NCAA College Basketball Prediction- #2 Wisconsin vs. #1 Arizona

NCAA Free Pick & Prediction Badgers vs. Wildcats

#2 Wisconsin Badgers (29-7) @ #1 Arizona Wildcats (33-4) 03/29- 8:49PM EST- Honda Center, Anaheim CA

 

Line: ARI -3.0

Over/Under- 131.0

 

With a spot for the Final Four up for grabs on Saturday night, No. 2 seed Wisconsin and No. 1 seed Arizona will take to the court at the Honda Center in Anaheim with the winner of the West Final punching their ticket to next weeks Final Four.

 

It’s hard to go to the Final Four,” said Arizona Wildcat coach Sean Miller, who began his coaching career as the Wisconsin Badgers assistant coach way back in 1992. “You can be really good and not make it, both as a coach, a team and a player.”

 

That will be the challenge for this Arizona team that is looking to advance out of the West Regional for the first time since 1998. The Wildcats (33-4) have failed the previous three times when playing in Anaheim, but this years team who was ranked No. 1 in the polls for eight weeks and went on a 21-game win streak have to be feeling good about their chances.

 

The Arizona program has gone the last five years going unnoticed, but now want to deliver for coach Miller who has restored this once proud basketball program back to prominence this season.

 

What we have done during the season has validated how good we are,” said 7-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski.

 

Tarczewski hopes to have a more productive game after struggling with foul trouble in Thursday’s night semifinal game in which they staged a comeback against the San Diego Aztecs.

 

For Wisconsin (29-7), they haven’t tasted the Final Four since 2000 and reached the regional final just once in 13 straight trips in the NCAA tournament under long-time coach Bo Ryan. Ryan turned 69 earlier this week and his team feels they need to finally deliver for their coach who became was an assistant for the Wisconsin program from 1976-85.

 

Badger guard Josh Gasser had this to say about his coach… “He deserves it. We all want it and we all want it for him.”

 

These two teams are similar in their defensive approach and go after it when it comes to rebounding.

 

We are tough, nasty and relentless,” said Arizona freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

 

Expect a good battle between both 7-foot centers, Arizona’s Tarczewski and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, who had 19 points and six blocks in helping to lead the Badgers to their semifinal win over the Baylor Bears.

 

We’re looking to draw fouls and throw them off-balance a little bit with early foul trouble,” said Wisconsin’s three-point specialist Ben Brust.

 

The Badgers are a slightly better team from beyond the arc shooting 38 percent to Arizona’s 36, so containing any damage done from 3point range will be a priority for both teams.

 

We have to close out the high ends and keep them off line,” said Hollis-Jefferson. “They’re going to play tough in guarding us too.”

 

One person the Badgers will need to guard closely will be Nick Johnson, the Pac-12 Player of the Year.

 

It still makes you say, ‘Wow,’ every time you see them,” says Badger’s Sam Dekker on Johnson and his high-flying teammates. “Dunks aside, they are a very solid team that can go out there and defend. They get after people and make you work.”

 

Both teams enter averaging 73 points per contest while limiting opponents to 42 percent shooting or less and with that, oddsmakers are expecting a tightly close played game making the Wildcats a slight (minus -3.0) point favorite with an O/U of just 131.0, so stay up to date on the latest spread up until tipoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

I expect the same… a close game from beginning to end but will have to predict the slightly stronger Arizona Wildcats doing just enough to punch their ticket to the Final Four next weekend.

 

Prediction/Pick- Arizona

 

 

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

 

 

NBA Prediction Wednesday Night Preview/Pick- Rockets vs. Lakers

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NBA Free Pick & Prediction Houston vs. Los Angeles

Houston Rockets (36-17, 14-10 away) @ Los Angeles Lakers (18-35, 8-16 home) 02/19- 10:30PM EST

 

Line: HOU -8.5

Over/Under: 214.5

 

Former Laker Dwight Howard will make his long awaited return back to Los Angeles on Wednesday night to face his former team at Staples Center… and the fans will be waiting to give him a heavy dose of boos.

