Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, March 9

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, March 9

Chris Jordan

This might go down as the most memorable game in Big East history, as it's certainly been one of the most highly-anticipated games for the fifth-ranked Georgetown Hoyas in recent memory. They return to Verizon Center to host long-time Big East Conference-rival Syracuse, with students returning from Spring Break, for what will be the final regular-season clash as members of the league.

Georgetown (23-5, 13-4 Big East) has won three of the last five meetings, including a 57-46 win at the Carrier Dome last month. It comes into this one tied for first place and a win today would clinch the regular-season title for the Hoyas, not to mention the No. 1 seed in next week's Big East Tournament.

What's been most impressive about the Hoyas, is their defense. They've been led by a stingy defensive effort all season, limiting opponents to less than 60 points in 18 of their 28 games. Georgetown's opponents average 56.7 points per game, which ranks second in the Big East and 10th nationally. The Hoyas have stifled opponents to 37.9 percent shooting from the field, which ranks second in the conference.

Syracuse has lost four of five to the books with a suitcase in hand, while the Hoyas are in on ATS win streaks of 6-1 at Verizon, 8-2 after an ATS setback, 5-1 after losing on the wood and 9-3 overall - all in Big East play.

The home momentum will be too much. Take Georgetown.

2* GEORGETOWN


My second free play for Saturday tips at the same time as my first freebie, as I'm keeping it back east and will play road underdog Long Island-Brooklyn in their semifinal clash of the Northeast Conference Tournament in Staten Island.

I really don't care that the Northeast Conference plays its tournament on home courts, based on seeding. Six points is far too many to give to the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds in this game today at Wagner University. While I know the Seahawks are seeded second in this event, the Blackbirds are the two-time defending NEC champion.

There is far too much pride with the Blackbirds, who took their first step in becoming the first team to win three straight titles by rallying to beat Quinnipiac, 91-83, Thursday night in Brooklyn.

LIU Brooklyn (18-13, 12-6 NEC) is looking to tie the conference record for consecutive NEC Tournament wins with a win over Wagner (19-11, 12-6 NEC) in the semis. The longest win streak in NEC Tournament history is eight, shared by Robert Morris (1982-84 and 2009-11) and Rider (1993-95).

How rich is this program? LIU has now posted a 44-10 record (.815) over the last three season in league play, the second-best stretch in NEC history behind Robert Morris' 46-8 record (.852) from 2007-10.

Let's put it this way, the other night against Quinnipiac, film director Spike Lee was in attendance, trading in his Knicks gear for Blackbirds attire for the night.

And this is all based on WINS. I just need the Blackbirds to cover the number. A rather big number, in my eyes.

The Blackbirds - who started the year 0-3 in NEC play, but rebounded to win 12 of their last 15 games - are in on ATS win streaks of 5-0 against Northeast foes and 6-1 overall.

Wagner, which reached the NEC semifinals a year ago as well, only to lose at home to Robert Morris, is 17-24 all-time in the NEC Tournament.

One of the hardest things to do is win three times over the same league opponent, and since Wagner swept the season series from the two-time defending champions, I expect the Blackbirds to challenge for the last laugh on Staten Island today. take the road pup.

4* LIU BROOKLYN

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, March 9

Jeff Benton

Saturday freebie is the Minnesota Golden Gophers as the small road choice over the Purdue Boilermakers.

Purdue has proved a tough out these last couple of days, upending Wisconsin in Madison and nearly upending Michigan in West Lafayette on Wednesday night. I have a feeling the well will run dry after that heartbreaking loss to the Wolverines this Saturday afternoon against a Minnesota team that NEEDS to step up here on the road after coming up short the other night as the road favorite at Nebraska.

At 20-10, Minnesota is no "sure thing" to get invited to participate in the Big Dance, especially if they drop this road affair, so look for a focused effort from the Gophers who are actually in double-revenge here today at Purdue.

Going to back Minny to come through with the much-needed win and cover.

3* MINNESOTA

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Brett Atkins

Today my free pick is barking loud down in St. Louis, as the La Salle Explorers have something to prove in this game, and will keep it close enough, long enough, to challenge for the outright win. Arriving to town after upending the George Washington Colonials, 84-70, I like the momentum this surprise team is riding into the postseason.

If you haven't had a chance to see this team play, keep your eyes on senior Ramon Galloway, who continues to pace the Explorers (21-7, 11-4 A-10), posting 10 straight games of double-figure scoring, averaging 20.3 points per game during that span. Even more impressively, the senior has recorded an assist in 14 straight games and has averaged 4.1 assists/game in those games.

