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Thursday, February 25, 2016

NBA: Pelicans Host Thunder on TNT

Some of the NBA's biggest superstars will be in action this Thursday (8 PM ET, TNT) when the New Orleans Pelicans host the Oklahoma City Thunder. Unfortunately for the Pelicans (22-34 SU, 23-33 ATS), they don't have many good role players supporting their big kahuna, forward Anthony Davis. Three of his most important teammates are on the injured list: center Omer Asik, and guards Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon.

The Thunder (40-16 SU, 22-34 ATS) could use a little more help for their two MVP candidates, point guard Russell Westbrook and swingman Kevin Durant. But they're much healthier than New Orleans, and they did add guard Randy Foye at the trade deadline in a deal with the Denver Nuggets. Perhaps the change of scenery will help Foye (7.8 PER) rediscover his shooting stroke.

New Orleans has one advantage in this matchup: Oklahoma City will be playing on zero days of rest after visiting the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night, while the Pelicans will be idle. Otherwise, it's the Thunder's game to lose. They hammered New Orleans 121-95 on February 11, cashing in easily as 12-point home favorites, and that was with Asik still in the lineup for the Pelicans.

NBA: Pelicans Host Thunder on TNT

Will Pelicans Fly Versus OKC ?
The long season could get even longer for the New Orleans Pelicans (22-34 SU, 23-33 ATS) when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder (40-16 SU, 22-34 ATS) this Thursday night. Tip-off is at 8 PM ET on TNT.

The Pelicans have three key players on the injured list at press time: center Omer Asik (11.6 PER), and guards Tyreke Evans (18.4 PER) and Eric Gordon (13.1 PER). Oklahoma City is relatively healthy; two weeks ago, the Thunder mauled New Orleans 121-95 as 12-point home favorites, and that was with Asik starting for the Pelicans.

I'm a little upset about Clippers performance last week. Hopefully they will go better next time with a better offense.

NHL Odds: Healthy Bruins Host Hurt Penguins

Now that most of their players are healthy again, the Boston Bruins (32-22-6) are back in playoff position in the Eastern Conference. They've won 11 of their last 18 games to vault into third place in the Atlantic; Boston's opponents this Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Penguins (30-20-8), are on an even bigger roll at 9-3-1 in their last 14, but injuries could halt their playoff push.

The Penguins, who sit in fourth place in the Metropolitan at press time, could be missing as many as five players when they arrive at the Garden Wednesday night (7:30 PM ET, NBCSN). The most important of the five: centre Evgeni Malkin (23 goals, 26 assists), who sat out the last nine games with a lower-body injury, believed to be his knee. Malkin is questionable to face the Bruins.

Boston's lineup is almost completely intact, except for centre Chris Kelly, who was lost for the season back in November with a broken leg. Centre Ryan Spooner (illness) and defenseman Torey Krug (upper body) were both back in the lineup for Monday's 4-6 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets (+140 away). Krug leads the Bruins' power play with 12 assists.

NHL Odds: Healthy Bruins Host Hurt Penguins

Pens Minus Malkin Versus Bruins?
Evgeni Malkin (lower-body injury) could miss his 10th straight game for the 30-20-8 Pittsburgh Penguins when they visit the 32-22-6 Boston Bruins this Wednesday night. The puck drops at 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN.

Malkin is listed as questionable for Wednesday with what's believed to be a knee injury. He's been skating on his own, but has yet to practice with the team as of press time. The big Russian is second on the Penguins this year with 23 goals and 49 points, behind only Sidney Crosby (25 goals, 56 points) for the team lead.

NCAAB : Villanova, Xavier Prepare for Big East Showdown

The Villanova Wildcats are the top-ranked team in the country, but they'll have a tough time on Wednesday when they visit the No. 5 Xavier Musketeers. Villanova leads Xavier by 1.5 games at the top of the Big East going into this game, so there's a lot at stake for the two teams.

The Wildcats (24-3 SU, 13-1 Big East) rolled to a 77-67 home win over the Butler Bulldogs (+11) for their seventh victory in a row. Josh Hart led the way with 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Wildcats, who held the Bulldogs to 38.7% from the floor.
The Musketeers (24-3 SU, 12-3 Big East) pulled away in the second half of an 88-70 rout at Georgetown, outscoring the Hoyas 53-37 after halftime. Edmond Sumner dropped 22 points for the Musketeers, who shot 53.8% from the field while holding Georgetown to 41%.
Villanova is 6-1 in seven meetings with Xavier, and those six wins have come after they lost the first one back in 2006. The Wildcats smacked the Musketeers 95-64 at home back on New Year’s Eve in their first meeting of the season. Wednesday night's tip-off is at 7 PM ET.

