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Eliminator Contest Week 1

The 2019 Eliminator Contest is starting this week with an update Thursday and the picks for games September 14-16.

20 national handicappers are in the field led by 2018 champion Weekly Wizard, who wound up 14-6-2 last season for his third Eliminator title!

Check out the field and the Week 1 Contest Selections for FREE, posted every Thursday afternoon.

The Double Plays can be purchased for just $9 each week, or for $50 for the duration of the contest

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Point Train Free Pick

#317 Syracuse +1.5 over Maryland 11:00 AM CT

This is rare game with both teams coming off shutout wins. While Maryland scored more than three times as many points as Syracuse in its shutout win last week, they did so vs. FCS Howard, a team that won four games last season and also lost by 40 to Kent State last year. Shutting out Liberty might not sound impressive, but the Flames won six games last season and are an FBS squad that has quickly risen to a respectable level, bringing back a veteran quarterback with great experience on both sides of the ball. Liberty is playing an independent schedule but will be a threat to make the program’s first bowl game by season’s end. Tommy DeVito has big shoes to fill replacing Eric Dungey but he played in six games last season including leading wins over North Carolina and Florida State when he was a freshman. DeVito didn’t play well in the opener but the Orange running game provided three touchdowns and nearly 200 yards and Syracuse is poised to have its best defense in many years. The Orange held Liberty to negative rushing yards and held senior quarterback Steven Calvert to one of his worst career games. Syracuse has a season-making game with Clemson up next, a team they beat two years ago in the Carrier Dome and had on the ropes last season. That has led many to flock to Maryland this week but in six years as an ACC team Syracuse is 5-1 S/U in the game prior to facing Clemson. Mike Locksley is 1-0 at Maryland but his career 4-31 record as a head coach Is hard to ignore, even with this spread flipping after Syracuse opened as a slight favorite. Josh Jackson is two years removed form his fine 2017 season at Virginia Tech and Maryland lost three home games last season while allowing 29 points per game overall. Last week’s shutout was certainly looks likely to be the only zero that the Maryland defense will put up this season returning the fifth least experience in the Big Ten. Syracuse was unquestionably the second best team in the ACC last season yet the team is getting minimal respect coming off a 10-win season and with Dino Babers 56-35 in his career, quickly providing success at three programs.

Point Train was a winner with the UNDER last night in the NFL opener, an convincing 10-3 result! Another TOTAL is lined up on the Friday college football schedule for $19.97 – pay after you win!

Point Train’s first 5-unit pick of the season is also on its way for Saturday night in a big prime time TV game!

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1-Page Stats NCAA Week 1

Check out all of last week’s college football box scores in one-page!

This page is part one of the perks of our weekly Green Sheet newsletter – getting you the data from last week by Monday afternoon in one reference page to jump start your handicapping for the following week.

Check out this week’s 1-Page Stats page featuring all 83 games from last weekend plus the late August openers!

Sign up for the Green Sheet subscription to get this content every single week through the Super Bowl!

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Free NCAA Pick Saturday

#202 Vanderbilt +22.5 over Georgia 6:30 PM CT

Everyone assumes Georgia is going to be a top national contender this season yet they face a much smaller opening week price than some of the other top ranked teams. Being on the road for a SEC game to start the year certainly warrants a lower figure but it also isn’t clear that Georgia will be able to replenish the roster after losing a great deal of major contributors from the roster. Jake Fromm is back leading the offense but none of his top five receivers from last season will be there. The front seven on defense will also be tested. Georgia will be good enough in the running game to pull away from foes but modest scoring relative to the other top national contenders again looks likely. Vanderbilt must replace solid quarterback Kyle Shurmur but they have options to do so including transfer Riley Neal from Ball State. A Commodores defense that had the worst yardage numbers of Derek Mason’s five seasons has the potential to show improvement and in great contrast to Georgia the offense for Vanderbilt is one of the most experienced groups in the SEC, while Georgia ranks 14th in the conference in returning experience on offense even with Fromm. Last year’s game wasn’t as close as the final as Vanderbilt scored a touchdown in the final seconds to only lose by 28 but counting on Georgia to post a big score is wishful thinking even if they dominate the trenches. Vanderbilt has won convincingly as just a slight favorite in the season opener the past two seasons as Mason has had his team ready to go in Week 1 and the Bulldogs have covered in just one of the past four trips to Nashville. Vanderbilt was a lesser underdog hosting eventual national champion Alabama in 2017 while nearly a full touchdown less of an underdog hosting national runner-up Georgia that season. This will be the biggest home underdog spread for Vanderbilt since 2014 and Vanderbilt is on a 6-1-1 ATS run as a home underdog of at least 20 points but fewer than 30 points going back to 1994.