And when this offense heats up, look out! La Salle is shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc this season, and has shot over 50 percent from long range in four games this year. After this recent surge, the Blue and Gold is now second in the conference in scoring offense (73.6 ppg). Over their last eight games, the Explorers have averaged 80.1 points per game.

So, all that being said, I don't think St. Louis (23-6, 12-3 A-10) is as much of a lock as the oddsmakers may think. La Salle has thrived the last five Saturdays, covering each time out, and is on a 4-1 spread streak in Atlantic 10 play.

Also, the road team is on an 8-0 ATS run in this series, while the underdog is on a 7-1 spread streak. Take the road pup.

2* LA SALLE

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Brad Wilton

Saturday comp play is a revenge play on Louisville over Notre Dame.

The Irish were left for dead one month ago today, as the Cardinals were just destroying Notre Dame, but somehow the Irish found a way to force overtime and went on to win in 5 OT's in one of the more scintillating games this season in college hoops.

No such luck today!

Louisville is out for payback, and with wins in 6 in a row (since that loss at Notre Dame), and covers in each of their last 3, I expect the Redbirds to race out to the early lead against the Irish and this time put the nail in the coffin.

Notre Dame has dropped 3 of their last 4 both straight up and against the spread on the Big East road, and while the nature of this series has been hotly contested of late - 5 of the last 7 games needing overtime(s) to decide the outcome - I believe there is a reason the linemakers are establishing such a high line for backing the 'Ville today.

This one turns into a blowout.

Take Louisville.

3* LOUISVILLE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, March 9

SPORTS WAGERSFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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GEORGETOWN -1½ over SyracuseFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Orange are widely considered as one of the top 10-15 teams in the country. That argument would hold some weight if this conversation had taken place in December. Right now, Syracuse is a mess. The Orangemen have dropped six of their past 11 games with four of their five victories during that span coming against teams that aren't going to the Big Dance. Syracuse has repeatedly struggled against the Hoyas recently, which includes an 11-point home loss earlier this month and nothing suggests anything different here.
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The Hoyas are coming off that bad loss to Villanova, which has helped in setting up this very beatable number. Georgetown is still under consideration for a #1 seed so there will be no lack of motivation for them here. The Orange can’t contain the Hoyas Otto Porter, they can’t penetrate the Hoyas top-ranked defense and frankly, this Syracuse team has turned into one of mediocrity. Big bounce back game from the host with plenty of motivation should result in exactly what the form suggests.
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KENTUCKY +6 over FloridaFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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After losing consecutive games to Arkansas and Georgia last week, Kentucky’s chances of making the field of 68 took a huge hit. However, a win here over a top-rated Florida outfit, would make it difficult for the committee to leave Kentucky out of the main event. We’re not believers of the “must-win” angle. We’re pointing that out the importance of this one for the Wildcats to indicate that their intensity and focus levels will be high. Kentucky has won seven straight in Lexington and the Wildcats catch the Gators at a pretty good time. 
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The Gators clinched the SEC title with a rout over Vanderbilt on Wednesday, ensuring a letdown spot here. Florida has been struggling on the road when the games meant something with straight-up losses as favorites at Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas over the past month. It’s a long road for these college kids to get to this point. For Florida, there’s excitement and anticipation for Selection Sunday to find out what seed it will be and who it will play. In terms of spotting significant road points with Florida, this is the Gators least appealing spot of the year to do that in. An upset here is a distinct possibility.   
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WEST VIRGINIA +147 over Iowa StateFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Cyclones of Iowa State have done what they needed to do to get serious consideration for an at-large bid. It would be a complete shock if they were left out of the main event. Most experts have them as a lock to make the field of 68. The Cyclones are one of the best shooting teams in the country and one of the best rebounding squads too. However, this is ISU’s last game of the season. They have nothing left to accomplish after that huge win over #13 Oklahoma State on Tuesday. The Cyclones will now play the waiting game to see what seed they’ve earned.
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West Virginia has had an awful year. They close out the year on the heels of five-game losing streak, a 6-11 conference record and 13-17 overall record. However, the Mountaineers have been tough at home with plenty of close defeats, including a five-point loss to #2 Kansas and a one-point loss to #18 K-State. When WVU played at Ames against these Cyclones on January 16, they lost by just two points. Now in a more favorable spot, on its home court in the last game of the season, look for WVU to bring it all here and go out on a winning note.
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Arizona State +11 over ARIZONAFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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With two losses last week to USC and UCLA, the Sun Devils hopes of making it the dance have been shattered. Many believe that Arizona State is a devastated club right now. How many times have we heard that over the years? That being, a team gets knocked out of contention for the Tournament and they’re supposed to get clobbered the very next game, only to see that team come out and play one if its best games of the season. All pressure is off ASU here. The quotes out of Tempe this week indicate that the Sun Devils aren't crushed. Instead, they're fully focused on avenging an earlier home loss to their archrival.
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The Wildcats of Arizona are going to the main event based on their 23-6 overall record and #18 ranking. However, they too, lost to UCLA and USC last week and that continued the Wildcats' point-spread free fall. Arizona is on a current 5-13 ATS run. It continues to be overvalued weekly and even more so here because of ASU’s perceived state of mind. Don't be fooled by Arizona or Arizona’s 17-point final margin of victory in the first meeting between these two teams. Sun Devils point guard Jahii Carson got in foul trouble and his backup, Chris Colvin, was suspended. As a result, Arizona State committed 17 turnovers and a two-point game with 10 minutes remaining turned into a 17-point margin of victory. Don't expect that to happen twice.
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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, March 9

John RyanFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Liberty at Gardner WebbFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Prediction: LibertyFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Liberty has a 13-20 record on the season, but have played monumentally better over their last three games. Since getting hammered by VMI on February 26, Liberty has used that humiliating loss as a motivation and it has certainly shown in their last three games. Their last two games have been quite impressive with wins at Coastal Carolina by 17 points and were installed as +375 dogs on the money line. In their last game, they defeated High Point 71-70 in the quarterfinals and were lined as +170 dogs. High Point was 12-4 in Conference play. This time of the year is all about Cinderella stories and Liberty is fast becoming one of the best. The two teams played on Feb 9 with GW winning 71-68 and I fully expect this game to go down to the wire. If there is an opportunity to play the money line, I would suggest playing an 8* amount on the line and a 2* amount using the money line. The other semifinal pits VMI against Charleston Southern. I expect Charleston Southern to win that matchup (not a call on the spread). Charleston Southern was the favorite entering this Tournament and it would be a monumental task for Liberty to post two more upset wins. However, this time of year is about CONFIDENCE and team chemistry and Liberty has it all going for them at the right time.

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Tony George

Kansas St. +5.5

The Wildcats playing for a share of the Big 12 Title today, and K State finds ways to win big games, never very pretty but they win them!  Okie State off a loss at Iowa State and although they have the best player on the floor in Marcus Smart, Okie St not well coached and very undisiplined.  K State getting this many is a gift, and K State a SOLID road team with depth.

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Jeff Alexander

Iowa -13

Iowa blew a 16-point halftime lead in a loss at Lincoln in the first meeting so you better believe the Hawks will be out for some serious payback. It's to Iowa's benefit that Nebraska enters off a big upset win over Minnesota because the Huskers are 0-6 ATS off an upset win over a conference for the last 2 seasons. They have lost these contests by an average of 22.0 points. Iowa has been sensational at home where it has won 6 straight. Nebraska, meanwhile, has been awful on the road where it has dropped 4 in a row by an average of 21.5 points. Bet the Hawkeyes.

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NellyFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Purdue + over MinnesotaFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Minnesota came through with the huge win over Indiana in late February to punch a ticket to the NCAA Tournament but the Gophers have lost seven straight Big Ten road games after beating Illinois in the first conference road game of the season. On Wednesday Minnesota embarrassingly lost to Nebraska and despite being one of the nation's best rebounding teams, the Gophers continue to be dogged by turnovers and awful shooting. Minnesota still holds great rankings numbers and statistics but this team has been lifeless in most games in the last six weeks, especially on the road and there is little confidence coming from the leaders on this team. Purdue has endured a disappointing season but the Boilermakers can compete with Minnesota on the boards and this is a team with some late season life. Purdue has gone 2-2 in the last four games, impressively winning at Wisconsin and also playing close in losses at Iowa and at home against Michigan. This will be the final home game of the season for a young team that has shown some promise despite the marginal record. This is the first and only meeting between these teams this season and Purdue is a solid 10-6 at home this season despite some growing pains on the season. Minnesota has just three true road wins all season and only one in Big Ten play and this looks like a team that will have a hard time getting its energy up on the road.