NCAAB : Villanova, Xavier Prepare for Big East Showdown

Villanova, Xavier Square Off on Wednesday
The Big East is the place to be on Wednesday night, when the top-ranked Villanova Wildcats (24-3 SU)  travel to Cincinnati to face the Xavier Musketeers (24-3 SU).

The Wildcats have lost just one game in Big East play this season, but as good as they’ve been, they only lead the Musketeers by 1.5 games. Villanova has dominated Xavier with six consecutive wins in seven meetings. The two met at Villanova on New Year’s Eve, and the Wildcats pounded the Musketeers by a score of 95-64. Wednesday's game starts at 7 PM ET.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

NBA : Spurs-Clippers at Staples Center

After taking the entire week off, it's back to business for the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers. They'll meet Thursday night (10:30 PM ET, TNT) at Staples Center in their first game after the All-Star break – just hours after the NBA trade deadline passes at 3 PM ET.

The trade deadline could have a dramatic impact on this important Western Conference matchup. San Antonio (45-8 SU, 34-19 ATS) hasn't been linked to any major deals, but the Clippers (35-18 SU, 25-25-3 ATS) might be willing to trade power forward Blake Griffin, who's currently on the shelf with a broken hand. Any other players the Clippers send or receive in a Griffin-based transaction, or any other trade, might not be available to play Thursday.

Otherwise, this will be a rematch of their game from December 18, when San Antonio prevailed 115-107 as an 8-point home favorite. Griffin played that night for LA and scored 25 points with five rebounds and five assists. San Antonio was also at full strength; however, Thursday will be the front end of back-to-back games for the Spurs, so veterans like center Tim Duncan and point guard Tony Parker could be late scratches.

NBA : Spurs-Clippers at Staples Center

NBA : Clippers Host Spurs in Post-Deadline Matchup

The Los Angeles Clippers (35-18 SU, 25-25-3 ATS) might look a bit different Thursday night when they host the San Antonio Spurs (45-8 SU, 34-19 ATS) in their first game after the NBA trade deadline. Tip-off is at 10:30 PM ET on TNT.

Although it's considered unlikely, the Clippers could be willing to trade power forward Blake Griffin, who's out with a broken hand. Any players LA sends or receives along with Griffin might not be available to play Thursday after the deadline passes at 3 PM ET. San Antonio isn't rumored to be making any significant changes

NCAAB : Duke, North Carolina Renew Hostilities on Wednesday

Regardless of records or rankings, the rivalry between the Duke Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tar Heels remains one of the hottest in the NCAAB. The two ACC rivals meet for the first time this season on Wednesday in North Carolina.

The Blue Devils (19-6 SU, 8-4 ACC) edged the No. 7 Virginia Cavaliers 63-62 at home last Saturday for their fourth win in a row. Grayson Allen scored 15 points, including the buzzer-beater. Brandon Ingram put up 25 points and seven rebounds for the Blue Devils, who also beat No. 13 Louisville on February 8 to cap their best week of the season.

The Tar Heels (21-4 SU, 10-2 ACC) routed the Pittsburgh Panthers 85-64 at home, giving them two straight wins. Brice Johnson led five UNC players in double figures with 19 points, while Marcus Paige added 15. The Tar Heels are No. 5 in the AP Top 25.

Duke has won seven of the last 10 meetings with North Carolina, including the last three. That being said, the Blue Devils have also won three of their last four trips to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Tip-off is at 9 PM ET.

NCAAB : Duke, North Carolina Renew Hostilities on Wednesday

NCAAB : Duke-North Carolina Resume College Basketball's Biggest Rivalry

The Duke Blue Devils have gotten their NCAA Tournament hopes back on track with four straight wins. They'll try to keep it going on Wednesday when they visit their main rivals, the North Carolina Tar Heels, who have won two in a row themselves.

The Blue Devils beat two ranked teams last week in Louisville and Virginia, and they'll try to make it three when they face the Tar Heels. North Carolina's at the top of the ACC with a 10-2 record, but the Blue Devils aren't far back at 8-4. Duke has won the last three meetings in this rivalry, sweeping both meetings last season by a combined nine points.