This line shot up from 21 to 22 and 22.5 and has simply sat there despite overwhelming action on the favorite as the oddsmakers seem happy to take in well over 80 percent of the action on the hefty road favorite. Week 1 road favorites of 20 or more points are on a 4-12 ATS run since 2010 with Georgia now the only team fitting that role with the Notre Dame line slipping downward.

Nelly’s started our college football season 1-0 Friday night – check out Saturday’s NCAA 2/3 with three night games!

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Free Point Train Pick

Saturday #211 New Mexico State +31.5 @ Washington State 10:00 PM Eastern

If you’ve dealt with us in the past you know we prefer ‘ugly’ teams over the media darlings. With that said, we like New Mexico State plus the points over Washington State. Last season the Cougars were 11-2 ATS and have a two-year record of 18-8 ATS at the betting window. That success doesn’t go un-noticed by the oddsmakers so there is an immediate correction in the opening numbers this season. Conversely, the Aggies were a dismal 2-9-1 ATS last season and cost anyone that bet them on a regular basis a lot of money last season. WSU had the best spread record in college football last year, but fifteen teams had a better average margin of victory than the Cougs. Washington State had a decent average margin of victory of +14.2PPG last year, but it came against the 50th ranked schedule.

Washington State had just two wins last year that were by more than the spread on their opener this season. New Mexico State struggled last season with a 2-9-1 spread record, but their average loss margin was 16.1PPG and they only lost by 34 or more points three times. New Mexico State returns 30 letter winners with 8 starters on offense back and 6 defensive starters. Two years ago, this team was 7-6 SU with a Bowl Win to end their season. The Aggies had a negative point differential of just -.4PPG and an offense that was 45th in the nation in yards per play at +5.7, while averaging 29.3PPG. With experience back at quarterback, a solid O-line along with plenty of depth defensively this Doug Martin coached team will be much better than they were a season ago. Washington State does return a bevy of talent from last year’s team with 39 lettermen, 7 offensive starters and 6 defensive starters but they are clearly over-priced here. Our computer analytics on this game have the Cougars favored by 26.9-points. We take the pooch and the points! Bet on New Mexico State!

2018 Best ATS teams in college football: Washington State 11-2, Utah State 10-3, Florida International 10-3, Syracuse 9-3-1, Troy 9-3-1, Fresno State 10-4, UAB 10-4

2018 Worst ATS teams in college football: Michigan St 4-9, Wisconsin 4-9, North Texas 4-9, W Michigan 4-9, S Florida 4-9, Mississippi 3-9, San Diego St 3-10, Georgia State 2-9-1, N Mexico St 2-9-1, UConn 2-9-1, Louisville 1-11

Point Train is off to a 3-1 start to the football season and has two big plays ready to go for Saturday’s schedule!

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Thursday NCAA Football

Thursday Night College Football Opening Night

08/27/2019

While college football had a brief preview last Saturday with two compelling and competitive games, the season opens more officially Thursday night with six games scheduled. Here is a look at the two ESPN contests with a pair of closely-lined battles in rematches of tight games last season.

Match-up: UCLA Bruins at Cincinnati Bearcats

Venue: At Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio

Time/TV: Thursday, Aug. 29, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN

Line: Cincinnati -3, Over/Under 60½

Last Meeting: 2018, Cincinnati (+14) 26, at UCLA 17

The highly anticipated return of Chip Kelly to the college football sidelines was spoiled on the opening college football weekend last season by the Cincinnati Bearcats. UCLA had a promising start in the game taking advantage of good field position to lead 10-0 in the first quarter but by halftime Cincinnati was up 17-10. The game was tied into the fourth quarter before a forced fumble resulted in a safety and Cincinnati would put the game away for one of the biggest upsets of the first week of the 2018 season.