 

Last year in his first and only season with Los Angeles, expectations were high all around as the Lakers were expected to be serious contenders for an NBA championship with the addition of Howard and Steve Nash. What the Lakers encountered instead was a 2012-13 season filled with injuries, a disappointing slow start, a coaching change, internal conflicts and a quick first-round exit.

 

Despite the underachieving and disappointing end to last season, the Lakers felt they did enough to try to resign Howard to a long-term max deal in the off season, but to many… myself included, the writing was on the wall about Howard bolting from Los Angeles. The shoes of stepping in and trying to carry a storied franchise under the bright lights of Hollywood proved too much pressure on Howard and decided to sign with the Houston Rockets for $88 million dollars.

 

For Howard, the move to Houston seemed to have been the right one as he was named an All-Star and as the Rockets (36-17) are riding a season-high seven game win streak, Howard has been the main go-to-guy scoring an average of 24.7 points on 60.0 percent shooting with 12.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks during the surge as they get set to open the second half of the season.

 

Let’s face it… L.A. was just not the right fit for Howard where he clashed often with Kobe Bryant and coach Mike D’Antoni in his offensive system. Houston has proved a safe-haven for Howard.

 

We enjoy each other,” Howard said of his current teammates. “I’m happy to be here. The guys are happy to be here and we’re just having a lot of fun. I think the biggest thing for our team is that we are free, we’re able to have fun with each other, but when we step between the lines we know it’s serious.”

 

And serious it will be as the Rockets, who have won six of their last seven on the road since Jan 11 will get set to open up a five-game road trip that will also pit them against Western Conference contenders Golden State, Phoenix and the L.A. Clippers.

 

There’s going to be some tough road games,” said All-Star guard James Harden. “We’re on a roll right now but it’s going to be some tough games when we get back and hopefully we can string (some wins) together.”

 

For the Lakers (18-35), this season as been nothing but a disaster in the injury department, missing much of their fire-power all season, one injury after another, losing seven straight and 13 of their last 15 games at Staples and … this is not what we expect from a prideful Lakers team. They are playing hard and no one can fault them for that, but they simply lack the talent to close out games and put together some wins.

 

With the NBA trade deadline set for Thursday afternoon, there is talk of the Lakers dealing away veteran center and the Lakers leading scorer this season Pau Gasol, who has also had his run-ins with coach D’Antoni as Gasol questioned his role in the D’Antoni system.

 

As a general manager, we’re always looking a year or two or three down the road,” Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said. “Our approach going into this deadline might be a little different than it’s been in year’s past. We may look to shore up a position going into the playoff run. It may not be. But certainly I’m respectful and mindful of our record.”

 

And though the Lakers are going through their worst season in years, they have split two games in Houston this season and will be fired-up for the return of Howard.

 

The oddsmakers have the hot Houston Rockets as (minus 8.5) point favorites on Wednesday night, but get the latest odds up until tip off right here at Wonder Punter.

 

Yes, these two teams are going in opposite direction and the Rockets are heavily favored but I feel the Lakers will be ready to deal Howard and the Rockets a loss. Expect the L.A. crowd to pull out all stops to distract Howard as the Lakers will look to win their seventh game in eight tries against the Rockets at Staples Center.

 

Prediction/Pick: Lakers

 

 

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

 

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

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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 Week 14 College Football Game- #22 UCLA vs. #23 USC

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Free Pick NCAA Prediction and Preview UCLA vs USC

 

#22 UCLA Bruins (8-3) @ #23 USC Trojans (9-3) 11/30- 8:00PM EST

 

Line: USC -3.5

Over/Under- 51.5

 

As a kid growing up in Los Angeles, cross-town rivals SC/UCLA for me has always been the best rivalry in College Football…. call it West Coast bias, me being a homer or just the simple fact that I grew up rooting for one and hating the other, or whatever? But this to me is my favorite and the best rivalry in all of sports as these two schools are set to battle on Saturday night in the Coliseum for the right to have another year of bragging rights.

