Looking for improved shot selection after misfiring on initial basketball picks


Photo by Getty Images | Will Billy Donovan’s 12th-ranked Gators show up in Fayetteville, Ark.?

How about that effort by yours truly last week, huh? A dozen basketball selections—my first of the season—produced a whopping three winners, virtually obliterating my Super Bowl profit and sending my bankroll plunging below sea level … again.

Among my brilliant picks: UNLV as a 9½-point home favorite over San Diego State (the Rebels, who had won five straight at the Thomas & Mack Center by an average of 25 points, blew a 12-point lead and barely pulled out a two-point victory), and Ohio State as an 8½-point home favorite over Michigan State (the Buckeyes, who had won 39 straight at home—including their first four conference games by margins of 31, 17, 24 and 15 points—lost outright).

About the only thing that kept me from winning Debacle of the Week honors was the Grammy Awards. (Memo to the Grammy folks: Rock music isn’t dead—really, it’s not. Well, unless you continue to insist on classifying Radiohead and Coldplay as “rock,” which makes less sense than Aaron Rodgers winning a Cy Young Award.)

After suffering through 3½ hours of the Grammys—sometimes being a good husband is really difficult—I’m convinced Van Gogh was on to something. Now if you’ll excuse me, my dry toast and Metamucil are calling. On to this week’s picks (note that all point spreads are projected) …

$110 (to win $100) on Arkansas +3 vs. Florida (Feb. 18): Three things you can count on every year in college basketball: Dick Vitale wearing out mute buttons across the land, John Calipari playing fast and loose with NCAA rules, and drastic home-road splits for the vast majority of teams. It appears the latter is more prominent than ever this season. Exhibit A is Arkansas, which resembles the Washington Generals whenever it hits on the road (0-7 straight up, 1-6 against the spread) but plays like UNLV circa 1990 when it returns to Fayetteville, where the Razorbacks are 17-1 (6-3-1 ATS in lined games), including 15 straight wins.

In Florida, Arkansas is hosting an opponent that has its own travel issues, with just two true road wins in seven tries. Granted, three of the Gators’ five road defeats have come at Kentucky, Ohio State and Syracuse, but they also fell at Tennessee and Rutgers as a significant favorite. Florida entered the week in ATS slumps of 2-5 overall and 1-4 on the road, and now heads to a hostile environment to face an SEC rival that’s on the NCAA tournament bubble and in need of a marquee win.

$110 (to win $100) on St. Louis -16½ vs. Fordham (Feb. 18): Don’t be surprised if St. Louis (20-5) is one of those Cinderella stories we’re talking about a month from now. The Billikens, who own solid wins over Washington, Villanova, Oklahoma and Xavier, are one of the top defensive teams in the country (though 25 games, St. Louis has surrendered more than 68 points just once in regulation).

Now here comes Fordham, which couldn’t put the ball in the ocean if it was playing on the Costa Concordia. The Rams average 62 points per game while shooting 38 percent from the field, 29 percent from 3-point land and 63 percent from the free-throw line. Among 345 teams, those stats respectively rank 287th, 339th, 336th and 331st. Fordham is 2-7 ATS in its last nine games, including 0-3 ATS as a double-digit underdog, while the Billikens have rarely blinked as a double-digit chalk this season (6-2 ATS).

$77 (to win $70) on Indiana-Iowa OVER the total (Feb. 19): On Feb. 9, the Celtics and Lakers—the NBA’s two marque franchises, with superstars named Pierce, Garnett, Allen, Rondo, Bryant and Gasol on the court—combined for 175 points in 53 minutes (the game went into overtime). I mention that because 10 days earlier in Bloomington, Ind., the Hoosiers and Hawkeyes combined for 192 points in 40 minutes. Indiana averages nearly 80 points per game and ranks in the top 10 in field-goal and 3-point shooting, while Iowa puts up nearly 74 points per game … and gives up nearly 73.

$66 (to win $60) on BYU -10 at Santa Clara (Feb. 18): One of the few teams that have fared well on the highway is BYU, which is 9-3 outside of Provo. The Cougars trounced Santa Clara 95-78 a month ago, and although the Broncos covered as 19-point underdogs, they’re still in the midst of a 13-game losing streak, going 3-10 ATS.

BEST OF THE REST (Feb. 18): Hawks +4½ at Trail Blazers ($66); Arizona +6½ at Washington ($55); Wichita State (-2) at Davidson ($44); Clippers -3½ vs. Spurs ($44); St. Mary’s-Murray State OVER ($33). Feb. 19: Vanderbilt -1½ at Georgia ($55); Wisconsin -11 vs. Penn State ($44); Pacers -10½ vs. Bobcats ($44).

LAST WEEK: 3-8-1 (-$474); Bankroll: $6,559.

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No. 11 UNLV burned again on the road, stumbling in overtime at TCU, 102-97


No. 11 UNLV burned again on the road, stumbling in overtime at TCU, 102-97

After knocking off San Diego State on Saturday afternoon at home, there was a hint of disappointment hinging over the UNLV players, knowing that they missed an opportunity to leave the Aztecs in their dust rather than needing a few key defensive plays in the final minute to clinch the win. Three nights later, the 11th-ranked Rebels again flirted with fire after holding a steep double-digit lead mid-way through the second half. This time, they got burned.