As always, for more information behind each pick, watch Free Money Friday Every Day on the ESPN106.7 twitter account every weekday at 3 pm or listen to the Free Money Friday Every Day podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Sticher, or espnau.com.
Today is a new day with a new slate, so I don’t love to spend a lot of time looking at yesterday’s slate. There’s not a big reason to get too worked up over one day, but it is worth looking at what went right/wrong. I don’t really look at the Sprinkles in hindsight though because I don’t totally expect the team to win. That’s why I only sprinkle the ML. I believe they have a good chance, but I don’t expect the win.
- PHI -7.5 @ CLE – the 76ers lost by 14. They mystify me.
- Magic @ Hawks U226 – I was just wrong about this one, but I was also following two systems. I guess everything was wrong.
- Evansville +15 @ UNI – They lost by 20. This was a poor ATS vs good ATS game. We were 22-7 in these games before yesterday, so it isn’t all that surprising to see some regression.
- UND ML @ NEOM – THEY LOST BY 1 IN OVERTIME. I AM ANGER.
- Vanderbilt +2.5 & ML hosting Mizzou – Mizzou finally got their first road win since Dec 7.
- LSU ML @ Florida – LOST BY 15 WOW LSU WOW
- UVU +6 @ Cal Baptist – They lost by 7. This was a poor ATS vs good ATS game. We were 22-7 in these games before yesterday, so it isn’t all that surprising to see some regression.
Today’s Picks (Yesterday’s Record):
NCAAB 225-227-9 (5-3):
Mount St. Mary’s @ St. Francis (PA):
- Spread: St. Francis (PA) -9 (now -8)
- O/U: 136 (now 137.5)
This is a Poor ATS vs Good ATS game. We went 0-2 in these games yesterday, but we are 22-9 in these games on the season. Like I said in the recap of yesterday’s picks, some regression makes sense; however, I’m still going to continue with the system because it has done so well.
Mount St. Mary’s has covered exactly 50% of their games this season, which barely gets them inside our optimal percentage. St. Francis (PA) has covered 70.8% of their games. That is comfortably above our 66% threshold.
The Pick: Mount St. Mary’s +8
San Diego @ Gonzaga
- Spread: Gonzaga -25.5 (now -25.5)
- O/U: 147 (now 149)
San Diego lost their last game by 29 @ St. Mary’s. In conference games during the regular season, unranked teams coming off a 15+ point loss have covered the spread 64% of the time when playing Top-5 opponents.
Normal people like betting Top-5 teams and fading teams after big losses. Oddsmakers know this, so they inflate the lines. We are going to do the opposite.
The Pick: San Diego +25.5
Illinois @ Northwestern:
- Spread: Northwestern +6.5 (now +6)
- O/U: 132 (now 133)
This is a super, super interesting game to me. Let’s dive into it:
Setting the Scene: Illinois is sitting at 18-9 (10-6), and Northwestern is a putrid 6-20 (1-15). The Wildcats have lost 11 games in a row by an average of 13.8 points per game. On Sunday, they lost to Minnesota at home by 26. Illinois won 7 in a row between Jan 5th and Jan 20th. They followed that up with four (4) straight losses before winning their last two games in Happy Valley against Penn State and at home against Nebraska. The Illini currently sit in 4th place in the B1G, half of a game behind Penn State and Michigan State for a tie for second place. Those two teams both won last night and Monday night, respectively. Illinois bested Penn State on Feb 18th in their only meeting of the season, but they lost in both meetings with Michigan State. Illinois needs this win to keep their hopes for the 2- or, more realistically, 3-seed in the B1G Tournament.
Trends: Illinois has been average ATS this season, covering in 52% of their games, but they do have some more positive trends working in their favor:
|Illinois – 52% ATS on the season||Northwestern – 10-16 ATS this season|
1-0 ATS as a road favorite
|3-5 ATS as a home underdog|
9-4-1 ATS with 2-3 days off (played Monday)
|4-7 ATS with 4+ days off (played Sunday)|
6-4 ATS as away team
|3-11 ATS at home|
|9-7 ATS in conference games||
7-9 ATS in conference games
|7-8-1 ATS after a win||
8-11 ATS after a loss
|2-3-1 ATS with rest disadvantage||
4-6 ATS with rest advantage
On the Court: It’s no secret that Illinois has struggled offensively during conference play. They are currently ranked dead last in the B1G in effective FG%, 2P%, and 3P%. They are, however, ranked 1st in the conference in offensive rebounding.