NHL : Price-less Habs Visit Avalanche

It's too bad Patrick Roy is coaching the Colorado Avalanche because his old team could use him back in goal. The Montreal Canadiens visit the Pepsi Center Wednesday night (8 PM ET, TSN) in the midst of an awful slump, going 10-22-2 since reigning league MVP Carey Price (.934 save percentage) got hurt. He's expected to miss the rest of the season with a lower-body injury.

Mike Condon (.900 SV%) is projected to start in goal Wednesday for Montreal. After winning six of his first seven NHL starts, Condon has fallen on hard times, dropping five straight heading into Denver. The Habs (27-26-4) have also lost several other players to injury, including big-hitting defenseman Jeff Petry (86 hits, 73 blocks) and centre Brian Flynn (57.8 face-off percentage).

The Avalanche (29-26-4) are in a mini-slump of their own at 2-4-1 in their last seven games. Semyon Varlamov (.916 SV%) is the likely starter for Wednesday's matchup; he's been impressive over the past couple of months after a slow start. Thanks to Varlamov's stopping power, Colorado has been one of the more profitable teams in the league against the puck line at 36-23 ATS, earning 5.01 units in profit.

NHL : Price-less Habs Visit Avalanche

NHL : Avs Host Slumping Canadiens

The Colorado Avalanche (29-26-4) are the next team to get a crack at kicking the Montreal Canadiens (27-26-4) while they're down. They'll meet Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center; the puck drops at 8 PM ET on TSN.

Montreal is 10-22-2 since league MVP Carey Price (.934 save percentage) suffered a lower-body injury that is now expected to cost him the rest of the season. Mike Condon (.900 SV%) is projected to start again for the Habs on Wednesday; he's dropped five straight games and 17 of his last 21 after a promising NHL debut.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

NBA : Wizards-Bucks in Last Game Before Break

The unofficial first half of the NBA season wraps up Thursday night (8 PM ET) when the Washington Wizards visit the Milwaukee Bucks. Both teams are coming off victories on Tuesday. Washington beat the New York Knicks 111-108 as 2-point road favorites, while Milwaukee upset the Boston Celtics 112-111 as 5-point home dogs.

The Wizards (23-27 SU, 26-24 ATS) have been the better team this year, although injuries have limited their performance. The team is relatively healthy now, but the Bucks (21-32 SU, 26-26-1 ATS), on the other hand, are without power forward John Henson, who has missed six straight games with a sore back. He's considered day-to-day going into the All-Star break. In his absence, Milwaukee has gone 1-5 SU and 2-4 ATS.
This will be the fourth meeting of the season between these two teams, after Washington swept the first three games at 2-1 ATS. The disappointing Bucks are near the bottom of the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and Henson (18.9 PER) is by far their best defensive player. The Wizards have a strong frontcourt now that Nene (15.9 PER) has returned from the injured list to support fellow big man Marcin Gortat (17.8 PER).

NBA : Wizards-Bucks in Last Game Before Break

Shorthanded Bucks Host Replenished Wizards
The Washington Wizards (23-27 SU, 26-24 ATS) already beat the Milwaukee Bucks (21-32 SU, 26-26-1 ATS) three times this year, and they'll get another crack at it Thursday night when they meet at the Bradley Center. Tip-off is at 8 PM ET.

The Bucks have played the last six games without power forward John Henson (18.9 PER), who remains day-to-day with a sore back. They're 1-5 SU and 2-4 ATS without their top defender. Washington's frontcourt is healthy now that Nene (15.9 PER) has returned from the injured list to join fellow center Marcin Gortat (17.8 PER).

NHL : Penguins, Rangers Heating up the Metro

This hasn't been a very good year for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but after six wins in their last seven games, they're back in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division. They'll try to improve their position this Wednesday (8 PM ET, NBCSN) at the expense of the New York Rangers, who have won six of their last eight.

Both teams could be missing key players on Wednesday. The 27-18-7 Penguins have been without centre Evgeni Malkin (23 goals, 26 assists) for the past three games due to a lower-body injury, while the 30-18-5 Rangers have played the last six games without left wing Rick Nash (12 goals, 21 assists), who's out with a bone bruise in his left leg. Both Malkin and Nash are listed as day-to-day.