UCLA started Michigan transfer Wilton Speight in that game but he was injured and freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson took over. He wound up playing the bulk of the snaps in the next five games for the Bruins before losing playing time late in the season to Speight, who has been in 49ers camp this August. Thompson-Robinson is the expected starter for UCLA this season and he will look to improve on marginal passing numbers with a 58 percent completion rate last season for only seven touchdowns. He also managed only a net gain of 68 yards on the ground last season despite Kelly being known for using quarterbacks in the running game as well.

The final record for UCLA last season was 3-9 but the Bruins did win three Pac-12 games including beating rival USC in November. They also were very competitive in three other single-score losses in league play including a seven-point loss to eventual Pac-12 champion Washington. UCLA will again play an extremely difficult non-conference schedule this season after losing to three teams that combined to win 35 games last season but this year’s Pac-12 draw is more favorable with Oregon and Washington absent from the North.

In Luke Fickell’s second season with Cincinnati the Bearcats improved from 4-8 to 11-2 including a bowl win over Virginia Tech. One of Cincinnati’s losses came in overtime but in the big late season showdown with UCF they were blown out with a 38-13 result to fall short in the difficult AAC East race. This year’s schedule will be much more challenging even if the Bearcats can make a case for being an even better team. Cincinnati will draw Ohio State in non-conference action next week in Columbus while they must play Memphis and Houston from the AAC West, teams they did not have to play last season.

Long-time Cincinnati starting quarterback Hayden Moore did start last season’s game with UCLA but was replaced early in the game after taking two sacks in five plays including a fumble that handed the Bruins the early advantage. Desmond Ridder took over to lead the win for the Bearcats and played substantially the rest of the season as the team’s main quarterback, winding up with 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions as well as rushing for more than 500 yards.

Cincinnati’s success last season in conference play came due to its defense which allowed an AAC best 139 points in eight games for an average of just over 17 points. That average was just over 14 points per game allowed against the teams other than UCF, and that even includes two overtime contests. In great contrast UCLA allowed more than 34 points per game last season, albeit through one of the nation’s most difficult schedules. The 26 points allowed in the loss to Cincinnati was technically the second best defensive scoring game of the season for UCLA.

In last year’s game UCLA posted 4.6 yards per rush and had a stronger yards per pass average compared with Cincinnati, finishing the game with two more yards in the box score overall. The turnovers were even and the penalty count was close as well but field position wound up being critical with each team having two short scoring drives of 36 yards or fewer.

Cincinnati can survive a loss next week to remain in the conversation for the top Group of 5 team bid but they need to win this game and maintain a run of 17 straight S/U wins in the season home opener. For a UCLA program looking to improve in stature this will be a big win to elevate its postseason prospects and improve on a 2-15 S/U record on the road the past three seasons.

Match-up: Utah Utes at BYU Cougars

Venue: At LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah 

Time/TV: Thursday, Aug. 29, 10:15 PM ET, ESPN

Line: Utah -5, Over/Under 48

Last Meeting: 2018, at Utah (-10½) 35, BYU 27

Utah has been consistently successful under Kyle Whittingham who is the longest tenured coach in the Pac-12, even though Utah has only been in the Pac-12 since 2011. His career record is 120-61 and the Utes have had five straight winning seasons, while winning the Pac-12 south for the first time last year. The expectations continue to grow for the program in a potentially wide-open race out west with the Utes opening the season in the top 15 of the polls.

Utah closed the regular season with BYU last November and managed to erase a 20-0 deficit to come back and win. It is worth noting that the Utes clinched the Pac-12 South the prior week and had their first appearance in the Pac-12 championship six days following this rivalry game and that perhaps showed in the slow start. The final score was misleading as BYU had a 357-296 yardage edge and Utah added a late touchdown after BYU fell a yard short of converting a 4th down on its own side of the field. Utah had a field goal blocked but also had a pick-6 that cut into the 20-0 deficit to start the game.

