Saturday's Key Hoops Previews



By Jim Hurley:

And you thought the NBA's San Antonio Spurs were off to a "good start"!

The fact of the matter is there is one - and only one - undefeated team in the world of College Basketball right now and the Ohio State Buckeyes (21-0) will be favored to stay perfect right through the end of January as Thad Matta's gang plays at Northwestern on Saturday evening and then we flip the calendar page to February and those back-to-back road hurdles at Minnesota (Feb. 6th) and at Minnesota (Feb. 12th) lie ahead.

Could the Buckeyes really run the table on this whole 2010-11 schedule?

The knee-jerk reaction is to say no but keep this in mind:

Ohio State's won 16 of its first 20 games by double-digit margins and remember that the 'Eyes just won recent back-to-back games at Illinois and then home to Purdue by a combined 28 points ... not bad at all!

We'll preview Ohio State's upcoming weekend bash in Evanston plus get to some other Key Saturday Previews plus there's more Super Bowl XLV News/Notes including important coaching pointspread info but first this important reminder:

And now hear this:

Jim Hurley and his Handicappers and Bloggers will release the Side & Totals Winners for Super Bowl XLV on game-day morning and so that means for the next several days and then deep into the spring too you can get all the 2010-11 College Basketball Winners and the NBA too as the hoops season remains in full swing. Just go ahead and join Jim as he crushes the Las Vegas and the off-shore books in these coming days/weeks with nothing but hoop winners  and you can go ahead and cash in when you give us game-day calls at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else when you just log online right here.


#1 OHIO STATE (21-0, 8-0 Big 10) at NORTHWESTERN (13-7, 3-6 Big 10) - 6 p.m. ET, espn2
What's been the best part of this special season so far for the top-ranked O-State Buckeyes? Well, everyone knew freshman forward Jared Sullinger (17.8 ppg and 10.0 rpg) would be a monster the minute he walked on campus in Columbus but who knew that frosh point guard Aaron Craft (4.9 apg and a 47 percent shooter from the floor with a flair for the dramatic) would be this good or that this club would be so good on offense (79.3 ppg) and defense (57.5 ppg)?

In this Big 10 road clash the 'Eyes must get out quick on the Northwestern three-point shooters John Shurna, Michael Thompson and Drew Crawford who enter this game with a combined 131 trifectas on the season - look for Ohio State to pick up Northwestern's guards at half court and stick with 'em all throughout the Wildcats' offensive sets.

One key here: Ohio State G Jon Diebler (62 triples and averaging 12 points a game) remains a streak shooter and so even a three- or four-minute spurt of Diebler treys could swing the balance of this game faster than you can say Jerry Lucas!

 #9 BYU (20-1, 6-0 MWC) at NEW MEXICO (14-7, 2-4 MWC) - 4 p.m. ET, Versus
Now that the BYU Cougars have officially declared themselves the new monster of the Mountain West Conference following Wednesday's 71-58 win against 5-point underdog (and previously unbeaten San Diego State) you do have to wonder if this year's Coogs have a little magic working 'em.

Okay, so scoring machine G Jimmer Fredette (27.4 ppg) - the nation's at-the-moment leader in National Player of the Year category ahead of Ohio State's Sullinger - simply went silly with that 43-point game against the SDSU Aztecs and he certainly received plenty of assistance from reserve center James Anderson (5 blocked shots in just 14 minutes of play) but here Dave Rose's club must show the "no letdown" mode and that means the BYU defense must be up to snuff one game after limiting San Diego State to 35 percent shooting from the floor.

#11 MISSOURI (17-3, 3-2 Big 12) at #7 TEXAS (17-3, 5-0 Big 12) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Here's some prime-time action from the Lone Star State where the host Texas Longhorns look to follow up those high-profile back-to-back conference road wins - first the 69-game home winning streak of the Kansas Jayhawks was snapped and then Oklahoma State was slugged 61-46 last Wednesday night - and the key to this tilt is the Texas defense:

Note that in the win at Stillwater, the O-State Cowboys shot just 26 percent from the field after intermission and made only six FGs in the game's final 20 minutes and now Rick Barnes' bunch must play superb transition defense against a run-run Mizzou crew that's averaging an eye-popping 85 points a game behind classy G Marcus Denmon (17.3 ppg) whose 53 made triples this season leads Mike Anderson's team by a whole lot.

Can Texas swingman Jordan Hamilton (19.2 ppg and a 47 percent FG shooter) rise to the occasion here and keep the 'Horns thinking about a #1 NCAA Tournament seed come March? Stay tuned.



Let's get you some pointspread-related facts and figures as it pertains to the teams and the coaches soon to participate in Super Bowl XLV on Sunday, February 6th from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington (TX):

The Green Bay Packers are 12-7 against the odds overall this 2010 season and that includes three consecutive spread "W's" here in the post-season. Overall, the Pack is 8-6 ATS whenever in the favorite's role and the NFC's #6 playoff seed is an electric 4-1 ATS whenever taking points.