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SPORTS WAGERS

Washington -104 over N.Y. ISLANDERS

OT included. The Islanders are an erratic club that cannot be trusted to win when they’re expected to. Offensively gifted with some top level forwards, there continues to be a something missing here. When these two played one another back on January 17, in their only meeting this season, the Islanders shut out the Capitals, 3-0. That was at a time when the Caps were still searching for an identity. That’s no longer the case.

Under the strict guidance of new coach, Adam Oates, the Caps have made a dramatic turnaround. They’ve become a tough out and one of the more consistent clubs in the NHL.  After a horrendous start, they are right back in the race. Washington is just two points behind the Islanders and Philadelphia. They are three points behind Winnipeg and just five behind the Rangers for the final playoff spot. The Caps have games in hand on each one of those teams. The Caps have also won five of their past six games while outscoring the opposition by a 23-9 count over that span. The Capitals are getting great goaltending, they’re scoring plenty of goals, they’re playing outstanding defense and they’ve gone from being the most overvalued club to start the year to the most undervalued right now.


SAN JOSE -½ +139 over St. Louis

Regulation only. Both these clubs started out like a house on fire while looking like true contenders in doing so. A dramatic turnaround has ensued for both and we’re suggesting one of them will continue to lose and one will not. When John Davidson took over the Blues in the ‘06-‘07 season he turned them into a hard-working, hard-nosed group that played all out every shift of nearly every game. Despite being less talented than some of the better clubs, St. Louis was rarely outworked. Since JD left for Columbus, the identity of the Blues went with him. The Blue Jackets now play like the Blues once did while St. Louis has transformed into a soft, beatable team that often gets outworked and outplayed. St. Louis has three wins over its past 10 games. Two of those came against Edmonton and Columbus while the other one occurred on Thursday in Phoenix with the Coyotes playing their third game in four days. The Blues were not the better team on the ice on Thursday. They were outplayed again but Coyotes goaltender, Mike Smith, allowed six goals on 30 shots. The Blues’ awful goaltending has forced this panicked club to carry three goalies. Once again, Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott will be watching from the bench while Jake Allen makes consecutive starts. The Blues are on a path of destruction. They’re getting worse, the players are becoming undisciplined and this teams’ lack of structure or whatever JD instilled in them is now gone.

The Sharks continue to work hard. The results haven’t been great but they are getting better. San Jose has won three of its last five with victories over Vancouver, Nashville and Colorado. The Sharkies have not fallen in the same way that the Blues have. They are still outplaying most clubs and out-chancing them by wide margins, especially at the Shark Tank. San Jose is still a threat while the Blue Notes are not and this one is all about fading the visitor.


Dallas +117 over PHOENIX

At some point the Dallas Stars are going to get the recognition they deserve. Until that occurs, we’ll continue to back this strong club. Dallas went into Los Angeles on Thursday and knocked off the red-hot Kings, 5-2. Since the return of #1 goaltender Kari Lehtonen, Dallas has won its last two games over St. Louis and L.A. while outscoring that pair 9-3. Dallas has scored three goals or more in 13 of its last 14 games. The Stars offense is as potent as any team in the league but Dallas doesn’t come close to getting the credit that Pittsburgh, Chicago or Anaheim gets.

As stated previously, Phoenix cannot keep winning games with regularity when allowing four goals or more. Phoenix is coming off a 6-3 loss to the Blues. They have recent back-to-back wins over the Ducks by equal scores of 5-4 and a recent 4-3 loss to Minnesota. The Coyotes 71 goals against is the second worst mark in the Western Conference with Calgary’s 73 allowed the only team below them. Surrendering so many goals is not conducive to winning hockey games. There’s no telling how many goals the Stars can pop in here against this fraudulent favourite.

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Wunderdog

Northern Illinois at Ball State
Pick: Northern Illinois +10.5

Over the past three seasons, the Huskies are 27-15 ATS on the road. Under head coach Mark Montgomery, the Huskies are 9-2 ATS on the road after an ATS loss and 10-2 ATS following a game in which they scored 55 or less. Dating back to last season, Ball State is 7-16 ATS as a favorite. Northern Illinois has mustered all of four wins this season against Division-1 competition and enter here on a nine-game losing streak. Most will look at them unfavorably here because of the extended losing streak, but what they don't realize is that over the last seven years in NCAA basketball, teams on a nine-game losing streak cover over 55% of the time. Ball State has climbed to the .500 mark on the strength of four straight wins, covering all four of them. This situation doesn't occur frequently, but a team on a nine-game losing streak vs. a team on a four-game ATS streak are 3-0 ATS, as a subset of the above. Make the play on the dog, and back Northern Illinois.