The other caveat is that Jason Shelley started the game for Utah at quarterback as a freshman that had played in only two prior games as Utah was without Tyler Huntley as well as last year’s top running back Zack Moss for the game. Huntley had produced very solid numbers the past two seasons and is healthy and one of the top returning leaders in the conference, and Moss is also back as the lead back on the team. Top receiver Britain Covey also appears cleared to play for the Utes after recovering from knee surgery.

BYU had some ups-and-downs last season with a 3-1 start that included wins at Arizona and then at Wisconsin. BYU was blown out in the next two games and wound up losing four of the next five before sneaking into the bowl picture at 6-6, where they soundly defeated Western Michigan. The Tanner Mangum era at BYU is over as despite some nice moments the long-time starter was a consistent turnover risk. Zach Wilson took over midseason as a freshman last season and wound up with good numbers, albeit mostly facing some of the lesser teams on the season schedule.

Playing as an independent BYU’s opportunities against major conference teams come early in the season and they have a heavyweight path in the first half of the season facing Utah, Tennessee, USC, and Washington in the first four games, though three of those games will be in Provo. Add in contests vs. Toledo, South Florida, Boise State, and Utah State in the next block of the schedule and getting back to .500 is far from a given for this team in the fourth season for Kitani Sitake, who is 20-19 in his career.

BYU outscored foes 354-278 last season but the unbalanced scheduled meant a few blowouts. This contest carries great weight as a long-time rivalry with this year’s game actually the 100th all-time meeting between these nearby schools. Utah owns a substantial edge in that ledger including eight consecutive wins with the last BYU victory coming in 2009. Each of the past six Utah wins has come by eight or fewer points as a close game has been the norm in recent years.  

The stakes are high in this year’s ‘Holy War’ as BYU seems likely to be dogged each of the next three weeks as a 0-4 start is certainly possible. For Utah a chance to breakthrough on a national level this season seems attainable with this game being one of three most dangerous road games on the season. The Pac-12 draw misses both Stanford and Oregon for a preferable path as a double-digit win season is realistic and running the table isn’t out of the question for an experienced group if they can first get by their historical rival.

Other Games Thursday

Georgia Tech at Clemson: Clemson will open up its defense of last season’s national title in a game that many won’t be able to see with the launch of the ACC Network with few active providers carrying the new channel. The spread doesn’t suggest a compelling game in the debut for Geoff Collins leading Georgia Tech but Clemson did lose to the Yellow Jackets in 2014 and the past two regular season defeats for the program were unassuming contests in which the Tigers were at least three-TD favorites.

Florida International at Tulane: The Panthers won as a double-digit underdog hosting this matchup two years ago and this closely-lined contest will be an important win for the victor in a battle of a pair of programs potentially headed to the bowl bubble by season’s end. Both teams have difficult non-conference games ahead as this will be a big swing game for teams looking to take another step forward.

Texas State at Texas A&M: Jake Spavital is the new Texas State head coach and he was an assistant at Texas A&M for three seasons under Kevin Sumlin. The Bobcats project as one of the teams at the bottom of the FBS rankings but this was a fairly competitive team with several narrow losses last season. Texas A&M will likely have few games like this taking on one of the nation’s toughest schedules in year two for Jimbo Fisher.

Kent State at Arizona State: True freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels will be worth watching as the new starter for Arizona State, a program that should remain in the Pac-12 South mix in year two under Herm Edwards. Kent State played up-tempo last season for Sean Lewis and brings back a lot of experience following a tough 2-10 campaign that did feature great strides offensively compared with the 2017 numbers.

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College Win Totals

We posted these college win total selections for our Green Sheet subscribers in our August 9 issue of the newsletter. Check out our NFL win totals plus weekly predictions for the college football season in our 32-page Football Annual as we open our 30th football season!

The Green Sheet is our weekly football newsletter that covers every single game of the pro and college football season with predictions and analysis. Email us at nelly@nellysports.com and we’ll plan to send you a free issue at some point this season. Check out our Annual magazine on the link below to learn more about the Green Sheet and our service as well as to see some 2019 predictions.

Nelly’s 2019 Football Annual – CLICK HERE

             

  MISSED THE BOAT                  

There is no margin of error when dealing with win totals on a 12-game season, if you’ve lost a half win on the number, you pass. These are win total plays where we agree with the line movement but can no longer recommend at the current market prices. Sometimes if there is a big move it can come back the other way so keep an eye on these numbers.

