Top 25: Syracuse No. 1 after Arizona’s first loss

syracuse,after,arizonas,first

NCAA BB Top 25 Rankings – College Basketball

After a two-month run atop the polls, the expected occurred Monday afternoon when Arizona was bumped from the highest spot in favor of the nonetheless-undefeated Syracuse Orange. Jim Boeheim’s team is the unanimous vote-getter for first place this week. It is the first time since 2010-eleven, when Duke was the unanimous decide, that a staff’s acquired all first-place votes.

That is the fifteenth time Syracuse has earned top billing in the AP ballot.

The Wildcats only dropped to No. 2, and that ranking reflects ballots that had been submitted prior to the late-Sunday evening news bulletin of Arizona losing beginning ahead Brandon Ashley for the rest of the season.

Connecticut, Virginia and Gonzaga, which acquired point out within the preseason AP poll, are all again in the rankings this week. The most important jump within the polls got here from Texas, which is up six spots.

AP Ballot

  1. Syracuse (sixty five)
  2. Arizona
  3. Florida
  4. Wichita State
  5. San Diego State
  6. Villanova
  7. Cincinnati
  8. Kansas
  9. Michigan State
  10. Michigan
  11. Duke
  12. Creighton
  13. Saint Louis
  14. Louisville
  15. Texas
  16. Iowa State
  17. Iowa
  18. Kentucky
  19. Oklahoma State
  20. Virginia
  21. Oklahoma
  22. Connecticut
  23. Gonzaga
  24. Memphis
  25. Pittsburgh

Jumped in: Virginia, Gonzaga, UConn
Dropped out: Wisconsin (14), UMass (21), Ohio State (24)

Coaches Poll

  1. Syracuse (sixty five)
  2. Wichita State
  3. Arizona
  4. Florida
  5. San Diego State
  6. Villanova
  7. Cincinnati
  8. Michigan State
  9. Kansas
  10. Louisville
  11. Duke
  12. Creighton
  13. Iowa
  14. Kentucky
  15. Saint Louis
  16. Michigan
  17. Iowa State
  18. Texas
  19. Oklahoma State
  20. Gonzaga
  21. Virginia
  22. Pittsburgh
  23. Oklahoma
  24. Wisconsin
  25. Ohio State

Jumped in: Texas, Virginia
Dropped out: UMass (19), Memphis (22)

 

Seattle’s Sherman bows out early with ankle injury

Sherman left early in the 4th quarter with an ankle injury. (USATSI)

Richard Sherman remaining early in the fourth with an ankle injury, but it did not matter. (USATSI)

 

Two weeks ago, it was Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman who likely a last-second pass in order to teammate Malcolm Smith that will sealed the 49ers’ destiny in the NFC Championship sport. The storyline between then plus Sunday night revolved mainly around two players: Sherman, the face of the Legion associated with Boom, and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.The brash younger defensive back out of Stanford, who now seems specific for pointing out Manning’s penchant for throwing ducks, has been supposed to parlay his NFC title game play into standing as the NFL’s top part on the NFL’s biggest phase. 

Except that once the game started, Manning and the Broncos offense looked like it was the first day of minicamp – a botched take on the first series led to a safety and served as a metaphor for the rest of the night — and Sherman had a mainly quiet evening.And this is where you may point out that there really was not much for Sherman to do. Between the Denver turnovers plus special teams gaffes, points were pretty much decided simply by halftime.Sherman left the game for good early in the 4th quarter, with the Seahawks top 43-8. He limped to the sideline with an ankle injuries and eventually made his way to the locker room on a cart.The official announcement listed Sherman as doubtful to return, even though we’d like to imagine that there would have been no way to keep your pet off the field if the rating had been closer. Still, this individual finished with two tackles and a pass defended.

But this is bigger than Sherman, even if that’s the story the media insisted upon pushing. This is about that defense

 

. it can about Kam Chancellor, that intercepted Manning in the 1st quarter. It’s about jones, whose pick-six late in the second quarter was one of many first-half shows. It’s about the front 4 abusing the Broncos unpleasant line all night, as well as the rest of the Legion of Boom, which includes safety Earl Thomas, that encapsulated what it all indicates after the game. “It’s all about producing history, ” he stated. “This was a dominant overall performance from top to bottom. You had guys (that) stepped up that you more than likely even think (would step) up. That’s what this particular team is all about… Everybody upon defense played heat. This was a great win. ”

And that’s exactly what should concern the rest of the little league: Even with Sherman hobbled, the particular Seahawks’ D dominated.Or because Sherman put it after the sport: “The Legion of growth, baby. “Then he added: “I hope we etch our own names in the history publications. This is the No. 1 criminal offense in the history of the national football league and we were able to play a good game against them. Peyton Manning may go down as one of the greatest to ever perform the game, and we’re simply blessed to have an opportunity to perform against him. I can’t think it. ”

More bad news: All that talk about Russell Wilson having difficulties the last month and a half of the season? You wouldn’t possess known it to watch your pet carve up the Broncos supplementary like he was.. well, Peyton Manning.

Report: Geno escorted off plane after altercation

Geno Smith has been reportedly escorted off the flight Friday.

(USATSI)Geno Smith was reportedly escorted off a flight Friday.

New York aircraft quarterback Geno Smith had planned to fly from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale fri. Those plans, according to numerous reports, quickly went wrong.
According to several outlets, Smith has been led off the plane simply by police after engaging in the verbal altercation with an airline flight attendant. It’s unclear at this time whether there was an issue with his use of a cell phone or even headphones.Regardless of the specific altercation, jones was asked to exit the particular flight.

No police report has been filed, and Smith was not arrested.

The Jets released a statement acknowledging the incident.

“We are aware of the report and are studying the facts, ” an aircraft spokesman said. “We will have no comment at this time. inch

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‘The Man Who Broke Atlantic City’ Featured In Short TV Gambling Documentary

Don Johnson, the CEO of Heritage Improvement who in a four-month spree a couple of years in the past won $6 million on the Tropicana, $5 million on the Borgata and $four million at Caesars and has been written about as “The Man Who Broke Atlantic Metropolis”, is now being profiled by Bloomberg TV in a particular called “The Participant: Secrets and techniques of a Vegas Whale”.

Johnson reportedly was not card counting during his streak. The coveted high curler just had a run of cards, however as the interview pointed out, he doesn’t play poorly both.

However, within the piece, Bloomberg for some purpose asked, “Did he cheat?”, which seems to make hardly any sense for the reason that casinos would have kept his cash and most absolutely banned him if he was in truth dishonest them out of millions. Johnson was offered rebates on his losses, which gave him higher possibilities in the long term over the home, however he wasn’t cheating.

Johnson can also be the gambler who allegedly stiffed a casino DJ on $200,000.

The Bloomberg piece options interviews with casino industry titans, including Steve Wynn (CEO , Wynn Resorts), Jim Murren (CEO , MGM Resorts Ltd.), Gary Loveman (CEO , Caesars Leisure) and Invoice Boyd (Chairman, Boyd Ltd.)

 

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NCAA Prediction Bowl Game Preview/Pick- Miami (FL) vs. Louisville

ncaa predictions hurricanes vs cardinals

Miami Hurricanes (9-3) vs. #18 Louisville Cardinals (11-1) 12/28- 6:45PM EST

 

RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL- Orlando, FL

 

Line: LOU -3.5

Over/Under: 57.5

 

In what will likely be Teddy Bridgewater’s final game in a Louisville Cardinals’ uniform as he is expected to declare for the NFL draft, he will lead his football team against the Miami Hurricanes in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Saturday night.

 

Saturday’s bowl matchup will also feature two teams that will become conference rivals as #18 Louisville will be moving into the ACC next year to join Miami.. a team that Florida native Bridgewater had originally committed to before deciding on Louisville.

