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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 10:36 AM



By Jim Hurley:

They're baaaaack!

The National Basketball Association makes its return from a lengthy post-All-Star Game break and lest anyone think otherwise teams have approximately one-third of their regular seasons left to play - thus our headline above calling it the "unofficial" second half.

So, that means it's major scramble mode for the final playoff berth in the NBA's Western Conference along with the usual jockeying for seeds too (of course) plus in the Eastern Conference all eyes will be on the suddenly-surging Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers as they each try to climb the seed ladder where everyone can pretty much forget about catching top seed Atlanta (43-11 and 6.5 games ahead of Toronto).

All-Star Break's over!  It's Back to Winning! I've Swept This Parlay Last 5 Years!

The NBA resumes play Thursday night after the 6-day All Star Break, with two standout Western Conference TV games on TNT, the Mavericks at the Thunder and Spurs at the Clippers. There is a 91% post-all star break angle at play in one of these games, and the other has a matchup mismatch we plan to exploit. Going into the break, my Network nas covered 8 of 13 NBA plays (62%), and we won Sunday's All Star game as well. Join me as we start he stretch run for the NBA Playoffs with a 2--game TV Sweep. Only $15 Click here

Now, here's some of what to watch for ...

The LeBron James-led Cavaliers (33-22) entered the All-Star Game break having won eight of their last 10 games and everything's an apparent love-fest now between "The King" and key cog F Kevin Love but we wonder if the Bulls (34-20) simply have more pieces in place - and a seemingly healthy PG Derrick Rose - to get a higher seed and thus the all-important home court advantage just in case it's a second-round Cavs-Bulls matchup.

No doubt it'll be interesting to see if either/both the Cavaliers and Bulls add to their riches here at the Thursday trade deadline - don't be shocked if Chicago makes a run at Brooklyn's Joe Johnson (he may be Detroit-bound, we hear) and Cleveland pulls out all the stops to try and acquire G Goran Dragic (who's been heavily rumored to be Houston-bound). 

True, Golden State (42-9) remains on the fast track to finish with the top seed in the West but don't sleep on Memphis (39-14 and four games back of the Warriors) in terms of getting that #1 seed as the Grizzlies play the best "D" in the league and could be in on the shopping for the likes of Milwaukee G Brandon Knight.

Meanwhile, currently there are three Western Conference teams separated by a mere 1.5 games for that eighth and final post-season berth with Phoenix, Oklahoma City and New Orleans all in the running but if the Suns deal off Dragic or G Eric Bledsoe than they're cooked and if either OKC's Kevin Durant or N'Orleans' Anthony Davis miss significant playing time the rest of the way than they'll be scratched off the playoff list.

Hey, we're keeping close tabs on the Dallas Mavericks (36-19) who are sitting in the fifth seed in the West as we speak but remember PG Rajon Rondo is ready to resume his action after missing a handful of games and the addition of pick-and-roll specialist Amar'e Stoudemire from New York could lengthen the Mavs' bench and also allow the likes of F Dirk Nowitzki and C Tyson Chandler to get more R&R time. The Mavs could make a major move into the #2 or #3 seed, so watch out.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers won the College Shocker of the Year Wednesday Night as Penn State (+10) got the cover vs. Wisconsin 47-55, and our other top upset won with Syracuse (+2.5) over Louisville 69-59. We will keep on piling up the profits all this week/month with lots of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - so go ahead and win with all the hardwood action today!

Talk about your major mood swing games! Okay, so 8.5-point home favorite Duke rallied from 10 points down with four minutes left in regulation play to force overtime and then win 92-90 at a hysterical Cameron Indoor Stadium but might the North Carolina Tar Heels have discovered something keenly important - and that's they can "ball" with the best of 'em as we head towards March Madness?

No doubt that the Tar Heels - who turned the ball over at the most inopportune times late and missed 8-of-20 free throws (yes, that FT thing was an even bigger bugaboo for Duke!) - will be absolutely miserable today because they blew the aforementioned late-game lead but Carolina head coach Roy Williams found out plenty last night and that's his club has a whole lot of fight in 'em and doesn't necessarily need a big game from PG Marcus Paige to thrive.

In fact, Paige's disappearing act (see 5 points and 3 assists in 34 minutes at Duke) was one of the not-so-subtle story lines for this Atlantic Coast Conference doozy that wound up being more exciting than it was well-played - go ahead and log it into the "instant classic" bins if you'd like but, geez, there were enough mental miscues in this tilt to last a lifetime and don't even get us started on the topic of North Carolina's three-point game (see 2-of-10 makes from beyond the arc) or Duke's above-mentioned foul line woes (see 16-of-31).

