WIN—-OREGON +6.5: Oregon faced a Utah team that played one of the easier schedules amongst the Power 5 teams. They played 1 team during the regular season with 8 wins in the USC Trojans, and lost that game, to their 3rd string quarterback no less. Utah had not faced a team nearly as good as Oregon all season, and it showed. WIN—-BAYLOR +8: This one did not look good after Baylor lost their starting quarterback, but freshman backup Jacob Zeno came in and completed 2 passes for an insane 159 yards and a touchdown to help keep this game close. WIN—CINCI +10 WIN—BOISE STATE -13.5 WIN—-CLEMSON -28.5: I actually debated adding an Clemson alternate line of -39, because that’s how confident I was with this one. This one wasn’t even close. LOSS—-OHIO STATE -16
LOSS—LSU OVER 55.5 LOSS—-CLEMSON UNDER 54: I thought Clemson would shut UVA out and win this one 50-0 pretty much, but I also underestimated Dabo Swinney’s motivation to prove to the College Football Playoff Committee that the Tigers are no fluke. They did not let up, and even going up against Clemson’s backups for a few drives, UVA had no shot.
College Football Results to Date:
Against the Spread: 27-14 (65.85%)
Over/Under 15-15 (50%)
Overall 42-29 (59.15%)
Stay tuned the next couple of weeks as I will be doing some deep dives into my favorite bowl game matchups and the picks to go along with them.
A nice 6-3 bounce back night after going 0-2 over the previous couple of nights, bringing the overall NBA record above 500, at 10-9. I made 3 picks on the Lakers that all hit, as they dominated the Blazers from start to finish. The Lakers are just playing great basketball. They remind me of when Kobe had Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom. The Lakers have so much size and length it is insane. They are on a collision course with the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Finals, which would be one of the more highly anticipated playoff series in recent memory. The Clippers did get blown out last night against the Bucks, but they were down a couple of rotation players, to be fair. Here is a look at what I got right and what I got wrong last night.
MAGIC 1st QUARTER -1—LOSS
MAGIC 1ST HALF -2—WIN
WARRIORS +5—WIN: The Warriors played the Chicago Bulls in this one and let me tell you, there are not many teams in the NBA that I would favor the Bulls over, whether it’s home or away. The Warriors ended up winning this game straight up by 2 points, as Zach Lavine missed a game-winning 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
MIAMI 1ST QUARTER -3.5—LOSS
MIAMI UNDER 230—WIN: My first over/under of the NBA season was a success. It is always scary picking an under when one of the teams playing is the Washington Wizards, since they legitimately are the worst defensive team I have ever witnessed. But Miami is no slouch and the fact that the Wizards were on the second night of a back-to-back and were without Isaiah Thomas, Jordan McRae, Thomas Bryant, CJ Miles, and Ian Mahinmi… it is just difficult when you don’t have a ton of bodies to work with. On a positive note for the Wizards, rookie forward, Rui Hachimura, continues to impress, and could very well win the Rookie of the Year award if he keeps it up. He is going to get all the minutes he can ask for, and should continue to put up some solid numbers assuming he stays healthy. The Wizards are still a mess due to the John Wall injury and now a few others being sidelined for multiple weeks, but this team has shown some fight, and that is pretty much all you can ask for from them considering the context of their situation.
CLIPPERS +4.5—LOSS: The Bucks were not messing around in this one. Total domination. The Clippers will be better than they were last night, considering they were without a couple rotation players, but I did not expect them to get run out of the building like this.
LAKERS 1ST QUARTER -1—WIN
LAKERS 1ST HALF -2—WIN
I’m probably going to ride the Lakers until the wheels fall off at this point. They are kicking some serious ass. The team is playing together and there appears to be minimal drama, at least so far. Winning obviously makes everybody happy, and the Lakers had no problems winning vs the Blazers to stay undefeated on the road. I’ll say this about the Blazers, if you are relying on Carmelo Anthony in the year 2019 to be one of your leading scorers, your team is not going to be very good. I LOVE Damian Lillard, for what it’s worth. I love his game. But this Blazers team just hasn’t been fully healthy all season, and to make matters worse, they lost one of their starters last night for the season in Rodney Hood. Hood suffered a torn achilles tendon, a devastating blow for a Portland squad that has already been without their starting center all season in Jusif Nurkic, and have been missing Zach Collins since early in the season. The loss of Hood means Kent Bazemore will probably be inserted into the starting lineup, which isn’t the worst replacement you could find, but it really hurts the depth of this Blazers team, and I’m not sure they will have enough to make a playoff run this season without their front office pulling off some type of major trade.
