Happy Wednesday, everybody, I hope the day is treating you well. I know I'm still flying high this afternoon after watching my beloved Illini put a beatdown on Michigan in Ann Arbor on Tuesday night.
Full disclosure: I strongly considered making Michigan -7 one of the newsletter's picks yesterday but ultimately decided against it. Not because I didn't think it was the right pick, but because I didn't want to be on the record picking against Illinois in the team's biggest game in a long time. I mean, there's no way they should've won that game! Michigan is one of the best teams in the country, and while Illinois is great too, it was missing Ayo Dosunmu. Not only is he the team's best player, but he's one of the best players in the country.
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A team without its best player isn't supposed to go on the road and beat the No. 2 team in the country by 23 points, but that's what happened. So I guess the moral of the story is that I should be more confident in my beloved Illini and that you all owe me a "thank you" for doubting them and leaving a losing pick out of the newsletter.
And now for some winning stories.
- Pete Prisco ranked the best NFL free agents. I'm not on the list, but I want NFL teams to know that I'm technically a free agent too. Offer me a contract.
- Five QBs who won't be drafted in the first round you need to know about.
- Local authorities have retrieved the black box from Tiger Woods' car.
- An NBA All-Star Game mock draft.
OK, onto tonight's picks. At least, the ones I'm sharing publicly.
All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
Minnesota at Penn State, 7 p.m. | TV: Big Ten Network
The Pick: Penn State -4.5 (-115): Things are not going well for Minnesota basketball. The Gophers not only come into tonight's game having lost five straight and 11 of 15, but the last two losses have come to conference doormats Northwestern and Nebraska. Making matters worse, following Saturday's loss to Nebraska, coach Richard Pitino reportedly told his players that he's going to be fired at the end of the season. That's not going to do much to lift the spirits of a team that's already lacking confidence and desire to play, as it watched its NCAA Tournament hopes slip away in recent weeks.
Oh, and this game is on the road, so it's possible none of the Pitino stuff matters anyway. Minnesota has been god-awful on the road all season long. The Gophers are 0-9 away from home, losing by an average of 14.3 points per game. They aren't any better against the spread, going 1-8 and failing to cover by an average of 8.7 points per game. The only time they covered on the road this season was in a 76-72 loss at Rutgers as 5.5-point underdogs. Granted, Penn State isn't a juggernaut, as it's only 6-5 at home this year and 4-7 ATS, but Minnesota has made a lot worse teams look great in front of their own cardboard fans this season. I see no reason why Penn State won't get the same treatment.
Key Trend: Minnesota is 0-9 on the road this season, losing by an average of 14.3 points per game.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Advanced Computer Model has dissected this game a million different ways, and while it likes one side of the spread, it is madly in love with one side of the total. I'm legitimately worried it's going to run off and get married, leaving us behind.
💰 The Picks
Bulls at Pelicans, 8 p.m. | TV: NBA League Pass
The Pick: Zion Williamson Over 28.5 points (-130) -- On Monday night, we took the under on Zion Williamson's point total and lost by a free throw in the final minutes. Tonight we're going in the opposite direction because while Zion faced a Utah team that does an excellent job of protecting the rim area, tonight he's facing a Bulls team that has been hammered by big men this season. Players like Nikola Jokic, Domantas Sabonis, Anthony Davis, Nikola Vucevic and Joel Embiid have feasted in games against Chicago. In seven games against the Bulls, those five players have averaged 33.3 points per game.
Earlier this season, Zion had a solid game against Chicago, posting 29 points while making 12 of 18 shots. And he did all that on a night when the Pelicans managed only 14 points as a team in the third quarter. If Zion chooses to wait until the final seconds to go over his point total with a free throw, it'll be all right, but I have a good feeling he'll surpass this number much earlier than that.
Key Trend: The league's best big men have put up monster numbers against the Bulls all season.
The Pick: Zach Lavine Over 3.5 three-pointers (-120) -- Same game, different prop! While the Bulls are susceptible to big men, New Orleans hemorrhages three-pointers. Of the shots New Orleans allows on defense, 45.4% are from three-point range. That's the 28th highest rate in the league, with only Charlotte and Miami allowing a higher rate. And not only do New Orleans opponents shoot a lot of them, but they make 39.4% of them, which is also the 28th-worst rate in the league (both Cleveland and Sacramento allow an astounding 40%).
Enter Zach LaVine, the first-time All-Star. The former dunk champion is now looking to add three-point champion to his resume. It was announced Tuesday night he'll be participating in the three-point shooting contest at the All-Star Game. He's been practicing all season long, as LaVine is not only shooting 43.3% from three this season, but he's attempting 8.1 per game. Only 10 players average more per game. So, with this prop, we're banking on LaVine's desire to get the threes up and New Orleans' penchant for letting opponents get them up.
Key Trend: Pelicans opponents average 40.2 three-point attempts per game, and convert on 39.4% of them.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The SportsLine Projection Model simulated the 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational 10,000 times and came up with a surprising leaderboard.
💸 The DFS Rundown
Full lineup advice
Get winning NBA DFS picks from SportsLine pros Mike McClure and Jacob Gibbs. McClure has won almost $2 million in daily Fantasy, while Gibbs crushed the NBA last season, cashing around 65 percent of the time in cash games and nearly 45 percent of the time in tournaments. See their DraftKings advice and FanDuel lineups here.
🏌 Arnold Palmer Invitational Top 20s
We're betting on each of these golfers to finish in the top-20 this weekend.
- Harris English +225
- Cameron Tringale +275
- Lanto Griffin +300
- Talor Gooch +320
- Corey Conners +333
- Brendon Todd +400
- Adam Long +600
- John Huh +600
- Tom Hoge +600
- Nick Taylor +650