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Free NCAA Basketball Pick – Friday, March 18

Middle Tennessee State +18.5 over Michigan State 1:45 PM CT

Middle Tennessee State jumped up in class several times in the non-conference season and they held their own in most games, losing by six and four to top 100 squads VCU and South Dakota State. Wins over Toledo, UNC Asheville, Toledo, Auburn, and Belmont are notable through a fairly difficult non-conference slate. In Conference USA play the Blue Raiders finished 13-5 to sit behind UAB and the numbers were the strongest in the conference. The Blue Raiders rebound well, create turnovers and are very effective at limiting free throw attempts and quality 3-point looks. On offense the pace is deliberate at times and while foul shooting has been poor the Blue Raiders do have a few sharp shooters outside and shot 39 percent from 3-point range on the season. The best 3-point shooting team in the country is Michigan State, a team many have already anointed in the Final Four. The Spartans have been very impressive down the stretch but 13 of the team’s 29 wins came by 16 or fewer points. The price on this game is certainly elevated with the popularity of the Spartans. Consider that Michigan State and Virginia rate as almost identical caliber teams and Middle Tennessee State rates over 100 spots higher Hampton in most power ratings yet the Spartans will be nearly as high of a favorite as the Virginia was in yesterday’s 1/16 matchup. The Blue Raiders have proven an ability to win and compete well in high scoring games and low scoring grinds, winning the last two conference tournament games with 99 and 55 points respectively. Michigan State will be well supported in St. Louis but value is clearly with the hefty underdog from a Conference USA that may be slightly underrated.

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NCAA Tournament Location Advantages

 

NCAA Tournament Location Advantages

03/15/2016

While most of the NCAA tournament games will generally be played in unfamiliar venues and spacious arenas with mixed fan bases, it is worth taking a look at the travel required and the groupings of teams in each pod. Here is a brief look at some of the advantages and disadvantages presented by the selection committee this season with regards to location in the opening games.

Providence, Rhode Island:

The team most thrilled to be in Providence has to be Yale, hailing from New Haven, Connecticut just about 100 miles southwest of Rhode Island’s capital city. With Yale ending a long NCAA Tournament drought this season the afternoon session tickets Thursday featuring the NC-Wilmington/Duke matchup and the Yale/Providence matchup are hot tickets. Duke should get solid support in this grouping with a fan base that is well populated in the major northeast cities nearby but like ACC counterpart Miami the team has to be a bit disappointed to not be in Raleigh where #1 seeds North Carolina and Virginia will be playing Thursday. Buffalo fans have a manageable drive to Providence to support the #14 seeded MAC Tournament champions but the evening sessions won’t likely have one overwhelming fan base. Arizona seems the most out of place in this group as the #6 seed facing long travel for a Thursday game in which they won’t know the opponent until Tuesday night, facing off with the winner of the highly anticipated Vanderbilt/Wichita State matchup in the First Four.

Raleigh, North Carolina:

ACC squads North Carolina and Virginia get a favorable placement in Raleigh with a very short trip for the Tar Heels in what should feel like a home game and the venue is less than 250 miles from the Virginia campus as well. While both of those #1 seeds are heavy favorites in the opening games it is worth remembering that both teams really struggled in the first round games last season, barely escaping with victories playing in favorable venues in Charlotte and Jacksonville. Assuming the top seeds move on, the location edge may be more important on Saturday as the 8/9 matchup teams are all making long trips with North Carolina set to face the winner between Providence and USC and Virginia slated to face the winner of the Butler/Texas Tech game.