 

Unlike most other schools in the nation who are a rivals, these two colleges are not separated by long miles or one end of the state to the other but by simply a short bus ride, which is why I feel it is so intense when these two programs get together…. in any sport to be honest. These two colleges have their die-hard fans who are loyal to one or the other just like any other ‘hard-core’ rivalries across the nation. There is no down the middle as a fan. Pick a side and that’s it! I will be rooting, yelling, booing and wearing my colors come Saturday night.

 

USC (9-2, 6-2) has seemed to regain it’s national prominence under ‘interim’ coach Ed Oregeron who took over for Lane Kiffin who was fired following the Trojans 62-41 thrashing at the hands of Pac-12 South champion Arizona State on national television back on September 28.

 

All Oregeron has done since that “black-eye” moment in the program is lead this once proud football program to a 6-1 record and brought back the pride in Trojan football.

 

SC is still searching for a new head coach, but I feel Oregeron has done a great job under the circumstances of the NCAA sanctions and highly-recruited standouts who were underachieving under Kiffin. They are now playing winning football games and he should be given a shot to lead the football program back to a national power.

 

A Trojan win on Saturday on maybe the ‘interim’ tag will be removed and he’s given a new title…. head coach. Will USC A.D. Pat Haden agree?

 

If it was up to UCLA coach Jim Mora, the answer would be yes, who cast his vote for Oregeron as conference coach of the year.

 

He gave them a real spark,” Mora said. “When you come into a situation like that where you’re an interim coach, the likelihood of being retained—at least from the outside perception; who knows what’s going on over there—it frees you up to really go after it. I voted for him for Pac-12 coach of the year. That’s what kind of job I think he’s done. I think he’s very deserving of it.”

 

For UCLA (8-3, 5-3), they lost an opportunity to win their second Pac-12 South title last week against Arizona State and a chance for their first Pac-12 championship… so this week against their most hated rival, they will focus on a second consecutive win over the Trojans.

 

USC quarterback Cody Kessler will be making his first start against the Bruins Saturday night and says this….

 

We know there is a lot more emphasis on this game just because of the rivalry and the tradition behind it,” Kessler said. “But we’re going to treat it just like any other week.”

 

USC goes in having dominated the series winning 12 of the last 14 meetings, but last year’s Bruins 38-28 win is still fresh in the minds of all the Trojans.

 

Getting beat. Losing. Terrible taste in our month,” Orgeron said. “Against our rival team. Not playing well. Letting down the Trojan family. Not a very good feeling.”

 

One big boost the Trojans will have come game time is the possibility of star receiver Marqise Lee being back in action where in last year’s game Lee caught nine passes for 158 yards and one touchdown.

 

According to Orgeron, Lee is a ‘sure’ bet to play on Saturday.

 

He’s as special as they get, Mora said. “He has all the attributes of a great receiver. He loves to compete. He can get off the bump-and-run, he can beat you deep, he can stop on a dime and run great routes. You can tell he’s not 100-percent healthy, but that doesn’t mean a lot when you’re talking about Marqise Lee.”

 

Injuries on the Bruins offensive line has been a problem all year and will be again against the Trojans, where they are expected to start three freshmen.

 

UCLA has played many freshmen all year long due to injury problems… but in the long run will pay dividends.

 

We’re very close. We’re an incredibly young football team,” Mora said. “We’re moving up the mountain, we just have to get more mature and that’s a process. There is no magic fairy dust you can sprinkle on a freshman and say, ‘Ok, now you’re a junior.”

 

The Trojan defense will have their sights set on UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley where last year as a freshman in the rivalry game he went 22 of 30 for 234 yards and one TD while rushing for two more scores.

 

We cannot let Hundley run the ball or throw the ball deep,” Oregeron said. We need to be great on coverage and great on our rush.”