Due to the Duke/VT game at 7PM I will not have an in-depth write up for tonight’s slate of games. But here is what I like tonight. Big game between the Clippers and Bucks, should be a fun one. With the miss on the 76ers pick last night, the record is 4-6 to date on NBA picks.
When and How to Watch: Friday December 6, 7PM EST, on the ACC Network
Head Coach: Mike Kyrzyzewski (1067-286 Career W/L record)
Last Game: Win @ #11 Michigan State 87-75, to go to 8-1.
The Virginia Tech Hokies host the number 10 ranked Duke Blue Devils on Friday night in Cassell Coliseum after having a nice break to recover from their trip to Maui. Tech is already 1-0 in the ACC after a win at Clemson on opening night, while this will be Duke’s first conference game of the season. Duke is coming off a huge win at Michigan State Tuesday night as part of the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, managing to do it without one of their top players in Cassius Stanley, who suffered a hamstring injury in their previous game against Winthrop. Duke, like most teams, will have a solid height advantage on this undersized Virginia Tech team. The biggest concern will be stopping Duke’s diaper dandy, Vernon Carey Jr. I go a bit more in depth on him down below in my analysis of the roster, but to put it simply, this kid is a monster, and has the ability to get Duke an easy bucket on command. I’m struggling to imagine a way for this Tech team to be successful in this game if they decide to guard Carey with a 6’6 forward in P.J. Horne. I expect we may see a ton of double teams on Carey, forcing him to pass it back out on the perimeter, allowing Duke to try to live by the 3 as much as possible. This is simply a tough matchup for a young Virginia Tech team, but MAYBE Duke takes the Hokies a little lightly considering they just had an emotional win at Michigan State Tuesday night. The only clear advantage for Tech in this one outside of playing at home is that they should be more rested, but will that be enough to overcome the talent and size disparity? Only time will tell. This Duke team doesn’t have the same versatility as the one from a year ago that featured lottery picks in Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Cam Reddish, but as always, Duke has a plethora of highly rated guys for Coach K to work with.
AVG starting lineup recruit ranking per 247 Sports: 19.8
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP recruit rankings are per 247Sports.com 6’3 SO PG, Tre Jones, ranked 15 Jones is a solid floor general and the leader of this team. 2nd in scoring behind Carey Jr., Jones leads the team in assists and steals as well. His well-documented weakness last year was his 3-point shooting (26.2% on 103 attempts). Teams would legitimately let him shoot the ball and focus their defensive attention on the other big name players like Zion and RJ Barrett. He has seen an uptick in his 3 point shot to start the season, but is still just 5th on the team in that category, currently sitting at 34.3% from 3 on the year on 35 attempts. He is about an 80% free throw shooter for what it’s worth. 6’6 FR G, Cassius Stanley, ranked 37 (QUESTIONABLE). 2nd on the team in minutes per game, Stanley is Duke’s 3rd leading scorer, tied for 2nd in rebounds, 3rd in steals, 2nd in blocks, 3rd in FG%, and 3rd in 3-point FG%. He suffered a hamstring injury on November 29th in their game against Winthrop, which resulted in him missing the Michigan State game. Originally expected to be out until around Christmas time, the injury appears to be healing faster than expected, which is why he has not officially been ruled out just yet. I think in the end, Duke will probably play it safe, and let him recover, but that decision has not been announced yet. There is nobody on Duke’s roster that will be able replace his production or athleticism on an individual basis at the end of the day, so it will be up to a combination of Jack White, Joey Baker, and others, to pick up the slack. White started in place of Stanley at Michigan State. 6’6 FR F, Wendell Moore Jr., ranked 29 Moore has seen his minutes decrease over the last few games as he just doesn’t provide enough offensive spark to spread the floor. He was scoreless against Duke’s last two opponents and only played 10 minutes against Michigan State. 6’9 FR F, Matthew Hurt, ranked 12 One of their top 3-point shooters, Hurt has the size to shoot over you, but lacks the ability to take his defender off the dribble. Will try to post up some, but doesn’t have the strength and quickness to truly be effective down low. 6’10 FR C, Vernon Carey Jr., ranked 6 A monster down low, Carey has proven to be tough to stop one-on-one, and is Duke’s leading scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker. He also has shown 3-point range, making 4 out of his 5 attempts on the year. He’s much more comfortable playing with his back to the basket, using his combination of size and quickness to spin by defenders for easy layups and dunks. He runs the floor pretty well and he is a solid passer, showing the ability and awareness to make the quick pass out of the double team to open shooters. His weakness right now is at the free throw line, where he shoots under 60%. Below, I’ve provided a few videos of Carey, showing off his post moves, passing ability, and floor running.