Des Moines, Iowa:

Three schools from Iowa are in the NCAA Tournament but none finished with a high enough seed to earn a favorable spot in Des Moines. #1 overall seed Kansas had three attractive nearby options for the opening weekend games and Des Moines is the closest, just a few dozen miles closer to campus compared to St. Louis or Oklahoma City. Blue should dominate the seats on Saturday with Kentucky also in this grouping and even though it is close to a 10 hour drive from Lexington the Wildcats are always well supported. Indiana fans like Kentucky fans were certainly hoping to get a St. Louis draw as both teams have to feel a little snubbed by the committee both in seeding and location as well as staring at each other in a potential headlining matchup Saturday just to reach the Sweet 16. Connecticut vs. Colorado figures to be a great opening round 8/9 matchup and while Des Moines is a reasonable trip from Boulder none of the other schools in this grouping figure to have much impact in making a dent on the Kansas crowd.

Denver, Colorado:

With no double-digit spreads in the four Thursday games in Denver, this grouping might be one to watch for potential upsets. None of the eight schools in this group are set particularly close to Denver but flights are rather easy from Salt Lake City to the Mile High City in March as Utah is probably the biggest beneficiary to the Pepsi Center draw. Up tempo squads Iona and Iowa State face off in the early game Thursday and it will be interesting to if the altitude has an impact. Also of note with regards to the altitude will be how teams that are fairly reliant on lumbering big men will handle the thin air with Purdue and Gonzaga most noteworthy to watch. Utah is also led by star center Jakob Poeltl but the elevation jump from Salt Lake City to Denver isn’t that dramatic compared with say West Lafayette to Denver. Iona and Seton Hall are the only eastern schools that were shipped out to Denver with Seton Hall as a #6 seed facing #11 seed Gonzaga perhaps drawing one of the bigger location disadvantages in the tournament relative to the seeding as the slight favorite status of the Bulldogs displays.

Brooklyn, New York:

There is a lot of college basketball played in the greater New York City area but it has been a while since a prominent team emerged and this Brooklyn venue won’t provide any sort of dramatic home court edge to the schools in play. #2 seed Villanova can‘t complain about this landing spot but they did not wind up in the East region which would have meant games in Philadelphia next week if the Wildcats can advance. West Virginia fans also have a reasonable trip as do Temple fans for an intriguing set of Friday games. Ultimately the big city setting may favor the powerful fan bases from the Midwest with Notre Dame and Iowa support likely to be strong and should Michigan survive Wednesday’s First Four matchup the Wolverines would face the Irish in a rivalry better known on the gridiron in what would be a highly anticipated game. West Virginia would draw the winner of that game if they get by a dangerous #14 seed in Stephen F. Austin.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma:

While the Sooners had a bit of late season slide they were still handed a favorable NCAA Tournament draw, still getting a #2 seed ahead of #3 seed West Virginia who finished ahead of the Sooners in the standings and beat Oklahoma in the Big XII semifinals. Oklahoma is opposite an Oregon squad most consider to be the least proven of the #1 seeds in the West region and the opening weekend games are in Oklahoma City, just a half hour drive from Norman as crimson and cream figure to dominate Chesapeake Energy Arena. That could be overwhelming for Cal State Bakersfield in the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance as well as potential second round foes VCU and Oregon State who are playing far from home. In the other pod Texas and Texas A&M figure to receive strong support with a reasonable drive north for both fan bases in what could be a great second round storyline in a rematch from earlier this season between former conference foes.

St. Louis, Missouri:

Michigan State wasn’t given a #1 seed and the St. Louis venue is still a nearly eight-hour drive from East Lansing. That was the best option the Spartans had however with only Des Moines as a venue at a similar distance. If Michigan State survives the opening weekend they will be rewarded with games in Chicago which could really pay off in potential matchups with Utah or Virginia. While Michigan State should be well supported in St. Louis the Gateway City will likely also receive a great deal of travelers taking I-70 from Dayton and Cincinnati. It is also a reasonable trip south from Madison as #7 seeds Wisconsin and Dayton received favorable placement for coin-flip opening round 7/10 matchups against Pittsburgh and Syracuse teams with more distance to cover. Weber State and Syracuse have the most substantial travel as most of the schools in this group should get fans at the Scotttade Center with #2 seeds Michigan State and Xavier likely bringing the most enthusiasm.