 

Hundley is 214 of 315 for 2637 yards passing with 22 touchdowns. He was talked early in the Heisman conversation before falling off.

 

USC has won five straight games and has beaten the Bruins seven straight times at the Coliseum and with those numbers have been made a (minus) -3.5 point favorite for Saturday’s game, but be sure to check the latest spread leading up to kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

I look forward to another great showdown between these two teams and predict the Bruins will pull off an upset in the Trojans’ backyard. My UCLA player to watch will be standout true freshman Myles Jack who plays on both sides of the ball. Jack is outstanding on the defensive side of the ball and was recently inserted into the running back position to give the UCLA running game a much needed shot in the arm.

 

Coach Mora will have his team ready after last weeks ‘could’ve been’ game…

 

You always worry after a tough loss, a real emotional loss, how you’re going to respond,” Mora said. “They just came out and went to work. They’re excited about this game.”

 

Me too. I expect high scoring between both schools with back and fourth action and the usual drama. But, in the end…. Prediction…. UCLA

 

PICK: UCLA

 

 

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

 

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NCAA Prediction College Football Week 13 Game Preview/Pick- #8 Missouri vs. #24 Ole Miss

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NCAA Free pick and Prediction Week 13 Missouri vs Ole miss

 

#8 Missouri Tigers (9-1) @ #24 Ole Miss Rebels (7-3) 11/23- 7:45PM EST

 

Line: MIZZ -2.5

Over/Under: 59.0

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After missing the last four games due to right shoulder injury, Missouri quarterback James Franklin is returning to the starting lineup as the Tigers prepare for a final push toward an Southeastern Conference championship game.

 

With the season coming to an end, the No. 8 ranked Tigers (9-1, 5-1 SEC) will need to get past two ranked teams to make it to Atlanta, starting with a visit to No. 24 Ole Miss on Saturday night, then a regular season ending home game against No. 9 Texas A&M on Nov. 30.

 

Franklin will take over the play calling duties once again replacing freshman Maty Mauk who went 3-1 as the Tigers starter and has kept Missouri atop the SEC East.

 

The senior Franklin threw for 1,577 yards, 14 touchdowns, and three interceptions before his injury against Georgia on October 12 saw limited action last week against Kentucky is ready to lead his team to action.

 

He looks really good. He looks just like he left off before his injury,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “He’s excited about being back, and the team is excited about getting him back too. I obviously want him to do really well. He had some adversity and battled through it and we are excited to have him in.”

 

Ole Miss (7-3, 3-3) is riding a four-game win streak while averaging 42.8 yards per game and topping 500 yards in each of those, but those schools had a combined 9-22 record so the Tigers will be a more challenging team for the Rebels.

 

Ole Miss has played well against the top teams in the SEC losing by a combined 11 points to Auburn and Texas A&M, and a 25-0 defeat to top ranked Alabama on September 28.

 

With the schedule we have played, looking back on it, we have had our share of tests, and this will be another one Saturday night,” coach Hugh Freeze told the school’s official website.

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With the spread making the Tigers a slight favorite at (minus) -2.5 on the road, they are expecting the Rebels to be primed and ready for an upset, so be sure be sure to check the latest lines leading up until kick off here at Wonder Punter.

 

The Rebels will have running back Jeff Scott back to full health for Saturday’s game after missing three games with a deep thigh bruise.

 

Scott and the Rebels will be facing the SEC’s second-best rushing defense, allowing only 111.9 yards per game on the ground. The Tigers, however rank last against the pass, giving up 274.9 per game, which is good news for Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace, fourth in the league with 266.4 passing yards per game. The Tigers do lead the SEC with 34 sacks and 17 interceptions.

 

Very few people have been able to line up and just run the ball effectively (on Missouri). They get you one dimensional,” Freeze said. “Those ends are quick and cause problems in the backfield.”

 

I’ve like the way the Tigers have been playing all year and predict a big road victory for Missouri to keep their SEC East title hopes alive.

 

PICK: Missouri

 

 

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter