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Reply To: CBB • Wednesday Service Plays • 2/24/16

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JOE GAVAZZI

George Washington at Richmond (-1-) 7:00 ET

George Washington travels south to Richmond for this 7:00 pm ET, A-10 tip-off game against the Richmond Spiders at the Robins Center. When these two met earlier this season in our Nation’s Capital, Richmond emerged with a (98-90) victory as 6 point underdog. Tonight, the payback is in order for the earlier double OT loss in which Richmond shot 60% for the evening. Earlier this week, I wrote an article about the Bubble Teams in this 2016 CBKB season. George Washington was a member of that ever-fluid list entering this week’s play. According to Joe Lunardi, they were just on the negative side of the cut-off line with qualifications that included a 20-7 SU record and an RPI of 50. With superior fundamentals, clearly the better record and experienced play, I believe there are a lot of edges working in the Colonials’ favor tonight.

Richmond, under 11th year HC Chris Mooney (a Princeton offense disciple), is one of the teams that has been negatively impacted by the new rules. The Spiders are no longer able to work the shot clock till the closing seconds. Nor are they able to impede the opposition with their grab and hold defense. As a result, a team who has won 19 or more games in each of the previous 3 seasons and ascended to the Quarter Finals of the NIT last year in a 21 win season, stands just 14-12 SU for the year with a 9-14 ATS mark. This, despite 4 returning starters and a projected upper echelon finish in the A-10. Fundamentals are at the heart of the decline with a defense allowing 74 PPG and 45% from the field and a team with a (-4) net rebound margin. The Robins Center has not worked to their advantage in league play, where they are 2-5 ATS including 0-3 ATS, if they are NOT favored by double digits.

Enter George Washington, a team who is likewise underachieving a bit. Though the Colonials are 20-7 SU, 9-5 SU in the league, they currently stand in 5th place (2 or more games behind league leaders Dayton, St. Joes and VCU) and they were expected by many to challenge for conference superiority. Clearly, they will have an edge on the boards tonight against their host. They have interior prowess in the persons of Larsen (12/8) and Cavanaugh (16/7), which gives them a (+6) rebound margin for the year. With veteran returnees at the point in Joe McDonald and the league’s best “do-everything, glue guy,” Patricio Garino, there is no reason this team should not continue on a 2-game win streak and make some real noise once the CCT starts.

The motivation of their “Bubble Trouble,” combined with the strong fundamentals and a revenge motive points out the Colonials as an outstanding play tonight.

Duquesne at St. Bonaventure (-7) 7:00 ET

There will be plenty of public support for the “bubblicious” Bonnies, who play with (95-88) revenge for an earlier upset loss at Palumbo. That would imply there would be plenty of momentum for the Bonnies after their (79-72) upset at Dayton on Saturday. Rather, for a coaching staff and team who is unaccustomed to late season pressure, it may cause the home rims of the Reilly Center to be a bit tight. Dukes will be the team with the “free and easy” attitude, after their 5-game recent losing streak has dropped them to 15-12 SU. Look for the Dukes to make a track meet out of this and watch Duquesne shooting guard, Micah Mason, who has averaged 25 PPG in his last 6.

Villanova (-1-) at Xavier 7:00 ET

No. 1 Villanova has a 2 game lead over an avenging Xavier team, whom they beat (95-64) to start the conference season, January 31st. Combined with the Cintas Center floor, where the Muskies are 41-5 SU (13-1 SU this season), it all adds up to No. 1 falling again tonight.

S. Illinois at Illinois St. (-4-) 7:00 ET

The Salukis presented a huge mirage, when they were 18-3 SU, 7-1 SU in league play, after their road victory at Missouri St. January 24th. For, it was against a highly suspect, preseason and early conference schedule. Now, that the scheduling has evened out, S. Illinois has gone 3-4 SU, 2-6 ATS, including road losses at upper echelon Valley teams, N. Iowa by 9, Wichita St. by 21 and Evansville by 12. That could easily happen against the Red Birds, who’s long-armed zones has catapulted them into a tie for 2nd place in the league, including victories on this court against Wichita St. and N. Iowa in the last month. That’s all part of a 7-1 SU record in Valley play on this court for the Red Birds. Throw in 3 point revenge for an earlier loss in Carbondale and you have the makings of a potential Top Play!

Houston (-5) at C. Florida 7:00 ET

After losing a pair of contests by a combined 3 points to the Golden Knights last season, the Cougars responded with an (82-58) rout as (-10) earlier this year. Still maintaining NCAA hopes, they lined up with Temple on Saturday and led by 12 in the 2nd half. Now, they bring great anger to this matchup, after blowing that lead and losing the game at home. Look for UCF to pay the price for that meltdown, as Houston is clearly the superior team. Golden Knights have greatly underachieved in the last 3 seasons, as they had just 25 combined victories the last 2 years and now stand 11-14 SU, following a 5-game losing streak. The ensuing record leaves little hope for post-season play once again. Most disturbing has been the towel-tossing nature of those 4 defeats, which have been against winning teams (like Houston) by counts of 8 and 18 on this floor to Tulsa and Cinci and by 17 and 24 on the road at Memphis and this Houston team.

VCU (-10-) at George Mason 7:00 ET

Clinging to a 1-game lead in the A-10, expect no letup by VCU. That happened in early February, when they lost consecutive games to George Washington and UMass, following their 9-0 SU start. Since that time, they have righted the ship, going 3-0 SU ATS with wins of 33 vs. St. Louis, 16 vs. Rhode Island and 13 vs. Richmond. Now, they travel 90 miles north to the DC suburbs to face a George Mason team, who is biding its time till the CCT. The first game saw the Rams emerge with a (71-47) victory, when havoc forced 22 TOs. Rams are a sterling 5-1 SU ATS on the conference road with every victory by 8 or more points. George Mason, conversely, in a rebuilding year under 1st year HC Paulsen, is just 1-6 SU at their newly named Eagle Bank Arena, including losses of 19 to Bonnie, 14 to Joe’s, 11 to the Dukes and 34 to Dayton. VCU by 20 would definitely not surprise!

Georgia (-5-) at Auburn 7:00 ET

Since internal problems and eventual dismissal of leading scorer, Canty, the 2nd team of HC Bruce Pearl has gone 1-7 SU ATS. The only enigma is that 2 games ago, they won at Auburn by a high-scoring count of 90-86. But in the 8 losses, they have averaged just59 PPG, including scoring no more than 59 in their previous 4 defeats. In their last 4 home games, they have lost by 10 to Ole Miss, 29 to Vandy, 12 to LSU and 11 to Oklahoma St. Included in those “efforts” has been a road loss to this Georgia team by 10. Expect no compassion from Georgia who, since that Auburn victory, has gone 1-3 SU ATS with losses at Kentucky, Vandy and at home to Florida, wrapped around a road victory at Miss St. Expect the bounce from a smartly coached Mark Fox team, who is 39-19 ATS, including 5-1 ATS this season following a conference loss.

Marquette at Creighton (-7-) 8:00 ET

Classic Big East dog play in a series where the games have been decided by 3 (this year), 1 and 7 points in the last year! These teams have identical records of 17-10 SU with Marquette having a positive rebound margin and the superior defense, allowing 71.6 PPG to the 72.7 PPG by Creighton. If only it were that easy to put the CBKB ODDS in your favor with each underdog game on the board.

Louisville (-1-) at Pittsburgh 8:00 ET

The superstitious people among you will surely see it as a negative that a sports handicapper has a “black cat” as his office pet. We laugh in the face of such convictions in this office and guarantee you that Blackberry is a loving and affectionate animal, who brings only positive vibes to the office environment. He will certainly be good luck for us today with our selection on the Pittsburgh Panthers. Please see today’s accompanying video to judge for yourself, whether you want Blacketh de Berry on your side today!

The Louisville Cardinals travel to the Petersen Events Center in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh for an ACC rematch against the Pitt Panthers. The Pitino’s have gotten the best of the Dixon’s the last two years by margins of 13 and 12 (on this floor) last year and by a (59-41) count at the KFC Yum! Center on January 14th. In that matchup, the Cardinals’ defense forced 14 TOs and held the Panthers to just 29% shooting. I will favor the Panthers in this triple revenge setup at a home underdog price on the strong boards of the Petersen Events Center, where the Oakland Zoo will be in full throat.

Actually, the “Pete” has become somewhat less of an ally to the Panthers in recent seasons. The last 4 years, Pitt is 57-15 SU at home, including 14-3 SU this season. A closer inspection of that log shows us that 2 of those losses came in their only role of home dog. Defensively sound teams, Purdue, defeated Pitt (72-59) on December 1st and Virginia whipped the Panthers on this floor (64-50) on February 6th, there is certainly cause for concern based on those two foes. Working in the Panthers’ favor is the momentum of their (66-52) victory at Syracuse on Saturday. That quality road victory and the attendant RPI of 35 has Pitt on the positive side of the Bubble as they enter this contest. As we noted earlier in the season, Pitt continues to be a solid fundamental team, under 13th year HC Dixon. Entering tonight’s clash, Pitt has a +8.5 rebound margin and an 18/11.7 TO/assist margin. It will be up to senior PG Robinson to keep the Panthers more focused on the job at hand than in the earlier loss. With the experienced leadership and scoring of Artis and Young, I believe the Panthers will be competitive tonight.

Louisville is 21-6 SU for the season, including 10-4 SU in ACC play. With a self-imposed ban for post-season play, including the upcoming CCT, the regular season crown is all that is left for Louisville. Yet, they still trail N. Carolina, whom they have already beaten by a full game and Miami, whom they have yet to play by a game in the win column. Certainly their goal in the next two weeks is clearly reachable! Perhaps no one in the country took better advantage of the grad transfer rule than did Pitino. Hurt by graduation at the guard slot, Pitino needed veteran leadership on the perimeter. Welcome his starting guard tandem of Lewis (Cleveland St.) and Lee (Drexel) who have been a lifesaver for Pitino. The Cards, however, have not been without issues. Those have come on the ACC road, where they are a shocking 0-6 ATS and have allowed an average of 72.5 PPG (compared to 56 PPG at home).

It is this hidden home/road dichotomy, along with Pitt’s revenge motive that leads us to the selection of these Cats as Dogs, as they get their revenge and solidify their NCAA standing.

Tennessee at S. Carolina (-7-) 9:00 ET

Without Tennessee leading scorer, Punter, at 22 PPG, the Vols have no shot in this one! Tennessee, under 1st year HC Barnes is just 1-10 SU on the road, beating only Mississippi St. back on January 16th. This month, in 3 conference road games, they have lost by 18 at Arkansas, 11 at last place Missouri and 10 at Kentucky (a game they trailed by nearly 20 points in the closing minutes). S. Carolina is in no mood for compassion, as they are locked in the race for the SEC title, just 1 game behind Kentucky and tied with Texas A&M. Excluding a home court loss to Kentucky, the Gamecocks last 6 home SEC contests have been victories of 9 or more points on 4 of 5 occasions. With a massive defensive and rebounding edge (Gamecocks allow just 69/39 and rebounding edge where the Gamecocks are +7.3), this should be a comfortable double digit victory.