Spokane, Washington:

Nothing is terribly close by out west but Oregon was dealt a favorable venue in Spokane, a seven-hour drive from Eugene and even closer trip from Portland where plenty of alumni reside. Oregon isn’t expected to have a tough time in the opening round vs. a Wednesday First Four winner and the potential second round matchup would feature an eastern squad Cincinnati or St. Joseph’s to give the Ducks a big advantage. Hawaii and California are technically western squads and Spokane certainly is the closest opening round venue available but that is far from a short trip for those schools and #4 seeded Bears would travel much further east to Louisville should they advance. South Dakota State and Maryland also will have long journeys to get fans to Veterans Arena as this looks like a venue that will be overtaken by Ducks fans.

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Best and Worst Big Dance Draws

Best and Worst Big Dance Draws

03/14/2016

Dissecting the bracket and the decisions of the selection committee is certainly a fun topic Monday morning. Here is a quick look at some of the favorable and unfavorable draws in the bracket. Neither is indicative of ultimate success in the tournament but some teams were dealt better hands than others.

Worst Draws:

West Virginia (#3 East): The Mountaineers made it to the Big XII championship game, narrowly losing against #1 overall Kansas on Saturday. Most power ratings project West Virginia as a clear top 10 team but they have drawn a fairly difficult path as a #3 seed, while staring at the Oklahoma team they finished ahead of and just beat as a #2 seed. Stephen F. Austin hasn’t lost a game since the calendar turned to 2016 taking a 20 game winning streak into the tournament. The Lumberjacks beat VCU in the 2015 tournament and last season played a very close game with Utah in a 5/12 matchup. West Virginia’s success is built on creating turnovers yet they will have to face the only team in the nation with a higher defensive turnover rate in this matchup as these teams have similar strengths, except in 3-point shooting and free throw shooting where the Mountaineers are the much weaker team. Should West Virginia survive they could potentially face Notre Dame or Michigan, two powerhouse fan bases that have will have strong support in the Brooklyn venue.

Baylor (#5 West): The Bears lost as a #3 seed last season against Georgia State and Baylor will again be on upset alert this season in the opening round. In 2013 and 2014 Ivy League champion Harvard won NCAA tournament games and last season the Crimson just missed an upset over North Carolina in a two-point defeat as the league deserves some respect. This game will also take place in Providence giving the Bulldogs a huge location edge with the venue just an hour and a half drive from New Haven and with plenty of alumni in the region ready to snap up tickets for Yale’s first Big Dance appearance since 1962. As the spread suggests a Yale win won’t be much of an upset but if the Bears survive they will only have to go through the defending national champions with Duke sitting as the opposing #4 seed should the Blue Devils advance.

Indiana (#5 East): The Hoosiers don’t have a great argument to have been seeded much higher despite being the Big Ten champions in the regular season. The SEC regular season and tournament champion Kentucky certainly does have a valid gripe however and that potential matchup will be the highest profile game of the Round of 32. If Indiana keeps up its late season shooting they can beat anyone but the Kentucky backcourt seems likely to be a difficult matchup for the Hoosiers and the Des Moines crowd will likely have strong Kentucky support. The Hoosiers had better not get caught looking ahead to that game however as Chattanooga is a dangerous team that lost just five games all season and picked up wins over Georgia, Illinois, and Dayton. The Mocs have been very good at creating turnovers which could capitalize on the chief weakness of the Hoosiers and the 3-point defense for Chattanooga has also been pretty sound. Beat Chattanooga and Kentucky and Indiana’s reward is facing North Carolina in most scenarios as it won’t be easy for Tom Crean to get past the Sweet 16 for the first time since he took over in Bloomington.

