Nobody beats the Wiz

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN City newsletter) 

The Wizards now 5-0 straight up and ATS without John Wall.
© USA Today Sports Images

It’s not a magic trick…the Washington Wizards really are 5-0 straight up and ATS since all-star John Wall got hurt! Plus, Detroit wins again with Blake Griffin…Oklahoma’s slump continues…and we introduce “Betting Bracketology” with Greg Peterson Tuesday in VSiN City.

NBA: Washington Wizards now 5-0 straight up and ATS without John Wall

Nothing says “unpopular with teammates” more emphatically than a team running off impressive victories when a big-name offensive star leaves the lineup with an injury. Everyone else loves getting a chance to shoot!

The Washington Wizards were supposed to be in trouble when John Wall suffered a knee injury that would keep him of the court for six-to-eight weeks. Expectations were that they would fall out of the top four in the Eastern brackets. Instead, the Wiz are undefeated since the injury, including two upset wins over league powers. 

Washington (-3.5) won at Atlanta 129-104

Washington (plus 3) beat Oklahoma City 102-96

Washington (plus 3.5) beat Toronto 122-119

Washington (-4.5) won at Orlando 115-98

Washington (-3.5) won at Indiana 111-102

Those are market victories of 21.5, 9, 6.5, 12.5, and 5.5 points. The market caught on pretty quickly given those road favorite prices at Orlando and Indiana. Let’s see how Washington got it done Monday evening. 

Washington (-3.5) 111, Indiana 102

Two-point Pct: Washington 67%, Indiana 49% 

Three Pointers: Washington 7/25, Indiana 12/29

Free Throws: Washington 14/17, Indiana 16/25

Rebounds: Washington 43, Indiana 35

Turnovers: Washington 13, Indiana 15

First, we have to mention that Victor Olapido missed the game for the Pacers with an illness. That’s why Washington was road chalk of that size without Wall. You can deduce that Washington attacked the basket very well. They made two-thirds of their deuces! If you typically just scroll through our boxscore stats at a glance, it may not have registered that Washington won by nine despite shooting poorly from long range…while the Pacers shot well. In scoring on “1’s and 2’s,” Washington won by a stunning 90-66 count. Also wins in rebounding and turnovers for the energetic visitors. 

At the very least, we can say that Washington without Wall is currently playing with energy and enthusiasm. Eight different Wizards had at least two assists even with all the misses around the arc. Maybe fatigue will take its toll soon. Maybe superior teams won’t be caught napping the way Toronto and OKC were. For now, keep looking at Washington for value until a pothole presents itself. 

Maybe that will be Tuesday night at Philadelphia (though a close watch was kept on Wizard starter minutes at Indiana). Also coming up: Thursday vs. Boston, Saturday at Chicago, and next Wednesday at New York before the All-Star Break.  

This five-game surge has lifted Washington into a tie for third place in the East with sinking Cleveland. 

NBA: Detroit Pistons now 3-0 with Blake Griffin, though Monday blowout of Portland is the first point spread cover

Blake Griffin had 21 points and 9 rebounds in 30 minutes, Andre Drummond 17 points and 17 rebounds in 34 minutes to lead the Detroit Pistons to their first point spread cover since last week’s blockbuster trade. 

Detroit (-2) 111, Portland 91

Two-point Pct: Portland 44%, Detroit 51% 

Three Pointers: Portland 10/33, Detroit 15/30

Free Throws: Portland 7/8, Detroit 8/12

Rebounds: Portland 44, Detroit 51

Turnovers: Portland 13, Detroit 15

Portland was in a tough scheduling spot after losing at the buzzer Sunday afternoon in Boston. Back to backs are difficult even if the first game is a daytime start. Detroit won the inside battle fairly decisively…then tacked on 15 bonus points from behind the arc (in differential) to cinch the blowout. 

That brings Detroit to the .500 mark at 26-26, tied with Philadelphia for the final playoff spot in the East (Sixers own the tie-breaker). The Pistons will be favored in each of their next five games. Wednesday, they host Brooklyn, Friday Griffin’s former team the LA Clippers, Sunday brings a visit to Atlanta, followed by home games against New Orleans and Atlanta. Portland is currently the #6 seed in the Western brackets.

NBA Eastern Conference estimated “market” Power Ratings: Toronto 84, Boston 82 (78 without Kyrie), Cleveland 81, Philadelphia 81, Milwaukee 80, Washington 80, Miami 79, Detroit 79, Charlotte 78, New York 77, Chicago 75, Indiana 74 (no Olapido), Brooklyn 73, Orlando 73, Atlanta 73.

NBA Western Conference estimated “market” Power Ratings: Golden State 89, 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 75, Memphis 74, Sacramento 73, Phoenix 71. 

ACC Basketball: Bubble-ridden Syracuse upsets Louisville to open Big Monday

It was exactly what the Orange needed at just the right time. Sitting on the bubble with a borderline resume and generic computer rankings, Syracuse stunned Louisville with an outright win and a double-digit cover in game one of ESPN’s doubleheader. 

