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'Fade Cavs' printing press continues

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

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Kristaps Porzingis tears ACL in left knee on a play vs. the Bucks.
© USA Today Sports Images

Another dark chapter in the Cavs’ collapse (3-18 against the spread their last 21!), another major injury to an NBA All-Star (Porzingis), another Milwaukee Under post-Kidd (eight straight!), another Kentucky loss (fifth in the SEC), another Nebraska cover (on a 14-1 ATS run!). Keep up with all the market storylines in VSiN City!

NBA: How can a train wreck keep getting worse? Cavs still off the rails
We’ve called the super-simple “fade the Cavs” betting approach a printing press for weeks. Yet, the market is still adjusting in super-slow motion to a train wreck that seems to have happened months ago. Was Tuesday night a new low point?

*Awful Orlando entered the game 5-21 straight up its prior 26 games
*Orlando was on night two of a back-to-back
*Cleveland led 67-51 at halftime
*Yet the Cavs still lost!

Just nine points in the fourth quarter, though the entire halftime lead was long gone by the end of the third. The stats show that horrible defense and overall effort are still big problems. Not something you can fix with poor defenders like Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, and Derek Rose getting minutes. 

Orlando (plus 6.5) 116, Cleveland 98
Two-point Pct: Cleveland 51%, Orlando 62%
Three Pointers: Cleveland 12/37, Orlando 6/22
Free Throws: Cleveland 14/20, Orlando 18/27
Rebounds: Cleveland 35, Orlando 50
Turnovers: Cleveland 14, Orlando 13

Orlando…ORLANDO…was 40 of 65 on two-point shots despite playing in a fatigue spot. You can see that the home dog also enjoyed a huge edge on the boards. Cleveland let the Magic grab 59% of available rebounds while letting them shoot 62% inside the arc. 

While Cleveland’s collapse is a big story in the league, the inexplicable BLINDNESS to this disaster in the betting markets is a blockbuster in its own right. Cleveland was priced like a championship contender well past the point where that made sense. It’s Power Ratings drop has been so slow that it’s still priced like a playoff team even without Kevin Love in the lineup. Without Love, the Cavs have been outscored 391-328 over their last seven halves. That pro-rates to a 112-94 loss to the composite of Orlando, Houston, Miami, and Detroit.

Active spread streaks for the Cavs after Tuesday’s loss….
0-4 ATS their last four
2-13 ATS their last 15
3-18 ATS their last 21
6-25 ATS their last 31

Fading the Cavs is still free money. And, they’re missing by so much that the market may have trouble getting to the right spot until coaching or personnel changes create some REAL basketball.  How do you price a team that can’t compete with tired Orlando? When fresh Orlando is one of the worst teams in the league? 

NBA: All-Star Kristaps Porzingis injures knee in Knicks’ loss to Bucks
Many fans and bettors were looking forward to Tuesday night’s Milwaukee/New York matchup featuring the Bucks’ Greek Freak vs. toast of Gotham Kristaps Porzingis. Unfortunately, the young Knicks star suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in the first half to put a dark cloud over proceedings. Porzingis joins a growing list of all-stars who got hurt in advance of the break. 

Milwaukee (plus 1.5) 103, New York 89
Two-point Pct: Milwaukee 52%, New York 48%
Three Pointers: Milwaukee 8/26, New York 5/23
Free Throws: Milwaukee 21/27, New York 10/15 
Rebounds: Milwaukee 43, New York 47
Turnovers: Milwaukee 14, New York 17

New York lost much of its fight in the aftermath of the injury. Milwaukee won the third quarter 26-17 before coasting home. Most important to bettors, the impressive (and logical) string of Unders since the firing of Jason Kidd is still active. One of the main reasons Kidd was fired was due to the inexplicably horrible defensive stats of the team this season. Since then, excellent defense on a near-nightly basis…and now a string of EIGHT straight Unders. 

Bucks Since Kidd Firing
7-1 straight up
5-3 ATS
0-8 to the Under

This connects to our lead story because Cleveland is sinking as Milwaukee and others are rising in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. 

