Welcome to the final weekend of February, everybody. You did it. It will soon be March, and March is one of the best times of the year. Not only do we have the college basketball postseason coming, but the NBA playoffs draw neare.
We might even have a baseball game to watch one day — you know, assuming there’s an agreement reached soon, though there doesn’t seem to be much reason for optimism there.
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What I’m optimistic about are the chances you’ll enjoy reading the following stories. I’m also optimistic that every single bet in tonight’s edition of this newsletter will win. Well, actually, not every pick can win. Only one of the four MLS title futures I included at the end can win. At least, I think that’s the case. MLS’ rules can be a little confusing.
To the picks!
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
? The Hot Ticket
The Pick: Under 221.5 (-110): Remember when the Lakers and Clippers were supposed to be good this season? Things haven’t quite gone to plan because it’s nearly March, and if the regular season ended tonight, these two would be squaring off in the play-in tournament, as the Clippers are 30-31 and the Lakers are 27-31. In the Clippers’ defense, they haven’t had Kawhi Leonard all season and Paul George has missed a bunch of time due to injuries.
That’s not to say the Lakers haven’t had injuries — Anthony Davis is currently out again — to deal with, but this team has been a mess even when healthy. LeBron James is trying to get the general manager fired because I guess he did too good a job of doing everything LeBron told him to do during the offseason.
Anyway, dumb Lakers drama aside, the total for tonight’s game is a few points too high. While neither team has had a good season, it’s not as if they’re awful, and both teams have been solid defensively. The Clippers defensive rating of 108.4 ranks seventh, while the Lakers check in at 16th. Where they’ve struggled is on the offensive end, as the Lakers rank 23rd in offensive rating and the Clippers are 26th. While the Lakers try to push the pace as much as possible, their overall inefficiency wipes out any advantage it might give them, and I see Friday night’s game being a sloppy affair.
Key Trend: The under is 10-3 in the Clippers last 13 games off at least three days rest.
Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: Like me, the SportsLine Projection Model likes one side of the total tonight, but are we in agreement as to which side it should be?
? The Picks
? College Basketball
Canisius at Iona, 7 p.m. | TV: ESPN+
The Pick: Over 142 (-110) — Friday night MAACtion! This is a glaring mismatch as Rick Pitino and Iona are easily the best team in the MAAC this season. They’re the only team in the conference ranked in the top 100 by KenPom (84th), and the second-highest ranked team is Monmouth at 139th. They’ve been the best offense in the league by a mile and are the second-best defense. In other words, Canisius doesn’t have a prayer tonight, as the Golden Griffins enter the action with a record of 8-19, including 4-12 in the conference.
That said, I have no interest in the spread and prefer taking the over as the number is a little low. Iona won the first meeting 70-62, but the score is misleading because the Gaels underperformed. They shot to their typical level but turned the ball over 11 times and gave away too many possessions. I wouldn’t expect a repeat performance tonight, especially at home, considering Canisius’s defensive shortcomings. Canisius will probably break 60 points again tonight, but Iona should get past 80.
Key Trend: The over is 4-1 in Canisius’ last five games against teams with winning records.
No. 25 Iowa at Nebraska, 9 p.m. | TV: FS1
The Pick: Nebraska +13 (-110) — Nebraska’s athletic department has to be broke, right? I wasn’t shocked when the school decided to retain Scott Frost as its football coach because the team was better than its record this season, but it was still a surprise. A much larger surprise was the announcement that Fred Hoiberg would return as the school’s basketball coach. The same Fred Hoiberg who enters tonight’s game against Iowa with a record of 21-65 at Nebraska, including a 6-49 mark in the Big Ten.
Odds are that record will not improve tonight, but the Huskers should cover the spread. Iowa is the kind of team metrics love because it’s so good offensively, but it’s not the kind of team I like betting as a road favorite because it’s bad defensively. The Hawkeyes are also the Big Ten’s worst defensive rebounding team in the Big Ten, and giving teams second chances makes covering spreads like this more difficult. As is always the case when betting Nebraska, it’s not going to be an enjoyable experience, but going to the doctor isn’t always fun, either, and you should still do it once in a while.
