There wasn’t a whole lot of basketball played yesterday, especially compared to everything that happened on Saturday, but there was more than enough for a recap. Let’s get to it –
Kemba Walker returned for the Celtics, but that was the only positive in a 75-105 loss to the Knicks. With Jayson Tatum out, Boston only had two double digit scorers – Jaylen Brown (25) and Marcus Smart (10). Walker scored 9 in twenty minutes in his season debut. Julius Randle and RJ Barrett both finished with double-doubles for New York, and the Knicks got their first win since January 6 (five games) to move up to 6-8 on the season. Boston, meanwhile, fell to 8-4. They’re tied with the Sixers and sit half a game behind the Bucks at the top of the East. The Celtics will be fine, but they could be facing a mini rough patch during Tatum’s covid-related absence. Two games in Philly are up next.
Luka Doncic dropped a 36-point, 15-assist, 16-rebound triple-double on the Bulls, but the short-handed Mavs fell behind 52-67 in the first half and never recovered in the 101-117 loss. It was a big win for Chicago, who had just seen a four game losing streak capped off by an unbelievable 22-point blown lead in an overtime loss to the Thunder. For Dallas, it was another disappointing loss to the Bulls after their 10-point defeat two weeks ago, but it’s hard to judge it too harshly given the absence of three starters and an additional three rotation players. Doncic claimed responsibility after the game, bemoaning his “selfish” play in the second half. After scoring 30 in the first half, he shot just 2-12 from the floor over the final twenty-four minutes.
The Jazz slipped past the Nuggets to win their fifth straight game and move to 9-4 on the season. Only the Lakers and Clippers have been better by record, with the Bucks tying Utah for the third spot. Denver dropped to 6-7 despite 65 points, 13 assists, and 19 rebounds from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. With Michael Porter Jr. out, there wasn’t much production from the rest of the team. The Nuggets still haven’t had a winning or losing streak longer than 2 games this year, and their defense (25th by defensive efficiency) isn’t helping them build consistency.
I don’t have anything special to say about Kings-Pelicans, but the Pels overcame a 43-point, 13-assist performance from De’Aaron Fox in a close win. Zion led the way with 31.
The Clippers continued their hot start with a dominant win over the short-handed Pacers. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Luke Kennard, and Marcus Morris all scored at least 17 for Los Angeles. The Clips don’t play any teams that are above .500 until February, and this will be a crucial opportunity for them to stockpile wins early in the season. The praise for their new coaching staff, focus, and chemistry hasn’t been hard to find so far, but there’s still a lot of basketball to be played.
In transaction-related news, JaVale McGee is reportedly being shopped around after the Cavs acquired Jarrett Allen last week. The Nets, Allen’s old team, seem like a great fit. There’s also a developing situation with Kevin Porter Jr in Cleveland. The talented but troubled guard reportedly threw a fit when he walked into the locker room and found that Taurean Prince had been given his locker. With the Cavs set to move on, there’s an opportunity here for someone to take a risk and potentially land a very useful player. There are certainly more stable franchises than the Cavs, and one of them will have the chance to take in Porter and turn his career around.
In college basketball, Houston ran all over UCF with a 45-19 first half. UCF is now 3-5, and their at-large hopes are all but dead despite early wins over Florida State and Auburn. Houston is back in charge of the AAC, and they can avenge their only loss of the season when Tulsa comes to town on Wednesday.
Speaking of Tulsa, the Golden Hurricanes survived Memphis 58-57 to avoid a second straight loss. They’re now 8-4 on the season and positioned well for an at-large bid with wins over Houston and Memphis and all four losses coming against TCU, South Carolina, and Wichita State. A second win over Houston this week would take off a lot of pressure. The rest of the schedule has far more opportunities for bad losses than quality wins. Memphis is in a much tougher spot after their 6-5 start. There are still five total games left against Houston, Wichita State, and SMU, but the Tigers will need to be nearly flawless the rest of the way to avoid a win-or-go-home trip to the conference tournament.