Cleveland 30-22 (with an anvil)
#5 Milwaukee 30-23 (with a bullet)
#6 Indiana 30-25
#7 Miami 29-25
#8 Philadelphia 26-25 
#9 Detroit 25-25 (with a Blake Griffin!)

Cleveland could be on the wrong side of home court advantage by the weekend…and could conceivably fall out of the playoffs over the next several weeks! That might sound ridiculous. The Cavs are only three games in the loss column ahead of the #9 seed…and they don’t have any obvious fixes for their woeful defense on the current roster. Let’s see if they make a move to acquire a defender before the fast-approaching trade deadline. 

Also in the NBA Tuesday night…

*Houston (-11.5) won at Brooklyn 123-113. The Nets are just 2-5 ATS their last seven, but are still a profitable 32-29 ATS for the season. 

*Atlanta (-3) beat Memphis 108-82. Memphis continues to rest Tyreke Evans in advance of an anticipated trade. 

*Toronto (-5) blew out Boston 111-91. Kyrie Irving returned to the Celtics lineup. This point spread is a reminder that the market sees Toronto as the superior team even though Boston has the better overall record this season. Jeff Sherman of the Westgate talked with Mitch and Pauly about that again this week. Cleveland’s demise currently sets the Raptors up as the most likely championship representative from the East. 

*Philadelphia (-6) beat Washington 115-102. The Wizards were in a back-to-back after beating Indiana Monday. They fall to 5-1 straight up and ATS since the John Wall injury. 

NBA Eastern Conference estimated “market” Power Ratings: Toronto 84, Boston 82, Philadelphia 82, Cleveland 81, Milwaukee 80, Washington 80, Miami 79, Detroit 79, Charlotte 78, New York 77 (pending Porzingis injury), Chicago 75, Indiana 74 (no Olapido), Brooklyn 73, Atlanta 73, Orlando 72.

NBA Western Conference estimated “market” Power Ratings: Golden State 90, Houston 87, Oklahoma City 83, Minnesota 82, San Antonio 81, Portland 81, Denver 80, Utah 80, LA Clippers 79, New Orleans 78, Dallas 77, LA Lakers 76, Memphis 73 (Evans sitting out), Sacramento 73, Phoenix 71. 

Big East Basketball: #5 Xavier blows regulation lead, wins in OT at Butler
Very interesting test for Xavier at a dangerous site. We talked in our brief preview yesterday about how the pollsters and bracketologists have the Musketeers as a possible #1 seed, while the computers only have them in sweet 16 range. A lot to like about Tuesday’s win…though Xavier did blow an 80-73 lead with less than two minutes to go in regulation…before cashing for backers in extra time. 

#5 Xavier (plus 4) 98, Butler 93 (in overtime) 
Regulation Score: Xavier 84, Butler 84
Two-point Pct: Xavier 67% Butler 61%
Three Pointers: Xavier 10/21 Butler 14/31
Free Throws: Xavier 24/28 Butler 13/16
Rebounds: Xavier 30 Butler 24
Turnovers: Xavier 13 Butler 9
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Xavier 16-10-14 Butler 19-25-24

Important to note that this was a SLOW game. Not a high scoring track meet…a high scoring plodder. A strike against both defenses that they allowed their opponents to score so easily after patient passing. 

Given Xavier’s 22-3 record (10-2 in the Big East) pollsters have to give them rankings respect. The computers are probably more accurate about the Dance. That soft defense, along with recent nailbiter wins over St. John’s and Georgetown suggest this isn’t really a Final Four type team. Butler (17-8, 7-5) is going to be a tough out next month. 

Big East estimated “market” Power Ratings: Villanova 88 at home…87 on the road, Xavier 81, Butler 81, Seton Hall 79, Creighton 77, Marquette 77, Providence 75, St. John’s 73, Georgetown 70, DePaul 69.

Also in the Big East Tuesday: Providence (-7) beat Georgetown 73-69.