 

With Bridgewater expected to be a sure top 10 NFL pick next April, the junior quarterback who was a leading candidate for the Heisman before falling off is looking to go out on top come Saturday.

 

With a 38-35 defeat to Central Florida back on October 18th and failing to throw for 300 yards in his final four games with only five touchdown passes, he saw his Heisman Trophy chances go by the wayside as he was not invited to New York as a finalist.

 

Despite his lack of production towards the end of the season, Bridgewater still finished with 3,523 yards and 28 touchdowns with only four interceptions to finish as the nation’s fifth-leading passer, but in the end couldn’t get his Cardinals (11-1) back to a BCS bowl after last year’s Sugar Bowl win over Florida.

 

This is a very talented young man. He has great command on the offense,” Miami coach Al Golden said.

 

Miami (9-3) had recruited Bridgewater successfully and had a verbal commitment back in 2010, but after the firing of then head coach Randy Shannon following a 7-6 season, Bridgewater bolted for Louisville.

 

The Cardinals have 23 Miami-area natives on their team and are thrilled to be going back home to face a Miami team of players many have played against growing up.

 

When they found out, it was like ‘We’re playing back at home again, we’re playing basically our teammates and the people that they play in high school,’” said senior defensive end Marcus Smith, a Georgia native who is the AAC defensive player of the year. “Feeling that with them is gonna be great one.”

 

Miami will be playing in their first postseason game since 2010, when the university implemented a self-imposed two-year bowl ban due to improper benefits from a booster. Former Miami assistant Clint Hurtt who was implicated in the scandal is now on the Cardinals staff.

 

Early on, the Hurricanes were a top 25 team but lost three in a row and fell out of the rankings, but now look to post their first double-digit wins since the 2003 season.

 

Our kids are excited, I think they’re grateful.” Golden said. “They’ve been through a lot the past two years, and they have not been able to have this opportunity.

 

They’re practicing with a purpose, they’re excited, and clearly they have a really tough opponent coming up.”

 

The Hurricanes feel they have a great quarterback of their own in the likes of Stephen Morris, who threw for 2,868 yards with 21 touchdowns and looks forward to matching up with Bridgewater.

 

It’d be a great challenge and a great headline for a lot people,” Morris said

 

Louisville will be moving to the ACC’s Atlantic Division next season, while the Canes are in the Coastal but are scheduled to play one another next year.

 

When we go play in the ACC next year, I think (the bowl) will put our stamp on this season, and it will tell the world that we can play with teams in the ACC and we can play with anybody,” Smith said.

 

The oddsmakers feel the Cardinals can play with the Hurricanes now as they have made them a (minus -3.5) point favorite, but get the latest lines on the game up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

Smith finished second in the nation with 12 ½ sacks and with a Cardinals defense that ranked second in the FBS allowing only 257.9 yards per game and has been dominate against the run allowing just 86.3 yards per contest, I like and predict the Cardinals making it a happy home coming for many of its players.

 

Miami top rusher Duke Johnson suffered a season-ending injury with a broken ankle back in mid-season to make the challenge that much greater against the Cardinals defense, but expect an entertaining bowl game.

 

Prediction/Pick: Louisville

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NCAA Prediction Bowl Game Preview/Pick- Cincinnati vs. North Carolina

ncaa prediction and picks

Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6) 12/28- 3:20PM EST

Line: UNC -2.5

Over/Under: 56.5

Belk BOWL- Charlotte, NC

Two teams that mirrored each other during the season will take the field on Saturday afternoon in the Belk Bowl hoping to end the year on a high note.

 

Cincinnati (9-3) and North Carolina (6-6) both struggled in the early season, then made some midseason changes at quarterback which led to long winning streaks before both teams lost close games to longtime rivals in their regular-season finale.

 

They are a lot like us because they had a slow start and then won a lot of games in the end,” Bearcats coach Tommy Tuberville said. “We are probably a much better team now than we were at the beginning of the year, as they are.”

 

North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said of his team… “This is a resilient bunch of guys that kept believing in one another throughout the year and I’m glad they were rewarded with a bowl game. We’re looking forward to facing a very good Cincinnati team led by an outstanding coach in Tommy Tuberville.”

 

The Bearcats will be making their second consecutive appearance in as many years in the Belk Bowl defeating Duke last year 48-34, and this year are back in it thanks in part to a six-game winning streak during the middle of the season that helped them finish third in the AAC.

 

Quarterback Brendon Kay took over the signal calling for the Bearcats in the second game of the season replacing injured first-stringer Munchie Legaux and responded well throwing for more than 3,000 yards in a season, despite not always being 100 percent healthy.

 

I tell you that kid competed and he did it on one leg. His ankle is so bad. He’s been wanting to play and push through it and it’s been that way for about six weeks and he has only practiced about one or two days a week,” Tuberville said of Kay following his team’s 31-24 loss to then-No. 19 Louisville on December 5.

 

He doesn’t throw the ball much because his shoulders are so banged up but I tell you he is a warrior.”

 

The Tar Heels also made a quarterback change with Marquise Williams taking over for Bryn Renner who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury back on November 2nd. The more mobile Williams generated 14 touchdown passes while also rushing for 531 yards and six scores to lead the Heels.

 

Look for North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, one of the nation’s top tight ends to be a main target as he leads the team in catches with 55 and with yards with 895, as he looks to challenge the Cincinnati defense.

 

I just go there out there and do what I do best,” Ebron told the school’s official website.

 

Ebron is a finalist for the Makey Award which is given to the top tight end in all of college football and has already declared himself eligible for the 2014 NFL draft following the Belk Bowl.

 

North Carolina finds itself in the Belk Bowl by way of a 1-5 start followed by a five game winning streak to become bowl eligible before losing to in-state rival Duke 27-25 to end the regular-season.

 

Coach Fedora is proud of the way his team performed after a horrible start. “I’m excited for our team, especially our seniors, who fought through some early season adversity and won five of the last six games to become bowl eligible.”

 

The Bearcats may have the better record, but the oddsmakers are giving the Tar Heels a slight (minus -2.5) point favorite playing close to home in Charlotte, but get the latest spread on the game up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

The Tar Heels are 2-0 all-time against the Bearcats, but I predict Cincinnati, who outscored their opponents by 166 points through the backend of their schedule to continue the trend on Saturday and leave the state of North Carolina with the Belk Bowl trophy.

 

Prediction/Pick: Cincinnati

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NCAA Prediction Rutgers vs. Notre Dame College Bowl Game Preview & Pick

ncaa picks notre dame

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-6) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-4) 12/28- 12:00PM EST

 

NEW ERA PINSTRIPE BOWL- Bronx, NY

 

Line: ND -14.0

Over/Under- 53.0

 

The No. 25 Notre Dame Fighting Irish will take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl with hopes of closing out the season on a positive note for what has been a disappointing year to Irish standards.

 

A year ago, the Irish found themselves in the BCS championship thanks in part to a magical season that ended in a blowout loss to Alabama and this year expectations were high once again as they found themselves at 7-2 on November 2nd before dropping two out of their last three.

 

Notre Dame (8-4) fought hard at then-No. 8 Stanford in their regular-season finale back on November 30, but in the end fell 27-20, as Tommy Rees threw two picks late in the fourth quarter.

 

Not good enough obviously. Proud of the guys and my teammates and how we fought all year but you don’t come to Notre Dame to go 8-4, and everyone understand that,” said Rees. “You have to be better.”

 

The Irish have a long history of some memorable games in the Bronx going all the way to back to 1928 to as recent as 2010 when they beat longtime rival Army 27-3.

 

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly had this to say about the Irish returning.

