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#11 seed GONZAGA BULLDOGS (19-14) vs. #6 seed ST. JOHN’S RED STORM (21-11)
NCAA Tournament – Second Round
Tip-off: Thursday, 9:45 p.m. ET – Denver, CO
Line: St. John’s -1, Total: 135
Gonzaga versus St. John’s is a matchup of teams with two distinctly different NCAA histories, recently speaking.
The Bulldogs have been to each and every NCAA party since 1999, dancing its way from tournament Cinderella in the late 90’s to perennial attendees today. If the ’Zags have been the annual party people, St. John’s on the other hand has been a tournament home body. The Johnnies, longtime strangers to all this madness nonsense, will be making their first tournament appearance on Thursday night since 2002, when they lost in the first round to Wisconsin.
The closest thing that these two teams may have in common is a little bit of history. In 2000 Gonzaga and St. John’s met in the second round of the West Regional. Gonzaga (#10 seed) defeated the Big East champion Red Storm (#2 seed) that year, 82-76. 2000 was also the last year that the Red Storm won a tournament game. Now Steve Lavin has the program back to respectability, and will be trying to add onto an already impressive ‘10-11 resume that saw the school go from 17 wins to 21 (and counting?) and from 6-12 in league play last season, to 12-6 this year.
You don’t make the tournament 13 straight times without getting hot at the right time of year, so it shouldn’t’ be surprising to see Gonzaga entering the tournament winners of nine straight and 11 of its last 12. Those numbers become even more impressive when you consider where Gonzaga was on December 11, when the ‘Zags were sitting at 4-5 following an 83-79 loss to Notre Dame in South Bend.
Shortly thereafter, quality out-of-conference wins over Baylor, Xavier and Oklahoma State got things back on track for Mark Few’s team, and from there it was a race to wrest control of the West Coast Conference back away from last year’s champ, Saint Mary’s. That battle was waged throughout the season, with the two teams splitting games, winning on each other’s home court. It came down to the conference title game, and the ‘Zags were up to the task, defeating the Gaels 75-63. Gonzaga is led by big 6-foot-5 senior guard Steven Gray (13.8 PPG, 3.8 APG, 1.7 SPG), who leads the team in scoring, assists, steals, collisions and floor burns.
Gray gets a big assist from 7-footer junior Robert Sacre (12.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.9 BPG) the team’s leading rebounder, and shot blocker. Sacre (pronounced Sock-cray) could pose a particular headache on the interior for the Red Storm’s big men, whose tallest players seeing regular playing time are only 6-foot-8. Sophomore Elias Harris (12.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG) is the third player scoring in double figures for the Bulldogs. Gonzaga’s guard play down the stretch was also impressive. Marquise Carter (5.9 PPG) averaged 14.5 PPG, made 13-of-15 FT, and committed just three total turnovers in the semifinal and championship games of the conference tournament. David Stockton provided key minutes off the bench subbing for Carter and Gray.
The Red Storm were sitting at 13-9, and 5-5 in conference play following a seven-point February 5 loss in Los Angeles to UCLA. They closed the regular season with a flurry, winning seven of their final eight games, including home victories over ranked teams Connecticut and Pittsburgh, and a road win over ranked Villanova. The Johnnies defeated five ranked teams in Madison Square Garden during the regular season, with the big head-turner being their 93-78 blowout of Duke on Jan. 30.
First team All-Big East player Dwight Hardy (18.0 PPG) led the team in scoring, seemingly saving his best for the biggest games. He scored 34 against ‘Nova, 33 versus UConn and 26 against Duke. Fellow senior Justin Brownlee (12.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG) is second on the team in scoring and rebounding. The concern for St. John’s entering this game isn’t who will take the court, but who will not.
Leading rebounder, and number two assist man, senior D.J. Kennedy (10.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.0 APG), tore his right ACL in the Big East Tournament loss last Thursday to Syracuse, ending his season and career at the school in heartbreaking fashion. Kennedy also led the team in steals with 56. Kennedy’s versatility as a passer, scorer, and defender will be sorely missed, especially on the interior, as Lavin’s crew will have to contain an energetic 7-footer without its top player on the glass. With Gonzaga averaging 37.4 rebounds per game to the Red Storm’s 32.8, the Johnnies have no choice but to outwork the ‘Zags in the paint. If they can’t, the Bulldogs could bulldoze the Red Storm en route to the second round.
