NBA (0.5 Unit) Joel Embiid Over 30.5 Points (-110): 6:00 PM CT on NBC Sports-PH
Joel Embiid has been playing like a man possessed, carrying the Philadelphia 76ers during their 7-game win streak. Not coincidentally, he has scored 31 or more points in each of those wins. He has also gone over this number in 9 of his past 10 games, where he’s averaging 32.6 points on scorching 53.7% shooting.
I don’t see any of that stopping tonight, not with the defensively challenged Charlotte Hornets in town. Embiid is just a bad matchup for the Hornets frontcourt, and he’s already proven it with 32 and 43 points against them in the previous meetings. These 30-point games are becoming the floor for Embiid, and I see him eclipsing this prop again as he carries the Sixers tonight.
NBA (0.5 Unit) Cleveland Cavaliers +6.5 @ Utah Jazz (-110): 8:00 PM CT on SportsNet RM
I don’t trust this Jazz team right now, especially after a rough road trip that finished with some ugly losses to bad teams. The Cavaliers are anything but a bad team, and should have a distinct advantage inside in this game with Rudy Gobert and other Jazz frontcourt players out. The Cavaliers are trotting out one of the biggest lineups in the NBA, and should use that to their advantage on both ends of the floor tonight.
While neither of these teams have been covering numbers recently, a lot of that for the Cavs is attributable to them becoming significant favorites. They’re back in the road underdog role here, where they’ve thrived at 10-5-1 ATS on the season. And for as good as Utah can look at times, they haven’t been good as a home favorite — just 8-13 ATS this year. This number is giving the Jazz too much credit, and I see them struggling here because they’re so undermanned.
NBA (0.5 Unit) Brooklyn Nets @ Chicago Bulls -1.5 (-110): 9:00 PM CT on ESPN
The market has adjusted this number from the opener of Brooklyn actually laying a point, and I think the Bulls deserved to be the favorite all along. Brooklyn hasn’t covered in 7 straight games, and at 14-24-1 have now become the worst ATS team in the league. Compare that to Chicago, who has the 2nd-best ATS record at 18-9 when they’re the favorite, and I’m backing the Bulls here.
The Nets are also dealing with injuries to Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and LaMarcus Aldridge, putting them at a disadvantage against a relatively healthy Bulls roster. Chicago is on a back-to-back here, but they didn’t need to burn much energy in their 46-point beatdown of Detroit, so I expect them to be just fine from that standpoint. This is also a huge spot for Chicago, as they can establish themselves as the Eastern Conference favorites on national TV. The Bulls haven’t lost a home game since Thanksgiving weekend, they’re already 2-0 against the Nets this season, and I see them getting the season sweep tonight.
NCAA Basketball (0.5 Unit) Villanova @ Xavier -1 (-110): 5:30 PM CT on FS1
I’m very glad that home court advantage is back to being an important factor in handicapping college basketball after last season. That makes it easy to pull the trigger on teams like Xavier when they’re at home with a short spread. The Musketeers are undefeated at home, are 7-2 ATS, and have some of the best margin of victory and ATS plus/minus numbers in the country. Villanova is certainly no pushover, but they’ve struggled against the number on the road and as an underdog this season.
Xavier is also out for revenge in this one after a 13-point loss at Villanova earlier this season. That may seem like it creates an edge for Nova tonight, but Xavier played that game fairly shorthanded and immediately went on a COVID pause afterwards. The Musketeers are healthier now and back home where they’re most comfortable. This number opened with Villanova as the short favorite, so the move through zero has my attention, and I’ll be laying it with Xavier here.
NCAA Basketball (0.5 Unit) Utah St./Colorado St. Over 149 (-110): 7:00 PM CT on CBSSN
Efficient scoring is the hallmark of both these teams, so that should define this game and push it over the total. Neither the Aggies nor the Rams play at anything other than an average pace, so don’t expect these teams to fly up and down the floor. But both can score like crazy nonetheless, with Colorado St. 12th in offensive efficiency and 7th in effective field goal rate. Utah St. is right behind at 38th and 15th in those respective categories.
It’s also important to dig into the schedules for both these teams and see how they’ve fared against other offensive-oriented teams. Against that type of opponent, these teams are a combined 9-2 over this total with those games averaging 161.1 points. I see this as a shot-making extravaganza that’s also being played at altitude to lessen defensive effort just a little. That should get this game over the total.
NCAA Basketball (0.5 Unit) Missouri/Arkansas Over 150.5 (-110): 8:00 PM CT on SEC Network
This game will definitely be defined by a fast pace and bad defense, as both teams have been struggling to stop anything. Arkansas plays at the 34th-fastest tempo in the country, and should find a willing partner in Mizzou to run again tonight. The Tigers have adopted an up-tempo style in recent weeks to compensate for their 281st-rated defense, causing their past 5 games to average 158.6 points.
The Arkansas defense has fallen off a cliff meanwhile, allowing 79 PPG over their past 6 games and only holding awful Elon under 75 in that stretch. Points have never been tough for the Razorbacks to come by, though. They’re ranked 29th in scoring and 39th in efficiency. They’ll also get guard Chris Lykes back tonight, a key scorer who should help shred the bad Missouri defense en route to another high-scoring affair.
NCAA Basketball Delaware St. @ Norfolk St. -20.5 (-110): 6:30 PM CT No TV
I’m being a little more cautious here because both teams are coming off long COVID pauses, but this is a serious mismatch on paper. Delaware St. is squarely in the running for the worst D1 team in the country, with their only 2 wins on the year coming against non-D1 opponents — and they actually lost to one as well. Their past 6 games away from home have been losses by an average 33.7 point margin.
I’m actually a big fan of how this Norfolk St. team plays behind Joe Bryant and high-flying forward Kris Bankston, who will get plenty of easy buckets against an awful Hornets defense. And the Spartans also have an excellent defense that should thrive against the 2nd-worst team in the country for effective field goal rate. I see this as a blowout, but Norfolk also being off a pause could create some rust for them, so be wary of that.
Tiny Nick is 517-404 ATS (+82.7 Units) on his Locks since joining Zone Coverage.
Every day he will offer his Locks and Degenerate picks. Locks are the games he’s confident in. Degenerates are entertaining but riskier picks.