 

We were privileged to play in New York City and Yankee Stadium in 2010. The treatment our university received from the Steinbrenner family, the New York Yankees and the entire organization was unlike anything we’ve experienced in my tenure at Notre Dame,” he said.

 

Starting next season, the Irish will be part of the ACC bowl lineup, which will include the Pinstripe Bowl, which is now four-years old.

 

Rutgers (6-6) also suffered a disappointing season losing three in a row before beating South Florida 31-6 to become bowl eligible for their eighth time in nine years. The Scarlet Knights will be moving from the AAC to the very competitive and tough Big Ten starting next year and would like a win Saturday to carry that momentum going into a new conference.

 

But, to have any chance against the Irish, the Scarlet Knights must get it together on defense where they gave up 38.0 points in their previous seven games before shutting down a woeful South Florida team.

 

The Rutgers secondary has been torched this season allowing 311.4 passing yards per game and have given up 3,596 yards through the air… the most in school history, so look for Rees to take advantage of a porous Rutgers defense where he has passed for 2,938 yards and 27 touchdowns with a 138.1 passer rating.

 

Notre Dame’s TJ Jones leads the receiving corps with 1,042 yards and nine touchdowns.

 

Oddsmakers don’t have much faith in the Rutgers defense stopping the Irish as they have made Notre Dame a huge (minus -14.0) point favorite going into Saturday’s contest, but get the latest odds up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

Despite the sub-par seasons from both teams, expect a big crowd come Saturday as both teams are expected to draw well, especially the Irish with their fan base and the Scarlet Knights proximity to Yankee Stadium.

 

It’s a really attractive matchup,” embattled second-year Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said.

 

The Irish have won all four meetings against Rutgers and I predict an easy victory on Saturday for Notre Dame to take home the trophy.

 

Prediction/Pick: Notre Dame

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NFL Prediction Week 16 Sunday Night Preview/Pick- Chicago vs. Philadelphia

bears vs eagles

Chicago Bears (8-6) @ Philadelphia Eagles (8-6) 12/22- 8:30PM EST

 

Line: PHI -3.0

Over/Under: 55.5

 

Before kickoff on Sunday night, both the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles will know where they stand for the playoffs as both teams are very much in the thick of things.

 

Here’s how it works… if Dallas losses earlier in the day to Washington, the Eagles (8-6) can wrap up the NFC East title by beating the Bears, if the Cowboys win, then regardless of what the Eagles do Sunday night, the division title will be up for grabs next Sunday in the regular season finale.

 

Six weeks ago, the Eagles were left for almost dead in the division being under .500 and down to their third-string quarterback—but went on a tear winning five straight and thanks in part to Dallas giving away games, Philadelphia now has a chance to claim the NFC East.

 

When asked if he would rest his starters if Dallas wins earlier in the day.. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly had this to say…

 

We’re not in a situation where we’ve got to rest anybody,” he said. “We’ve got to play and get back on the winning track. We’ve got to be ready to play winning football.”

 

Philadelphia had won five consecutive games before last week’s surprising 48-30 blowout loss at Minnesota.

 

For the 8-6 Chicago Bears, they have Jay Cutler back and took a one-game lead in the NFC North over Detroit when they Lions lost to Baltimore on Monday night.

 

The Bears scenario is this—they will win the division crown with a victory Sunday night if second-place Green Bay loses to Pittsburgh and Detroit goes down to defeat against the Giants. Now, if only the Lions lose, it will set up a showdown between the Bears and Packers next week for the division title next Sunday.

 

The end result is this—regardless of how the Cowboys, Lions and Packers do earlier in the day, the winner of Sunday night’s matchup will have the edge for a No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs over the other with one week left to go.

 

The only anxiety for me was depending on someone else, so now that we control our own destiny, I’m kind of at ease and really focused on Philadelphia,” receiver Brandon Marshall said. “It actually makes it easier that we’re in this position right now.”

 

Chicago was another team that seemed out of any division hopes after being swept by Detroit this season and Cutler going down with a high ankle sprain, but replacement Josh McCown kept it together going 2-2 for the Bears and the Lions struggling to pull away.

 

Cutler was back in action last Sunday to lead to Bears to a 38-31 win at Cleveland, but many believed McCown should have remained the starter. Cutler struggled early on in the game with two interceptions but finished going 22 of 31 for 265 yards and three touchdowns.

 

The guys rallied behind me,” Cutler said. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was (pressure) with everything on the outside and as well as Josh played. But this was our plan all along and no one really flinched in our building.”

 

With the Eagles secondary having been exposed last week to the tune of 382 yards through the air, look for Cutler to repeat the game plan with 1,000 yard receivers Marshall and Alshon Jeffery at his disposal and with running backs Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett getting it done on the ground, the Eagles will have their hands full to a team that averages an NFC-high 29.0 points per game.

 

Chicago might be one of the most talented offenses we face,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said.

 

The Eagles will counter with a steady diet of LeSean McCoy who has rushed for 1,343 yards this season and will be facing a Bears rush defense that is an NFL-worst 152.4 yards allowed per game and 5.2 per carry.

 

The Bears are hoping to have linebacker Lance Briggs back in action to help shore up the Bears porous defense after missing the last seven games with a fractured shoulder.

 

Briggs went through a full workout in practice on Friday and is considered a game-time decision according to Trestman…

 

I’m very optimistic,” he said Friday. “Again, he practices for three days. He’s been cleared by the doctors.

 

We’ll see where’s he at. But I wouldn’t want to say that he’s gonna to play, he’s gonna start. I think that’s still 48 hours away.”

 

Briggs or no Briggs, the oddsmakers have made the home Eagles a (minus -3.0) point favorite, but get the latest lines on the game right here at Wonder Punter up until game time.

 

Nick Foles has filled in nicely for the Eagles this season in place of Michael Vick and I look for him to have another big game in prime time on Sunday, but predict a close one.

 

Prediction/Pick: Philadelphia

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NFL Prediction Week 16 Game Preview/Pick- New England vs. Baltimore

patriots vs ravens pick

New England Patriots (10-4) @ Baltimore Ravens (8-6) 12/22- 4:25PM EST

 

Line: BAL -2.5

Over/Under: 44.5

 

The defending Super Bowl champions have played themselves back into playoff contention after many thought they were dead in the water just a month ago.

 

The Ravens have rattled off four straight wins and now control their fate in the AFC North and can clinch a postseason berth for the six straight season with a little help from the league.

 

For the visiting New England Patriots, the formula is a lot easier… beat the Ravens and win the AFC East title for a fifth straight year.

 

Baltimore (8-6) will be in search of their fifth straight win and third in a row over the Patriots, whom they beat in the regular-season last year and in the AFC championship.

 

We’re playing our best football right now,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We’re going to have to continue to improve with what we have in front of us down the stretch.”

 

The Ravens offense sputtered once again in last Monday night’s win at Detroit 18-16, but thanks to Justin Tucker’s leg, he connected on six field goals to bail out the offense including the game winner from 61 yards away in the final minute to set a franchise record.

 

Tucker has made 33 straight field goals dating back to a Week 2 miss at Cleveland and owns the NFL’s longest streak since Matt Stover made 36 in a row for the Ravens from 2005-06.

 

What can you say about Justin Tucker?” Harbaugh said. “When we got the ball here, I think at the 45-yard line, I said, ‘Hey, are we kicking this?’ .. He said, ‘I got it.”

 

New England (10-4) will try to earn the AFC East title once again after failing last week in a 24-20 defeat to Miami in which the offense couldn’t punch it in on four plays from the Dolphins 19 yard line with 27 seconds left.

 

We didn’t do a good job in the red area, and didn’t do a good job finishing drives,” Tom Brady said. “We came up on the short end of the stick. It wasn’t a good day. Just couldn’t make enough plays.”