OREGON DUCKS – UNDER 9 (NOW 8½): The Ducks have a very good team that can be a national threat in some scenarios led by a high profile quarterback. The five games away from home this season are very difficult facing Auburn (in Arlington TX) along with Pac-12 road games at Stanford, Washington, USC, and Arizona State. Oregon is currently +3 in that opener and they could be dogged in all four of those conference road tests. Going perfect at home isn’t a given either with California, Washington State, and Arizona visiting Eugene. In a 5-4 Pac-12 season last year Oregon had an OT win over Washington and a two-point win over Arizona State at home while the non-conference schedule is dramatically more difficult this season compared to last season’s sweep of Bowling Green, Portland State, and San Jose State. 9-3 is a tough ask for this slate and should the Ducks fall out of the Pac-12 and national races early it wouldn’t be a shock if Justin Herbert hung it up to preserve his potential top NFL draft pick status.

VIRGINIA CAVALIERS – OVER 6 (NOW 7½): We pegged Virginia to win the ACC Coastal and we are not alone in anticipating a good season for Bronco Mendenhall in his fourth season with the program. Bryce Perkins is one of the top returning quarterbacks in the ACC and Virginia draws teams from the Atlantic side that combined to 3-13 in league play last season. Three non-conference games should be sure-wins while an upset at Notre Dame isn’t out of the question. The task at 7½ is far different than at 6 or even 6½ however as the Cavaliers have not been able to finish off Virginia Tech in recent years and the team does have to play at Pittsburgh and at Miami in big division road games. Catching Florida State early in the season could be beneficial and ultimately the Cavaliers look likely to be a winning team.

BAYLOR BEARS – OVER 6½ (NOW 7): Big XII teams only play three non-conference games but the Bears are highly likely to start 3-0 facing a FCS squad as well as UTSA and Rice. Baylor then has five of nine Big XII games at home including getting to host the top four teams in the 2018 conference standings as at least one upset looks very possible from this Bears group that is among the most experienced teams in the conference on both sides of the ball. Baylor was just 6-6 last season but with a non-conference loss and two one-score losses in Big XII play. Baylor did win some close games last season but by-and-large the depth in the Big XII looks much weaker than the 2018 season as Baylor is a threat to move into the top half and better its 4-5 league record. The schedule is back-loaded facing the two Big XII favorites in November and a 6-2 or 7-1 start to the season isn’t impossible for a Big XII sleeper.

         STEADY CONSIDERATIONS        

TEXAS A&M AGGIES – UNDER 7½ (STILL 7½): The argument for Texas A&M as a top 15-20 caliber squad is valid but when the schedule includes road games at Clemson, at Georgia, and at LSU while also featuring home dates with Auburn and Alabama it will be a great challenge to finish above .500. The road game at Clemson in the second week of the season will go a long way towards determining the season trajectory for this group as a loss could devastate a team that will still have several difficult early season contests. Home games with Mississippi State and South Carolina can’t be assumed wins and last year’s 8-4 regular season record included two OT wins at home in SEC play plus two other one-score wins as this team wasn’t far from a 1-7 conference season. 1,700-yard rusher Trayveon Williams was the offense last season and he is now in the NFL and Jimbo Fisher’s squad ranks in the bottom five of experience in the SEC on both sides of the ball.

Send us an email with your contact information to join our email or text lists with the opportunity to receive free picks and free issues of the Green Sheet periodically throughout the season.

HAWAI’I WARRIORS – OVER 5½ (STILL 5½): After winning eight games last season the Warriors felt fortunate and in reality they got there with a pair of overtime wins and a few other narrow victories, mostly against marginal competition. Hawai’i as usual has a 13-game schedule to reach this mark and while opening with three Pac-12 teams is a challenge, the games with Arizona and Oregon State are at home. Hawai’i could conceivable start 1-5 as two difficult road games open the Mountain West season but the back half of the schedule is favorable including five of the final seven being at home. Cole McDonald is one the nation’s most productive returning quarterbacks and Hawai’i has the most returning defensive personnel in the conference. Fresno State’s roster was gutted while Nevada has a number of step-back indicators for 2019 as the West division won’t be nearly as strong as last season and another bowl bid looks very possible for Nick Rolovich. Hawai’i’s win over Arizona last Saturday certainly provides a boost to this proposition, that now must be lumped into the ‘MISSED THE BOAT’ list.

