7-16-1. No, that’s not the UNLV basketball team’s road mark. Nor is it Tim Tebow’s latest favorite Bible verse. Nor the combination to Steve Wynn’s safe—although I wish it was, as I could use some cash right about now. That’s because 7-16-1 is my record over the past fortnight. At least I can say a couple of big plays were among those seven winners—well, I can say that, but I’d be lying. In fact, I’ve whiffed on each of my six strongest basketball selections, which has contributed to a two-week net loss of more than $800.
So what’s a shell-shocked handicapper to do? I see only one option: Hop a plane to New York, find Jeremy Lin and rub his head for good luck—and do so ASAP before Kim Kardashian gets her stink all over him. That’s right, rumors from gossip land suggest that KK is rife with Linsanity. I’m sure hers is a legitimate attraction and has absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Lin bumping her from the headlines the last couple of weeks. (Don’t do it, Jeremy; she’ll ruin you like she’d ruin a size-four miniskirt.)
Anyway, with the madness that is March around the corner, I need a positive week more than Allen Iverson needs a financial adviser, so let’s move on to this week’s picks (note that all point spreads are projected) …
$220 (to win $200) on Vanderbilt +10½ at Kentucky (Feb. 25): The last time Kentucky lost at Rupp Arena, Barack Obama was six weeks into his gig on Pennsylvania Avenue and John Calipari was still at Memphis. The top-ranked Wildcats are 50-0 at home under Calipari, and while it’s unlikely that Vanderbilt will snap that streak, the Commodores do have the ability to be competitive. They proved it two weeks ago at home, taking Kentucky to the wire before losing 69-63—the only time since Jan. 21 that a team has come within single digits of the Wildcats.
Yes, Kentucky got a couple of free throws in the waning seconds at Vandy to cover as a 4½-point road favorite. However, at home, Calipari’s crew has been anything but a winning bet, going 3-11-1 against the spread in its last 15 games. Meanwhile, with two convincing road wins last week at Mississippi and Georgia, the Commodores are 7-2 ATS on the highway. They also haven’t been beaten by double digits since an 82-70 overtime loss to Xavier on Nov. 28.
$110 (to win $100) on Michigan State -14 vs. Nebraska (Feb. 25): Michigan State started its season with consecutive neutral-court losses to North Carolina and Duke. Since then the Spartans are 22-3, and those three losses were by a combined nine points. Michigan State opened February on a 5-0 straight-up and ATS run, with all five wins by double digits, including three against nationally ranked Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
The Spartans’ 11-3 SU and ATS conference record includes a 68-55 blowout of Nebraska as a 7-point road favorite on New Year’s Eve. Speaking of the Cornhuskers, they’re 4-10 in the Big Ten, including ugly road losses at Ohio State (71-40), Northwestern (84-74) and Penn State (67-51).
$77 (to win $70) on Wichita State -16 vs. Drake (Feb. 25): The only thing standing between Wichita State and a 15-game winning streak is a stunning 93-86 triple-overtime loss at Drake on Jan. 28. Even with that upset, the Shockers entered the week on a 22-2 roll, and they’ve been money at the window, cashing in nine of their last 12 (including the last four in a row). In addition to playing with revenge, Wichita State is looking to bolster its NCAA tournament résumé, while Drake (0-for-its-last-4 as a road underdog) is playing out the string.
$66 (to win $60) on TCU +8½ vs. New Mexico (Feb. 25): Among the life lessons I’ve learned in four-plus decades on earth, “never bet against a streak” ranks somewhere between “never eat yellow snow” and “never pay a cover charge at a strip club.” And yet here I am going against streaking New Mexico, which entered this week having won and covered seven in a row. So why fade the Lobos? Because this is their second road game in four days (they played at Colorado State on Feb. 21), because TCU is 5-0 at home in Mountain West Conference play, and because the Horned Frogs have covered in five straight league games overall (going 4-0 ATS as an underdog).
BEST OF THE REST (Feb. 25): San Francisco +2½ vs. St. Mary’s ($55); Kansas -6 vs. Missouri ($55); Connecticut +5 vs. Syracuse ($55); Georgetown -11 vs. Villanova ($44); St. Louis -6½ at Rhode Island ($33); (Feb. 26): Louisville -8½ vs. Pittsburgh ($44); Florida State +2 at Miami ($44); NBA All-Star Game OVER ($44).
LAST WEEK: 4-8 (-$349); Bankroll: $6,210.
Matt Jacob is a former local sports writer who has been in the sports handicapping business for more than six years. For his weekly column, Matt received a “$7,000” bankroll when Vegas Seven debuted in February 2010. When he blows it all, we’ll fire him and replace him with a monkey.