 

Brady will have to rely on heavily on slot receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola with tight end Rob Gronkowski back on injured reserve with a torn ACL and MCL suffered on December 8.

 

Edelman and Amendola combined for 23 catches for 270 yards in last week’s loss. Edelman’s 89 receptions ranks fifth in the league and has helped sparked a passing game over the last six weeks where Brady leads the NFL with 2,225 passing yards with 14 touchdowns and only four interceptions in that span since November 3.

 

While the Patriots are an undefeated 7-0 at home, they have lost four of their last five on the road and with their three road wins against the likes of Buffalo, Atlanta and Houston—all last place teams with a combined 11-31 record, they understand the importance of beating a quality team on the road come Sunday.

 

They’re playing better football now then they were in the beginning of the season,” New England defensive end Rob Ninkovich said.

 

With the Ravens taking care of the ball turning it over only four times during the winning streak and a defense that has not allowed more than 26 points since a Week 1 49-27 loss at Denver, the oddsmakers have made them a (minus -2.5) point favorite at home. With a slim line such as that, it may move, so get the latest spread on the game up until game time right here at Wonder Punter.

 

The Ravens have also figured out their pass protection for Joe Flacco, where he has been brought down a career-high 42 times, but only five of those sacks have come in the last three games.

 

The Patriots have not loss back-to-back games since Weeks 3 and 4 of the 2012 season, but Sunday will be a tough challenge for them to avoid losing two in a row again. This game will be a closely fought battle, but I will give the Ravens a slight edge due to home field and predict Baltimore getting it done to win their fifth straight.

 

Prediction/Pick: Baltimore

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NBA Playoffs: Who Survives the Loaded Western Conference? Predictions

western conference

NBA Prediction Western Conference 2013

On Wednesday, we set our sights on the playoffs by predicting which eight teams comprise the Eastern Conference playoff bracket. As a follow-up, we will now shift our focus to the Western Conference and project the eventual representatives.

 

 

The Western Conference is decidedly stronger than the East this year based on team records. As of Friday, the team in ninth overall place in the West, Golden State, boasts a record of 14-13. This record would be good enough for 4th in the East, but unfortunately places the Warriors in the lottery based on the loaded Western Conference.

 

Were the season to end tonight, the Western Conference playoff representatives would comprise, in order, of Oklahoma City, Portland, San Antonio, Los Angeles (Clippers), Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, and Denver. This current standing is a result of some unexpected early season performances.

 

Portland has been the most surprisingly upstart team of from the West so far. A balanced rotation and lethal offense has given way to a league-best 22 wins. An equally surprising playoff team, as of today, is Phoenix. Loaded with young talent and playing cohesively under first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek, the Suns appear well-suited to compete for a playoff berth.

 

It may be easier to predict the playoff representatives by eliminating the teams set on “tanking” this season. Sacramento and Utah, though they both play host to an abundance of young talent in players like DeMarcus Cousins, Ben McLemore, Derrick Favors, and Trey Burke, would be better suited to set their sights on the NBA Draft, when college phenoms Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Julius Randle are expected to declare for the pro’s.

 

For four of the teams currently out of the playoff mix, injuries have been a source of collective misfortune. Golden State, at ninth, lost Andre Iguodala to a hamstring injury for 12 games, posting a record of 5-7. The Los Angeles Lakers, 11th with a record of 12-13, have been derailed by injuries to their entire point guard staff, and Kobe Bryant’s latest injury is sure to set them back even further.

 

New Orleans was without budding star Anthony Davis for seven days after the sophomore power forward broke his hand, and the Pelicans went 3-4 in his absence. Memphis has likely been the most unlucky team out of all of them, as they have had to play without Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol, starters Mike Conley and Tayshaun Prince, and rotational swingman Quincy Pondexter who has been lost for the season.

 

Of the teams currently outside of the playoff mix, the ones most likely to play their way out of the lottery would have to be Golden State and Minnesota. The Warriors possess possibly the most dangerous offenses led by “Splash Brothers” Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Iguodala’s return to the lineup shores up the team’s defense and allows second-year wing Harrison Barnes to return to the bench.

 

The Timberwolves have lighting it up of the offensive end, coming into Friday scoring the 3rd most PPG at 105.7. Their most apparent struggles have been on the road (5-9) and against other teams in the Western Conference (6-8).

 

As for the teams most likely to fall out of the playoff picture, Phoenix is definitely the most prime suspect. With the eighth toughest Strength of Schedule in the league, the Suns can be expected to succumb to their lack of veteran leadership, and they would also be better suited to try their luck in the upcoming draft.

 

We can say with reasonable certainty that there are five locks in the West for the playoffs: Oklahoma City, Portland, San Antonio, Los Angeles, and Houston. Assuming the Suns eventual regression, that leaves three spot for four real contenders in Dallas, Denver, Golden State, and Minnesota. Denver can probably be counted on to stumble a bit without projected starters Danilo Gallinari and Javale McGee, both of whom are without timetables for their returns. They should be able to hang on to one of the last two playoff spots, as fellow competitor Minnesota has the second toughest schedule in the NBA.

 

We’re counting on the eventual Western Conference playoff bracket consisting of, in no particular order, Oklahoma City, Portland, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Denver, and Golden State. Look for us to revisit these projections as the season winds on. 

 

By Austin Murphy – WonderPunter

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NFL Prediction Week 16 Game Preview/Pick- Arizona vs. Seattle

nfl picks

Arizona Cardinals (9-5) @ Seattle Seahawks (12-2) 12/22- 4:05PM EST

 

Line: SEA -10.5

Over/Under: 43.0

 

The stakes will be high for both the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon with the Cardinals looking to stay alive for the postseason and the Seahawks looking to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

 

For Seattle, the last time they accomplished that feat of home-field advantage, they reached the Super Bowl. For the Cardinals, a loss would all but knock them out of a playoff berth.

 

The Seahawks (12-2) have to be licking their chops with the possibility of playing the remainder of their games at CenturyLink Field, where they have won 14 regular-season home games since their last loss on December 24th, 2011 to San Francisco.

 

The year was 2005 when the Seahawks made their Super Bowl run in which they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

Here we come this week and there’s nothing new, which is a good thing. We’re going to make the most of what we got,” said coach Pete Carroll, who is striving to clinch his second division title with Seattle and the third of his career.

 

The Seahawks had a field day last week in New York against the Giants, picking off Eli Manning five times in route to a 23-0 shutout win. The Seattle defense was dominating, holding the Giants to just a paltry 181 yards… their season-low.

 

Corners Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell intercepted Manning twice last Sunday and Sherman, who has six INTs this season has shown his defensive might against the Cardinals where he has four interceptions and two fumble recoveries over his last four games against them.

 

All the guys contributed, the linebacker and everyone contributed,” Carroll said, and it’s that same contribution Carroll is looking for again against the Cardinals after the Seahawks sacked Carson Palmer seven times and picked him off twice in a 34-22 road win back in Week 7.

 

Since that home loss, Arizona (9-5) has won six of seven since, with Palmer showcasing a 106.0 passer rating during that stretch… among the best in the NFL.

 

We’re starting to get a lot confidence as a team,” Palmer said.

 

Palmer is 0-1 in Seattle having lost back in 2007 when he was with the Bengals and knows the challenge will be a difficult one on Sunday.

 

Obviously, they’re confident for a reason,” Palmer said. “They’ve won a lot of football games, they’ve won at home, but we’ve been playing well the past couple of months. It’s a big game for them, a big game for us.”

 

The Cardinals have already assured themselves a winning season, their first since 2009, but even they win their remaining games and go 11-5 during the season, they may still be left out of postseason play.

