Against the Spread Predictions:

My record against the spread the season is 26-13-1.
As always, you can find my picks every late Friday night by searching the hashtag #SuspectSpreadsSaturday on Twitter.

The odds are according to vegasinsider.com.
If you are in Las Vegas today, enjoy and good luck!

NC Central Men’s Basketball Roster Breakdown

After a rare ESPN telecast of MEAC competitors, I wanted to analyze both the Delaware State Hornets and the NC Central Eagles.  Check my last blog post for the Hornets breakdown.  Here are my thoughts on the Eagles.

NC Central is not a small team.  They have six guys listed at 6′ 7″ or taller.  This is not a surprise, as recruiting comes easier with a popular coach, 30 game home winning streak and tournament appearance.   There are all seniors and juniors in the starting lineup.

I was surprised in watching its home game against Delaware State, that the Eagles couldn’t capitalize on a ton of turnovers to ever take a commanding lead.  Cheap fouls, sloppy turnovers, missed layups, (even an airball) were hallmarks of this game.

NC Central runs a motion offense with a lot of high ball screens and curls at the top of the key.

Jordan Parks (No. 2) shoots great FG%, averages above 15 points per game.  Parks was the recipient of two alley ooop tosses in the first few possessions against Delaware State.

Jeremiah Ingram is a lean but powerful shooting guard.  Ingram dunked a few times with authority against Delaware State.  Ingram is 6′ 7.”  His aggression might even cost him a charging foul in the lane.

Lamar transfer NImrad Hilliard (No. 11) leads his conference in assist and can get to the basket himself.  He was previously on academic probation.

Karamo Jawara has a big body and defends well (especially while floating for a double-team).  Jawara is definitely this team’s “enforcer.”  He is less of an offensive threat.  I was shocked to see Jawara take two three point shots late in the game.  In the first 21 games, he had attempted 41 three pointers, making 34%.

Jamal Ferguson (No. 20) is a sophomore guard and Marquette transfer.  Not sure what the deal was with Marquette, but he is said to have been highly touted out of high school and has upside.

The Eagles end-of-game lineup was as follows:  Jamal Ferguson, Karamo Jawara, Anthony McDonald, Jordan Parks and Nimrod Hilliard.  McDonald hit what would turn out to be the game-winning three pointer.

I don’t think this Eagles team is as good as last year’s team.

Click here to see the full team roster. 

Delaware State Basketball team roster breakdown

Delaware State

This team played at NC Central as it held third place in the MEAC conference (Norfolk State in 2nd) late January.  The Hornets are efficient on offense. They start all upperclassman with exception of one sophomore.

Delaware State looked unafraid as it took several uncontested jump shots early in the shot clock in a game’s start against NC Central.  The guards are loose cannons when it comes to distributing and running the offense.  I witnessed a lot of adrenaline turnovers.  As the game progressed, I was still waiting for Delaware State to run an offense involving feeding the post.  Hornets have way too many unforced turnovers (9 in 17 minutes in the NC Central game).  They also missed a number of layups and chip shots.

Kendall Gray (No. 1) is top five in the nation in rebounding.   He is listed at 6′ 10.”  ESPN broadcaster Stan Lewter says that he has improved from “just a back-to-the basket scorer.”  Gray uses the shot fake often and has decent mid-range touch.  Gray is the all-time shot block leader in Hornets history.  He runs the floor well, finishing with ease on a touch tip-in after trailing on a fast break.  Gray got himself in foul trouble in the game I saw.  Gray only fouled out of one game this season (as of January 30th).

Amere May (No. 44) is an instant-offense type of guy.  He is a 6′ 3″ senior who scored 48 points against Saint Francis (I know) and 32 in an upset of Wake Forest.

Tyshawn Bell is the guy who really jumped out to me.  He is 6′ 7,” can handle the ball in congestion, defends larger players and fills the stat sheet.  He also stayed in the game by guarding wisely.  Bell also hits 3’s with ease (38% on the season after 91 attempts).

Kendall Gray’s guards also allow him to get lost in the offense.  After seeing a game filled with not feeding its NBA prospect, I kept count of how many touches Kendall Gray received in the final five minutes at NC Central.