Duke's freshman PG Tyus Jones was a monster at crunch time with his stat line of 22 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds and from the "we-told-you-so" Jim Sez columns of yesteryear we said by year's end Jones would be every bit as important to Mike Krzyzewski's depth-shy squad as C Jahlil Okafor who gimped his way through a bum ankle to finish with 12 points, 13 boards and an 0-for-6 night at the charity stripe.

It's the one that got away from North Carolina - but maybe the lessons learned on this wintry night will serve the Heels well next month. As far as the Dookies go, well, they're national championship caliber but gotta feeling that eight-man roster will catch up to 'em sooner rather than later.

In Thursday night action, it's ...
#3 GONZAGA (26-1, 14-0 WCC) at PACIFIC (10-16, 2-12 WCC) - 11 p.m. ET
The big storyline surrounding this Gonzaga bunch is will it or won't it grab a numero uno seed in next month's NCAA Tournament? Okay, so a couple of weeks back we didn't think it would/could happen despite the resoundingly solid won/loss record for Mark Few's team but consider Gonzaga's RPI is 9 and a perfect West Coast Conference record along with a loss or two more for the likes of Wisconsin and/or Villanova could allow the Bulldogs to slip onto the top seed line.

In tonight's game at 18.5-point underdog Pacific, the 'Zags will again turn loose F Kyle Wiltjer (team-leading 16.4 ppg average and a haughty 53.8 field-goal percentage) and remember back on Jan. 24th when Gonzaga pounded 24 ½-point pup Pacific 91-60 when Wiltjer scored just six points in 22 minutes.

Spread Notes - Gonzaga is just 12-10-2 ATS (against the spread) overall this season while Pacific enters this tilt at 5-16 vig-wise in its last 21 West Coast Conference games.

USC (10-15, 2-11 Pac-12) at #7 ARIZONA (22-3, 10-2 Pac-12) - 9 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
It's the first - and only - regular-season meeting for these clubs and Arizona remains in a take-no-prisoners mode with eight wins in its last nine games (only Arizona State has beaten 'em since mid-January) and take a closer look and you'll see that five of Arizona's final six regular-season games are against non-ranked teams - the 'Cats do have a date at #9 Utah on Feb. 28th - and here Sean Miller's crew wants to keep the pedal to the floor after scoring 86-or-more points in four of the last seven games.

Soph F Rondae Hollis-Jefferson averaged 17 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 78 percent from the floor en route to winning the Pac-12's Player of the Week award after the U of A 'Cats swept their Washington/Washington State road swing and he's "player-to-watch" stuff here.

Spread Notes - Arizona's covered 15 of its 25 on-the-board games this year and the Wildcats are a slick 7-1 ATS in their last eight home games. USC, meanwhile, is 13-12 ATS overall this year but note home teams have covered six of the last eight games in this series.

#9 UTAH (20-4, 10-2 Pac-12) at OREGON STATE (16-9, 7-6 Pac-12) - 11 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
Here's the facts, jack: The Utah Utes lead the Pac-12 in scoring defense (56.4 ppg) and rank ninth nationally in that key category and how about the fact Larry Krystkowiak's has not allowed any of its 24 opponents to score more than 72 points in a single game! Utah's do-it-all G Delon Wright did suffer a late-game ankle injury in last Sunday's 77-56 come-from-behind win/cover against 13-point dog California but this "Coach K" says he's good-to-go here against a Beavers bunch that ranks dead-last in the league in scoring (61.6 ppg)

Spread Notes - Utah's 16-6-1 vig-wise this 2014-15 hoops season and that includes a snazzy 6-2-1 ATS mark in its last nine away games. Oregon State is 14-10 ATS this year and the Beavers are 22-7-2 ATS as hosts the past couple of seasons.

In other pointspread news/notes regarding tonight's key games ...
Nebraska at #16 Maryland - The Terrapins are a dreary 9-13-1 ATS this season.
Temple at #21 SMU - The Ponies are 7-1-2 ATS in their last 10 home games.
Ole Miss at Miss State - The Rebels are 7-1-1 ATS in their last nine away games but note home teams have covered eight of the last nine games in this series.
UConn at Memphis - The Huskies have failed to cover eight of their last 10 games while Memphis is just 2-6 spreadwise in its last eight games overall.

NOTE: Catch more College Basketball News/Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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