With an unappealing slate of college football games on the board, we’ll lead off with a look at the impending changing of the guard in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
The Boston Celtics, who defeated the defending champion Golden State Warriors 92-88 on Thursday, have the league’s best record against the spread at 13-2-1. The Philadelphia 76ers are second with an 11-3 ATS mark.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions, have the NBA’s worst spread record at 4-10-1.
“They just look like an aged team,” said Jeff Sherman, Westgate sports book manager and resident NBA expert. “Cleveland’s going to have a tough go all season. It’s almost like Tiger (Woods). Over time, the intimidation factor is somewhat lost.
“I think LeBron (James) will be gone after this season, just because Cleveland’s team is so old. That will open the door for Boston and Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference.”
Stevens adjusts after injury
The Celtics lost their first two games after the loss of All-Star Gordon Hayward to a gruesome leg injury in the season opener. But they have bounced back with 14 straight wins, and Sherman attributes much of Boston’s success to coach Brad Stevens, whom he considers a better coach than the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich.
“Everyone knows what Popovich has done. But right now Stevens in the best coach in the NBA,” he said. “He’s gotten them to really clamp down defensively. They’re leading the NBA in defense (94.1 points per game) by a wide margin, and it all stems from his coaching.
“Usually there’s a transition period, but losing Hayward and making this team adapt so quickly, what he’s done with these guys is pretty phenomenal.”
Sherman was high on the 76ers before the season, when he made their win total 42½, and he’s even higher on them now after watching Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid flash superstar skills while leading Philadelphia to six road wins and an 8-6 overall record.
“The best value on the future market is Philadelphia to win the East (at 15-1),” Sherman said. “I guarantee there isn’t one team that’s going to want to face Philadelphia in the first round. They’re just going to get better over the course of the season. They’re already looking really good.
“Simmons and Embiid are two of the most talented players you can have on the floor. They’re so young, it’s hard for teams to keep up with them.”
While there has been speculation that James will bolt for the Lakers next season, Sherman said a wiser move would be to join the Sixers.
“If I was LeBron, how would I not want to stay in the East and avoid the guys in the West,” Sherman said. “If you add LeBron to Embiid and Simmons, that team is right there with Golden State. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Philadelphia as a possible landing spot for LeBron.”
Golden State too great
Regardless of who wins the East this season, Sherman said they will have no shot to beat the Warriors.
“Whoever comes out of the East will be lucky to win a game against Golden State,” he said.
No clash of college football titans
In Saturday’s marquee college football matchup, No. 5 Wisconsin (10-0) is a 7½-point home favorite over No. 24 Michigan (8-2).
The Badgers, seeking to avenge last year’s 14-7 loss, have been bet down from 10-point favorites. Westgate sports book manager Ed Salmons and The Mirage sports book director Jeff Stoneback expect the Wolverines to keep it close.
“If Michigan doesn’t turn it over, they’ll probably cover just because the pace of the game is absurdly slow,” Salmons said. “Both teams play a real similar style. The only difference is Wisconsin’s a little more seasoned and at home. If I played it, I would lean to Michigan.”
Stoneback and CG Technology vice president Matt Holt reported taking sharp action on Texas A&M (+2½) over Mississippi.
Stoneback also took sharp action on New Mexico (-2) over UNLV and Purdue (+7½) over Iowa.
Holt also reported sharp plays on Texas (+3) over West Virginia, Washington (-17½) over Utah, Ohio State (-41) over Illinois and Penn State (-27) over Nebraska.
SuperContest consensus plays
The top five consensus plays for the Westgate SuperContest and SuperContest Gold each went 1-4 Sunday. This season, the top five in the SuperContest are 18-32 (36 percent) and the top five in the Gold are 20-29-1 (41 percent).
Home team in CAPS:
— Central Florida (-14) over TEMPLE
— Navy (+18.5) over NOTRE DAME
— Texas A&M (+2.5) over MISSISSIPPI
— USC (-16) over Ucla
— Ucla-USC (Over 71.5)
— SAN DIEGO STATE (-16) over Unr
Last week: 4-4 against the spread