I have no idea how MLB didn’t schedule any day games today. I understand why it has a lot of teams take the day off in case their openers are spoiled by rain, but how do you not schedule at least one day game today? You couldn’t put the Mets and Marlins in the afternoon?
It’s ridiculous. You captured everybody’s attention on Thursday with a full day of games, and then you have nothing to keep that attention on a Friday afternoon. Plus, putting more time between Mets games only gives their players more chances to hurt themselves before the next game. By the time Miami’s Jesus Luzardo throws the first pitch tonight, three more Mets might be placed on the injured list with hangnails or something.
All right, it’s not a Football Friday, but I’ve got a lot of picks for you. We have an NBA play for tonight, as well as picks for Saturday’s Final Four games and a couple soccer plays. You know I want to keep you occupied all weekend long.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
? The Hot Ticket
- Key Trend: The Hawks are 18-26 ATS as favorites this season.
- The Pick: Nets +2 (-110)
While they haven’t been the worst team against the spread in the NBA this season — that honor belongs to the Miami Heat, who are 27-47-3 — the Atlanta Hawks have been a bad bet all year long. They’re 34-41-1 ATS this season, but there’s a particular scenario in which you don’t want to find yourself backing Trae Young and company. A scenario that’s in play tonight.
Atlanta is 18-26 ATS as a favorite this year, and when they’re favored on the road, they’re even worse at 4-9. While those trends are worth mentioning, they’re far from the only reason we’re taking the Nets tonight. Atlanta’s defense, which hasn’t been anything special all year (22nd in defensive efficiency at 115.4), has been particularly terrible lately. The Hawks’ defensive efficiency of 119.2 over their last 10 games ranks 25th in the league.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s flown a bit under the radar lately. Expectations for this team plummeted after Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant forced their way out of town, but they’ve been pretty OK since. While nobody will confuse this team for a squad that can make a playoff run, they’re still comfortably in playoff position and have posted a net efficiency of 1.2 in March. That’s strong enough for 14th in the league and 0.2 points behind the Hawks in that span.
At home, the Nets have been better this month, while the Hawks are 2-4 on the road with a net efficiency of -0.9. I don’t see anything about this matchup that suggests Atlanta is worth your trust.
Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model and I are very good friends tonight.
? The Picks
? Final Four
No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic, Saturday, 6:09 p.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: Under 131.5 (-110) — Typically speaking, whether it’s football or men’s basketball, betting the under in a game involving San Diego State is the right play. Seriously, the under has gone 72-42-1 in SDSU football games since 2014, and it’s 160-122-2 in basketball games during that time as well. This is a school with a code! And that code is “Don’t score a lot of points!” It’s a trend I expect to continue this weekend.
While FAU’s Vladislav Goldin has been a reliable offensive weapon for the Owls in this tournament, most of FAU’s offense is on the perimeter, where the Aztecs have dominated defensively in this tournament. SDSU ranks second nationally in three-point defense (teams have shot 27.8% against it this season), and it’s been incredible in the tournament. SDSU’s four opponents have shot 16/94 (17.02%) from three against it. FAU is overly reliant on the three to score points, as 37.1% of the points it has scored this year are from threes. That’s the 25th-highest ratio in the country. I’m not entirely sure who wins this game (though I lean SDSU), but I’m confident the Owls won’t be as successful from three as they want to be, and that will keep this game lower-scoring.
No. 4 UConn vs. No. 5 Miami, Saturday, 8:49 p.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: UConn -5.5 (-110) — I know this year’s Final Four is a surprise considering UConn is the highest seed at No. 4, but while that’s a fun story, the truth is every team in this Final Four (except for Miami) was underseeded. Power rankings suggest UConn, FAU and San Diego State were all much better than their seed suggested. Those same power rankings also suggest that while these teams are better than their seeds, UConn is much better than all of them!
While I won’t count Miami out against anybody, I do think its run ends Saturday night. The biggest keys to victory for the Hurricanes are hitting threes and crashing the offensive glass. If they do that, they can beat anyone. That could be a problem here, because UConn is an excellent rebounding team and has defended the perimeter well all season. The Huskies also possess a significant size advantage with Adama Sanogo (6’9), Alex Karaban (6’8) and Donovan Clingan (7’2). The way I see this game playing out, if Miami doesn’t pull off the upset — and it can! — it’s not likely to lose close. I think the loss is more likely than the upset.
Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. | TV: ABC
The Pick: Over 3.5 (-115) — Is Thomas Tuchel the man who will lead Bayern back to the top of the Bundesliga and extend the streak of league titles to 11 straight? Yeah, probably. Recently fired Julian Nagelsmann probably would’ve too. That’s what’s funny about the situation. Bayern is in second, but it’s still the best team in the league and has nine games left to play. Is Tuchel the man to lead Bayern to another Champions League title? Probably not this season, no, but nobody is. That said, this being Tuchel’s first match since replacing Nagelsmann does cloud things a bit because if there’s a specific reason he was hired, it’s probably to fix Bayern’s defense. It’s been bad all year (for Bayern, which has allowed the fewest goals in the Bundesliga, anyway).
Any time a new manager takes over, you must prepare for the Right The Ship Match defensively when the team focuses on keeping a clean sheet and nothing else. However, I’m not sure that’s possible in the Bundesliga, nor is it possible for a low-scoring match featuring Dortmund. Dortmund has been a mess defensively for a while, despite the results. It has allowed only eight goals in its last 10 matches, but it’s done so with an xG (expected goals) allowed of 14.5. You’re not going to get that lucky against Bayern. As is often the case, I wouldn’t be shocked if Bayern goes over this total on its own, nor would I be shocked if Dortmund gets one or two of its own because I don’t believe Bayern’s defensive struggles are strictly related to its overall defending (not having one of the world’s best goalkeepers in Manuel Neuer matters).
West Ham United vs. Southampton, Sunday, 9 a.m. | TV: USA
The Pick: West Ham (-140) — The battle to avoid relegation in the Premier League is fascinating. Crystal Palace sits in 12th place in the league with 27 points. That leaves Palace only three points ahead of 18th-place West Ham down in the relegation zone. That’s nine teams — 45% of the league — within one bad result of being in danger of going down. That will lead to a lot of tense matches down the stretch like this one. West Ham is in 18th and is home against Southampton, which is in last place, yet a win away from possibly being safe (for a few days, anyway). Unfortunately for Southampton, I don’t believe that win comes this weekend.
Before the World Cup break, West Ham suffered bad home losses to Crystal Palace and Leicester City. The Hammers then lost their first home match following the break to Brentford 2-0. They haven’t lost any of the four they’ve played since, outscoring their opponents 8-2. West Ham has been better at home statistically than the results suggest all year, and now it seems the performances are bearing fruit. Meanwhile, Southampton has achieved much better results on the road than the metrics suggest they should have. Their 0.93 points per match on the road is tied with Leicester for 11th, but their xG differential of -7.7 away from home ranks 16th. These things tend to balance out over the course of a season.