SEC Basketball: #15 Tennessee is the latest to beat #24 Kentucky
Maybe THIS will be the result that finally knocks Kentucky out of the top 25 for good. This is now the Wildcats' FIFTH conference loss, which will put them four games behind first-place Auburn if the Tigers win their next one…and has them two games behind the Volunteers.

#15 Tennessee (plus 2) 61 #24 Kentucky 59 
Two-point Pct: Tennessee 55%, Kentucky 52%
Three Pointers: Tennessee 5/21, Kentucky 3/14
Free Throws: Tennessee 12/14, Kentucky 18/25
Rebounds: Tennessee 32, Kentucky 30
Turnovers: Tennessee 13, Kentucky 15
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Tennessee 7-15-12, Kentucky 30-18-31

Too much slop on offense for the hosts…as 15 turnovers is high for a low-scoring game (stayed Under by 23.5 points). Three-pointers were a problem for both, which is why it came down to the wire. Could have gone either way, which is a strike against any host because of the value of home court advantage. Credit Tennessee for the cleaner performance at what can be an intimidating road site. 

SEC estimated “market” Power Ratings: Auburn 83, Florida 82, Tennessee 81, Kentucky 80, Texas A&M 80 at home…79 on the road, Arkansas 79 at home…77 on the road, Missouri 79 at home…77 on the road, Alabama 77, Mississippi State 77, Georgia 76, South Carolina 75, LSU 75 at home…74 on the road, Ole Miss 75, Vanderbilt 74.

Also Tuesday in the SEC: Arkansas (-7) beat South Carolina 81-65, Mississippi State (-3) beat Alabama 67-63, and Missouri (plus 1.5) beat Ole Miss 75-69.

Big 12 Basketball: #10 Kansas survives tough battle with TCU 
It was a better game than the final score made it sound. No off nights in the loaded Big 12. A plus for Kansas…pushing the point spread kept “another non-cover at Phog Allen Fieldhouse” out of our lengthy Wednesday lead! That angle of fading Kansas at home vs. major conference visitors is now 3-15-1 ATS the last 19.

#10 Kansas (-7) 71, TCU 64
Two-point Pct: TCU 41%, Kansas 50%
Three Pointers: TCU 10/25, Kansas 7/21
Free Throws: TCU 8/15, Kansas 16/23
Rebounds: TCU 38, Kansas 37
Turnovers: TCU 12, Kansas 11
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: TCU 25-26-21, Kansas 11-5-7

Great game for 36 of 40 minutes. TCU led much of the night. Kansas finally pulled away late. That final margin of seven was the largest lead of the evening for the Jayhawks. So, dog backers are disappointed with the result. TCU missed a layup with a second left that would have cashed those tickets. Nothing really learned here. Kansas is a touch better than TCU. The Horned Frogs played to the respect given them by the computers and the betting market. Kansas always entered the Dance as a vulnerable “name in the hat,” even when it’s better than this. 

Big 12 estimated “market” Power Ratings: Kansas 85, West Virginia 83 at home…81 on the road, Oklahoma 82 at home…80 on the road, Texas Tech 81, TCU 81, Kansas State 80, Texas 80, Baylor 78, Oklahoma State 77, Iowa State 73.

Also Tuesday in the Big 12: Baylor (plus 2) beat Oklahoma State 67-56. 

Big Ten Basketball: #20 Michigan knocked off by Northwestern
We’ll get to Nebraska’s latest win/cover in a second. A ranked team losing always deserves a full boxscore because bettors need to know the weaknesses of Dance-bound programs. 

Northwestern (pick-em) 61, #20 Michigan 52 
Two-point Pct: Michigan 55%, Northwestern 44%
Three Pointers: Michigan 5/22, Northwestern 8/23
Free Throws: Michigan 13/19, Northwestern 13/16
Rebounds: Michigan 27, Northwestern 31
Turnovers: Michigan 9, Northwestern 6
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Michigan 24-21-25, Northwestern 76-53-56

Not horrible numbers for Michigan. Scoring on 1’s and 2’s was a dead heat at 37 apiece. The two most glaring issues were the 5 of 22 mark from long range…which is a killer in a VERY slow game because there’s less time to come back from a cold stretch…and that low number of forced turnovers. You can’t get easy points off steals if you’re not stealing the ball. Michigan’s on the list of teams who can play with anybody, but drifting down to the list of teams that don’t really scare anybody either. 