Bench 6’7 SR F, Jack White, ranked 226 Got the start for the injured Cassius Stanley against Michigan State on Tuesday night, playing 31 minutes, and providing a little bit of everything, but he’s not a big offensive threat, especially from the outside. He shot under 28% from 3 last season, and is at around 31% so far in 2019. His field goal percentage overall isn’t that great either, and that could be attributed to the fact that he has taken almost 73% of his shots from 3 point range, where he obviously struggles. His primary role is to play good defense and crash the glass for some easy buckets. 6’6 JR G, Alex O’Connell, ranked 68 Since his freshman year at Duke, O’Connell’s 3-point percentage has gone down from 48.9%, to 37.5%, to a whopping 22.2% this season. He looks like he will probably be the odd man out in the rotation at this point unless he can drastically correct his shooting woes. He doesn’t provide much else other than a different hair style every couple of weeks. 6’10 JR F, Javin DeLaurier, ranked 39 Energy guy that can’t really create any offense on his own in the post, only really scoring on offensive rebounds and alley-oops. Moves pretty well for his size and can alter shots in the paint occasionally. 6’2 JR G, Jordan Goldwire, ranked 398 Stingy guard that is going to try and get underneath the opponent’s skin. Goldwire cannot shoot to save his life, however. He is 1-8 from 3 this season, and shot 12% from 3 last year on 25 attempts. 6’7 SO F, Joey Baker, ranked 33 Baker has emerged over the last few games as arguably Duke’s best 3-point shooter. If he can continue to prove his recent play is not a fluke, it will be massive for Duke’s chances going forward. Not overly athletic, not going to beat you off the dribble often, but when he gets an open look, he expects to knock it down. He’s shooting over 50% from 3 on 21 attempts, scoring 16 and 11 points off the bench in his last two games. 6’9 SR F, Justin Robinson, ranked 375 6’2 JR G, Mike Buckmire, not rated Robinson and Buckmire play sparingly and have only appeared in a total of 6 games collectively.
This game is very intriguing for a couple of reasons: Duke has a tough travel schedule this week much to the dismay of Coach K. He said as much in his post game press conference at MSU; “We’re placed in a very difficult situation, our conference put us in a situation where, we’ll get back at 4 in the morning, and literally, we’re in the toughest week of our academic year, the week before exams. Two of our kids took tests last night, here, and now we gotta go back, and the next day, Thursday, fly to Blacksburg, and it’s really not a good scheduling thing by our conference, and we’ll see how our guys react.” Oh the humanity! How will the poor Dukies survive this one?! Okay, that was just a little bit of sarcasm, and he does have a point to a certain extent, but it is what it is. I do think this is a quality advantage for the home team, but I just don’t know if that will be enough for the Hokies to pull off the upset. I will like their chances a lot more IF Duke decides to sit Cassius Stanley in this one. It never hurts to play a team without a top player, so that could help keep this one close. The Hokies are going to have to hit the three like they have been thus far, and compete on the defensive glass like their lives depend on it. I’m not sure how Mike Young plans to defend Vernon Carey Jr., but if he plans on putting Horne on him, I think it could be a long night. Does Young trust his freshman center, John Ojiako, enough to try to slow Carey down? Ojiako is really the only “big man” on the roster at the moment that receives any playing time and he’s only gotten about 12 minutes a game thus far, as Young and staff try to bring him along slowly. The Alabama State graduate transfer, Branden Johnson, has seen very little time all season, but maybe Young throws him out there as well just to have somebody taller than 6’6 trying to defend Duke’s star big man. Tech’s advantage on the offensive end should be their versatility and ability to shoot from the 1 through 5 spot, assuming Horne is starting there per usual. Horne being a threat from the outside will force Carey to roam the perimeter and could open up the lane for some successful drives. That is the problem with the aforementioned bigs in Ojiako and Johnson. They provide very little threat offensively, and Tech becomes a lot easier to guard.
