I’ll say this much about deer-antler spray: It tastes like bile mixed with paint thinner mixed with pigeon droppings, but, man alive, does that shit work! Just a few squirts under the tongue daily, and—voilà!—I produced a 5-2-1 NFL playoff record, capped by the Ravens plus-4 points and the Ravens plus-150 on the money line in Super Bowl XLVII (my third straight winning Super Bowl, for those keeping score). Throw in a 6-3 mark in college basketball two weeks ago, and I’m in the midst of an 11-5-1 run that’s netted more than $800.
And then there was the nonfinancial windfall over the past month: Tom Brady and the Patriots go down, Peyton Manning and the Broncos go down, Ray Lewis goes away, Norv Turner gets exiled to Cleveland, Alex Rodriguez (and tangentially the Yankees) get caught up in another performance-enhancing-drug scandal and San Francisco gets denied its world-championship daily double. About the only thing that could’ve made that four-week stretch more enjoyable was if Sports Illustrated had hired me to be a guest body-painter for its upcoming Swimsuit Issue.
Unfortunately, in three years on this job, I’ve learned the hard way that what goes up tends to come down. To wit: Exactly one year ago, my bankroll stood at $7,033 after a profitable Giants-Patriots Super Bowl … then came a disastrous college-basketball stretch that lasted through the Final Four. Which is why, for the foreseeable future, I’m going to proceed more cautiously than Manti Te’o on an online dating site.
On to my selections for February 9…
$88 on Indiana State -12 vs. Southern Illinois: To answer your question: Yes, I do know the nicknames for both of these schools—Sycamores and Salukis—and, no, I didn’t need to look that up (as far as you know). However, this I will admit to researching: Indiana State has been one of college basketball’s most profitable teams for two months running, going 12-3 against the spread since mid-December (4-1 ATS at home). On the flip side, Southern Illinois has failed to cover in five straight games and nine of its last 12.
True, the Salukis’ lone Missouri Valley Conference victory was against Indiana State on January 12 (76-71 as a 1-point favorite). But that just puts the Sycamores—who are 8-1 at home—in a nice revenge spot. There’s also this from the history department: Southern Illinois has failed to win (or cover) in its last three visits to Indiana State, losing the last two by 10 and 15 points.
$66 on Miami -7½ vs. North Carolina: Speaking of the Sycamores, they’re one of only three teams this season to take down Miami, which is 17-3 and ranked eighth this week. But that game was played in Honolulu on Christmas Day. This game against the Tar Heels is being played in a different tropical locale: South Beach, where the Hurricanes are 9-0 straight-up and 7-0 ATS. The last two teams to walk into the BankUnited Center—Florida State and then-top-ranked Duke—walked out humiliated, losing 71-47 and 90-63, respectively.
As for North Carolina, let’s just say these aren’t your father’s Tar Heels (hell, they’re not even your older brother’s Tar Heels). A month ago, UNC lost 68-59 to Miami as a 4-point home favorite, part of its 5-3 record in ACC play. The Heels are also 1-3 ATS as an underdog, including an eight-point loss at North Carolina State (which led by 28 midway through the second half), a nine-point loss at Virginia and a 24-point loss at Indiana.
$55 on Florida -29½ vs. Mississippi State: At this point, betting on second-ranked Florida is as automatic as breathing. Yeah, the Gators didn’t cover a week ago in a 78-64 win over Ole Miss as a 17½-point home favorite—ending an 8-0 ATS run—but they still posted their 10th straight victory, all by double digits. In fact, each of Florida’s 18 wins has been by at least 13 points. What about laying this big of a price? Well, I was hesitant … until remembering the Gators’ 82-47 win at Mississippi State on January 26—part of the Bulldogs’ current six-game losing skid (1-5 ATS).
Best of the Rest:z Feb. 9: West Virginia -61Ž2 at TCU ($55); Boise State -6 vs. Wyoming ($44); Oklahoma State -4 at Texas ($44); Vanderbilt +1 ½ vs. Arkansas ($33); Pitt +1 at Cincinnati ($33) UNLV -5 vs. New Mexico ($33); San Diego +10 ½ vs. St. Mary’s ($33).