An Asian-American Harvard graduate comes out of nowhere to take over the NBA (and nearly blows up the Internet). One of Major League Baseball’s reigning MVPs beats a 50-game performance-enhancing drug suspension on a technicality. College basketball continues one of its most unpredictable seasons ever (the Top 25 includes such nontraditional powers as Creighton, Virginia, Temple, Wichita State, Murray State and Baylor). Van Halen releases its first David Lee Roth-fronted album in 28 years (and receives mostly positive reviews). A silent film wins the Oscar for Best Picture.
Who says February is uneventful? Hell, things got so zany that by month’s end I half expected a Vegas resort to give Mike Tyson his own one-man show. Wait, what? That really is happening? And the powers-that-be are charging a C-note to hear life musings from the self-proclaimed “Baddest Man on the Planet”—the man who once uttered the phrase, “I guess I’m gonna fade into Bolivian”? Man I love this city! (Hey, Mike, regarding an opening act, I’ve got two words for you: midget wrestling.)
Lost amid the February frenzy is the fact that I closed the month with my first positive results of the basketball season, including a 4-for-4 effort with my top selections. Now let’s move on to this week’s picks before my performance-enhancing drug-test results come in (note that all point spreads are projected) …
$220 (to win $200) on Oregon -19½ vs. Utah (March 3): A few years back, two friends who were roommates here in town nearly came to blows when one tossed raw chicken into the garbage can … in the garage … in the middle of July … several days before the next scheduled pickup. I bring that up because it’s the perfect metaphor for the inaugural Pac-12 hoops season, which has reeked since Day One. And Utah (6-22 overall; 3-13 conference; 0-14 away from home) has played the role of the raw chicken. Among the Utes’ road massacres this season: USC (62-45), UCLA (76-49), Cal (81-45), Colorado (73-33) Weber State (80-51), Fresno State (82-52) and Boise State (80-59).
Oregon entered the week on a 9-3 roll (including a 79-68 win at Utah), and the Ducks are 12-4 against the spread in Pac-12 play (including seven consecutive spread-covers).
$110 (to win $100) on TCU -2½ vs. San Diego State (March 3): TCU’s home record since the calendar flipped to 2012: 7-0, including impressive Mountain West victories over Wyoming, Colorado State, UNLV and New Mexico. The Horned Frogs covered in each of those four games (including three outright upsets) and now are in position to steal the regular-season conference title (or, at the very least, grab a top-four seed). TCU gave San Diego State a battle a month ago, falling 83-73 as an 11-point road underdog (part of the Frogs’ ongoing 7-1 ATS run). Meanwhile, the Aztecs have split their last eight games (going 2-5-1 ATS), including three straight road losses.
$110 (to win $100) on Jazz +6 vs. Heat (March 2): Not only did the mighty Miami Heat enter the All-Star break on an eight-game winning streak, but they won all eight by double digits and covered in seven of them. Going back to mid-January, Miami is 19-3. That said, NBA betting is all about situations—especially in this compressed season—and this is a tricky sandwich spot for the Heat. They will have played at Portland the night before heading to Salt Lake City, with a showdown in L.A. against the Lakers looming 48 hours later. Yes, the Jazz limped into the break by dropping 10 of 13, but they’re 4-2 ATS in their last six at home.
$77 (to win $70) on Cal State Fullerton +3 vs. Long Beach State (March 3): Long Beach State is to the Big West Conference what Kate Upton is to a Weight Watchers convention. The 49ers, who have lost just twice since Dec. 10, entered the week 14-0 in league play, having long ago clinched the regular-season conference title. Which is precisely why I’m going against Long Beach: This final game, on the road, is completely meaningless. Not so for Fullerton, which most likely will need a victory here to clinch second place and avoid the 49ers in the Big West tournament until the championship game. Note that Fullerton has won 10 straight at home, including all six of its league contests.
BEST OF THE REST (March 3): Connecticut -5 vs. Pittsburgh ($55); Vanderbilt -4 at Tennessee ($55); Cincinnati -1½ at Villanova ($44); New Mexico -18 vs. Boise State ($44); Baylor +3 at Iowa State ($44); Magic -7 vs. Bucks ($33). (March 4): Rockets -3 vs. Clippers ($55); Lakers +3½ vs. Heat ($55); Penn State +3 vs. Michigan ($44); Ohio State +1 at Michigan State ($44).
LAST WEEK: 7-5 (+$329); Bankroll: $6,539.