 

The last time we were there, obviously everyone knows what happened,” coach Bruce Arenas said of the Cardinals 58-0 shellacking at Seattle last year. “That wasn’t we, that was another team. So this is our barometer to see where we’re at”

 

Palmer will enter Sunday’s big game a little banged-up as he is nursing a high ankle sprain, but it’s his No. 1 target Larry Fitzgerald who may miss the game after suffering a concussion late in the Cardinals’ 37-34 overtime victory at Tennessee.

 

Fitzgerald is due to undergo one more concussion test before he is cleared to play, but Seattle has done a defensive number on Fitzgerald limiting the All-Pro receiver to just 82 yards on seven receptions over the last three matchups.

 

Throw in Russell Wilson’s undefeated home winning streak, recording a 119.2 passer rating with 29 touchdowns to only six INTs and we can see why the oddsmakers have made the Seahawks a huge (minus 10.5) point favorite at home, but get the latest lines on the game up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

Running back Marshawn Lynch will try to find some success on the ground against an Arizona defense that has limited opponents to only 69.4 yards rushing per contest with just two scores in their last seven games.

 

Receiver Percy Harvin is questionable (hip) and cornerback Brandon Browner has been suspended indefinitely for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Browner has been out since week 10 because of the suspension.

 

The Seahawks have beaten the Cardinals five of the last seven times and I expect and predict another victory for a Seattle team that is for real this year.

 

Prediction/Pick: Seattle

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NFL Prediction Week 16 Game Preview/Pick- New Orleans vs. Carolina

saint

New Orleans Saints (10-4) @ Carolina Panthers (10-4) 12/22- 1:00PM EST

 

Line: CAR -3.0

Over/Under: 46.5

 

For the New Orleans Saints this Sunday, it’s simple… win and they will not only clinch the NFC South, but also the conference’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.

 

Problem is, they are not a very good road team, so if they lose the same exact scenario awaits Carolina in Week 17, but this time it will be the Panthers who will have the advantage at home as they will try to avenge their 31-13 blowout loss to the Saints at the Superdome back on December 8th.

 

But, for the Saints (10-4), they were not able to capitalize the following week in St. Louis when they committed three turnovers and fell behind by 24 points and lost 27-16, which knocked them back out of the driver’s seat.

 

The bigger problem is New Orleans is just a bad road team, where they have lost its fourth in five road games and that spells trouble for them come playoff time if they have to open on the road.

 

We know what we are playing for—we’re playing for the divisional championship and the two seed so it doesn’t get any bigger then that for us,” quarterback Drew Brees said. Obviously we understand our deficiencies on the road here the last couple of trips. It is great motivation for us to really hammer down this week, find ways to improve and get better.”

 

With that said, Sunday’s contest may be a make or break game for them, as the Panthers now have the momentum following a 30-20 home win over the New York Jets, but coach Ron Rivera admits his team may have been doing some scoreboard watching.

 

A few too many times, to be honest with you,” Rivera said. “I did get distracted a couple of times. .. I did hear the crowd cheer and when I looked up they showed the (Saints’) score, so that caught my attention.”

 

The Panthers (10-4) with a win will clinch the South and the NFC’s second seed with a win next week at lowly Atlanta or the Saints losing to Tampa Bay in Week 17.

 

If New Orleans can pull off the mild upset, they will lock up the No. 2 seed and will be able to rest some starters for the season-finale. For the Panthers, a loss would be damaging as they would need some help with losses by Arizona and San Francisco. The Cardinals hold the tie-breaker with Carolina by virtue of win over them.

 

Drew Brees lit up the Panthers back in New Orleans with 313 yards and four touchdowns, where he has a 122.5 passer rating, but on the road it’s a different story with a 86.3 passer rating with just a 63.4 completion percentage with seven picks.

 

Those numbers add up to 32.9 points scored at home compared to 18.4 on the road… 27th in the NFL.

 

This is not a ‘show up on Sunday and play’ sport,” tackle Zach Strief said. “So when you go on the field and put that on tape and play like we have on the road it’s absolutely concerning.”

 

With Carolina winning nine of their last ten games and having won six straight at home by an average of 18.7 points, coupled with the Saints road woes, we can see why the oddsmakers have made the Panthers a (minus -3.0) point favorite come Sunday, but remember to get the latest spread on the game up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

Look for Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to bounce back after a sub-par performance at the Superdome and for Carolina to establish a running game where they have averaged 178.5 yards rushing.

 

In the end, I too like the Panthers to play a complete game and take it to the Saints and when asked if New Orleans was the better team after taking the first meeting, Newton had this to say….

 

Are they better then us? No.”

 

A little extra incentive for the Saints now? Maybe, but I predict the Panthers winning big on Sunday to continue their home dominance and strengthen their playoff position.

 

Prediction/Pick: Carolina

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NCAA Prediction College Bowl Preview/Pick- Ohio vs. East Carolina

ncaa pick and prediction

Free NCAA Pick and Prediction Bobcats vs. Pirates

Ohio Bobcats (7-5) vs. East Carolina Pirates (9-3) 12/23- 2:00PM EST

Lines and betting Odds 

Line: ECU -13.5

Over/Under: 62.0

 

BEEF ‘O’ BRADY BOWL- ST. Petersburg, FL

 

The East Carolina Pirates had their third Conference USA title in their sights, but a blowout loss in their regular-season finale ended that opportunity, so they will now focus on a second double-digit win season when they battle Ohio in the Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl on Monday night.

 

The Pirates (9-3) where in search of their third Conference USA title in six years, but a blowout loss to Marshall 59-28 put an end to that. East Carolina is moving to the American Athletic Conference next season to join the likes of such teams as Louisville, Central Florida and Cincinnati.

 

East Carolina was riding a five-game winning streak behind their high-powered offense, but fell short of yet another opportunity for a conference crown with their loss at Marshall, who won the East Division.

 

I am proud of that group,” coach Ruffin McNeill said. “I’ve been coaching 33 years. It’s rare when you have a chance to win nine games but we have a chance to win 10… We have done a lot of things that nobody thought we could do.”

 

Leading the offensive charge of the Pirates is Conference USA MVP Shane Carden. All the junior quarterback has done is rank sixth in college football with 3,866 passing yards. rank eighth with 32 touchdowns passes and is tops in the nation with a 71.0 percent completion rating.

 

Thanks to Carden, the Pirates are 10th in the FBS with 40.4 points and 331.5 yards through the air per contest, which Ohio head coach Frank Solich admits finding a way to slow down Carden is a priority.

 

You don’t have great passing stats without having a great quarterback that’s poised,” Solich said. “He’s a great thrower, is knowledgeable about the game and reads things well.”

 

Another concern for Ohio will be the 1-2 punch of receiver Justin Hardy, fifth in the nation with 105 receptions for 1,218 yards with eight touchdowns and running back Vintavious Cooper, who has run for 995 yards and 11 touchdowns. Carden has 10 rushing touchdowns of his own.

 

They’ll also spread people out which enables them to get the ball to their receivers, guys that are playmakers,” Solich said. “Also when you spread people out, you can generally piece together a pretty good running game. Just look at them, they have talent. They’re big and physical on both sides of the ball.”

 

For the Ohio Bobcats (7-5), they will look to counter with fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who since taking over the starting job in 2011 has thrown for 8,769 yards and 66 touchdowns, but his recent struggles down the stretch this year has been a concern.

 

During the Bobcats three-game losing streak, Tettleton totaled just 351 yards with one touchdown and two totaling a dismal 16 points, but after bouncing back his regular-season finale, he’s confident his offense can match the fire-power of the Pirates.

 

That’s the plan. We’re hoping to go into this thing and put in a good game plan,” Tettleton said. “Hopefully we’ll have a chance to score a lot points and see what happens.”