For Virginia Tech to win, I think it is simple. You have to attack Carey to a certain extent and try to get him in foul trouble. If he is off the court, this Duke team, especially if Stanley is out, is not loaded with individuals that can get their own buckets at will, like Zion, Barrett, and Reddish were capable of last season. They do have a damn good point guard though, in Tre Jones, and he makes this team go at the end of the day. This will be another great test for Wabissa Bede, and he’ll have to slow him down for Tech to have a chance. Cassell Coliseum should be electric tonight, and Duke is on a much shorter rest period combined with a hectic travel schedule, so Tech does have some variables working in their favor. While I do believe they have a legitimate shot at winning this one, I’m just not sure the Hokies have the depth to pull off the upset at the end of the day. A win would put Tech at the top of the ACC standings at 2-0, a feat that I’m sure very few could have possibly imagined going into this game, but the opportunity is here, and it is up to Mike Young and the Hokies to take advantage.
Yesterday 5 picks were made, with the featured pick being the Phoenix Suns -2 @ the Orlando Magic. That pick definitely did not turn out so well. I had believed that the Magic would be a bit too winded after playing in Washington the night before, and being without a few key players was going to be too much to overcome. The key in this game was Aaron Gordon. Gordon shoots about 30% from 3, but he hit all 5 of his attempts in this one. The Suns “big 3” of Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker, and Kelly Oubre Jr., combined for just 29 points total. The Suns will not win many games this season when arguably their 3 best players combine for that low of an output offensively.
Miami +5.5 @ Boston was a game I debated for some time, but I just felt that with the Celtics being without their defensive stud in Marcus Smart, and Gordon Hayward still out, that the Heat would be able to keep this close until the end. BUT, on the other side, Miami was on the 2nd night of a brutal back-to-back, in which the Heat played an overtime game at Toronto the night before, which in my opinion definitely played a factor. In the end, I chose the Heat because I believed they had enough firepower to overcome the tired legs, even with the absence of Goran Dragic off the bench.
Atlanta +3.5 vs Brooklyn: In this situation, with the Nets missing Kyrie Irving, I felt that Trae Young would be the best player on the floor, and win this game straight up. Based on what we have seen with the Nets up to this point, they have struggled even with Kyrie in the lineup, so their inconsistencies really had me believing the struggling Hawks would be able to get it done at home. As it turns out, the Nets bench did not do much, but their starting lineup went for over 100… which is obviously not good. The Hawks shot the ball pretty well, but the Nets were 45% from 3 hitting 14-31, and made 16-18 free throws, pulling away late. Trae Young had 39 points and 10 assists in the losing effort, so it is safe to say he was probably still the best player on the floor, the supporting cast just couldn’t keep it close enough.
So the night started off pretty poorly with the first 3 picks, going 0-3, but the night was salvaged with the Lakers winning straight up as a +2 underdog at Utah, and the Blazers covering the -5 spread against a wounded Kings squad.
The Lakers are just damn good. That shouldn’t be breaking news. When you have Anthony Davis and LeBron James on one team, this is what should be happening. The Jazz, on the other hand, were without their starting point guard, Mike Conley, and their offense has been struggling with consistency for most of the year. The only issue that had me questioning this pick somewhat was the fact that it was the 2nd night of a back-to-back for the Lakers, as they played in Denver the night before. But the Lakers took care of the Jazz without much struggle, and continue to reign atop the Western Conference.
I added the Blazers -5 to my card a little after 8PM EST. This was actually after I had gotten word that Bogdan Bogdanovic would be sitting out with a knee injury. The Kings are already without their young stud point guard, De’Aaron Fox, and also without their top pick from 2018 in Marvin Bagley III. So, the Kings were without their 2nd, 4th, and 5th leading scorers, with Bogdanovic being the only real scoring threat off the bench. I just didn’t think the Kings would have enough consistent scoring options to get it done on the road against a Portland team that is desperate for wins. This is a perfect example of the advantage you present to yourself when you are familiar with pretty much every NBA player on every roster, and how their absence may or may not impact their team on any given night.
Suns -2: LOSS
Hawks +3.5: LOSS
Heat +5.5: LOSS
Lakers +2: WIN
Blazers -5: WIN
2-3 on the night. 4-5 record overall on the NBA season.