The fascinating thing is that Illinois has actually been better on offense in their conference games outside of Champaign. Look at Table 1 for a breakdown of their home vs road numbers in conference games:
Table 1: Illinois Conference Home/Road Offensive Stats
|Location||Adj. OE||EFG%||TO%||ORB%||FT Rate||2P %||3P %|
If you’re wondering if that is a strange phenomenon for a B1G team, you’re not alone. I thought the same thing, so I did some more digging. Check out Table 2 below for a comparison of how the entire B1G shoots at home vs on the road.
Table 2: B1G Teams Conference Home/Road Offensive Stats
|Team||EFG% H||EFG% R||EFG% Diff||2P% H||2P% R||2P% Diff||3P % H||3P% R||3P % Diff|
Illinois is in orange. A positive difference means that the road statistic is better (higher) than the home statistic. You can see that Illinois is one of two teams that is better in all three shooting statistics, the other being Penn State. According to this data, which is from barttorvik.com, if a team is better at shooting either inside or outside the arc, they are usually worse in the other area, i.e. if a team is better at shooting 3-pointers, they are worse at shooting 2-pointers. But does this matter?
Yes. It shows us that Illinois is one of the most consistent offensive teams in their conference. You basically know what you are going to get from this offense game-in and game-out. Look at Wisconsin, Purdue, and Ohio State. Those teams are completely different offensively on the road. They are so, so much worse.
Illinois is much better at defense at home, but they only drop from a top-2 defense at home to a top-5 defense on the road (conference ranks).
Northwestern is the worst team in the conference at both offense and defense at home, and it really isn’t that close.
Analysis: This should be a bloodbath. Northwestern isn’t going to be able to keep Illinois off the offensive boards, the free throw line, or the 3-point arc. Northwestern is allowing opponents to grab 32.3% of offensive rebounds and make over 40% of their 3-balls. Illinois has three players that shoot 30% or better from long range including one player who has made 40%. They don’t shoot 3s well as a team, but they have guys who can knock them down if you give them space.
The Pick: Illinois -6.5
Arizona State @ UCLA:
- Spread: UCLA -2.5 (now -3)
- O/U: 141
Setting the Scene: UCLA has quietly turned their season around since non-conference home losses to Hofstra and CS Fullerton. They sit at 17-11 and are 10-5 in the PAC-12. The Bruins have won 5 games in a row and 6 of their last 7. Mick Cronin’s squad has 3 games remaining in the regular season: hosting ASU, hosting Arizona, and @ USC.
DISCLAIMER: This next part is going to sound crazy, but I swear it’s true. They are currently in a three-way tie for 2nd place in the PAC-12 with Oregon and ASU and only a half game back of Colorado for 1st. They can still win the regular season title.
So can ASU. The Sun Devils are 19-8 (10-5) and have won 7 in a row (8 of 9). They have four games remaining: @ UCLA, @ USC, hosting Washington, and hosting Washington State.
On the Court: These two teams have been about the same during conference play. UCLA has been a little better on offense but a little worse on defense. UCLA plays slower than ASU.
Analysis: I think this is going to come down to who wants it more. UCLA has been the best team in the PAC-12 at offensive rebounding and 2nd best at getting steals. ASU has been the best in the conference at turning over their opponents. UCLA is playing at home. Usually teams turn the ball over less and control the pace of the game better when they are at home. If UCLA can do that, combined with their effort on the offensive glass, I think they be able to win and cover the spread in this game.
The Pick: UCLA -3
South Dakota State @ North Dakota State:
- Spread: North Dakota State -4 (now -5)
- O/U: 147.5 (now 145)
A few things about this game make no sense to me: the spread and the movement of the O/U. We’ll start with the latter. The over has gotten 95% of bets and 94% of money in this game, but the number has dropped between 1.5 and 3 points depending on where you look. It’s at 144.5 on BetMGM right now.
Setting the Scene: Now, the first thing that makes no sense to me. If you have paid attention to the Summit League at all you know that South Dakota State and North Dakota State are the two best teams. I have paid attention to the Summit League. I am 24-17 betting it this season, 18-7 since Feb 16th, and 4-1 last night.
South Dakota State is 22-8 and in first place in the league at 13-2. They have won 8 games in a row and are 12-1 since the first game of league play. They have covered in 6 of the 8 games during this win streak and 15 out of 18 games dating back to before league play started. This is their last game of the regular season. If they win, they win the Summit League regular season title.
North Dakota State is 20-8 and in second place in the league at 11-3. They had won 7 in a row before losing on the road against North Dakota on Saturday. They have two games left in Summit League play, finishing the season at home against Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday. If they win both games, they win finish tied with South Dakota State for 1st in the Summit League at 13-3. I don’t know if they would share the title or not because South Dakota State has already beaten North Dakota State this season, 77-74 on Feb 19th.
