Suspect Spreads Saturday 2 Weeks before Selection Sunday

Of my predictions this season, my record is 35-19.  Here are my predictions for today.  Take the team on the left.

Dayton +6.5 @ VCU
Georgia -14 vs. Mizzou
Texas +7 @ KU
Villanova -2 @ Xavier
UNI +7 @ Wichita State

Here is a history of my selections so far this season:
(Starting with the most recent)

Suspect Spreads Saturday Soaring Success

It’s a Matty D Guarantee.  My picks will finish the season with an above .500 record.  If you’re a new visitor to my blog, I make five predictions every Saturday for college basketball.  I use the Vegas odds as my guide.  Because, well, there’s no skill in predicting that a 26 point favorite (see Kentucky over Auburn) will win a game.

After suffering my first 1-4 week of the season, I rebounded on Valentine’s Day.  I have scored back-to-back 4-1 weekends.  My record for the season stands at 35-19 (with one tie).

If you’re on Twitter, check out a log of my predictions by searching the hashtag #SuspectSpreadsSaturday.  I expose what Las Vegas odds are “suspect,” as in questionable in nature. You get it.

Here is a history of my selections so far this season:
(Starting with the most recent)

St. John’s at Georgetown: 1st Half stats tell the full Eye Test

The Johnnies went into Washington, D.C. riding a three game winning streak.

First and foremost: the A team of all College Basketball A Teams, Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery, were on the Fox Sports 1 call.

Secondly, the first half told the full tale of the tape.

Seldom-used Florida International transfer Joey De La Rosa got the start against a like-bodied, thick Josh Smith.  In the beginning sequences, the big bodies banged equally against each other.  They essentially canceled each other out and the tone was set as a perimeter/transition game.

I have been questioning what’s happened to former starting St. John’s center Chris Obekpa.  A friend on Twitter tells me he’s been hobbled by an ankle injury.  If D’Angelo Harrison was the soul of this quad, Obekpa had been the heart.  Yet, he hasn’t played in all but 35 minutes in 4 games since an elbow disqualified him in a game against Butler. Obekpa just played 13 minutes against Georgetown.  He is a 6’10” junior from Nigeria.

Isaac Copeland was aggressive early for Georgetown.  This kid played the power forward as a small lineup was trotted out there with Smith in early foul trouble.  Copeland finished with 11 points.

Neither team could buy a bucket in the early going.

Obekpa entered the game at the 15:15 mark while St. John’s trailed just 5-2.

He quickly left the game after a back-and-forth tempo put the game at an 11-7 Georgetown advantage.

The center from Rome, Italy Amar Alibegovic saw some minutes immediately.  Alibegovic hit a three-pointer in transition and fed a three-point basket from a post assist on consecutive possessions.

De La Rosa returned at the 11 minute mark (still first half). Alibegovic stayed in, giving St. John’s a rare zone defense with a unique combination of players.  Smith missed a jump-hook in one possession, but the Hoyas quickly gobbled up an offensive rebound after the post defense had sucked in.

Alibegovic answered with a dunk in transition.

De La Rosa logged 3 fouls in 12 minutes.

As Gus Johnson points out, Georgetown is still in need of a point guard.  The eye test tells you that Smith-Rivera and Trawick are shooting guards chipping in at point.  Smith-Rivera completed the game with 6 assists, so there was no shortage of sharing.

In an extremely upbeat first half, Georgetown finished a majority of drives.  A Mikael Hoplins dunk on a transition put back put the Hoyas up 26-19, capping an 11-0 run.

Georgetown led at haltime 33-23.  The Hoyas held D’Angelo Harrison (4th all-time career scorer at St. John’s) to 0-5 shooting from the field.  Rysheed Jordan was also held scoreless in the first half.

St. John’s turned the ball over 12 times resulting in 13 transition points.

Georgetown won by a final score, 79-57.

smith rivera in pregame

Against the Spread Predictions: Ohio State at Michigan State and more

So there I was, gliding along on the season with my predictions.  I tweeted smack talk, saying how I was 66% correct on the season (26-13).  That’s when the full court press caught me.  Like a stunned offense in front of the Cameron Crazies, I needed a timeout.

I licked my wounds, re-watched tape, and debrief on two of my worst losses.  You can see my posts about what SMU and Stl John’s taught me by picking against them.

This week I will tone it down in attitude and rely on “what got me here.”  My eye test still hasn’t failed me.  I can live with a 27-17 record, for now.

This week I would like to take Old Dominion getting 4 1/2 points at UTEP, but I just haven’t seen enough of either team.

I”ll nickname this week “the icing on the cake.”

VCU has lost a couple times since losing Briante Weber.  Conference rivals  like Dayton, George Washington and Temple have been eager to seize the moment.  I trust point guard Joe McDonald to handle the Havoc defense.  I see the Eric Snow play-alike to capture this win.  In a pick ’em, I have to take George Washington as an “icing on the cake” for their testimony towards postseason.

I like Michigan State to actually cover 2 1/2 points against Ohio State.  I keep looking at that line thinking Ohio State is a gimme, but I think that coach Tom Izzo will find a answer to De’Angelo Russell.  I think a Spartans win would be the “icing on the cake,” for Michigan State to be an official pain in the committee’s decision-making behind.