Arizona (#6 South): The Wildcats have been unable to get over the hump in the Elite Eight the past two years and they will have a difficult path ahead if Sean Miller is to make his first Final Four in 2016. Arizona may have felt slighted to be a #2 seed last season but they at least played on the west coast. This season the Wildcats have been shipped across the country to Providence. To make matters worse they play on Thursday night but they won’t know the opponent until Tuesday night facing the winner of gem of a First Four matchup between Wichita State and Vanderbilt. Both of those squads wound up on the bubble but both teams have very high ceilings and will be considered viable sleepers to make it out of the first weekend. In the short history of the First Four, all five seasons one of the winning teams has advanced to at least the Round of 32, with three teams making the Sweet 16 and VCU making the Final Four in the initial year of the First Four in 2011.

Cal-State Bakersfield (#15 West): The hodgepodge WAC doesn’t get much respect as a whole as there are some pretty bad teams in the group but the top of the conference produced some respectable results around the country. Bakersfield is 24-8 to earn this spot after knocking off regular season champion New Mexico State last weekend. While the profile lacks any standout non-conference wins most power rankings would place the Roadrunners above several teams that received better placement in the bracket such as Chattanooga, Green Bay, Stony Brook, or Buffalo. In addition to the #15 seed and the difficult matchup with a Sooners team that was ranked #1 much of the year, the Roadrunners will feel like they are playing a road game drawing Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. It won’t be a shock in Bakersfield gives the Sooners a scare but the Roadrunners would have been a more viable upset threat with a seeding more consistent with their strong statistics.

 

Best Draws:

Oregon (#1 West): The Ducks weren’t on the radar for most as a potential #1 seed but the Pac-12 was given great respect by the committee and the emphatic title game win pushed the Ducks to the top line after claiming both the regular season and conference tournament titles. Oregon gets to play the winner of the Holy Cross and Southern Matchup as they will have one of the most favorable opening round draws and getting to play the first weekend in Spokane is a big plus with no other west coast schools in that pod. Duke and Baylor don’t look overly formidable as the #4 and #5 teams in the group particularly on defense given Oregon’s fantastic offensive potential. Upsets are very possible in that Providence grouping as well with Duke and Baylor both set to face challenging opening games. If Oregon lives up to its seeding it would have an Anaheim regional final matchup with likely Oklahoma or Texas A&M two teams with high ceilings but plenty of inconsistency this season while avoiding some of the more proven candidates in those #2 and #3 slots.

Villanova (#2 South): The Wildcats have a big monkey on their back for tournament failures in recent years and not having the pressure of being a #1 seed might be a benefit. #1 overall Kansas is on the opposite side of the region but getting past the opening weekend has to be the priority for Villanova. UNC-Asheville rates as one of the weaker teams in the field losing six games in the Big South but a non-conference win over Georgetown should be enough to capture Villanova’s attention. The 7/10 draw of Iowa and Temple also looks promising as Temple rates as by far the weakest #10 seed and is a team that Villanova beat by 16 in February. While Iowa has a strong season profile this is a Hawkeyes team that has lost six of the last eight games to wipe away the great work the team did in January. Iowa lost to Penn State, Ohio State, and Illinois down the stretch while also losing two home games and snapping out of that funk looks challenging against a team like Villanova should the Hawkeyes even get that chance. Miami is a strong team as the #3 seed but perhaps less threatening than some of the other potential teams that could have been in that spot in the South like West Virginia, Kentucky, or Texas A&M.

Michigan State (#2 Midwest): Most instantly placed Michigan State as a team with a gripe about not being a #1 seed as the Spartans are the Vegas favorites to cut down the nets and it isn’t a hard case to make putting the Spartans on the #1 line. That said, a close look reveals some real benefits to this path if the Spartans can use that slight as motivation to get back to the Final Four. The #1 seed in the Midwest is Virginia, a team the Spartans have beat the past two seasons in the NCAA Tournament and that potential game would be in Chicago with a clear edge for Michigan State. Middle Tennessee State is a better team than any of the #1 seeds will face in the opening round but the Spartans should be comfortable with potential matchups with Syracuse or Dayton in the Round of 32. Utah also looks like the weakest of the #3 seeds and that potential Sweet 16 matchup would also be in Chicago for a huge location edge for the Spartans. Iowa State also looks like one of the weaker #4 seeds and they also line up in the Midwest should Virginia falter early.