Trends: South Dakota State is one of the best teams in the country at covering the spread. They have covered in 71.4% of games this season, and their trend with the lowest cover rate is “with equal rest” at 54.5%. That means in the games that they are the worst at covering, they still cover more often than not. They are 11-4 ATS in conference games this season, and they are 5-2 ATS in road conference games.
North Dakota State has covered 52% of games this season. They have been good as a favorite, covering 61.1% of those games, but they’re only 3-5-1 ATS as a home favorite. In conference games they are 7-6-1 ATS, but they’re only 2-4 in conference home games.
Summit League home teams have not been good ATS during conference play. They are 28-38 ATS overall, 7-21 ATS in February, 20-23 ATS as favorites, and 4-14 ATS as favorites in February.
North Dakota State has averaged over 82 points/game at home during conference play. Those games have an average total of 154.7 with a max of 168, a median of 151, and a min of 142. They have been astonishingly consistent at home on both ends of the floor. They scored 80, 83, 82, and 83 points in their last four home games. They gave up 70, 76, 70, 74, 70, and 74 points.
South Dakota State has averaged exactly 79 points/game on the road during conference play. Those games have an average total of 152.43 with a max of 183, a median of 148, and a min of 131. They have been the opposite of consistent on the road on both ends of the floor. They scored between 94 and 70 in each game and gave up between 99 and 61 (3 times) in each game. Their median numbers are 78 points scored and 68 points given up.
On the Court: These are the two best teams in the Summit League at defense. They both rank in the Top 3 in defensive efficiency, opponent effective field goal percentage, opponent FT rate, and all three opponent shooting percentages (FT, 2P, 3P). South Dakota State doesn’t force turnovers (9th) and doesn’t rebound well on the defensive end (8th), but they do block a lot of shots (1st in block rate). North Dakota State is the best in the league at defensive rebounding, but they also struggle to force turnovers (8th in opponent TO%, 6th in block rate, 7th in steal rate).
On offense, both teams are very good, but South Dakota State is better. The Jackrabbits are #1 in the conference in offensive efficiency and every shooting percentage except FT. They are 2nd in offensive rebounding percentage. The Bison are 4th in efficiency, free throw rate, and 3P percentage; 2nd in effective field goal percentage and 2P percentage; and 1st in FT percentage.
Analysis: This should be a very good, very close game. These teams match up well. I love the Jackrabbits. I think they are going to be the more motivated team in this game. Sealing a conference championship on your rival’s home floor would be absolutely incredible. The consistency of NDSU at home is great for looking at the total. Their last four home games have all fallen between 150 and 159, and South Dakota State’s offense is the best that will come to Fargo this season. North Dakota State hasn’t had an opponent score fewer than 70 points, and South Dakota State hasn’t scored less than 70 in this spot. I’m asking myself if I think that both teams will score their averages. I think the answer is no. 82 and 79 are too many points to assume against defenses this good. But do I think that both teams will get to 73 points? Absolutely.
The Pick: South Dakota State +5 & Over 145
Western Illinois @ Oral Roberts
- Spread: Oral Roberts -13.5 (now -13.5)
- O/U: 160 (now 159)
I’m going to make this short and sweet. I am incredibly angry at Oral Roberts still. Western Illinois is terrible. Summit League home teams have not been good ATS during conference play. They are 28-38 ATS overall, 7-21 ATS in February, 20-23 ATS as favorites, and 4-14 ATS as favorites in February.
Oral Roberts is quite good at offense. They are probably going to score 85 points. Will Western Illinois get to 75? Probably.
Western Illinois has covered their last 4 conference road games.
The Pick: Western Illinois +13.5 & Over 159
NBA 73-71 (1-2):
Trail Blazers +10 @ Pacers:
This is a game that fits a system that we have been using. The system bets on a team playing on the road that did not cover the spread as an underdog in its last game playing against a team that did cover the spread in its last game. Historically, the system has won 55% of games. I am only 3-5 when tailing the system, but I don’t pick every game that it does.
In this game, I just don’t think the Pacers are 10 points better than the Blazers.
Sprinkles 39-67 (1-3):
South Dakota State ML @ North Dakota State
MikePick2 16-20 (1-0, 3 in a row, 4 of last 5, +0.43u):
There is no MikePick2 tonight because I don’t like any of the numbers. I am upset about it because I have been on fire with these lately.
- MSM +8
- ILL -6.5
- WIL +13.5
- WIL/ORU O159
- USD +25.5
- SDKS +5
- SDKS/NDSU O145
- UCLA -3
- Trail Blazers +10
- SDKS ML