Gonzaga is 12-8 ATS after an SU win, while St. John’s is 4-6 ATS after an SU loss. The Red Storm are also 6-10 ATS in non-home games, while Gonzaga is 8-6 ATS outside of their home gym.
GONZAGA is 11-3 ATS (78.6%, +7.7 Units) when playing against a good team (Win Pct. 60% to 80%) over the last 2 seasons. The average score was GONZAGA 73.3, OPPONENT 66.1 - (Rating = 1*).
GONZAGA is 17-6 ATS (73.9%, +10.4 Units) in road games after 2 straight games making 78% of their free throws or better since 1997. The average score was GONZAGA 80.6, OPPONENT 74.1 - (Rating = 1*).
This four-star trend advises a play on the Under.
GONZAGA is 11-1 UNDER (91.7%, +9.9 Units) versus good shooting teams - making >=45% of their shots this season. The average score was GONZAGA 69.5, OPPONENT 67.0 - (Rating = 4*).
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino to coach Puerto Rico National Team
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino NFL Odds announced on Monday 20 December that he accepted Puerto Rico’s offer to coach their National Team in next year’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in their bid to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.
“It's a tall order and that's why I'm taking it,” said Pitino, who is the only men’s college basketball coach to have final four stints with three different teams. “If they were already in the Olympics, I wouldn't do it. Their backs are to the wall.”
Pitino confirmed that he talked with Puerto Rico’s basketball officials on Sunday 19 December, and he was impressed with their optimism, making him believe that the team would have a great chance to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. He also reiterated that coaching the Puerto Rico National Basketball is an honor for him.
“For me to step into a situation like that they'd have to have a tremendous desire to win because there's no compensation for me except love of the game,” Pitino said. “So I want to make sure their best players are really into it.”
Pitino also added that he would talk with potential national team members that are currently playing in the NBA like J.J Barea of the Dallas Mavericks, Carlos Arroyo of the Miami Heat, and Renaldo Balkman of the Denver Nuggets, who all threw their support to their new head coach.
“I want to see how much passion there is for winning because their backs are to the wall,” Pitino said. “They've got to finish in the top two, excluding the United States, to get into the Olympics against very good competition on foreign soil, so they'll have to be very competitive.”
In order to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, the Puerto Rico National squad will have to reach the finals of the FIBA Americas Qualifying Tournament, but it would be a tough task because they will be facing formidable teams like Brazil and Argentina, who are also both eyeing a spot in the London joust.
Despite the difficult task ahead of him and the Puerto Rican team, coach Pitino said that he is optimistic and he believes that the players will play for pride and glory in order to reach their goal next summer.
“For these guys, playing for the national team is the biggest thing in the country,” Pitino said. “They are very, very passionate about it and that was a major factor for me on my decision to take the job.”
If they would not finish on the top two in the FIBA Americas Qualifying tournament, Puerto Rico will still have a chance as long as they would finish on the top five of the FIBA Americas tourney to have a slot in the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
The top four teams in the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament would qualify for the London Olympics, but if the Great Britain National Team will be given an automatic slot, only the top three teams will have a wildcard spot in the Olympics.
When asked how his decision will affect his coaching stint with Louisville, Pitino said that Louisville would actually benefit from it since he is planning to have joint practices.
“We're going to be able to play against the national team 2-3 times and play against NBA-type players,” Pitino said. “That's going to be great for our incoming freshmen.”
Although he knows that leading Puerto Rico to the Olympics will be a gigantic task, Pitino declared that he is up to the challenge and he vowed to give his best to help the team qualify for the Olympics for the first time since the 2004 Athens Olympics. Get into all the sports betting action at www.sportsbook.com the home of sports betting.
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (8-0) vs. KENTUCKY WILDCATS (5-2)
SEC/Big East Invitational – Louisville, KY
Sportsbook.com Line: Kentucky -5 & 141
One team is undefeated, the other team is facing a losing streak. One team has five seniors in its starting lineup. The other team has one senior on its entire team. One team is rated 23rd in the nation and rising. The other team is rated 16th and dropping. Welcome to Notre Dame vs. Kentucky.
