Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Let’s start trusting Gonzaga to cover again, plus other best bets for Thursday

I don’t know if you’ve heard about ChatGPT, but it’s an AI language model that can generate human-like text. I was messing around with it this week because some in my profession are terrified it will one day replace us all. The good news for sportswriters like myself is that it has limitations. For instance, ChatGPT only uses data through 2021, so if you ask it to write a story about the 2022 Dallas Cowboys, it’ll do so, but none of the stories will be factual. It’ll be “made up” based on previous data.

However, it can write a newsletter lede! I asked it to “write an introduction for a gambling newsletter” today, and this is what it spat out:

“Welcome to the gambling newsletter! In this publication, we aim to provide you with the latest news, insights, and expert tips on the exciting world of gambling. Whether you’re a seasoned player or just starting out, this newsletter is designed to help you stay up-to-date on the latest trends and strategies in the industry. From online casinos to sports betting and everything in between, we’ve got you covered. So sit back, relax, and let us bring the excitement of the world of gambling straight to your inbox!”

I’m on borrowed time. While I ponder my future, read these stories that ChatGPT did not write. At least, not yet.

I hope you’re up for a late night of college hoops, because that’s where the best plays of the night are.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

Santa Clara at No. 12 Gonzaga, 11 p.m. | TV: CBS Sports Network

Latest Odds: Gonzaga Bulldogs -14

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  • Key Trend: Santa Clara is 1-4 ATS in their last five road games against teams with winning records.
  • The Pick: Gonzaga -14 (-110)

The last time I included Gonzaga in this newsletter, I told you to take the Bulldogs -16 at home against Loyola-Marymount. Gonzaga did not cover that night. Instead, the Zags lost at home to Loyola, ending their 76-game home winning streak.

So this newsletter’s relationship with Gonzaga isn’t on the best terms, nor is the relationship between Gonzaga and bettors. Did you know the Bulldogs are only 6-14-1 ATS this season? Yes, as the sole big brand in their conference, the Bulldogs are often overvalued on the market, but that’s not always the case.

Tonight is one of those nights when the Zags are being undervalued. Santa Clara is 16-7 on the season and 4-4 in conference. One of those conference losses was an 81-76 loss at home to Gonzaga last month. The Broncos have hit a rough patch since losing two straight, including a six-point loss at home to a bad Pacific team over the weekend. Defensively, this team has taken a nosedive in conference play, particularly in the last few weeks.

And that’s why tonight will be an especially good night for Gonzaga. The Zags are the best offensive team in the league by far. Santa Clara’s been good, but it’s a team that needs to score on the interior, which is where Gonzaga is at its best defensively. Meanwhile, Gonzaga can light it up from three, and the Broncos have a hard time defending the three-point line. In short, Gonzaga’s strengths line up well with Santa Clara’s weaknesses.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model doesn’t see much value anywhere in this game, though it has the slightest of leans toward Gonzaga on the spread.

💰More College Basketball Picks

NCAA Basketball: Central Florida at Houston


No. 3 Houston at Wichita State, 9 p.m. | TV: ESPN2

Latest Odds: Under 131

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The Pick: Under 131 (-110) — Houston is the best team in the country, and has been since late December — despite a new team being named No. 1 team in the polls almost every week since — according to KenPom. While Kelvin Sampson’s team has an efficient offense, the primary reason for the team’s success is its defense.

It’s hard to score points against these guys! They have the highest block rate in the country and rank third in three-point shooting as well as two-point shooting. The best way to score against the Coogs is at the free-throw line because they do get physical and will foul.

Unfortunately for Wichita State, it does not get to the free throw line. Its free throw rate of 30.5% ranks 206th nationally. The Shockers are like Houston in that they move at a slow tempo and are better defensively than offensively, but that’s where the comps stop. They just, you know, aren’t nearly as good at anything. So two teams moving slowly, both led by their defense, doesn’t sound like a high-scoring combination, does it?

Oregon at No. 5 Arizona, 10:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN

Latest Odds: Arizona Wildcats -8

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The Pick: Arizona -8 (-110) — Last month, Arizona traveled north to Eugene to face Oregon and got its doors blown off, 87-68. The Ducks shot 23/32 (71.9%) from inside the arc and were 11/32 from three. And they did it against an Arizona team that’s been one of the best defensive teams in the country in terms of two-point shooting against.

I do not expect a repeat performance tonight at McKale Memorial Center.

That was the Ducks at their best, and when Dana Altman’s team plays well, it can beat anybody. But it’s too inconsistent this season to rely on. This is a team that lost to Utah Valley and Stanford. I expect the Ducks offense to have a more difficult time in a challenging road environment and for the Wildcats to take out some frustration from that loss in Eugene tonight. 

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: OK, so maybe some of you are looking for an NBA play. I don’t have any tonight, but the Projection Model has a strong lean on the total tonight in the Knicks-Heat game.

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