KENT STATE FLASHES – OVER 4 (STILL 4): Ultimately a push at 4 is very possible for this play as Kent State looks certain to lose three non-conference games with heavyweight opposition playing at Arizona State, at Auburn, and at Wisconsin. The Flashes will be worth a look ATS in the MAC season as an undervalued team and if they don’t suffer key injuries in those early physical battles this squad could post a winning MAC record in what looks like a wide open East division. Kent State finished 2-10 last season with first-year head coach Sean Lewis but a lot of experience is back and the Flashes have several winnable home games in league play. This team lost by one vs. Ohio last season while suffering three other single-score defeats and reaching three wins before November looks very possible. The four-game path in November isn’t an easy one but beating Buffalo or Ball State at home is realistic while a finale win at Eastern Michigan wouldn’t take a major upset.

              CONTRARIAN CHOICES          

As mentioned earlier a move of half a win is no small consideration in a 12-game season. The below teams received enough action to have oddsmakers adjusting but the opportunity may be to go against the grain on the below selections now with more favorable numbers than the opening prices.

ARMY BLACK KNIGHTS – UNDER 10 (OPENED 8½): Blindly playing against all moves of 1½ games or more would probably net a profit most seasons. Army went 10-2 last season and one of the losses came in overtime at Oklahoma as this team was relentless with the option attack and kept opposing defenses on the field by frequently going for it and succeeding on fourth downs. Teams will be better prepared for that approach this season and Army also had four single-score wins last season for some good fortune through one of the nation’s weakest schedules. Army plays at Michigan in Week 2 as a price of 10 is basically saying Army will go 10-1 or better in the rest of the schedule. Tulane, Western Kentucky, Georgia State, Air Force, Hawai’i, and Navy are all teams that are likely to be single-digit underdogs (if not favorites) vs. Army as it isn’t going to take colossal upsets to beat the Black Knights. Army lost several prominent defensive players from last season and it has been a decade since one of the service academies won the Commander-in-Chief Trophy three years in a row which Army will be trying to do this season against improved Air Force and Navy teams.

GEORGIA STATE PANTHERS – OVER 3½ (OPENED 4½): Troy and Appalachian State were dominant teams in the Sun Belt East last season but both teams are in coaching changes as the division race could open up. A seven-win team in 2017 the Panthers slipped to 2-10 last season but they were outscored by single-digits on average in going 1-7 in Sun Belt play while playing three best Sun Belt teams on the road last season. Georgia State has three winnable games in September and avoids last season’s West champion in the Sun Belt draw. Dan Ellington had efficient numbers at quarterback last season and it will likely only take one upset to get this group to four wins. Georgia State lost last season’s OC to West Virginia but Brad Glen previously worked with Shawn Elliott at Appalachian State and led an explosive FCS offense at Western Carolina the past few seasons.

MARSHALL THUNDERING HERD – UNDER 7½ (OPENED 6): Doc Holliday has a great record with this program and shouldn’t be underestimated as a Conference USA title isn’t out of the question. Three of four non-conference games are of the very difficult variety however as a 2-2 September for the Herd would be a good showing. Road games at Middle Tennessee State and at Florida Atlantic means that two of the toughest division games will be away from Huntington’s great home field edge and there is reason to believe home tests vs. Western Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, and Florida International will be difficult to sweep with all of those teams potentially improved squads in 2019. Marshall will have one of the least experienced defenses in Conference USA as allowing around 18 points per game in conference play as they did last season will be a difficult mark to match. Isaiah Green is a talented QB but was just a 56 percent passer with double-digit interceptions last season and the backfield has some question marks.

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Nelly’s 2019 Football Annual

Take a look at this year’s 2019 College and Pro Football Annual with predictions for the 2019-20 football season. This booklet features some summer predictions on conference and division finishes while also offering our weekly college football Pointspread Preview selections.

