easy. Besides the trip to Athens, GT also has trips to Virginia Tech, North Carolina and NC State. If the defense comes together, the Jackets can be a threat in the division.

Pitt 25/1 – The Panthers come off of a 6-7 record in Paul Chryst’s first year in Pittsburgh. Eight starters return on offense and just five on defense. Pitt will rely on a new quarterback but he’ll have the benefit of receiver Tyler Boyd who was even better than Larry Fitzgerald was as a freshman. Tough road games are at Boston College, North Carolina and Miami. 6-6 is very possible again in the Steel City.

Virginia 25/1 – With 16 starters (9-Off/7-Def) returning, Mike London has no more excuses especially considering the solid recruiting class as well. London is one of America’s ‘coaches on the hot seat.’ The first four games will tell the story for the 2014 Cavaliers. They host UCLA, Richmond and Louisville and then travel to BYU. The only way London survives is by getting to a bowl game and even that isn’t a guarantee.

The Pick: I have a feeling Coach Frank Beamer will have his Hokies ready to be back among the elite in the ACC.The Tar Heels could put pressure on both Miami and the Hokies but I’m not sure I’m buying the UNC hype.

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A Look at Favorites and Long-Shots As I Pick the Final Four

Donovan
Donovan

Billy Donovan points the way to Florida's third basketball championship.

The NCAA Basketball Tournament starts today and like the rest of you, my brackets are completed and have been submitted. I’m certainly not going to bore you with every one of my picks but in case you want to throw some last minute money on a team I’m going to give you the odds on the favorites and a couple of long-shots as well as my Final Four.

Florida 11/2 – I really don’t care how good or bad a conference is. If you go unbeaten in conference play you’re doing something right. This has been the most consistent team all year long despite having a very average offense. The defense is very good and Coach Billy Donovan has solid senior experience.

Michigan State 7/1 – The Spartans have become the overwhelming pick to not only get to the Final Four but to win the whole thing as well. Their run through the Big Ten Tournament masked some of the issues that plagued them in the season including their bevy of injuries. Are they peaking at the right time?

Louisville 13/2 – Speaking of peaking at the right time, the defending National Champs blitzed the field in their conference tournament and quite frankly, deserved a higher seed. Louisville will have experience on their side but they are under .500 in single-digit games and their free throw shooting is brutal.

Miller

Sean Miller has the Wildcats in prime position for a title run.

Arizona 9/1 – Since losing forward Brandon Ashley the Wildcats have gone 9-4. They were 21-0 prior to that. Despite the loss, I still think the ‘Cats are a threat because of their defense. If they can get just enough offense from their guards and big men they have a serious shot.

Virginia 10/1 – The Cavs aren’t exactly a scoring machine but they make up for that loss of points with stifling defense. They have held opponents to around 55 points per game. In the big dance, you win with defense, rebounding and a solid backcourt and Virginia has all three.

Wichita State 10/1 – What can you say? The Shockers are 34-0; score 74 points per game while giving up almost 20 points less per game. They have plenty of experience from last year’s Final Four run and play very efficient basketball. Do you trust their weak schedule though?

Kansas 10/1 – The Jayhawks will begin the tourney without Joel Embiid for at least the first round and possibly more. I would go so far as to say I don’t think you’ll see him at all. KU is just 2-3 since his back injury and their turnovers need to be reduced. Andrew Wiggins can carry this team but how far?

Duke 12/1 – My concern with the Blue Devils is rebounding and going cold. They rely so heavily on the three-point shot that going cold is a death sentence. Jabari Parker can take over games at times but he will need help to advance the Dookies very far.

Long-Shots (50/1 or Lower)

Ohio State 66/1 – The Buckeyes started so well this season and never really seemed to recover from their mid-season swoon. Thad Matta can flat-out coach in the tournament so keep an eye on them.

Providence 200/1 – The Friars come in as hot as anyone having blown through the competition to win the Big East. They aren’t real deep which is an issue but they rebound well and knock down their free throws as well.

North Carolina State 300/1 – The Wolfpack picked up a couple of big wins in the ACC Tournament to get themselves into a play-in game. They took advantage by beating Xavier to make the Big Dance. They must improve their three-point shooting and foul shooting to have a legitimate chance.

Tulsa 1,000/1 – The Golden Hurricane has won 11 straight games and is coached by Danny Manning who once carried Kansas to a National Title. Why couldn’t he do the same from the bench?