Big Ten estimated “market” Power Ratings: Purdue 86, Michigan State 85, Ohio State 82, Michigan 80, Penn State 78, Maryland 77, Nebraska 75, Northwestern 75, Indiana 74, Wisconsin 72, Iowa 72, Illinois 72, Minnesota (still all over the place), Rutgers 68.

Also Tuesday in the Big Ten: Nebraska (plus 3.5) won at Minnesota 91-85, and Michigan State (-10) won at Iowa 96-93.

The Nebraska point spread was a head-scratcher all day. We’re talking about a team that had been 13-1 ATS its prior 14 games, and was playing its best ball of the season in league action. This result actually vaults Nebraska past Michigan into fourth place in the Big 10 standings. It’s going to be very tough to deny the Cornhuskers a Dance bid if they can lock in that top four finish. Minnesota is generally being priced down with Rutgers. But, every so often the market treats them like a middle-of-the-pack team. Wasn’t justified here. Gophers are 4-13 ATS their last 17.  

College Basketball: “Running the Floor” with Greg Peterson

#14 Ohio State at #3 Purdue (8:30 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network)
Opening Line: Purdue -9.5
Offensive Efficiency: Ohio State #34, Purdue #5
Defensive Efficiency: Ohio State #39, Purdue #7
Rebound Rate: Ohio State #21, Purdue #73
Percent of Shots are 3s: Ohio State #270, Purdue #103
Free Throw Shooting Percentage: Ohio State #68, Purdue #54
Pace: Ohio State #255, Purdue #204

It’s not a shock to many that Purdue is partaking in a battle for the lead in the Big Ten. But, it is a surprise that they are battling Ohio State for it. The Buckeyes have overachieved this far under first year head coach Chris Holtmann, getting the job done with a balanced attack.

Ohio State plays at a bit of a slower pace and has used sound rebounding to both get second chances on offense and deny opponents to do the same. The Buckeyes are in the nation’s top 40 in both offense and defensive efficiency.

Purdue is in the top seven in both categories, the benefit of having multiple seven-footers. Though, shorter Ohio State does have the superior rebound rate. Will that hold up against Purdue’s giants?

Purdue is the team more comfortable shooting 3s and has one of the best outside shooting percentages nationally. With Ohio State not taking a lot of shots from the outside, defensively closing out on Purdue’s 3-point shooters will be a must.

Both teams have shown the ability to win games that are played at both a fast or slow pace. With that said, neither team has a lot of experience coming from behind, magnifying the importance of getting out to a good start.

UNLV at #23 Nevada (11:00 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network)
Opening Line: Nevada -9.5
Offensive Efficiency: UNLV #22, Nevada #14
Defensive Efficiency: UNLV #106, Nevada #79
Rebound Rate: UNLV #53, Nevada #127
Percent of Shots are 3s: UNLV #335, Nevada #106
Free Throw Shooting Percentage: UNLV #233, Nevada #56
Pace: UNLV #17, Nevada #112

Following hot starts to the season for both squads, Nevada has thrived in Mountain West play while UNLV has not. The Wolf Pack are 9-1, with its only loss coming on the road in double overtime against Wyoming. UNLV is 5-5, hurt by a disappointing defense.

UNLV will have a size advantage, but that could become a liability. Nevada plays position-less basketball with all five players on the floor being a threat on the perimeter. With UNLV also being a team prone to getting into foul trouble, its size advantage could go away if Nevada can get to the basket and find ways to get to the free throw line.

Both teams rely on sound offense to pick up wins (both top 25 in efficiency). Nevada plays at a slightly above average tempo while UNLV is one of the fastest teams in the country. Nevada does a very good job of not getting sped up and not turning the ball over.

Nevada is one of the best nationally at guarding the arc. UNLV must use its size to attack the rim to stay within the number. If Nevada shoots well from outside, it will take the road dog out of its comfort zone. 

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