Iowa rolled all over Northwestern to tie Michigan at the top of the Big Ten. KenPom has Iowa at the top of his offensive efficiency leaderboard, and they’ve now scored 85 or more points in twelve of their fourteen games. They’ve dropped 90 eight times. Unfortunately, we won’t get Michigan-Iowa until the second-to-last game of the season (March 4), and both teams have plenty of work to do before we get to that point.
Purdue topped Penn State to move into a three-way tie for fourth in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers have a win over Ohio State, but they’ve failed to show signs of being able to hang with the very top of the conference. After a rematch with the Buckeyes in Columbus, they’ll have the chance to prove otherwise when Michigan comes for a visit on Friday.
Virginia Tech held off Wake Forest to move within half a game of Virginia at the top of the ACC. Neither team plays another ranked opponent before their January 30th match-up. Barring a surprise, that game should be a major factor in the conference race.
Vermont is 7-3 after a big win yesterday, and they’ve now won their last four games by 119 combined points. After a covid-imposed late start led to some early struggles, the team that has been at or near the top of the America East for over a decade has found their groove. They won’t see UMBC, the other conference contender, until the end of February.
With that, let’s get to today’s picks.
College Basketball Record: 234-222-3 on individual bets, 9-45 on parlays, +$200
All Involved CBB Picks: 302-276-6 ATS, 25-34 Dog MLs
NBA Record: 14-25, 0-7 on parlays, -$370 (there’s a light at the end of the tunnel)
Joint Parlays: 0-2, -$25
- Southern (-23) v. Mississippi Valley State
Back on January 2nd, the Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions played host to the Mississippi Valley State Delta (Gamma) Devils. Arkansas Pine Bluff, or APB, won that game 92-52. That’s a 40-point margin. This past weekend, the Golden Lions of APB took a trip to Southern University to take on the Jaguars. Southern won 88-53. That’s a 35-point margin. If we do some quick math, Southern should be favored in this game by approximately 75 points. Take the -23.
- UConn (-6.5) v. Saint John’s
I’m a fan of this line. UConn has won four straight Big East games by 7 or more after a narrow loss to Creighton, and St Johns has seen their fair share of bigger losses so far. I like the Huskies to get another comfortable win and improve to 8-1 on the season.
- UNC Greensboro v. Citadel (+14)
This line is ridiculously disrespectful to 8-2 Citadel. As a man of honor, I have to take it. Citadel isn’t as good their record suggests given their unbelievably poor non-conference schedule (four non D1 games), but they’ve kept both Furman (4-0 in conference play) and VMI (2-2) within 10 in their last two games. UNC Greensboro isn’t bad, but they’re not as good as Furman. Take Citadel.
- Wyoming (-3.5) v. Air Force
Wyoming is the better team, and they will bounce back after dropping the first game of the series. They led by 8 at half last time out, and they won’t shoot 5-12 from the free throw line again. Take Wyoming in this one.
- Baylor (-8.5) v. Kansas
This line seems wild, but Baylor hasn’t won a game by less than 8 points all season. That includes a tough game against Texas Tech last time out where they pulled away late to win 68-60. In their last eight, Kansas is 6-2 with two wins of one point. Baylor probably has some steam to let out after some relatively underwhelming performances recently. I can see this one getting ugly, and I trust Baylor far more than I do Kansas at this point.
- $20 ML Dog Play of the Day
Louisville v. Florida State (+145)
- NBA Picks
Bucks (-2.5) v. Nets
Rockets (-2) v. Bulls
Lakers v. Warriors (+8.5)
Raptors v. Mavs (+5)
Some things to watch in these games:
– Victor Oladipo’s Houston debut
– Can the Raptors make it three wins in a row? After a 2-8 start, they swept a mini series against the Hornets to get to 4-8. Now they face a test against a short-handed Mavs team coming off a loss. For Dallas, avoiding another fall under .500 would be ideal.
– How do the Bucks guard KD and Harden, and how do the Nets guard the Bucks? In a potential playoff preview, the first look that both teams will have at each other should be informative. Kyrie is supposedly close to returning, but we won’t see him tonight.
GAMES TO NOT BET ON NO MATTER WHAT
- La Salle v. Saint Joe’s
Both teams stink. Don’t bet on this game. No matter what happens.