At press time, the two No. 1 goaltenders are projected to suit up for their respective clubs: Marc-Andre Fleury (.920 save percentage) for Pittsburgh and Henrik Lundqvist (.921 SV%) for New York. This will be their first meeting of the season. Last April, Lundqvist and the Rangers beat Fleury's Penguins in five games during the first round of the playoffs; each New York win had a final score of 2-1.

NHL : Penguins, Rangers Heating up the Metro

Malkin, Nash Iffy for Pens-Rangers Clash
The 27-18-7 Pittsburgh Penguins have won six of their last seven games to move back into third place in the Metropolitan Division. On Wednesday (8 PM ET, NBCSN), they'll visit the second-place New York Rangers, who have won six of eight to improve to 30-18-5.

Both teams have been winning lately despite injuries to key personnel. Centre Evgeni Malkin (23 goals, 26 assists) has missed three games for Pittsburgh with a lower-body injury, while left wing Rick Nash (12 goals, 21 assists) has sat out the last six games for New York with a bone bruise in his left leg.

NCAAB : LSU, South Carolina Go Head-to-Head on Wednesday

The SEC rankings are tight with nine teams within three games of each other as we go to press. On Wednesday, two of the top teams in the conference clash as the LSU Tigers travel to South Carolina to face the Gamecocks. Tip-off is at 7 PM ET.

The Tigers (15-8 SU, 8-2 SEC) rolled to an 88-77 win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs (+9.5) at home, getting 31 points off the bench from Antonio Blakeney. Probable No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals for the Tigers, who shot 52.5% from the floor. LSU has now won four of their last five to sit atop the SEC.
The Gamecocks (20-3 SU, 7-3 SEC) upset Texas A&M (-9.5) 81-78 on the road, powered by 25 points from Sindarius Thornwell. South Carolina, who had lost at Georgia in their previous game, shot 12-of-21 from beyond the arc. The Gamecocks also forced 17 turnovers out of then-No. 8 Texas A&M.
South Carolina has lost four of the last five meetings between the teams. This is the first and only regular-season meeting between these two during this season.

NCAAB : LSU, South Carolina Go Head-to-Head on Wednesday

Tigers, Gamecocks Prepare for Midweek Clash
The LSU Tigers have surged to the top of the SEC as they've gotten their act together for conference play with six wins in their last eight. On Wednesday, they'll head to South Carolina for a huge game.

This game will feature a pair of talented forwards, starting with LSU's Ben Simmons. The freshman, who will likely be the No. 1 2016 NBA Draft pick, is averaging 19.4 points, 12.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. Simmons will go up against South Carolina senior Michael
Carrera, who puts up on average 14.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting almost 49% from three-point land.

Monday, February 1, 2016

NFL : Team Irvin vs Team Rice at Pro Bowl

The 2016 Pro Bowl takes place this Sunday (7 PM ET, ESPN) at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, and for the third straight year, it won't be AFC vs NFC. Hall of Fame wideouts Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice are the captains for their namesake teams; they were the captains for the first two Pro Bowl winners under this format, Team Rice in 2014 and Team Irvin last year.

The two captains made their first draft selections Wednesday night from the pool of available players, and Team Irvin made out like bandits with their three quarterback picks: Seattle's Russell Wilson, Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston, and Minnesota's Teddy Bridgewater. Team Rice responded with New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, Oakland's Derek Carr, and Buffalo's Tyrod Taylor.

These exhibition games typically see sky-high totals, but under this new format, scores have been somewhat lower than usual. The 2014 Pro Bowl went under the total of 90.5 when Team Rice defeated Deion Sanders' squad 22-21, and the 2015 Pro Bowl pushed the total of 60 when Team Irvin prevailed 32-28 over the club captained by Cris Carter. Sunday's weather could contribute to another low score; there's a 15% chance of rain over Aloha Stadium.

Team Irvin vs Team Rice at Pro Bowl

NFL : Team Irvin Gets Early Jump on Pro Bowl
It'll be Team Irvin vs Team Rice this Sunday (7 PM ET, ESPN) at the 2016 Pro Bowl in Honolulu, and Michael Irvin's squad already has the advantage over Jerry Rice. The teams made their first draft selections on Wednesday, and Irvin grabbed an impressive trio of quarterbacks: Russell Wilson, Jamies Winston and Teddy Bridgewater. Rice responded with Eli Manning, Derek Carr and Tyrod Taylor.

The last two Pro Bowls under this new format had relatively low scores, and Sunday's weather could play a role, too. The forecast calls for a 15% chance of rain with temperatures around 80 degrees.