Texas (#6 West): The Longhorns lost twice as many games as their NCAA Tournament seed this season but big wins pushed Texas into a favorable position. Northern Iowa had some big wins this season and as the spread suggests it won’t be an easy game but the Oklahoma City venue should be favorable and Texas is very comfortable playing at a slower pace. The Longhorns can’t help but looking ahead to a potential matchup with Texas A&M in the round of 32, a rival and team they had a chance to play early in the season and would have no shortage of motivation and support for. It should be a Big XII crowd at the Chesapeake Arena with Oklahoma also slated to play there which could help the cause. If the Longhorns advance to the Sweet 16 they would likely face a Sooners team they beat by 13 just a few weeks ago. Ultimately the Longhorns have to feel pretty good about how things worked out especially with two other #6 seeds having the challenge of facing a First Four winner while the other #6 Seton Hall has been sent across the country in a pod with three western teams.

Iona (#13 Midwest): Metro Atlantic fans can certainly cry foul for Monmouth’s exclusion but the conference was handed a great opportunity to actually pick up a win in the NCAA Tournament with the draw for Iona. Getting a #13 seed is probably generous for a squad that lost 10 games and whose only top 100 wins came against Monmouth. Of the #4 seeds Iona would want to face Iowa State would have to be high on the list as the Cyclones don’t have the devastating size up front that some of the other #3, #4, or #5 seeds have. Iona is led by an up-tempo offense and that is Iowa State’s preferred pace as well with the Cyclones shaky on defense at times as this game could be a bit of a track meet. Playing in the mountain air in Denver also could give the Gaels a boost as well as the conditioning for Iona should be excellent given the pace of play they employ.

 

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick – Friday, March 11

#588 Cal-Irvine -3 over Long Beach State 11:00 PM CT

Three of the four Big West games yesterday were blowouts with Long Beach State being the lone favorite that really struggled, trailing Riverside much of the way before winning by eight with 33 points in the final 10 minutes. Long Beach State had a big shooting edge as well as 10 more free throw attempts but the team had to work for the win with heavy minutes for the starters. Long Beach State has a big size disadvantage in this matchup and Irvine won both regular season meetings. The first game was tight with Irvine overcoming an early deficit while the most recent meeting was a blowout. Long Beach State has won 10 of the last 11 games but the schedule turned mostly soft down the stretch and with a share of the conference title on the line Irvine took care of business to win the final four games of the season to catch Hawaii. These teams contrast in tempo significantly and Long Beach State might have a tough time with the adjustment, as they did in both regular season meetings as they could not hold on to early leads.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick – Thursday, March 3

#548 Cal-Santa Barbara -10 over Cal Riverside 9:00 PM ET

Santa Barbara played a brutal non-conference schedule and then started out the Big West season 3-5, getting all six games vs. the top three teams in the conference out of the way. The schedule has softened in February and the Gauchos have now won six consecutive games to move to 9-5 in Big West play with the final two games at home. Santa Barbara isn’t going to be able to move up in the conference standings but they will be a team that the top seeds won’t want to face in the Big West tournament. This is a veteran team that has battled through one of the toughest schedules in the nation and they beat Riverside on the road by 10 just two weeks ago in a game they led wire-to-wire even with a marginal shooting night. Riverside did score an upset over Hawaii last week but this will now be a third straight road game before Saturday’s home finale and the team is still adjusting to playing without Taylor Johns who was dismissed from the team two weeks ago. Santa Barbara is a slow tempo team but a great free throw shooting team and they have been able to pull away from several teams late in the current winning streak. Riverside rates as one of the worst defensive teams in the conference and a high turnover team and the Gauchos should be up for this game to keep the positive momentum going.