Syracuse (plus 7) 78, Louisville 73

Two-point Pct: Syracuse 48%, Louisville 61% 

Three Pointers: Syracuse 6/13, Louisville 5/21

Free Throws: Syracuse 22/29, Louisville 20/26

Rebounds: Syracuse 32, Louisville 31

Turnovers: Syracuse 8, Louisville 11

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Syracuse 51-48-53, Louisville 33-29-32

Louisville was able to shoot effectively when it got inside Syracuse’s vaunted zone. The problem was…that wasn’t always a sure thing. You can see the Cardinals were only 5 of 21 outside the arc, while turning the ball over 11 times. The refs were a bit whistle happy for an important game featuring a zone. The Over/Under here was just 132, meaning the game almost went over by 20 points. 

Generally speaking, you have to crack the top 50 in the country (give or take a few spots) to get into the Dance. Many auto-bids to smaller conferences go to teams further down the ladder. This win should boost Syracuse to top 50 rankings in the computers we follow. And, scoring a big win on a highly watched national TV game is never a bad thing for a bubble team. 

Louisville had been on a tear for a few weeks. But, this is its second straight home loss as a favorite, having fallen to Florida State over the weekend. It’s the third straight loss overall after the 10-point failure at Virginia (a market push). Syracuse had been 2-7 ATS its last nine games prior to this relative stunner. 

ACC estimated “market” Power Ratings: Duke 86, Virginia 86, North Carolina 83, Louisville 81 at home…79 on the road, Florida State 80, Clemson 79, Virginia Tech 78, Miami 77, Syracuse 77, Notre Dame 75, NC State 75, Georgia Tech 74, Wake Forest 73, Boston College 71, Pittsburgh 63.

Big 12 Basketball: #17 Oklahoma now 1-7 ATS its last eight after rally fails against #19 West Virginia

Both Oklahoma and West Virginia had struggled to play to expectations in recent action. Inconsistent West Virginia would either underachieve (often characterized by second half collapses) or run away and hide from teams who struggled vs. its full court press (Texas and Kansas State). OU just flat struggled vs. everybody, as star Trae Young continued to fade physically from carrying such a big load. 

In Monday’s ESPN nightcap…those storylines collided head on. West Virginia would once again have a poor second half. But, overrated Oklahoma couldn’t take advantage. 

#19 West Virginia (plus 4) 75, #17 Oklahoma 73 

Two-point Pct: West Virginia 46%, Oklahoma 48% 

Three Pointers: West Virginia 9/25, Oklahoma 6/16

Free Throws: West Virginia 6/9, Oklahoma 7/19

Rebounds: West Virginia 38, Oklahoma 36

Turnovers: West Virginia 11, Oklahoma 15

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: West Virginia 15-7-9, Oklahoma 27-23-29

West Virginia opened at 50-40 halftime lead driven by rare (for them) hot shooting from long range. As the Mountaineers cooled in the second half, Oklahoma’s rally fell just short. The Sooners needed more than 33-25 to get out of the hole. (Yes, WV scored 50 in the first half, just 25 the rest of the way). 

Trae Young had a good shooting night. We’ve been hard on him on these pages recently. It’s better to think of us as being hard on the market for continuing to overprice him. Clearly, the youngster gives everything he has.

*The Good News: 10 of 20 shooting from the floor, including 4 of 10 from long range. Throw in 8 of 9 on free throws…and it’s a star performance. 

*The Bad News: Only ONE ASSIST on a night where his offense was facing a full court press that’s ripe for easy baskets when broken. Young usually spreads the ball around while also getting his share of shots. Monday, 20 shots and 1 assist…or 6 turnovers and 1 assist if you want to look at it that way. Ballhandlers are supposed to get assists against a defense like West Virginia’s. (Only 8 of Oklahoma’s 25 baskets were assisted). 

Though the pollsters had OU as the better team…you can tell that the computer trio was more much emphatic the other way. West Virginia is still much more highly regarded (though the occasional blowout is helping to hide the impact of season-long fatigue). Oklahoma wasn’t even top 25 as a composite entering the night, and might drop further with this result. 

Oklahoma is now 1-7 ATS its last eight games. The Sooners have also lost five of their last seven straight up…with the game prior being a home overtime win as a medium-favorite. West Virginia is a perfect 2-0 ATS as underdogs this season, but is still 2-5 ATS its last seven as favorites. 

In the Big 12 race, West Virginia moves to 7-4…a half-game behind co-leaders at 7-3 Kansas and Texas Tech. Oklahoma falls to 6-5, and is in danger of dropping below .500 for the full conference campaign because one-man teams can struggle the second time through a league. 

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.

Tuesday College Basketball: Quick previews of marquee matchups

Greg Peterson will be debuting a new, periodic feature in just a few seconds. First, there are a few games worth previewing on the Tuesday card. Let’s take care of that here before Greg takes us home. The computer rankings below are from our usual triumvirate of Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin of USA Today, and ESPN’s BPI. Since the NCAA tournament is starting to loom large, we’ve also tossed in Joe Lunardi’s seed projections as of early Monday evening. 