Possessions with touches: 1) Got to the free-throw line because of a foul away from ball (3:33) although he technically didn’t touch the ball on a possession

Possession without touches: 1) Mays turnover trying to pass to Williams (4:55) 2) Williams step-back three made (4:21) 3) Fast-break drive by DeAndre Haywood led to free-throws (2:56) 4) Failed to feed Gray posting up on the block before Tyshawn Bell hit a late-clock three (1:47) 5) Ironically threw to ball to Gray as the shot clock was already expired (:46) 6) Mays misses a fall-away jump-shot 7) Mays fouled on a missed, desperation three pointer.  Mays missed two of three free throws with 0.4 seconds remaining to lose the game by a point.

Because we all root for teams like Delaware State to compete in March, there is good news.  The formula is fixable.  Feed the NBA prospect the rock.  Only fifty teams in the nation have more turnovers than Delaware State (ranking 290th, that’s bad).  The Hornets are also only 226th overall in assists per game.  If this is going challenge in a March Madness 1-16, 2-15 pairing, May or Gray would have to get red hot.

Click here to see the full roster.

Analyze This: Against the Spread Record for College Basketball Eye Test

K-State and Texas A&M are two of the hottest teams in America.  I picked both teams to cover the spread while going 4-1 this past weekend.  My record is 26-13 on the season.  Here are my conclusions after this weekend’s action:

As I shot this video, Kendal Yancey was running point guard like a Don in a serious comeback attempt in Iowa State.  I feel like, as good as Isaiah Taylor is, he is not a traditional point guard.  He needs to focus more on distributing the ball.  The carousel at point guard for the Longhorns also includes Javan Felix.  Coach Rick Barnes needs to find an offensive solution and do so fast.  This team has the size and talent to compete for a Final Four. And did anyone catch freshman Malik Pope’s performance Saturday?  On the video, I tell you where it ranks in San Diego State history. https://twitter.com/SanDiego_Sports/status/559453376896053248

Predictions: #SuspectSpreadsSaturday Preview

Take the team of the left


Wisconsin -7.5 vs. Michigan
Caris LeVert is out for the season, Derrick Walton is probable, Jon Hortford is in Gainesville, and Glen Robinson III is in the NBA.
Purdue -1.5 vs. Iowa
Isaac Haas vs. Adam Woodbury.  A Bonanza scene in the Hawkeye State.  Let these cowboys duel down low.
Texas A&M +4 @ Tennessee
These programs meet while each has shifted in opposite directions this season.  Transfers into the A&M program have succeeded while players have transferred out of Tennessee.  Alex Caruso and Danuel House have continued to mature in this backcourt.  Yes, the Volunteers can win, but I don’t see it being by three possessions.
Kansas St. PK vs. Oklahoma State
Kansas State is one of the hottest teams in the country.  Had they beat Iowa State the other night, which they were a possession away from, this would be a no-brainier.
Florida State +18 @ North Carolina
I believe Xavier Rathan-Mayes can cover this spread by himself.  The Seminoles have been hit-and-miss, but have only lost by 18+ twice this season.  One was an embarrassing blow-out loss against Providence (at home)!  UNC has beat four teams by more than 18 points (Dayton by 18).  That list includes Robert Morris, East Carolina, UCLA and Clemson.  I just don’t see this happening with the size and knowledge that Florida State has against North Carolina.

Preview: Okafor vs. Obekpa, Duke vs St. John’s at Madison Square Garden

Before Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s historic 1,000th win was accomplished, I offered this review of the history existing between the teams in The Mecca.

On Sunday it will be Jahlil Okafor versus Chris Obekpa at the World’s Most Famous Arena.  Obekpa has the short shorts akin the the Redmen of the 1980s.  Okafor has the offensive post game that is reminiscent of that era.
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The history lives on microfilm.  No, I’m not making reference to the 1938 barn burner that saw Duke lose 25-44 to St. John’s.  I’m talking about the other battles at Madison Square Garden between these two teams.

The November 30, 1985 Chicago Tribune game recap details just one of many classics at MSG. Click here to read the full archive. 

Despite Walter Berry’s career-high 35 points scored, it was Johnny Dawkins of Duke’s last second shot that won the game.  Mark Jackson missed a jumpshot that could have given St. John’s the win.

Those were the days of the Redmen.

In 1999, Ron Artest’s 8th-ranked St. John’s Redmen also fell to Shane Battier’s 2nd-ranked Blue Devils.

