I love the NFL Draft Combine. Not so much the measurements and stupid discussions that come from them (Kenny Pickett has the hands of a child!) but the drills. They start this afternoon and will be shown on television, and I will be watching them. Now, this is partially for work, as I do mock drafts for CBSSports.com, and you can learn things about some prospects by watching the drills.
But that’s not the primary reason.
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I watched the combine on TV long before I began doing mocks here. I’m just a football nerd, and watching giant men in tight outfits run around and do things while being timed is part of it. Today starts with the quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends, but the real fun starts tomorrow when the offensive linemen get their turn.
There’s nothing like watching a 345-pound man move quicker than 90% of the human race that gets those football scouting juices flowing. I understand it’s not for everybody, but I am not ashamed. This is who I am. Accept me. Also, accept these stories.
Here are some bets you can make while I’m busy crushing film (or I might just be binging “Yellowstone”).
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
The Hot Ticket
No. 24 Iowa at Michigan, 9 pm | TV: FS1
Michigan Wolverines -2
- Key Trend: The home team has covered five of the last six meetings.
- The Pick: Michigan -2 (-110)
This is a massive game for both teams. As things stand with two regular-season games remaining, Iowa holds the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. That’s important because the top four seeds all receive a bye to the quarterfinals, while the other 10 teams have to win at least four games if they want to win the tournament. A win tonight would help ensure Iowa can hold onto the spot while also knocking Michigan out of contention.
As for Michigan, while one of those top four spots isnt mathematically impossible, it’s unlikely, and the Wolverines have bigger fish to fry. They’re 16-12 on the season and skirting the bubble of the NCAA Tournament. They need wins, and a second win over Iowa this season would look good on the resume.
I think Michigan gets it. If you’ve been following all year, you know how I feel about bad defensive teams on the road, and Iowa’s a bad defensive team — relative to the Big Ten. It’s also horrible on the defensive glass and is at a significant size disadvantage against the Wolverines. That size advantage played a role in Michigan’s 84-79 win over the Hawkeyes in Iowa City earlier this season. The Wolverines shot 64.3% on the interior as Moussa Diabate, and Hunter Dickinson combined for 42 points and 17 rebounds, and Keegan Murray struggled to score for Iowa.
Things shouldn’t be all that different tonight, except with the Wolverines being at home for Senior Night, Iowa will also have to battle the atmosphere.
Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The SportsLine Projection Model doesn’t love anything about tonight’s game, but it does have a solid lean toward one side of the spread.
Penn State at No. 20 Illinois, 7 pm | TV: FS1
The Pick: Over 132.5 (-110) — It has nothing to do with the game itself, but it always strikes me as odd when two conference teams that only play once don’t meet until the very end of the season. Wouldn’t it make sense to sandwich those solo meetings in the middle of the schedule and space out the home-and-homes a little more? Am I the only one who cares? Anyway, so, yeah, this is the only time Illinois and Penn State will meet this season, and it’s the penultimate game for both. Given the history between these teams, fewer meetings probably isn’t bad, but I’m going against the trend of what an Illinois-Penn State game typically looks like.
I’m going over because I’m not sure how many stops Penn State will get in this one. Illinois’ primary weakness offensively is how often it turns the ball over. While it’s improved in this area as the year has gone along, it’s still not great, but Penn State has one of the lowest defensive turnover rates in the nation (13.9%, 352nd). Nor does Penn State have the size a team needs to stop Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn. The Illini have three regulars who are at least 6’10, while Penn State has nobody over 6’9. That doesn’t make for a great matchup, but I’m not comfortable betting this spread as I don’t see much value on it.
Instead, I’m going with the over because I believe the Illini will score at least 75 points on their own and could sail past 80. The problem for the Illini is they tend to fall asleep defensively for periods of time, and Penn State is capable enough offensively to take advantage when they do.
Key Trend: The over is 9-3-1 in Illinois’ last 13 home games.
Warriors at Mavericks, 8:30 pm | TV: NBA League Pass
The Pick: Under 219.5 (-110) — Back in January, I told you to take the under in a Mavs/Warriors game, and it backfired tremendously. The total was at 212, and it finished with the Warriors winning 130-92 as the Warriors hit 17 threes. Well, I don’t care; we’re doing it again. These teams met last week, and the final was 107-101, finishing well below the posted total of 217.5 that night.
Oddly, the totals for the first three meetings between these two — which saw two of the three games go under — averaged 214 points and never went higher than 217.5. Tonight’s is at 219.5. This is explainable because Draymond Green is out for the Warriors, while Klay Thompson is probable, but this total still strikes me as an overcorrection. Golden State is the best defensive team in the NBA, with a rating of 104.8. Dallas ranks fifth at 107.4. Yes, these teams have potent offenses and superstars capable of going supernova, but their defenses are the foundation of everything they do. That shines through more often than not.
Key Trend: The under is 40-15-1 (!!!) in Dallas’ last 56 home games.
SportsLine Pick of the Day: Kevin Durant returns to action and SportsLine’s Projection Model has a strong lean toward one side of the total in tonight’s game between the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat.
Tonight we’ve got another four-leg parlay paying +115,