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Tony Karpinski

Charlotte Bobcats vs. Washington Wizards
Play: Washington Wizards

The Bobcats handle the ball pretty well behind Kemba Walker, and his usual sound play, but he has been struggling as of late, the only real bright spot for Charlotte on the season. And if there is one thing the Wizards can do, is play some defense, only giving up 96/game (6th in the league). Washington has been playing affably as of late, with wins against Houston and Denver, Charlotte has been, well, they have been Charlotte. Although the Bobcats matchup well with Washington, with a few wins over them already on the season, this game, the Wizards get their revenge at home. Where Martell Webster plays against Charlotte better and the Bobcats can’t shoot against Washington. I expect the Washington Wizards to win by 15-20 pts.

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Teddy Covers

St. Mary's vs. San Diego
Pick: San Diego

When these two teams met last month, St Mary’s struggled to pull away from San Diego, pushing against the spread with a ten point victory.  Since that time, San Diego has only gotten better, including last night’s outright upset over BYU as 11.5 point underdogs.

The Toreros top three scorers – wing Johnny Dee, wing Ken Rancifer and point guard Chris Anderson  -- are all on the top of their games right now, giving San Diego the firepower they need to hang around against St Mary’s.

The Gaels aren’t focused on this matchup – they’re looking forward to a major revenge game against Gonzaga tomorrow.  The Gaels have beaten San Diego four straight times and nine times in the last ten meetings, even though this has been an underdog series (18-7-1 ATS for the dog in the last 26 matchups).

Look for St Mary’s to exert as little energy as possible this evening, saving their best for tomorrow’s game.  That should allow San Diego to cover the generous number here.  Take San Diego.

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Andre Gomes

Brooklyn / Atlanta Under 189.5

This is a really tough spot for Atlanta, as they played a 6-game road trip in the West, then they returned home to beat Philadelphia and yesterday, they went to Boston where they lost on overtime. The Hawks used their starters a lot in Boston, with Jeff Teague, Josh Smith and Al Horford playing 44 minutes each. Now, they will play a back to back game at home against Brooklyn, on a really tough spot for them. As the Nets have a huge frontcourt unit, I don't believe Coach Drew will use Josh Smith and Al Horford on their own on the frontcourt. Therefore, I expect him to repeat the same lineup from yesterday, with Johan Petro as the starting center. I also believe that Deshawn Stevenson will be the starting SG in order to defend Joe Johnson. Devin Harris starting tonight would be a big mistake for Atlanta tonight.

With these changes, Atlanta loses a lot of their transition game, as Johan Petro and Deshawn Stevenson prevent them from running early on the shotclock. The Hawks scored just 9 fast break points against Boston in 53 minutes and this lineup and Brooklyn's style, I expect this contest to be a halfcourt game. Brooklyn is coming from a home win against Washington, where Deron Williams was amazing with 15-24 FG and 11-16 3pts! However, the rest of the team shot just 16-57 (28%) FG, while dishing just 14 assists! Joe Johnson is playing banged up, while Deron Williams isn't at 100% from his ankle as well, so the Nets are likely to suffer a lot on a back to back spot with these two players banged up. On a half court battle and with this configuration of the Hawks, Brooklyn will have a lot of problems on their offensive flow. Therefore, I see this game being a low scoring affair and so, I'll be taking the Under in here.

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NHL Predictions

Carolina Hurricanes -114

New Jersey enters this game in Carolina coming off a come from behind 3-2 shootout win over Buffalo, which snapped a 6 game losing streak. The Devils have won just twice in their last 10 games, and they are just 4-5-3 on the road. The Hurricanes are 13-9-1 on the season and 6-5 at home. Carolina lost their last game 4-2 which was at home vs Montreal, but the Hurricanes outshot Montreal 43-28. Carolina had won 4 straight previous to their last game and are 5-2 in their last 7 games. These two teams have met once this year on February 12th in New Jersey and the Hurricanes won that one 4-2. New Jersey is really struggling to score, with 3 or fewer (often 2 or fewer) goals in 10 straight games. The Hurricanes have 23 goals over their last 7 games (over 3 goals per game). Take Carolina at home.

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LEGIT PICKS

Saturday 3/9/13 Plays...

4* ALBANY -9.5 (5PM PST)

---LEGIT PICK'S WARNING: Practicing Money Management & Shopping Lines Can Lead to Long Term Success--

Kyle Miller
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