Nelly’s is on a 56-29 run in basketball picks since early January! We are featuring our College Game of the Year Thursday night plus we have our next 2/3 Guarantee available having won 11 of our last 13 2/3 offers with the picks going 31-7-1!

 

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick – Thursday, Feb. 25

#775 Santa Clara +16.5 over St. Mary’s 10:00 PM CT

Gonzaga has set the standard in the WCC for many years and last weekend St. Mary’s won in Spokane for the first season sweep of the Bulldogs in 21 years. The teams can still tie for the WCC regular season title but unless St. Mary’s slips in the final two games of the conference season they will be the top seed in the conference tournament. This week’s action features a home date with Santa Clara before the conference finale at San Francisco on Saturday but tonight is not the final home game in Moraga with a non-conference game scheduled next Tuesday. Santa Clara is just 6-10 in WCC play and the Broncos will be easy to overlook with St. Mary’s winning by 22 in the first meeting this season. St. Mary’s shot over 63 percent at Santa Clara for the comfortable win while getting twice as many free throw attempts. A decline in those numbers seems likely and the final score was the largest lead of the game as the Gaels poured it on with 46 second half points to dramatically shift a four-point margin at the half. Santa Clara is certainly overmatched but there should be enthusiasm for this opportunity with the team playing a bit better down the stretch going 3-3 in the last six games. Santa Clara is actually 9-4-1 ATS on the road this season covering in four of the past five conference road tests while St. Mary’s is on a 2-8 ATS run in league play as a consistently overvalued conference leader that should be in a clear flat spot tonight.

Nelly’s is on a 50-22 run in basketball picks as we look to close down a huge month of February the next few days! We have won 10 consecutive guaranteed 2/3 offers with seven 3-0 sweeps. Get tonight’s three-game offer for $25 featuring NBA & NCAA picks for Thursday night – only $25!

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick – Wednesday, Feb. 24

 

St. Joseph’s -7.5 over Massachusetts

St. Joseph’s hasn’t lost consecutive games all season and Wednesday night the Hawks face a second straight road game after allowing 99 points in a loss at Davidson on Saturday. Massachusetts has won four of the last six games following a 1-7 start in A-10 play and the recent run includes wins over Rhode Island and VCU. Two of the four wins also came in overtime however and the Minutemen have lost four home games on the season including falling against teams at the bottom of the conference including Saint Louis and Fordham. VCU has regained the lead in the A-10 standings with St. Joseph’s and Dayton a game back but VCU has a daunting remaining schedule. St. Joseph’s has to feel they still have a great opportunity to win the conference and the statistics paint the Hawks as the most complete team in the league with top three efficiency rankings on both sides of the ball. In the first meeting St. Joseph’s won by eight at home with a high scoring close to the game through foul shots. St. Joseph’s missed 11 free throws in the game and shot just 29 percent from 3-point range but still comfortably pulled away. The teams that have beat St. Joseph’s have mostly been strong offensive teams with up tempo paces as four of the five losses for the Hawks came while allowing 83 or more points. Massachusetts doesn’t mind pushing the pace but the Minutemen have been held below 75 points in seven of the last eight games. Half of the wins for St. Joseph’s this season have come away from home and the past six road or neutral site wins have come by nine or more points.

Join Nelly’s for two guaranteed college basketball offers tonight as we look to build on a 70% run in our last 70 basketball picks – going 49-21!

 

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ACC Championship Picture – Feb. 18

 

ACC Championship Picture – Feb. 18

The ACC basketball standings look as wide open as they have been since the 2006-07 season. Currently two teams sit on top of the ACC tied with three losses while four others sit with four losses but many of those teams will be playing each other down the stretch. Here is a look at the chances of taking the title for the remaining contenders in the nation’s premier conference.