FINAL FOUR PICKS: Florida, Arizona, Louisville, Iowa State.

NATIONAL CHAMPION: Florida. Good defense, leadership, coaching and consistency add up to a title.

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Duke 7.5 Chalk at Home, Florida double-digit Favorite …

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Duke hosts North Carolina on Saturday looking to bounce back against the streaking Tar Heels. North Carolina, ranked No. 14, is 23-7 SU and 16-14 ATS.

The Tar Heels have won 12 straight games and faceoff against Duke, ranked No. 4 in the nation at 23-7 SU and 17-12-1 ATS.

The game will be played at Cameron Indoor Stadium. In the first matchup of the season, North Carolina defeated Duke 74-66 as a 2-point dog on February 20.

In the 12-game winning streak, the Tar Heels covered the first 9 games but have failed to cover in their past 3. However, North Carolina has covered in 7 of its past 8 visits to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The current line on Bovada has Duke favored at home by 7.5 points. However, Duke has had leadership problems this season and has struggled lately from beyond the three-point line, which is not a good sign heading toward the home stretch in the regular season.

The win streaking by North Carolina is the longest it has had since it was 13-0 to start the 2008-09 season. The Tar Heels have won their past three games by four points or fewer.

Duke is 12-7-1 ATS on its home court and 1-4-1 against the number in its past six games played. The UNDER has cashed in 5 of the past 6 games Duke has played.

The UNDER has cashed in 9 of the past 11 games the two teams have played head to head. Duke has covered the spread in 6 of the past 9 games following a loss against the spread.

The Blue Devils were embarrassed during the week losing to Wake Forest after being a double-digit chalk. That most likely lit a fire under the Tar Heel players and they should have additional motivation to win this matchup.

Duke has more talent and the home court advantage the Blue Devils enjoy at home is huge. Duke is a perfect 16-0 at home this season.

Pick: Duke by 11

Kentucky ranked No. 25 in the nation visits the No. 1 ranked Florida Gators. The Gators are 28-2 SU and 12-11-3 ATS. Kentucky is 22-8 SU and 14-13-2 ATS.

Florida was a 2.5-point dog in the first matchup and won outright on February 15.

On topbet and betonline, Florida is favored by 8.5 points. With a win, Florida can go to 18-0 for the first time in SEC play.

Kentucky won its last time out over Alabama by 7 points to avoid three straight losses. Kentucky is second in the SEC at 12-5 but trails Florida by 5 games.

The UNDER has gone 7-2 over the past 9 games Kentucky has played. Kentucky has covered just 3 of its past 17 games played on the road.

Pick: Florida by 15 and the UNDER

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Arizona laying 4.5 at California, Syracuse Favored by 2.5 …

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Saturday’s lineup of college hoops is highlighted by two great matchups featuring the top two ranked teams in the country. In one, No. 2 ranked Syracuse hosts No. 6 ranked Duke, while in the other No. 1 ranked Arizona visits a tough California team.

Syracuse is 20-0 SU and 13-3 ATS this season and has gone 6-0 against the number in his past six games. They will face a Duke team that is 17-4 SU and 13-8 ATS. Duke also has cashed tickets as they have covered in their past 4 games during a 5-0 SU run.

Duke is shooting over 41% from 3-point territory and has 194 treys on the season, which is sixth in the nation. The Blue Devils love an up-tempo game and average over 81 points per game.

Duke has not played since Monday, giving them ample opportunity to practice against the formidable zone defense of Syracuse.

The Orange is holding opponents to just 58 points a game on 41 % shooting overall.

The defense for Duke is no slouch, over the past five games, the defense has held its opponents to 42% shooting while forcing over 13 turnovers each game.

Jim Boeheim the Syracuse head coach said that Duke is currently playing as good as or better than any other ACC team.

The UNDER has cashed in 7 of the past 8 Syracuse games. The Orange has gone 6-1-1 over its past eight games at home.

Duke has a record of 7-3 against the number over its past 10 games versus teams with a winning percentage higher than .600.

Bovada currently has Syracuse listed as the favorite by 2.5 points.

Pick: Duke 72-69

The Arizona Wildcats are tops in the nation at 21-0 SU and 13-7 ATS. They have gone 0-3 ATS over their past three games. Tonight they face a tough California team that is 14-7 SU and 10-10 against the number.