Key Trend: The home team has covered nine straight in this rivalry.
Leeds United vs. Tottenham Hotspur, Saturday, 7:30 a.m | TV: USA
The Pick: Over 2.5 (-150) — Leeds United is a disaster right now. I’ve often joked about how watching Leeds play isn’t all that different from huffing paint, but we’ve reached the point where we’ve lost too many brain cells. Leeds has allowed an astounding 36 goals in its last 11 Premier League matches. For context, entering the weekend, there are 10 Premier League teams — half the league — who haven’t allowed that many all season. Leeds has allowed fewer than two goals in only one of those 11 matches — a 1-0 loss to Newcastle — and has been outscored 13-2 over its last three.
Enter a Tottenham team in desperate need of a pick me up. Spurs had been on a three-game skid before shocking Manchester City last week, but the rain quickly wiped away the joy from that victory in Burnley Wednesday night. The best cure for Tottenham’s confidence will be facing this Leeds defense. I considered betting Tottenham Over 2.5 goals on its own, but there’s slightly more value available on the match total. If you want to take some alternate totals of over 3.5 or even 4.5, live your truth.
Key Trend: Leeds has allowed 36 goals in its last 11 matches.
Crystal Palace vs. Burnley, Saturday, 10 a.m. | TV: Peacock
The Pick: Burnley or Draw (-120) — I think Burnley will survive and play at least one more season of “boring” soccer in the Premier League. They’re still in the relegation zone but have been playing well lately, and most importantly, better than many of the teams ahead of them in the table. What’s stood out is how sound they’ve been defensively. After a long layoff, Burnley’s defending was shaky, but in its last two matches against Brighton and Tottenham, they’ve allowed only 1.4 xG and haven’t allowed a goal. They’ve also looked more dangerous in attack, as Wout Weghorst is looking to be an upgrade over Chris Wood.
This weekend they head to Crystal Palace to face a struggling team. Don’t be fooled by the 4-1 win over Watford on Wednesday. Those four Palace goals came on an xG of only 0.8. It was the third straight match Palace failed to reach a minimum of 1.0 xG, which is a lot more predictive than a fluky result. There’s value in taking Burnley to win outright, but we’re playing it safer and taking Burnley to at least manage a draw.
Key Trend: Burnley has allowed only 1.4 xG over its last two matches.
Lazio vs. Napoli, Sunday, 2:45 p.m. | TV: Paramount+
The Pick: Over 2.5 (-115) — Both of these clubs are in a tailspin. On Monday, Napoli had a chance to move to the top of the Serie A table. All it had to do was beat lowly Cagliari, a team fighting to stay in Serie A and avoid relegation. Instead, Napoli opted to send out a weaker lineup with the idea of saving itself for the second leg of its Europa League match against Barcelona. It backfired, as Napoli was lucky to escape the match with a 1-1 draw, and things only got worse Thursday when Barcelona thumped it 4-2 and knocked it out of the Europa League. That loss came shortly after Lazio was knocked out of the competition by Porto.
So now we’ve got two teams licking their wounds, and they’ve plenty to lick. Napoli hasn’t managed a win in its last four matches, and a defense that had been one of the best in Italy has fallen off a cliff. Lazio’s no better off, managing only two wins in its last seven matches and giving up goals in bunches. I have no idea which one of these teams snaps out of it and gets the better end of this meeting, but there should be plenty of goals scored in the process.
Key Trend: Neither of these teams can stop anybody from scoring at the moment.
? SportsLine Pick of the Day: Alex Selesnick is known as “PropStarz” for a reason, and he shared his three favorite NBA props for Friday night over at SportsLine.
⚽ Friday Futures
Will I get into MLS this year? I don’t know if it’s staring at an MLB lockout in the face or if it’s because the Chicago Fire made a bunch of moves this offseason that people who cover MLS think were good moves, but I think I’m going to get into MLS this year. At the very least, I’m getting into it this weekend when the new season starts, and the best way to stay interested is to invest. Here are my favorite MLS title futures for 2022.
- NYCFC (+900)
- LAFC (+900)
- Minnesota (+3300)
- Dallas (+6600)