Undefeated in eight games, the Irish are off to their best start ever under head coach Mike Brey. Despite losing player of the year candidate Luke Harangody to the NBA, the Irish are showing that a team’s experience can help to close the gap when depth appears to be lacking. Notre Dame is being led by senior guard Ben Hansbrough who is leading them in points and assists (15.8 PPG, 4.0 APG), and forward Tim Abromaitis (15.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG) who continues to be one of the most improved players in the Big East from year to year. Last season, Abromaitis averaged 18.2 PPG in league play. Forward Carleton Scott has become a double-digit scorer and is leading the team in rebounds (7.8 RPG). Forward Tyrone Nash (12.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG) is third on the Irish in scoring, and just behind Scott in the rebounding category. With victories over Georgia, California and Wisconsin that helped them win the Old Spice Classic, Notre Dame has gone a long way to enhance its tournament resume (never too early to talk about that stuff kids!). A win over No. 16 Kentucky would take the conversation to a whole new level.
Kentucky is in the part of its December schedule where it will play key out-of-conference rivals in contests that are only moderately important … if you consider bragging rights and life or death “moderately” important. The ‘Cats are coming off of a 75-73 defeat at North Carolina in Chapel Hill. After Notre Dame, Kentucky has a contest against another cross-state rival, Indiana on Saturday. On New Year’s Eve, John Calipari’s kiddie ’Cats will complete the scheduling gauntlet with a game against Louisville, a surprising 6-0 to start the season. The Wildcats lost to UNC despite a 24-point effort from freshman guard Doron Lamb. Freshman Terrence Jones is leading Kentucky in both scoring and rebounding (19.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG), but struggled against the Tar Heels, tallying just nine points and six boards in 28 minutes of play before fouling out. Freshman Brandon Knight (17.0 PPG, 3.4 APG, 3.3 RPG) has been impressive as he continues to fully grasp Calipari’s system.
The last time that Notre Dame started off this well was in 1973-74 when it began the season 12-0. That year, the biggest achievement for the Irish came when they broke up a certain 88-game winning streak belonging to some team from out west. That will not happen this year, but it doesn’t mean that Mike Brey’s squad won’t have a chance to do something else memorable this year. Wednesday in Louisville they have a shot at another tournament-resume-boosting win. While Christmas is just 17 days away, March will be here before you know it, and the selection committee is always interested in who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.
Kentucky won four straight series meetings (SU and ATS) from 2001 to 2004, but Notre Dame was the most recent series winner, 77-67 in 2009. These two trends like Notre Dame to at least cover the spread on Wednesday night
NOTRE DAME is 18-5 ATS (+12.5 Units) versus good teams - outscoring their opponents by 4+ points/game over the last 2 seasons. The average score was NOTRE DAME 72.4, OPPONENT 66.7 - (Rating = 3*).
NOTRE DAME is 19-6 ATS (+12.4 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record over the last 2 seasons. The average score was NOTRE DAME 73.3, OPPONENT 66.3 - (Rating = 2*).
Sportsbook.com has just put up a variety of props on the Heisman Trophy. Who will finish with a higher finishing positition, Andrew Luck or Kellen Moore? Luck is -300 favorite. Get in the action now at Sportsbook.com.
UCLA BRUINS (3-2, 3-1 ATS) at KANSAS JAYHAWKS (6-0, 3-1 ATS) Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series
Sportsbook.com using Kansas -16.5
Two legendary programs, one dynamic college basketball setting, history, tradition. That is about all that undefeated Kansas (6-0) and UCLA (3-2) will have in common when they take the court Thursday night in Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks bring a nation-best, 64-game home winning streak into play, and the Bruins will be about as welcome in Lawrence as LeBron James will be welcome Thursday night in Cleveland.
Kansas has been clicking on all cylinders, and they have yet to add top recruit Josh Selby to the rotation. The NCAA ruled recently that Selby can play beginning on December 18. So far without Selby, Kansas is shooting a Division I best 57.8% from the field. Their average margin of victory (35.3 PPG) is also tops in the nation. As a team, they are averaging 22 assists per game. The Morris brothers have been outstanding so far. Marcus Morris leads the team in scoring at 19 PPG, while brother Markieff is averaging 12.3 PPG and a team-high 9.5 RPG. Tyshawn Taylor has been stellar so far at the point, averaging a team high 7.2 APG to complement his 9.2 PPG.