Can you envision Tom Izzo’s team in the NIT?

Give me St. John’s getting eight.  They’re on Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket as a play-in 12 seed.  A win *at Xavier would be the icing on the cake for the Storm to stay on that inside the bubble fold.

Iowa State is a 3 or 4 seed.  It’s much more dangerous to be a 5 or 6 seed.  Saturday will be the icing on the cake for Iowas State to separate its cream from the crop of Big 12 teams.  I think they’ll throttle West Virginia.

And, finally, Villanova is in similar position as are the Iowa State Cyclones.  Villanova beat a quality Providence team wire-to-wire the other night.  I expect the Wildcats to hold serve and hold on to that projected 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  A win at Butler would all but guarantee this, especially if they par-out the rest of the way.  Give me Villanova minus two points.

Here is a history of my selections so far this season:
(Starting with the most recent)

St. Mary’s or BY whU ‘Ya Got?

Yeah, yeah.  We know all about Gonzaga.  Most athletic Zaga squad ever, all the size you’d want, Kyle Wiltjer gained Herculean strength during his year off.

But AT LEAST one other WCC team will make the NCAA Tournament.

BYU or St. Mary’s:  Who YOU got?

After watching the first of two games this season, I blogged about how both teams could make a Sweet 16 run.  St. Mary’s was the more impressive, but BYU was also down a man.  Click here to read my full game recap from mid-January. 

In the second game between these two teams, BYU again proved that it can score in transition.

On the flip side, BYU does not get much offensive production on its offensive front court.  On the defensive end, much of the same.  At least the Cougars switch up their defensive schemes, double-team, help defense and try to confuse.  If BYU plays another quality shooting team in March; say an Ohio State, Arkansas, Indiana or North Carolina, take the over.

For storylines, you’d take St. Mary’s.  They have five veteran seniors with serious “skin in the game.”  One, point guard Aaron Bright was the 2012 NIT MVP with Stanford.  The next season he dislocated a shoulder and missed an entire season.  With Stanford point guard Chasson Randle coming up, Bright transferred to St. Mary’s in 2013.  He’s now 22-years-old.

Second, back-court mate Kerry Carter also took five years to ripen after three years at Citrus College of the Western State Conference.

Third, small forward Garrett Jackson started his collegiate career at USC.  You’ll see him doing the dirty work now for the Gaels.  However, he was once a prized recruit for the Golden State.  Jackson was ranked 82nd overall by ESPNU when he came out in 2010.

Fourth, power forward Desmond Simmons played all his years at Washington under coach Lorenzo Romar.  Now he’s using his last year of eligibility for this run.

And, finally, Brad Waldo.  This center reminds me of a mixture of Brad Daugherty and Bryant Reeves.  This version of “Big Country” has been a mainstay with the Gaels, even since they topped Gonzaga in the regular season in the 2010-2011 campaign.

But, by the eye test, I can’t ignore BYU’s offensive skills.  St. Mary’s guards are undersized when combined.  If Waldo is not effective, it could be a long night.  I really like the activity level of BYU from the perimeter.  They led St. Mary’s 75-45 with its full compliment of players.  Note: neither BYU or St. Mary’s are on Joe Lunardi’s latest edition of bracketology.

What I learned picking against SMU vs Tulsa basketball

As the process of licking my wounds from this weekend’s predictions continue, I am debriefing on the teams I liked.

Tulsa let a golden opportunity slip away by losing at home to #23 ranked SMU.  Game broadcasters questioned, with good reason before the game, why Tulsa wasn’t the ranked team and SMU on the outside looking in.

I give SMU even more credit for this win because the most promising player (actually on the court) for the Mustangs had been Keith Frazier.  The sophomore guard lost his appeal on an academic issue.

Bill Nichols of the Dallas Morning News has been all over this story (as for the entire Mustangs season).  Click here to check out more specifics on the Frazier news (and the colorful reaction from SMU fans to the NCAA’s refusal).

Keith Frazier was a 2014 McDonald’s All-American and his loss was insult to injury after lost Emmanuel Mudiay to the pros in China.

Tulsa played a high-energy game.  Its guards James Woodard and Shaquille Harrison, to their credit, were aggressive on the offensive end.  However, they each struggled in the second half, missing eight and seven shots respectively.  Tulsa shot only 28% from the field.  A lot of missed shots in the second half were layups.

Tulsa also did not have an answer for Cannen Cunningam.  The senior big man had a season-high 16 points.  Many of those were rim runs that broke the back of Tulsa at the end of the shot clock.

Speaking of inside presence, De’Andre Wright was repeatedly the only Tulsa player fighting in the paint for offensive rebounds.  I know Tulsa is a good defensive rebound game, but I would have like to see them game plan for more players to crash the glass.

(Easy for me to say, as I sit in my basement eating skittles while writing this).