Seven of the past 15 national champions have come out of the current group of ACC teams as the conference remains the standard bearer in college basketball. Even with the expansion to an 18-game conference season the past three years the regular season champion in the ACC has had no more than three losses in each of the past eight seasons. With Duke’s win over North Carolina on Wednesday the 2015-16 ACC regular season champion will have at least three losses at a minimum and the league’s chances to score a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament look limited barring a great run the rest of the way from one of these teams.

North Carolina (10-3): The Tar Heels have been considered a national title contender all season and with a 21-5 record and a still ACC-leading 10-3 conference record that notion hasn’t changed. The Tar Heels certainly appear to be slipping out of contention for one of the #1 seeds however with losses in three of the past five games. While the talent on the roster for the Tar Heels is nationally elite the record could continue to slide with a very tough remaining schedule. North Carolina has a back loaded ACC schedule as they have played just three games against the five other ACC teams with four or fewer conference losses and they are actually 0-3 in those games. They take on current conference co-leader Miami this weekend and will still face difficult road games vs. Virginia and Duke down the stretch.

Miami, FL (10-3): Few expected Miami to be an ACC championship contender this season but the Hurricanes will take the outright lead in the conference if they can beat North Carolina this weekend. Miami has wins over Notre Dame and Duke this season but both of those big victories came at home. Miami is just 3-3 in ACC play on the road with a two-point win over Florida State being the strongest of those wins. In addition to playing in Chapel Hill Miami also has a rematch in South Bend with the Irish while hosting two other top squads Virginia and Louisville in the remaining schedule as by season’s end the current co-leader in the conference might wind up falling back towards the middle of the pack.

Virginia (10-4): The Cavaliers have won the ACC regular season title each of the past two seasons with a 16-2 record, a mark that no team in the conference will reach this season. That excellence has been overshadowed by marginal results in the NCAA Tournament as it might be preferable for this year’s team to enter the Big Dance slightly less heralded. Virginia has a daunting remaining schedule to navigate if they hope to win a third straight regular season conference title facing road games with Miami and Clemson while hosting North Carolina and Louisville. Virginia has higher end conference wins than most of the other contenders with victories over six of the nine teams that currently have a winning record in the ACC but the schedule calls for four more games in that category.

Notre Dame (9-4): Few are talking about the possibility of Notre Dame taking the ACC title but the shot for the Irish is very legitimate. Notre Dame has five games to go and each of the next three games will be on the road but they only have one remaining game against a team that currently has a winning ACC record. The most difficult remaining game will be against Miami at home in early March in a rematch for the Irish after losing by nine at Miami in early February. It won’t be a shock if the Irish drops one of the road games vs. Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, or Florida State but considering the slates remaining for the rest of the ACC contenders Notre Dame has to like its chances to move up.

Louisville (9-4): With the Cardinals banned from the postseason the regular season title is all Louisville has left to play for. Some teams in that tough situation have mailed in the rest of the campaign but this team doesn’t appear ready to quit even though there have been losses in two of the last three games. The misses came on the road in extremely close games with Duke and Notre Dame and this week the Cardinals bounced back with a rout over Syracuse to take the Orange off this list. Louisville’s remaining schedule is difficult but they will at the very least have a chance to play spoiler with some of the other top contenders, facing Duke, Miami, and Virginia among the final five games.

Duke (9-4): With losses in four of five games in January last season’s national championship winner was out of the Top 25 and potentially looking at a spot on the NCAA Tournament bubble. With five straight wins that is no longer the case and the Blue Devils are still in the mix for the ACC title. The last three wins have come by the slimmest of margins for a very thin roster but wins over Louisville, Virginia, and North Carolina in succession is about as impressive as it gets for a three-game run. The Blue Devils won’t get time to enjoy the big win in Chapel Hill as they face a rematch at Louisville this weekend and will still have to host the Tar Heels in the season finale.