Sportsbooks like topbet, betonline and sportsbook.com have Arizona favored by 4.5 points.

Arizona has struggled against the Golden Bears of California. Last season Arizona lost at home 77-69 to California and is 1-3-1 ATS over the past five games versus California.

On Wednesday, Arizona showed why it is number one in the nation holding the Stanford Cardinal to just a single field goal in its last 16 possession to earn a big 60-57 victory.

Arizona however was just 18 of 29 from the free throw line. Stanford also outrebounded the Wildcats.

While Arizona has played well of late, Cal is 0-3 SU as well as 0-3 ATS over its past three games including a loss at home 89-78 in overtime to Arizona State. Cal is now 10-1 SU at home this season.

The Wildcats are 5-1 ATS over their last six games on the road and 14-5 against the number in their past 19 games against a team with a winning percentage above .500.

Cal has a record of 11-5 ATS over its past 16 games versus teams that have a winning percentage higher than .600.

The underdog has a record of 3-0-1 ATS over the past four games between the two schools.

Pick: Arizona 73-65

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Great College Hoops Action Tonight

Patterson
Patterson

Lamar Patterson and the Pitt Panthers host Duke in a big ACC match-up.

In making my transition from the National Football League and college football, I’ve been able to focus some attention on the NBA but now I finally am returning to the last place where basketball truly is played as close to the way it was intended as possible. It used to be that Monday night was always the biggest night in college hoops action but these days you can find big games nearly every night across your television dial.

This Monday night however feels like a throwback with classic Big East and Big 12 match-ups and a potentially new rivalry in the ACC. Let’s get to them shall we?

Duke (+3.5) at Pitt – As it’s maiden voyage into Atlantic Coast Conference continues, the highlight of said voyage arrives for Pitt tonight. The Duke Blue Devils come to Western Pennsylvania for the first time with both schools being members of the same conference. Not surprisingly, this has been the hottest ticket in Pitt basketball history as students have braved the cold to camp out and hope for tickets.

The Panthers are unbeaten at home in the Petersen Events Center and they will need to rely on their very efficient shooting and unselfish play to beat the Devils. While this isn’t the usual dominant Duke teams we’ve seen in the past but this is still a very good team under Coach K. Pitt is 5-1-1 against the spread in their last seven games while the Blue Devils are just 1-4 against the spread in their last five road contests.

Look for big games from Lamar Patterson of Pitt and Jabari Parker of Duke but it might be the scrappy guys who make the difference. Take the Panthers giving the points to win at home.

Smart

Marcus Smart leads the Cowboys into Norman to face the Sooners.

Oklahoma State (-3) at Oklahoma – The 11th ranked Cowboys travel to Norman to play their rivals and 25th-ranked Sooners. Oklahoma State is 16-3 while Oklahoma is 16-4. Both schools already have two losses in Big 12 Conference play while conference leader Kansas is 6-0. The Cowboys are 2-5 against the spread in their last seven road games and they are also 1-4 against the spread in their last five road games at Llyod Noble Center in Norman.

OK State is led by  Marcus Smart and Markel Brown who average about 17 and 16 points respectively per game. Cameron Clark and Buddy Hield of Oklahoma average almost the exact same points per game respectively as well.

The Sooners are 19-4 straight up in their last 23 games at home but I like the Cowboys to cover because of a little bit tougher schedule.

Villanova (-5) at Georgetown – The #4 Wildcats hit the road to the nation’s capitol where a rather disappointing Hoyas’s team  is waiting for them. At 17-2, Villanova trails Big East Conference newcomer by just a half a game for the Big East lead. Georgetown is just 11-8 but is just 3-5 in the Big East Conference.

Jayvaughn Pinkston and James Bell each average 15 points per game to lead ‘Nova. The Hoyas are led by D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera who averages 17 points per game and Markel Starks who averages 16 points per game. The difference between the two teams however is that Villanova gets more scoring from other players than Georgetown does and that explains Villanova scoring about ten points more per game than the Hoyas.

The Wildcats are 1-4 against the spread when playing at Verizon Center in Georgetown while the Hoyas are 8-2 straight up in their last ten against Villanova. I expect that Georgetown will play well but these are drastically different teams. I look for Villanova to cover and get the win in Big East play.

 

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