 

And scoring a lot of points is what they’ll need as the oddsmakers have made the Pirates a huge (minus 13.5) point favorite and with an over/under of 62.0, they expect the points to be flying as well. Get the latest line on this game up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

The Bobcats may be a big underdog going in, but they have plenty of bowl experience as they are making their fifth consecutive appearance in postseason and have won their last two games.

 

It means a lot for this senior class to be here all five years and have a chance to go to a bowl game every single year,” Tettleton said. “It’s awesome and hopefully we can win three straight for this university.”

 

Tettleton had 331 yards and two touchdowns last year in the Independence Bowl to lead his team to a 45-14 rout of Louisiana-Monroe.

 

The Pirates will be looking to snap a four-game bowl losing streak and I predict this year will be the year to get they get it done to take home the trophy and cap off a 10-win season.

 

The Pirates fell 43-34 to Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl last December.

 

Prediction/Pick: East Carolina

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NFL Prediction Week 16 Game Preview/Pick- Colts vs. Chiefs

topper-chiefs

Indianapolis Colts (9-5) @ Kansas City Chiefs (9-3) 12/22- 1:00PM EST

 

Line: KC -7.0

Over/Under: 45.0

 

With both teams already having earned postseason berths, the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City still have an outside shot of earning first-round byes in the AFC playoffs.

 

Sunday’s game can also be a preview of an AFC wild-card matchup as these two teams look to strengthen their playoff seedings.

 

Indianapolis is the AFC South champion and with the three division leaders all losing last week in Week 15—Denver, New England and Cincinnati, the Colts could claim a first-round bye by winning the remainder of their games and Baltimore wins their final two games against the Patriots and Bengals.

 

Regardless of what happens with anyone else, we want to win the rest of our games and kind of be catching fire here at the right time going into the playoffs,” left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. “We want to be playing our best ball regardless of what happens with any other team.”

 

For the last six weeks, it’s been a roller coaster ride for the Colts (9-5) who are alternating wins and losses every week and with that lack of consistency, it may cost them come playoff time.

 

Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano says he isn’t too worried about the teams recent play over the last six weeks.

 

I just think these guys are able to move on, win or lose,” Pagano said. “They are able to put the last game behind them, make corrections that you always have and stick to the process. It’s the next game. Stick to the process. Our guys do a great job of that.”

 

The Chiefs (11-3), they were able to snap their three game losing streak with two road wins by a combined 101 points and last week with a big 56-31 rout of the Oakland Raiders on the road.

 

Running back Jamaal Charles ran wild against the Raiders with 195 yards receiving and accounting for five touchdowns to help lock up a playoff spot for the Chiefs.

 

Anytime you can clinch a playoff spot, it’s special,” quarterback Alex Smith said.

 

For Kansas City to win the AFC West and earn a first-round bye, they will need Denver to lose one of their final two games, but if they cannot catch the Broncos, the Chiefs may end a fifth seed in the playoffs and could very well face the Colts in two weeks in Indianapolis.

 

I’ll probably tell you the same thing that I told you when we played Denver, you give it the best shot your first time and then you come back, two weeks later, and give it your best shot then,” coach Andy Reid said of the possibility of facing the Colts twice. “That’s how we’ll approach it.”

 

Expect a heavy dose of Charles this week who leads the AFC in rushing with 1,181 yards and also leads the team with 65 receptions. KC is averaging 5.3 yards per carry the last five weeks and with Colts middle linebacker Pat Angerer lost for the season with a knee injury, expect the Chiefs to take advantage of running the ball.

 

Kansas City is having issues on the defensive side of the ball where they have allowed 47 plays of 20 yards or more– the most in the NFL, so look for the Colts to open it up and go long whenever possible to take advantage of that porous defense.

 

Yeah, we have to cut down on that, Reid said. “Big plays can hurt you, obviously. We’re addressing that and we’ll get it worked out. I wouldn’t get hung up on it, too much now. The final score is what you’re at, that and turnovers.”

 

As are the oddsmakers, who are looking at the final score and have made the Chiefs a big (minus -7.0) point favorite at home, but get the latest spread right here at Wonder Punter up until kickoff.

 

The Chiefs are a plus-21 in the turnover department and have a league-high 35 takeaways. Both teams are tied for the fewest turnovers with only 14 all season long with the Colts doing an excellent job of giving it away only three times in seven road games.

 

I like the way the Chiefs have turned it around after losing three straight and with them at home, I predict the Chiefs winning and avenging last years loss 20-13 to the Colts at Arrowhead.

 

Prediction/Pick: Kansas City

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NBA Prediction and Pick Thunder vs bulls

nba picks

Odds and Betting lines

TEAMS LINE BETS TOTAL BETS  
Chicago
Oklahoma City
+13
-13
34%66% 192o
192u
92%8% » Matchup Chesapeake Energy Arena Dec 19@
8:00 PM

 BET HERE

The Oklahoma City Thunder have completely dominated the Chicago Bulls over the last two months. Given the method both are actively playing heading into Thurs night’s meeting in Oklahoma Town, that trend appears most likely to keep on.

The Thunder (20-4) will become trying to extend the league’s longest energetic winning streak to eight online games. They’re averaging 110.3 factors while shooting 50.1 percent from the floor during their current run.

Oklahoma City is also the only remaining undefeated team at house, becoming the first golf club to start a season 12-0 at house since Cleveland in 2008.

Kevin Durant — who is shooting 54.2 percent from 3-stage range and 56.7 % overall during the winning streak — scored 30 in Tuesday’s 105-93 win at Denver, his league-leading 12th 30-plus stage efficiency.

“It’s a great win,” Durant mentioned after knocking off a group that had won 10 of 13. “We arrived here and defeat a team that plays nicely at home and has been playing really well since the last time we played them. Any earn on the street is hard, so we’ll get it.”

Russell Westbrook also flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 21 points, a season-high 13 rebounds and eight assists. He’s averaging 9.8 assists and 9.2 rebounds during the last six contests, giving Oklahoma City more jump in starting fast-break possibilities.

The Thunder have scored 16 points in changeover Tuesday and are usually averaging 19.0 over the last seven video games.

“It gives us an opportunity force in the crack,” said Westbrook, whose group is 6-1 when he gets at least eight assists. “It will get us into our units a great deal quicker, it gives us a chance to enjoy with a better pace, it gives me a better rhythm and it’s good for our team.”

Oklahoma City has won three directly against Chicago by an typical margin of 16.7 points, including a 102-72 home victory on Feb. 24. Durant was simply 6 of 19 from the field for 19 points, but the Bulls’ capturing percentage of 29.1 was their worst in more than nine years.

Chicago is averaging 80.3 points while capturing 34.5 percent in its final three losses to the Thunder. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer are a combined 15 of 48 for 41 factors during that extend.

The Bulls (9-15) haven’t already been much better on offense while shedding six of seven, averaging 81.6 points on 37.8 % shooting. Their criminal offense stalled late in the third one fourth of Wednesday’s 109-94 reduction at Houston, where a 15-1 run by the Rockets that time period put the game out of achieve.

Point safeguard Kirk Hinrich missed his third straight game because of to back stiffness, but he’s anticipated to travel with the group for Thursday’s contest.

“We’re losing, therefore mentally it’s tough,” Noah said. “When you reduce, it’s not enjoyable but we need to maintain battling. The video games keep coming and nobody feels sorry for us and we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”

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NCAA Prediction College Bowl Game Preview/Pick- Tulane vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

ncaa picks

Tulane Green Wave (7-5) @ Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (8-4) 12/21- 9:00PM EST

 

Line: TUL -2.5

Over/Under: 49.5

 

R+L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL- New Orleans, LA

 

The Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette will be in search of their third win in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday, but will have to do it this time against an opponent that calls New Orleans home, their in-state foe– the Tulane Green Wave.