#5 Xavier at Butler

Early Line: Butler -3

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Xavier 16-10-14, Butler 19-25-25

Lunardi’s Bracketology Projection: Xavier a #1 seed, Butler a #7 seed

Butler isn’t ranked by the Associated Press. But, all three respected computer assessments have it as a top 25 team. And, the betting markets sure are giving the host a lot of respect. That’s a dead heat on a neutral court if you use three points for home court advantage. If you assume Butler’s getting four for home floor instead, that’s still Xavier by just one in a conference tournament rematch. Lunardi’s seeding is in line with the poll….but not with how other observers currently perceive these two teams. A "true" #1 seed wouldn't open plus 3 at Butler. Note that Xavier was -6.5 at home in the first meeting, an 86-79 victory. 

#15 Tennessee at #24 Kentucky

Early Line: Kentucky -1.5

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Tennessee 7-15-12, Kentucky 30-18-31

Lunardi’s Bracketology Projection: Tennessee a #4 seed, Kentucky a #5 seed

Universal agreement that Tennessee is the slightly better side (the visitor is priced below the pure value of home court). Though, Pomeroy ranking the Volunteers up at #7 seems a bit extreme. Kentucky has good games in them, but generally hasn’t looked like it deserves to be ranked in recent SEC tests vs. quality opposition.  Wonder how much Auburn will be favored by at home vs. Kentucky on February 14. 

TCU at #10 Kansas

Early Line: Kansas -7.5

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: TCU 25-26-21, Kansas 11-5-7

Lunardi’s Bracketology Projection: TCU at #9 seed, Kansas a #2 seed

We’ve talked for weeks about the inability of Kansas to reach market expectations at home this year and last vs. major conference opposition. Like Butler, TCU would be top 25 in a computer composite even if the pollsters and Lunardi aren’t impressed. If TCU does get hosed with a #8 or #9 seed…they could provide real trouble against a #1 seed in the round of 32 next month. 

We’ll review key boxscore stats from those (and probably a few more) matchups the next time we’re together. 

Now, we debut a feature called “Betting Bracketology.” It combines Greg Peterson’s love of bracket landscaping with VSiN City’s call to find potential betting value for readers. From now through early March, Greg will occasionally walk the tightrope between futures prices and bracketology dynamics. You’re invited to tag along. 

College Basketball: “Betting Bracketology” with Greg Peterson

A team that has knocked off Arizona, Wichita State on the road, Boise State, and USC is currently a 300-to-1 shot at the South Point to win the National Championship due to recent injury issues. It is currently on the bubble (the “fourth team out” according to Joe Lunardi Monday), but has a good chance to make the Big Dance if it can get healthy soon. That would enable “investment” minded bettors plenty of room to take a flyer on this team now, then fade it in the postseason to “grind out” a profit.

SMU (currently 15-8) hovered between 75-to-1 and 100-to-1 at South Point to win the championship during the offseason. That’s slipped to 300-to-1 because of injuries.

*Jarrey Foster is out for the season with a partially torn ACL

*Shake Milton recently suffered an injured hand

Milton is the team’s leading scorer. He missed a recent loss to Tulsa, and is doubtful Thursday vs. Houston. Milton’s health could make or break SMU’s NCAA tournament hopes. The Mustangs have one of the thinnest rotations in the country, as typically only six players receive significant minutes in a game. All six are averaging over 10 points per game.

While taking down Houston without Milton might be a challenge, there is a chance he could return for SMU's home tilt with Cincinnati on Saturday. The Mustangs have been one of the best teams at home in the country the past three years, winning 35 of their last 36 at Moody Coliseum. They already have four wins against the RPI top 50 this season.

For having such a short rotation, this squad has balance on both ends of the floor. SMU is 35th in the nation in both offensive and defensive efficiency built on a style that keeps its contributors from tiring. Coach Tim Jankovich has slowed things down with SMU playing at the eighth-slowest pace in America.

When key players are healthy and staying out of foul trouble, SMU has the sheer talent to make a run and has already shown the ability to knock off quality opponents. In the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Mustangs took down Arizona…then capped off their non-conference slate with victories over USC and Boise State. SMU also got a huge road win in conference against then-10th ranked Wichita State, though the Shockers had won 67 of their prior 68 home games. 

For SMU to make the tournament, a strong finish to the regular season will be needed. That’s achievable with Milton on the floor. SMU must face fellow bubble team Houston twice as well as Wichita State and Cincinnati at home. Splitting these four games would give SMU six RPI top 50 wins if things hold to form, which would rival or exceed the resumes from many power five bubble threats. 

What’s killing SMU right now is its four losses against teams outside the RPI top 90. The Northern Iowa loss in the Battle 4 Atlantis at the time did not look bad, but Northern Iowa is 3-11 since an 8-2 start to the year. A loss to Tulane in the early part of conference play also looms large with the Mustangs blowing a 12-point lead in the final 12 minutes. With that in mind, SMU must avoid losing to Memphis, a banged up UCF club, East Carolina, and USF to put itself in a good position to crack the field of 68.

If everything had gone perfectly, SMU would be a lock for the Dance. But, this is still a Dance-caliber team with Milton healthy…which means that current 300-1 futures price at the South Point opens the door to a creative way for “betting Bracketology.” 

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