SMU did not make the tournament last year after a very controversial decision by the committee.  Although the Mustangs beat the eventual champion UCONN Huskies twice that season, the committee apparently disapproved of their non-conference schedule and didn’t extend an invite.  This year they scheduled Gonzaga, Indiana, Michigan and Arkansas.  Although the Wolverines are the only win in that group, Cincinnati is their only in-conference lost yet.

If and when SMU makes the tournament, watch out.  If they have PG Nic Moore, they have a shot.  The kid scored 23 points and dished 7 assists Saturday.

Coaster Ride Continues for Red Storm of St. John’s

I love being wrong.

Well, that’s not true.  But in the case of St. John’s today, I am fortunate for being wrong.  A loss to Creighton at Madison Square Garden would have been another demerit against the Johnnies’ chances of making the NCAA Tournament.

But Rysheed Jordan shut up his critics, including me.

The elusive sophomore exploded for a career-high 25 points in an 18 point victory over Creighton on Saturday.

Friday night I predicted that the Red Storm would not cover an 8.5 spread, in part, because Rysheed Jordan had been MIA.

For a supposed NBA prospect, Jordan had been a disappointment.  In their first game against Creighton this season, Jordan only played seven minutes.  He took a leave of absence from the team on January 2nd.  The reason was never clearly specified.  St. John’s lost an important game to fellow bubble team, Butler.

But on Saturday Rysheed Jordan was the electric, sharp-shooting scorer that St. John’s fans are salivating for.

He hit six three pointers, shot 75% from the field and also contributed 4 assists.

Creighton coach Greg McDermott spoke highly of Rysheed Jordan after the game.

After the game, reporters took to Twitter to joke that he remains off-limits for post game interviews.  Jordan has not been cleared to speak with reporters for two years.

Whatever the catalyst for his mysterious nature, I hope translates onto the court and continues to confuse opposing defenses.  I bought-in on St. John’s to win the championship at 200/1 odds.  The odds have become even higher now.  You can find them between 300-500/1 in Vegas.  I love that value!

Will they win it?  Likely not.  But every win gets them closer to the tournament.  Once a team gets in, anything can happen.   I love that I was wrong on my Friday night prediction.

Against the Spread college basketball preview: Purdue and Tulsa for starters

I (Matty D.) am 68% against the spread so far this season.  That’s 30-14 record on the season (with one tie).  Scroll to the far below to see a time stamp history on Twitter to prove that my record is legit.

My first prediction for this weekend is that St. John’s won’t cover 8 1/2 points hosting Creighton.  If you have watched any St. John’s game this year, you know this:  nothing is easy.  I won’t give St. John’s a stitch of a chance of winning another game this year by 8.5+ points.  Not by a stitch of Lou Carnesecca’s sweater.  If you watched (again, Eye Test here people) the Creighton St. John’s game in Iowa, you know that the Storm fought their five-boroughs off just to be in that game.  As per usual, Chris Obekpa and DeAngelo Harrison were over-taxed.  Rysheed Jordan was MIA.  Sir Dominic Pointer was royalty as the name suggests.  This is the team storyline until they prove me otherwise.

How is Duke giving Notre Dame nine points?  The Irish could easily hit six three-pointers, which would be 18 points, hence making a 27 point 2-point field goal disadvantage unlikely.  I feel like baked into this point spread is the fact that Duke robbed a victory at Notre Dame.  However, the eye test clearly tells you that the Irish have the size, skill and altheticisim to make this a one-three possession game if not winning it outright.

Come on, Kansas is going down to Oklahoma State and winning the game.  The Jayhawks are a one point underdog.  If they win this game, they will essentially wrap-up the 11th consecutive Big 12 league title.  The significance of this is not lost on the hometown crowd in Lawrence, Kansas.  It will not be lost on the Jayhawks wings, who are playing out of their minds (Greene, Seldon, Oubre).

I have been riding this horse all year.  I can’t ignore Purdue getting 5 1/2 points against Minnesota.  The Gophers are not an NCAA team.  Mini Pitino is going through the growing pains as a head coach that’d you’d expect from any 30-something year old overseeing his first-ever team in a major conference.  Purdue’s two big men will outlast Mo Walker (Gopher’s big man).  Minnesota I think will win the ball game, but a Purdue win could clinch the inside track to a tournament berth.  Therefore, I just don’t see Purdue losing by three possession or more.

Hawaii and Texas A&M are both tempting to take this weekend.  But, the ebb and flow of college basketball won’t let me do it.  The respective home teams, UC Santa Barbara and Mizzou, have a lot of pride and an uphill battle to gain respectability on their home turf over the next month.

Tulsa will beat SMU outright and position itself as the team to beat in the American Conference (as if they haven’t already).  Speaking of Mizzou, the refugee of Columbia, Missouri, Frank Haith is coaching an inspired club that plays below the rim but outworks teams over-and-again.  I think Tulsa wins this game, Cincinnati slips-up somehow, and UCONN wins the American Conference tournament.  Memphis is just not an NCAA Tournament team (see my pick last year of the Memphis Tigers not covering the 17 point spread at Gonzaga…which they did not).  Tulsa will win.  That would place Tulsa, UCONN and Temple in the NCAA Tournament.  But, hey, that’s just me.

Here is a history of my selections so far this season:
(Starting with the most recent)