LOSS—-Philly -8.5 @ Washington
More injury issues for the Wizards with Isaiah Thomas being ruled out with a calf injury. It was also announced that bench contributor Jordan McRae is out with surgery on his finger. That leaves Ish Smith at the point with G-League prospect, Justin Robinson, out of Virginia Tech, as the only other option. Beal and Bertans are going to have to score 30+ each to have any chance. Starting center Thomas Bryant remains out for a few weeks and that is not good news against the 76ers star center, Joel Embiid. Sixers get it done tonight, covering the -8.5.
I’m going to start doing these differently now. Instead of trying to write out an entire article for each individual pick, I’m going to pick one to go in depth on, and just include the rest of my picks at the bottom.
Tonight’s featured pick: Phoenix Suns -2 @ Orlando Magic
Why I like this pick?
The Magic are on the 2nd night of a back-to-back and will be playing their 4th game in 6 days after winning in Washington last night. That game finished around 9:30 PM EST, which means the Magic probably didn’t arrive back home in Orlando until early Wednesday morning, which could be detrimental to their recovery time. Fultz, Fournier, Gordon, and Isaac, all played over 30 minutes last night, and Birch and Augustin played close to 30 as well, so all the key players for the Magic could be winded as we hit the 2nd half. While it will also be the 4th game in 6 days for the Suns, and a road game no less, the fact that the Suns had an east coast game on Monday leads me to believe there should be minimal issues with time-zone adjustments, and think the Suns can win this game by 3 or more points.
Injuries: The Magic have been without their 2nd leading scorer and leading rebounder, Nikola Vucevic, for multiple weeks now, and they also recently lost a major bench contributor in Al-Farouq Aminu to a torn meniscus. Not only that, last night, back-up guard, Michael Carter-Williams, got hit in the face unintentionally by Bradley Beal, resulting in blood spilling everywhere from his nose, forcing him to leave the game for the night. He will also be out for this one. So not only do you have a team with tired legs, but they are also short-handed. Any foul trouble would cripple this team tonight, and the margin for error is even smaller now.
Now, let me first start off by saying, I have come to grips with the fact that human error is part of the game. It is what it is. BUT, I also think missing this is inexcusable. I do think the Houston Rockets should have closed the game out, controversy or no controversy. They pretty much unraveled after they were denied a review on that. Harden did hit a 3 point shot on the next possession, but Lonnie Walker was on fire and the Spurs, give them credit, they continued to fight until the very end, getting a much needed victory without their second leading scorer in LaMarcus Aldridge.
All in all, I’m just struggling to understand how a league that is as successful as the NBA and has all the technological resources you can ask for, was unable to review this call to make the quick and necessary change. Here is a transcript of the explanation the ref gave for the missed call.
Anyways, it will be interesting to see how the NBA goes about this situation in the next 24 hours or so. With that being said, clearly the Rockets pick of -6.5 did not come through, though it did look good for the majority of the game.
The Magic pick to win straight up over the Washington Wizards went much smoother. As I said in my analysis, the Wizards simply play no defense. They had given up about 130 points per game on their recent 4 game road trip on the west coast and they were also without two big men who are their 2nd and 6th leading scorers respectively.
The real story in this one in my opinion is Markelle Fultz. My analysis on this game focused predominately on the Wizards’ poor defense and injuries to their big men. What I did not really spend much time on is Fultz, and his return to DC. Fultz played high school ball at Dematha, so he had plenty of support in the crowd last night. For those that haven’t watched Fultz much, or only remember his awkward shooting form from his previous stint with the 76ers, this kid is going to be damn good. He already is. I’d argue he was the difference maker in this one. He got wherever he wanted to on the court, and Fultz looked like he was toying with the smaller Isaiah Thomas, backing him down, and hitting midrange jump shots with ease over the smaller defender. He looked smooth, and confident, and like a former number 1 overall pick. Fultz went for a career high 20 points in his return to the DMV, going 9-17 from the floor, to go with 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 4 turnovers, in 31 minutes. The Magic are not quite fully healthy, missing their 2nd leading scorer and leading rebounder in Nikola Vucevic, along with bench contributor, Al-Farouq Aminu, in this one, but if and when they get all the pieces together, the Magic should solidify themselves for one of the final two playoff spots in the eastern conference.
Stay tuned for more picks throughout the week. NBAPick Record is 2-2.