After a 3-0 start, Ben Howland’s Bruins lost in the semifinals and then the consolation game of the Preseason NIT Championship in Madison Square Garden. Sophomore forward Reeves Nelson leads the Bruins in points and rebounds (17.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG), and totaled 30 points and 23 rebounds in the two losses in New York City. Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt (14.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG) are both sophomores, and headline a young Bruins club that does not have a single senior on the team. The poise and discipline of this UCLA team will be sorely tested on Kansas’ home floor. The Bruins have totaled 84 assists and 81 turnovers this season. The combination of a young team that doesn’t protect the basketball, playing in a hostile road environment against an experienced team that has won 64 straight on its home floor and loves to pressure the ball looks like a bad combination for the baby bears. Normally when Kansas and UCLA play, that smell in the air is tradition. Thursday night in Lawrence, that won’t be tradition you’re whiffing, but more like the smell of a young team getting smoked.
69% of action at Sportsbook.com is betting that the Jayhawks will cover the big spread against the Bruins.
KANSAS is 20-5 ATS (+14.5 Units) when playing against a good team (Win Pct. 60% to 80%) over the last 3 seasons. The average score was KANSAS 80.3, OPPONENT 63.6 - (Rating = 3*).
In the years to come we will all look back on this era as a time of change. A time when we inaugurated our first black president, a period that saw our economy turn upside down, and an entire nation affected…even the NCAA, and NCAA betting
The media has been in a frenzy over the expansion of the Pac-10 conference and the possibility of a completely dismantled Big 12. On Thursday, Commissioner Larry Scott announced the dawning of a new day for the Pac-10, as Colorado’s president graciously accepted the invitation to join the ten other West Coast schools. This news may come as a shock from a geographical standpoint. But UCLA head football coach Rick Neuheisel thinks that Colorado will be a perfect fit, “From a proximity standpoint, its closer to Los Angeles than Seattle is,” he said, NCAA betting is not so sure.
Nice one Rick, but the difference is not that great, only about 100 miles, especially considering that the distance from LA to Seattle is over a 900 mile long journey. Make no mistake that Larry Scott is getting his kicks in Denver dollar signs. Why else would anyone want to alter a conference that has been at the pinnacle of college athletic success for the past 30 years? The addition of Colorado is the first to take place since the addition of the two Arizona schools in 1978.
Mama always said, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. As if the expansion of the NCAA tournament wasn’t bad enough? No, yet again college sports fans everywhere will fall victim to the power of the almighty dollar, their opinions ignored and their input invalid.
Is their no sense of tradition, no sense of pride? I for one, admire Texas’ determination to preserve what is left of the Big-12, as they denied their invitation into the Pac-10 late Wednesday. The Big 12 is back, and the Texas rivalries intact, for now. But the additional departure of Nebraska to the Big 10 leaves the conference with ten teams, which would make playing a conference championship game impossible due to NCAA regulations that require a minimum of twelve teams to be present. This will only add to the mess and controversy that surrounds the BCS each year.
To me it seems like a lot of nonsense for nothing. The Pac-10 and Big 12 have acquired two middle of the road teams at best. Colorado adds no competitive value to either football or basketball, and both of those teams will face a challenge as mountainous as the Flat Irons in the near future, as they face a Pac-10 that will be revamped with even more talent for the upcoming 2011 and 2012 seasons. Perhaps now is the time to take advantage of the proximity to LA, and start recruiting some transfers from USC.
As for the Big 10, Nebraska has been a bottom tier team in the Big 12 in recent years, and that will not change. Their addition will hardly be noticeable. As a matter of fact, I thought Nebraska was already in the Big 10.
In all seriousness, this has been much ado over nothing; except for the Denver TV market that Larry Scott finally got his hands on. When it’s all said and done, when you are dealing with cash, you usually get change. Where do you do your NCAA betting? Head over to www.sportsbook.com where everybody bets.