Note that Green Bay's covered 7 of its 11 away games this year (including that 3-and-oh spread mark away in the playoffs) while the Packers sport a 3-1 ATS log against AFC teams as Mike McCarthy's gang cashed against AFC East squads Buffalo, the New York Jets and New England and failed to cover the price tag in an OT home loss to Miami.

One final note: Green Bay is a dead-even but vig-losing 6-6 against the Las Vegas price tags in all post-season games since 2000 but this is - as you all know - the Packers first trip back to a Super Bowl since the 1997 season.

On the flip side, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 12-6 spreadwise this year and that includes playoff home spread triumphs against both Baltimore and the New York Jets. Note that the Steelers have covered 3-of-4 games this season when in the underdog role (covered tilts against Atlanta, Tennessee and Baltimore and failed to cover the 1-point price at New Orleans back on Halloween Night) and the AFC's #2 playoff seed is solid 9-5 ATS whenever placed in the favorite's role.

Pittsburgh is 5-3 vig-wise away this year (and 7-3 ATS as hosts) and Mike Tomlin's team covered three-of-four games against the NFC South with spread wins against Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Carolina and that aforementioned 20-10 loss at the Louisiana Superdome.

A final note: Pittsburgh's 11-5 against Las Vegas prices in all post-season games since the start of the 2000 season (that's a .688 winning rate) and now this marks Tomlin's second trip to the Super Bowl in just four years on the job.
And how about these coaches from a pointspread perspective?

Well, Green Bay's McCarthy has been "on the job" since 2006 and his overall pointspread mark to date is 51-33-2 - good for a dazzling .607 win percentage. Keep in mind that McCarthy-led Packers teams are a collective 29-15 against the odds when playing away from Lambeau Field (an even-better .659 winning rate) and the Packers are 29-20-2 ATS whenever installed as the betting favorite (a .592 winning percentage).

Note that the Packers are 4-2 vig-wise in all post-season affairs since McCarthy arrived on the scene five years ago.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh's Tomlin has been in charge since 2007 and his overall pointspread mark to date is 37-31-1 and that's good for a decent .544 winning rate. Note that Tomlin-led Steelers teams are 16-17 ATS away from Heinz Field the past four seasons (a .485 winning rate) and overall Pittsburgh is a dashing 9-3 versus the vig whenever in the underdog role since the start of '07 (that's a sweet .750 winning rate) and keep in mind the one-and-only time the AFC North champs took points in a post-season game coached by Tomlin the Steelers lost but covered 31-29 as 3-point home pups against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a 2007 AFC Wild Card Game ... remember?

The Steelers are a vibrant (and profitable) 5-1 against the odds in all post-season games during the Tomlin Era.

Finally, just remember that NFL Playoff Favorites and Underdogs have split the 10 post-season games played this winter and that includes a 3-3 spread log for NFL Playoff Betting Favorites of 3-points-or-less.




By Jim Hurley:

You know the deal - they really ought to be playing Super Bowl XLV this Sunday as everyone 'round the land has the itch to watch the "big game" but alas we all must wait another week but the good thing is there's loads of high-quality College Basketball and NBA tilts on this last weekend in January menu plus the NFL's Pro Bowl (back in Honolulu after a one-year trip to Miami) will keep you company come Sunday night.

So, here's our advice:

Sit tight. Enjoy the hoops and remember you get a whole 'nother week to chat about the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers - trust us, Super Bowl XLV will be here before you know it!

Jim Hurley and his Handicappers and Bloggers will release the Side & Totals Winners for Super Bowl XLV on game-day morning and so that means for the next several days and then deep into the spring too you can get all the 2010-11 College Basketball Winners and the NBA too as the hoops season remains in full swing. Just go ahead and join Jim as he crushes the Las Vegas and the off-shore books in these coming days/weeks with nothing but hoop winners  and you can go ahead and cash in when you give us game-day calls at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else when you just log online right here.



#3 DUKE (19-1) at ST. JOHN'S (11-8) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
The third-ranked Dookies still won't have the services of star guard Kyrie Irving here as he continues to sit it out with a toe injury but one thing worth watching here is how freshman G Seth Curry plays on the big stage at Madison Square Garden.

Curry - the kid brother of Golden State Warriors G Stephen -- really has been blossoming lately and he finished with a career-best 20 points in Thursday's 84-68 win against 16 ½-point underdog Boston College. Here the smooth-stroking young star should get plenty of open looks against a St. John's team that doesn't exactly play lights-out defense.

On the flip side, the Red Storm - losers of three straight and five of their last six games - come off Wednesday's debilitating 25-point loss at Georgetown when the Johnnies shot a putrid 20-of-59 from the floor (that's 33.9 percent) and G Dwight Hardy was a major culprit while nailing just 4-of-16 FG tries en route to a sub-standard 10-point game.

Maybe the Steve Lavin Era - okay, we're talking not yet 20 games - has hit a proverbial brick wall with a crew that couldn't win for out-of-work boss Norm Roberts.

INDIANA (11-10, 2-6 Big 10) at #25 MICHIGAN STATE (12-8, 4-4 Big 10) - 6 p.m. ET, Big 10 Network
It's still hard to believe that "Sparty" is floundering so badly this 2010-11 season - the 61-57 home loss to 11-point underdog Michigan on Thursday night was truly rock-bottom stuff for Tom Izzo's club and so now Michigan State goes into this clash on a three-game losing streak and assured of falling out of the national rankings.

The $64,000 question is can Izzo's guys show some life before it's too late?

Now that G Korie Lucious has been dismissed from the squad there are other Spartans that must step up their games but only G Kalin Lucas (27 points in 37 minutes against Michigan) really showed some pep in his step while connecting on 10-of-18 field-goal tries - otherwise the rest of this M-State squad shot a shabby 11-of-30 from the floor and how about the fact the Wolverines out-boarded 'em 28-to-26?

Now that's not very Spartan-like, is it?

If Indiana wants to steal this one in East Lansing, then F Christian Watford (16.8 ppg and 5.8 rpg) must be a stat-sheet stuffer plus Tom Crean's Hoosiers must show a bit more consistency after a real up-and-down campaign.


ARIZONA - Now that the Cardinals went through a gazillion quarterbacks in the first year of the post-Kurt Warner Era, they must ask themselves whether or not former Fordham star John Skelton is the answer. Don't be surprised if the Redbirds choose to keep Skelton in a backup role while opting for a more experienced starting signal-caller and one name - even if it's a one-year band-aid - to watch for here is Oakland's Jason Campbell who most assuredly won't be part of the Raiders plans anymore.

CAROLINA - No doubt that 2010 rookie Jimmy Clausen was a major bust plus he wasn't all too popular with teammates (especially with superstar WR Steve Smith) but odds are Clausen will be the #1 slinger come next season even though the Panthers have the numero uno pick in this upcoming NFL Draft. Maybe Matt Moore can give Clausen a run for the starter's spot in training camp but tough to believe Carolina will spend the top pick on another quarterback and tough to believe anyone but Clausen is the now-and-immediate future answer here.

CINCINNATI - Now here's a really interesting situation as Bengals' long-time QB Carson Palmer has demanded a trade and it's better than 50-50 that the AFC North accommodates him. Cincinnati could not have liked what they got from Palmer last year with all those interceptions and bad reads and ownership is said to be anxious to turn the page on his Cincy career and give someone else a shot. Count on the Bengals dealing Palmer on or before this year's NFL Draft and than snapping up either Florida State's Christian Ponder or Arkansas' Ryan Mallett in the draft.

CLEVELAND - The Browns pushed Eric Mangini out the door (and rightfully so) and brought in new offensive whiz kid Pat Shurmur and no question he's looking to duplicate the model the St. Louis Rams have in place with QB Sam Bradford now set to run the show there for years to come. If Shurmur can get his mitts on the aforementioned Mallett than the Browns can stop all this silly juggling at the quarterback spot - now who can really live with another year of Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace?

DENVER - Everyone's waiting for Tim Tebow to take command at this position in 2011 but new head coach John Fox - no stranger to quarterback controversies in his nine years in Carolina - might give Kyle Orton at least an even shot at winning the top spot and so look for this to be one of the great summertime duels this year. No doubt the Broncos fan base will be clamoring for Tebow but we say he's gonna have to play well in the NFL Preseason games in August to nail down the #1 role.

MIAMI - It might be the most-asked question along South Beach:  Who's gonna be the Dolphins starting quarterback next season? It appears that the organization has run out of patience with erratic slinger Chad Henne and so expect the Fish to be in the market for a veteran and/or a rookie slinger this spring and maybe Washington Huskies star Jake Locker might be a good fit here. Stay tuned.

MINNESOTA - Don't expect Tarvaris Jackson to be manning the number one spot at quarterback unless the Vikings simply are unable to pull the trigger on a trade or get who they're after in the draft. Minnesota could be eyeballing the likes of Locker or Ponder here in Round One

OAKLAND - Good luck ever getting a handle on what the silver-and-black will do at the quarterback position but new head coach Jackson knows enough that he doesn't want a whole lot of life with either the aforementioned Campbell or journeyman Bruce Gradkowski.

SAN FRANCISCO - New head coach Jim Harbaugh would have loved to stuff his Stanford QB Andrew Luck into an equipment bag with 'em and taken him to the Golden Gate City but luck decided to stay put for another year in college and so the energetic Harbaugh must sort through the likes of Alex Smith, Troy Smith or someone else not named Smith for the starting role. Expect the Niners to spend their first-round pick on a signal-caller that Harbaugh can mold in his way.

SEATTLE - Veteran Matt Hasselbeck is a free agent and who knows what the NFL labor wars will do with such players but we say it's better than 50-50 that Hasselbeck will return for another year under head coach Pete Carroll.

WASHINGTON - Wonder what quarterbacks out there have the best cardiovascular system?

    NOTE: Be with us as we crank up Super Bowl XLV Week with our next edition of Jim Sez.

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