Clemson (9-5): The Tigers are certainly a long shot with five defeats and six teams to pass in the ACC race but given all the games the top teams will play against each other a split co-championship with multiple 13-5 ACC teams is a real possibility this season. Clemson has been very tough at home in ACC play with wins over Louisville, Duke, and Miami and the toughest remaining game will be at home hosting Virginia on the first day of March. Road games at NC State and at Georgia Tech can be challenging but the Tigers can’t be ruled out of the picture just yet. With a few ugly non-conference losses on the resume this is a team that will need a strong finish to make the NCAA Tournament and the schedule does line up for that possibility.

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Free NBA Pick – Thursday, Feb. 18

#504 Los Angeles Clippers +4.5 over San Antonio Spurs 9:35 PM CT

The Spurs are clearly an elite team and the chief threat to unseat the Warriors from a second straight title run. San Antonio is 28-0 at home and a still very good but slightly more pedestrian 17-8 on the road however and the Spurs are just 9-4 this season vs. the top 10 teams in the league while actually going just 1-4 vs. Golden State, Oklahoma City, Cleveland, and Toronto this season. The Spurs won by eight hosting the Clippers in the only meeting between these teams so far this season and while the Clippers will also head towards a difficult second half schedule this is big tone-setting opportunity for a team that sits as the #4 team in the Western Conference with little mobility likely in either direction. The Spurs are just a 6-6 ATS team on the road vs. winning teams and San Antonio is only 3-5 ATS this season when favored by fewer than six points (or as an underdog). The Clippers have been terrible in the heavy favorite role this season but in games with a spread within six points either way the Clippers are 17-11 ATS on the season. Recall that it was this Clippers team that stunned the Spurs in the playoffs last season in a tough seven-game set with four of the seven games decided by six or fewer points. In six games at Los Angeles last season the Spurs never won by more than four points, or rather conveniently just past where tonight’s price sits. This spread is also just a point higher than the highest home underdog spread of the season for the Clippers, hosting the Warriors at +5.5 in November. Los Angeles is 17-5 without Blake Griffin as this team has been playing some of its best ball in recent weeks and while there is no question this is a very good Spurs team it is a squad that is overvalued from facing what rates as the second easiest schedule in the league at the All Star break.

Nelly’s is 19-5 in the past two weeks with our basketball picks. Join us for the rest of the month of February for just $125 or play through the end of March Madness for $325.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick – Wednesday, Feb. 17

#730 Loyola Chicago +5  over Northern Iowa 7:00 PM CT

Loyola Chicago is just 5-9 in conference play but they have had to play eight games vs. the top five teams in the conference so far this season including the road meetings with each of those squads. At home the Ramblers are just 2-5 in conference play but this is a team that has turned in better results of late with a 5-4 record in the last nine games including notable wins over Northern Iowa, Indiana State, and Southern Illinois. Northern Iowa has had an inconsistent season but a 2-6 start in Missouri Valley play has turned to 8-6 with six straight wins. The Panthers enter this game coming off a huge win over Wichita State on Saturday with a 53-50 result and this could be a letdown spot with a second straight road game ahead of a prominent conference game with Illinois State this weekend. Loyola Chicago won the first meeting between these teams with a 51-41 result with a defensive grind with ugly numbers across the board for both teams. These are two of the slowest pace teams in the nation and another low scoring game seems likely and Loyola Chicago deserves credit for several narrow losses with misses by two or fewer points in four of the last seven defeats. Northern Iowa could be in a dangerous spot coming off a huge win with the team only having one conference road win outside of wins over the two bottom teams in the conference Bradley and Drake, teams that are a combined 3-25 in MVC play. The season for Northern Iowa has featured some highlight wins but also seven losses to teams outside of the top 100 and the Panthers are facing and inflated road favorite spread Wednesday night.

Nelly’s will be posting a Top Play for Wednesday night – last Wednesday’s Top Play was a +9 underdog that won outright! We are on an 18-4 basketball run with a 40-12 college run since mid-January! Join us for tonight’s big pick or consider signing up for an extended subscription.

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