This is our 30th football season and the Annual provides a jump start to the Green Sheet and Phone Service seasons allowing us to put some of our off-season research into pre-season predictions, even if some of those predictions will need some adjustments by the time the season actually starts. Take a look at this year’s Annual by clicking the below link:

Nelly’s 2019 Football Annual – CLICK HERE

Thanks for checking out our content and we’ll hope to hear from you this football season!

Send us an email with your contact information to join our email or text lists with the opportunity to receive free picks and free issues of the Green Sheet periodically throughout the season.

Nelly’s Sportsline

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Free NCAA Pick Sunday

#873 UC-Irvine +5 over Oregon 8:40 PM CT

Often times when smaller conference squads pull off a Round of 64 upset they are fade material in the following game. UC-Irvine doesn’t fit that mold however as the Big West champions now have 31 wins and haven’t lost since mid-January. The Anteaters were also a very small underdog against the Big XII co-champion Kansas State on Friday and will actually be an even bigger underdog against Pac-12 Tournament champion Oregon Sunday.

Getting a shot at a Pac-12 squad on this stage is very alluring for one of the top defensive teams in the nation, featuring the #5 effective field goal rate defensively nationally, and #1 nationally from 2-point range. That is an ideal trait taking on a Ducks offense that is limited and has minimal 3-point shooting potential. This young Ducks team has momentum with nine straight wins but there is not much quality on that late season run in a very weak Pac-12. Oregon is now in a sixth game in 12 days and there could be a bit of a letdown after Friday’s big win over Wisconsin.

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The Badgers had posted two recent NCAA Tournament wins vs. Oregon and the 18-point final margin was very misleading. Oregon shot 47 percent on 3-point shots while Wisconsin shot 20 percent on 30 3-point attempts. Oregon was crushed on the offensive glass against Wisconsin but was better at the line and had fewer turnovers to pull away. The Ducks won’t have the advantage of being the west coast team in this west coast venue this time and Irvine will be more than comfortable at Oregon’s deliberate pace. Oregon’s front-line won’t have the same success in this matchup and Payton Pritchard had seven turnovers on Friday as really the only backcourt ball handler on the Ducks, he will be liable for more mistakes against a fierce set of perimeter defenders for the Anteaters.

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Free NCAA Pick Friday

#828 Kansas State -4 over UC-Irvine 1:00 PM CT

There is great focus on the absence of Dean Wade but the Kansas State forward missed eight games this season and played just eight minutes on last season’s Elite Eight run for the Wildcats. The return of Cartier Diarra provides an off-setting boost with Diarra putting up 23 points in two Big XII tournament games after missing the second half of the conference season. Kansas State has some of the absolute best defensive numbers in the nation and this will be a difficult draw for UC-Irvine, a team with just two top 100 wins all season long. One of those wins was at Saint Mary’s but the Anteaters also lost by 24 hosting Utah State and lost by 17 at Butler for the closest comparables.

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The Big West rated as the 19th best conference last year but tournament representative Cal-State Fullerton lost by 26 to Purdue in the tournament last season while regular season champion Cal-Davis lost by 10 against Utah in the NIT. Irvine was clearly the top Big West team going 18-1 but the conference rated 24th this season. Underdogs draw more attention than usual in March and Irvine is an appealing squad with a great record but the Big West champion being a slight underdog vs. the Big XII champion is a rare price. Kansas State was similarly priced vs. a TCU team that needed to win last week in the Big XII tournament in Kansas City. Kansas State was a 14-point favorite when these teams met in November 2017, a 22-point win for the Wildcats. Much is being made of the strong defensive numbers for Irvine but Kansas State is comfortable at a slow pace and has the far superior defensive resume. Size and experience will still be edges for the Wildcats even with Wade out of action.

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Nelly’s went 3-0 in our tournament picks yesterday to continue to build profits on what has been an epic hoops season! Don’t miss two daytime picks today for only $15 in our Early Friday 2-for-1 offer.

Big E went 3-1 yesterday in 10* Biggies and he is 5-1 in the NCAA Tournament – get his daily Biggies for $9.94 each or get the whole 4-Pack for $24.94!

Bobby Dalton is 8-0 since Tuesday including hitting two 10* Best Bets yesterday, now 4-0 in NCAA Tournament picks. Look for his Friday update coming soon!