 

While the Ragin’ Cajuns have enjoyed success in the postseason in three consecutive years, the Green Wave will be making their first trip to a bowl game since 2002, but both team will be battling injuries at the quarterback position.

 

The Ragin’ Cajuns (8-4) rattled off eight straight regular-season victories in between a pair of two-game losing streaks to start and end the season and their last loss, a 30-8 defeat to South Alabama on December 7 cost them their first outright Sun Belt title and had to settle for sharing the title with Arkansas State.

 

I am not going to let this ruin the entire season,” coach Mark Hudspeth said. “We are the Sun Belt Conference champions. Even though we finished tied, we beat the team head-to-head that we finished tied with and we won eight games in a row. We won a conference title in just our third year together and negative people can get off the train and the positive ones can join me in New Orleans because we’re going back to a bowl.”

 

But, to get it done on Saturday, the Ragin’ Cajuns may be without junior quarterback Terrance Broadway who missed the final game of the season when he suffered a broken right arm back on November 30th. Broadway is listed as questionable for Saturday’s contest.

 

Tulane is also dealing with quarterback issues with starter Nick Montana, who has been slowed by a shoulder injury, but coach Curtis Johnson is anticipating his quarterback playing as well as Broadway for the Ragin’ Cajuns.

 

We want to be basic as we can, but we are going to prepare for Broadway,” Johnson said. “Broadway makes the whole thing go. We think Nick will be ready, but if he isn’t, then we’ll move on to Devin (Powell).”

 

Montana is out of California and is the son of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana and separated his shoulder back in October and re-aggravated it in the last game of the season back on November 30th.

 

The Green Waves go into Saturday’s bowl game having lost three of its last four and is struggling offensively to put points on the board.

 

Out team was not healthy offensively,” Johnson said. “We took a beating the last couple of weeks. Our quarterback wasn’t very healthy since early on in the season.”

 

Tulane went 5-5 this season with the junior Montana calling the signals, completing 53.1 percent of his passes for 1,654 with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

 

The Ragin’ Cajuns were averaging 41.7 points in the three games before Broadway got injured and last year with Broadway calling the signals, beat Tulane 41-13.

 

I think if you look at what happened last year against them, they really took us to the woodshed,” Johnson said. “They played sensational.”

 

But despite last years loss, the oddsmakers are making the Green Waves a slim (minus -2.5) point favorite at their home Dome stadium, but get the latest odds up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

But coach Hudspeth knows his team must get a handle on their turnovers where they have turned the ball over seven times in the last two games with no takeaways, whereas the Green Wave had a plus-12 turnover in their last two games with only one giveaway.

 

I predict the Ragin’ Cajuns taking care of the ball on Saturday and if Broadway is able to go, see them capturing the New Orleans Bowl championship.

 

Prediction/Pick: Louisiana-Lafayette

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NBA Playoffs: Who Emerges from the (L)east?

NBA playoffs 2013

Anyone who has been watching the NBA this year understands the ridiculous disparity regarding team success between the Eastern and Western conferences. Despite being the resident conference for powerhouses in Indiana and Miami, the Eastern conference is only 37-84 against the West thus far in the season. Only six teams out West boast records under .500, whereas the East has a pitiful twelve teams under .500. To put the situation into even greater perspective, every team in the West outside of Sacramento (7-16) and Utah (6-21) would make the playoffs if they switched conferences. Outside of the obvious picks with the Pacers and Heat, who can be expected to make the playoffs out of the cellar of the East?

 

As of Wednesday night, the six teams joining the Pacers and Heat in the playoffs, in order of seed, would be Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Charlotte, Washington, and Toronto. This is hardly a definite playoff scenario, as a mere six games separate the projected fourth seed Celtics and the bottom-feeder Milwaukee Bucks.

 

In comparison to ESPN’s Training Camp Power Rankings, three teams previously expected to make the playoffs (Brooklyn, Chicago, and New York) are floundering in the East due to three completely separate situations. Brooklyn has suffered injuries and a lack of team chemistry (improving of late having won four of their last five, including a big win over the contending Clippers). Chicago has struggled in the wake of Derrick Rose’s season-ending meniscus tear as their lack of depth has been exposed. Mike Woodson, head coach of New York, is likely one more late-game faux-pas from being canned.

bulls derrick rose

One alteration to the current playoff projections that we can likely expect to be fulfilled would be replacing Toronto with Brooklyn. The Nets are only two games back in the loss column, and their collective resurgence and team health combined with Toronto’s determination to tank (Kyle Lowry is allegedly still being shopped) should result in the Nets overtaking the Raptors.

 

We can be reasonably optimistic that two other current playoff teams will hold onto their spots. Atlanta, the current three-seed, holds the last of three plus-.500 records in the East. Paul Millsap appears to have built a strong connection with fellow big-man Al Horford, and their perimeter is exciting to watch with Jeff Teague’s aggressiveness and Kyle Korver’s marksmanship from deep.

 

 

The other likely solid playoff fixture is Detroit. As a new home for Josh Smith, the nine-year veteran Combo Forward has bolstered an already lethal frontcourt with Greg Monroe and second-year man Andre Drummond. Point Guard by way of Milwaukee, Brandon Jennings is averaging a career high 7.8 Assists Per Game with excellent passing options in Smith, Monroe, and Drummond.

 

The final three spots back East are sure to be the hardest to predict. We can expect Brooklyn to overtake Toronto’s spot, but that still leaves Boston in the hunt in the Atlantic Division. First-year coach Brad Stevens has led the Celtics to a surprising 12-14 start with an excellent selection of young talent. Jordan Crawford is finally learning to play within a system, Avery Bradley is showing a drastically improved touch from the perimeter (45% from the field and 38% from three), and Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, and Kelly Olynyk are excellent pieces to build around. Rajon Rondo’s return is unlikely to hinder the young Celtics success, as he is an excellent distributing Point Guard and defensive presence.

 

nba playoffs

After the Celtics, that leaves us with Charlotte and Washington as the only projected playoff teams as of tonight. Both of these teams will be battling with Chicago and Cleveland to claim the last two playoff sp

 ots. Due to the loss of Rose and off-season departure Nate Robinson, Chicago is going to have to rely even more on Luol Deng to perform on offense. A depleted benchand over-usage of players like Deng, Jimmy Butler, and Joakim Noah will prevent the Bulls from making a playoff appearance.

With the Bulls eliminated, that leaves us with Charlotte, Washington, and Cleveland all competing for two playoff spots. The odd team out will likely be Charlotte, as they lack the offensive focal point that can generate buckets late in games. Kemba Walker, though a budding star, is clearly a notch below John Wall and Kyrie Irving in terms of Point Guard talent.

 

As the season continues, we can likely expect the overall records of Eastern teams to improve. Despite any possible improvements, there don’t seem to be any other teams in the Eastern Conference capable of beating either the Pacers or Heat in the playoffs.

By Austin Murphy – WonderPunter

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How Good is Damian Lillard?

damian lillard

One of the hardest parts of studying the NBA in this day and age is breaking down the rankings of Point Guards. A position that is seemingly bountiful with talent, the small-ball movement has placed the Point Guard at an all-time premium in demand. An interesting representative of this all-important position is Damian Lillard, the reigning Rookie of the Year.

 
Coming into his sophomore season with a target on his back, there was no telling how he would respond to the anticipated “Sophomore Slump.” ESPN ranked Lillard as the 30th best player in the league and the 10th best Point Guard in their NBARankings.

 

This ranking firmly entrenches Lillard among the league’s elite and among the top two tiers of Point Guards, but the real question is what does Damian have to do to leapfrog those ahead of him?

 
Of the nine PG’s ranked ahead of Lillard, three are primarily reputation ranks. Rondo, at ninth out of ten, is the only player that has yet to play this season and probably won’t play his first game until next month. Two others, Rose and Williams, have battled injuries in the outset of the season, effectively ending Rose’s comeback season prematurely.