In the new millennium, Duke continued its dominance at Madison Square Garden winning 4 of 6 match-ups.  Fittingly, the last game between the two universities at MSG resulted in the son of a New York Knicks player, Anthony Mason Jr., leading St. John’s to victory.
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It’s cliche to say, “There’s something special about St. John’s playing a big game at the Garden.”  But it’s also cliché because it’s true.  Chris Mullen won the first of three Big East Championships on New York’s home floor in 1983.

If you need further proof that this game will be epic, director Spike Lee is already circling the premises.

There is no bigger game this season for St. John’s than this one.  After beginning the season 11-1, the Red Storm have been caught in the rain.  The team’s ill luck was exemplified with Rysheed Jordan’s two-game absence.  His leave occurred early in a skid that saw St. John’s win only 2 of 6 games.  In this last game, it appeared St. John’s was looking past Marquette.  The Red Storm barely fended them off for a win.  St. John’s stands in 8th place in the current Big East.

Duke, on the other hand, has not had an easy month of January itself.  The Blue Devils were upset against NC State and Miami.  They’ve rebounded to defeat 4th-ranked Louisville and Pittsburgh most-recently.

The key will be Jahlil Okafor.  St. John’s has an extremely thin bench, especially when it comes to size.  If Okafor can get Obepka’s short-shorts sat down on the bench with foul trouble early, it could be a long night for St. John’s.  However, this is the game a D’Angelo Harrison attends St. John’s for.  I don’t expect the senior point guard to disappoint.

Duke at St. John’s tip is set for 2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time, 1 p.m. Central.
The Duke Blue Devils are a 6 point favorite, according to vegasinsider.com.
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5 Freshman to Watch in College Basketball and into March Madness

Watching a great college basketball season is like a cooking a great marinara sauce.  A participant may begin by focusing on the main tenants:  veal, beef and pork may get you started.  For the NCAA, the mainstays this year are guys like Kevin Pangos, Montrezl Harrell and Jerian Grant.  You know the flavor you’ll get from those players.

And then there’s a light heat that simmers.  Those are your underclassmen.  Sprinkle in some oregano, eight minutes here, 11 minutes there, a dash of salt and pepper.

Alas, you have a rich vat of college basketball to enjoy.  Here are America’s players who are slow-cooking towards a red-hot mid-March.

1)  Domnique Uhl – Iowa – Forward
Uhl played 20 minutes in a blowout loss to Wisconsin, but these are the moments a coach should get his young guys some experience.  Uhl scored immediately after entering the game with a floater in the lane.  He is still thyme twig skinny, but he’s growing into a roll with the Hawkeyes.

2)  James Blackmon Jr. – Indiana – Guard
Blackmon Jr.’s game is so smooth, he has a Nat King Cole hair-part to match.  Like a big jazz band, he can lull you to sleep but also drop a boom on you.  He has great handle, can hit a jumper from anywhere, and finishes strong at the rim.  His highlight dunks this season include a full facial over Montrezl Harrell (see our beef example above).  Indiana has a big three of scorers.  Blackmon Jr. lets the game come to him and has the luxury of doing so.

3) Kaleb Joseph – Syracuse – Guard
Joseph was recruited to back-up Tyler Ennis.  Then Ennis played one of the best freshman seasons at point guard in college basketball history.  Now Joseph is adjusting to life as a starting point guard.  Add to the difficulty level, Syracuse has lost its Freshman superstar Chris McCullough to injury three games ago.  Joseph is maturing.  He logged a 10 point, 10 assist game in a loss against Villanova.  He also put up 13 points 7 assists in their latest win against Virginia Tech.

4)  L.J. Peak – Georgetown – Forward
Peak is listed as a center here on ESPN.com.  I‘ll break the news for you:  he is not a center.  However, the kid’s got game.  Peak scored 18 against Kansas.  He joins the cast of characters on that Georgetown offense that spread you out, sneak behind your back and break you down.  His high school highlights from Chicago are also impressive:

5)  Chinanu Onuaku – Louisville – Center
If you know anything about Rick Pitino, it’s that he can mold raw big men into productive contributors in March.  We saw this with Gorgui Dieng a few years ago.  He entered the Cardinals lineup as a freakishly raw talent.  Shortly after, he was hitting 15 foot jump shots to win a national championship against Michigan.  Give the credit to Onuaku so far.  The brother of the former Syracuse Orange big man has produced.  The Duke and Kentukcy games have taught us, however, that Louisville needs more help on defense and rebounding.  Watch for Onuaku’s attitude to gel nicely with Harrell’s “not in my house” mantra in March.