 

Statistically, Lillard’s standing amongst the league’s elite PG’s is inconsistent. His scoring prowess is duly noted (4th in PPG among PG’s, 6th in Points Per 48 Minutes among PG’s, 2nd in FT% among PG’s, and 6th in 3PT% among PG’s), but he falls off the map drastically with the rest of the PG-associated stats. Lillard pales in comparison to top tier playmakers like Paul and Westbrook with only 5.8 APG (good enough for 16th among qualified PG’s), and his defense leaves a lot to be desired as he ranks 36th among PG’s in SPG.

 
Despite this inconsistency when it comes to actual statistics, Lillard’s late-game heroics are clearly the validating factors that place him in the upper-echelon of PG’s in the NBA. With his game-winning three Tuesday night against Cleveland, Lillard tallied his third game-winner in the month of December, and it was the fourth time that he made a shot to tie or win a game this season.

 
Though big-time shots are typically reserved for wing or post players, Lillard has proven early in his career that he has the confidence to not only take the crucial late-game shots, but also to make them when it counts.

 
As his career progresses, Lillard will almost certainly learn how to manage the game better on the offensive end. Look for assist averages and shooting percentages to improve as he learns how to utilize his teammates even better. It’s remarkable how much potential for improvement that Lillard has at this point in the season as Portland already boasts the league’s best record at 22-4.

 
Ice in your veins surely cannot be taught, and it is this ability that effectively establishes Lillard as one of the top 10 Point Guards in a deep position pool.

By Austin Murphy – WonderPunter 

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NCAA Prediction College Bowl Game Preview/Pick- Buffalo vs. San Diego State

buffalo ncaa picks

NCAA Prediction and Free Pick Bulls vs. Aztecs

Buffalo Bulls (8-4) vs. San Diego State Aztecs (7-5) 12/21- 5:30PM EST

 

Line: EVEN

Over/Under: 53.0

 

FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL- Boise, ID

 

The San Diego State Aztecs will make their school-record fourth consecutive bow appearance when they meet the Buffalo Bulls in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Saturday evening.

 

The Aztecs (7-5) overcame a brutal 0-3 to put themselves in a position to continue building its football program under the guidance of third-year coach Rocky Long, who has maintained the programs success following predecessor Brady Hoke.

 

I think the team is happy and excited about going to a bowl game,” Long said.

 

With its fourth straight bowl game, the Aztecs have matched their total bowl appearances over the last 41 years combined and are the first team since 2010 to make it to a bowl game following an 0-3 start.

 

San Diego State will look to junior running back Adam Muema to carry the load as he has gained over a 1,000 yards for the second straight season, but has struggled in his last two games with only 57 yards on 36 carries.

 

(The lack of success) has nothing to do with Adam Muema,” Long insisted. “It has to do with our offensive line not blocking very well for the run in the last two games. But all good running backs that have a good game have to have someone open a hole for them up front.”

 

Senior safety Nat Berhe, a first-team all-Mountain West selection anchors the San Diego State defense that finished second to Fresno State in the conference. Berhe recorded team-highs of 59 solo tackles and 94 overall and added six passes defended with two fumble recoveries.

 

Buffalo (8-4) will be making its second straight bowl appearance in school history and like the Aztecs had to overcome a rough start of the season with losses to BCS-bound Ohio State and Baylor by a combined 110-33 margin.

 

The Bulls then turned it on with a seven-game win streak that ended when they lost their regular-season finale 24-7 to Mid-American champion Bowling Green on November 29th.

 

It’s been four years in the making,” coach Jeff Quinn said about his team’s bowl berth.

 

Expect Buffalo to use a ground attack as well, behind senior star running back Brandon Oliver, a two-time 1,000 yard rusher who has accumulated 1,421 yards with 15 touchdowns this season.

 

The oddsmakers have the game EVEN with Ohio State having been the common opponent for both teams. The Aztecs lost to the Buckeyes 42-7 at Ohio State, while the Bulls loss to Ohio State was much closer according to Aztec quarterback Quinn Kaehler… “I remember Buffalo played Ohio State pretty tough, a lot tougher then we did, so they have some good players on that team and especially on defense,” said Kaehler.

 

With a pick-em game, expect the line to maybe move, so be up to date with the latest spread right here at Wonder Punter up until game time.

 

This will Buffalo’s second bowl appearance since a loss to Connecticut in the 2009 international Bowl.

 

I too have it as an evenly matched game, but I expect both teams to play hard and with pride, but in the end will predict the Aztecs winning to take home the trophy.

 

Prediction/Pick- San Diego State

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NCAA College Football Prediction Game Preview/Pick- #20 Fresno State vs. #25 USC

ncaa picks prediction

#20 Fresno State Bulldogs (11-1) vs. #25 USC Trojans (9-4) 12/21- 3:30PM EST

 

Line: USC -6.5

Over/Under: 62

 

ROYAL PURPLE LAS VEGAS BOWL- Las Vegas, NV

 

The USC Trojans, in an up and down season will go into the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday against a Fresno State Bulldogs team that fell short of a potential BCS bid.

 

The Trojans season consisted of the firing of Lane Kiffin, then the promotion of Ed Orgeron to interim head coach, which many thought he would be named the new head coach, but losses to Notre Dame and UCLA sealed his fate and USC named former assistant and now former Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian as their new head coach.

 

Orgeron guided the Trojans (9-4) to winning six out its first seven games after the Kiffin firing back on September 28th, but when athletic director Pat Haden stole Sarkisian away from the Washington Huskies and gave him the head coaching title, Orgeron resigned immediately due to disappointment to pursue other head coaching interests.

 

USC offensive coordinator Clay Helton will coach the Trojans on Saturday, and will be the third acting coach for the Trojans this season.

 

However, USC believes they found the right coach in Sarkisian to lead the Trojans proud football program into the national spotlight once again.

 

Sarkisian spoke on his future goals with the Trojans…

 

Rebuilding is not a word around here. Coach O proved that,” Sarkisian said. “I understand it stings right now. Over time it will get better. I’m going to be real with those guys, and they’ll be real with me.”

 

The Trojans will be faced and focused on slowing down a Fresno State offense that is led by senior quarterback David Carr. The Bulldogs rank first in passing with 409.8 yards per game, third in total offense with 570.6 and fifth in scoring with 43.5 points per contest.

 

Fresno State (11-1) won the inaugural Mountain West Conference title game back on December 7th when they beat the Utah State 24-17, but fell short of the bigger prize, a potential BCS bowl bid, when they lost to San Jose State 62-52.

 

Coach Tim DeRuyter was pleased how his team bounced back to win the MWC championship following that disappointing loss.

 

If your only goal is to go to the BCS, why show up and play?” DeRuyter said.

 

USC is well aware of the passing attack the Bulldogs possess with receivers Davante Adams, who leads the nation with 122 catches and 23 touchdowns and is second with 1,645 yards receiving. Josh Harper has 79 catches for 1,011 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Isaiah Bruce chipped in with 94 receptions for 987 yards with five TDs.

 

Fresno State will contend with a Trojans defense that ranks 16th in the country allowing just 341.5 yards per game and was first in the Pac-12 conference giving up only 214.5 yards passing.

 

USC will be without their top running back Silas Redd because of a knee injury and star receiver Marqise Lee had a down year because of injuries, but the oddsmakers have still made the Trojans a big (minus -6.5) point favorite on Saturday. Wonder Punter can provide you with the latest spread on the game up until kick off.

 

Fresno State has lost four straight bowl games and I predict the Trojans will do enough to contain the Bulldogs offense and leave Las Vegas with a championship to end the season on a positive note.

 

Prediction/Pick: USC

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter