GREG GAMBLE’S 2008 PIGSKIN PICKS - 33-24 ATS...58%
NFL: 10-11 - NCAA: 13-6 - Teasers: 10-6 – ( NBA: 0-2 )
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS (+3.5) @ PHOENIX SUNS
While both squads opened the season with wins last night (Hornets by five at GST & Suns by five ova the Spurs), I have a feeling the first back-to-back contest after extended minutes gives an advantage to the young legs from New Orleans. Especially considering the extra emotion from having Timmy D & Tony Longoria in town last night, not to mention how drained Shaq looked while trying to come-up with witty lines for the post game, I expect to see some quick substitutions by newbie Terry Porter and his already shaky bench.
Just like our friend, Paul should look flawless in the desert!
I know the Hornets were far from spectacular running with Nellie’s swingman last night, but for that reason, I expect CP3 to set the tone early for his teammates and to isolate Shaq on the pick-n-roll against West or Chandler (questionable)…and force the far-from-chiseled vet to keep-up w/ them in transition. Since Nash can’t & won’t spent too much time one-on-one with Paul, look for Byron Scott to exploit the Canadian’s match-up with the bruising James Posey sliding over to SG. Unlike against the AARP Spurs where Nash could stand on the perimeter with Bruce Bowen & Roger Mason, with the power of Posey & Peja’s length, they don’t really have a spot to hide him.
Even from his High School days in Caly...
Tyson's always had the emotion you want...but now,
...he pairs that with some solid bball IQ!/strong>
BTW, Byron & CP3 will easily have the best record in the NBA if they stay healthy, but probably need another solid big to win it all...word!
And finally, while Amare's still virtually impossible for anybody to consistently stop, with Shaq probably not himself after last night, West & Chandler should combine to prevent him from completely dominating. After that, with Grant Hill, Raja Bell, Matt Barnes, & Boris Diaw simply trying not to hurt their squad offensively, Bad-azz Byron just needs to worry bout containing the Brazilian Bandid Leandro Barbosa to open the season 2-0 …Hornets by 3-8 points
CHARLOTTE CATS O BOB @ CLEVELAND CAVS (-9.5)
After controlling the Champs in the first half Tuesday, the Bron-Bron’s didn’t come out with the same intensity in second and allowed the Celtics to regain their confident swagger at home. While losing by five to the Three Amigos in the Boston Garden is understandable, Cleveland let the game slip-away and looked awful pissed afterward. Tonight, the new-n-improved Cavs will try to bounce back in front of a riled-up crowd with Championship aspirations against arguable the most screwed-up franchise in the Association.
My favorite aspect of the Cats O Bob is not that His Airness would rather golf, gamble, and bang blondes than be a GM…and it is not that the once great Larry Brown has completely lost his marbles and I can’t wait to see the mutiny that will inevitable arise. What it is, is the crazy fact that everybody new Charlotte was beyond desperate for more big-bodies and at the last minute of the NBA draft Grandpa Brown convinced them to take D.J. Augustin instead of the accomplished 7-footer Brook Lopez. As a result, the Bobcats have been forced to pair the overmatched & somewhat overrated Emeka Okafor with Nazr Mohammed, the artist formerly known as Sean May I Eat, and DePaul’s very own Andre NBDL Brown.
On to the Cavs frontcourt, while nobody’s making the All-Star team this year, Mike Brown has a solid rotation of bruising bodies (Ben Wallace, Big Z, Side-Show Bob, & my draft sleeper PF J.J. Hickson) to control the glass and protect the basket. Especially, with the extra emotion of a home-opener, look for plenty 2nd chance opportunities created by those guys. As for the perimeter, GM Danny Ferry finally has surrounded the deadliest penetrator since Long Dong Silver with sharpshooters at every corner (Mo Williams, Daniel Gibson, Wally, & sometimes Sasha n Delonte). And finally, while the Bobcats have some talent on the wings with J-Rich & G-Wallace, the methodical style of Larry Brown doesn’t really suit their abilities, and even if it does work, will take some time to develop. Overall, I expect Charlotte to look overwhelmed and to struggle to keep this from being a blow-out all night…King James & Co. by 15-20 points
With that, time to breakdown the Thursday Night College Pigskin!
SOUTH FLORIDA BULLS (-3) @ CINCINNATI BEARCATS
Both programs have gained national recognition the last few years as they’ve developed into legitimate Top-10 contenders and built a pipeline of talent for years to come. While the (6-2) Bulls have lost two of their last three and are a long-shot to win the Big East-crown, a five-point loss to Pittsburgh & RB phenom LeSean McCoy without possibly the best DE in the country (George Selvie) and traveling to Louisville & losing to QB Hunter Cantwell by four last week should not be considered huge disappointments.
On the Bearcats side, while the Bulls have beaten Kansas & gone on the road to crush NC St. by 31, Cincinnati’s most impressive win of the season has been a 13-10 win against (3-5) Rutgers at home. While they did muster 26 points in 52-26 loss at Oklahoma during the second week of the season, they lost Sr. QB Dustin Grutza to a broken-leg in the process. Two weeks later, Jr. back-up Tony Pike broke his arm and Coach Brian Kelly was forced to hand the keys to RS-Fr. Chazz Anderson. While Chazz led them to victories against Marshall & Rutgers, Pike started last week, but experienced numbness in his arm & was replaced by the RS-Fr in the 2nd half. And against a much better defense, Chazz struggled mightily tossing two interceptions & enabling UCONN to outscore the Bearcats 30-3 in the 2nd half.
While plenty of fingers pointed at the youngster for the debacle, Cincy's O-Line is banged-up and not opening the holes they once did (127 rushing yards the last 2 games)…which is not a good combination with a short week, an aggressive Bulls D, and a healthy George Selvie (last week: 7 tackles, 4 tkls for loss, & 2 sacks) coming to town. Obviously the Bearcats will attempt to establish the run early to take pressure off Anderson (or Pike), but my guess is they’ll abandon it by the 2nd quarter facing the nation’s #8 ranked run-defense.
As for the biggest reason why I’m giving-up a FG on the road, unlike the Bearcats situation, the Bulls offensive star and leader is Jr. QB Matt Grothe (67% 14 TD, 5 INT – 289 rushing yards). While last week Grothe’s two interceptions might have cost the Bulls the game, he was 30-40 for 344 yards and 2 TD. Considering he hasn’t throw INTs in consecutive games yet this year, my guess is the crafty baller utilizes his bevy of solid-WRs and efficiently moves them down the field tonight. With RB Mike Ford still not a 100% with an ankle injury, look for South Florida to rotate-in their scatbacks with more regularity and to keep Cincinnati off-balance with dump-offs in the flat. Overall, I know the weather kind of killed me Tuesday taking Houston at Marshall, but tonight, I just don’t see how a hungry Bulls squad led by Grothe doesn’t out-duel the QB carousel in Cincy.
Final Score: BULLS 27 BEARCATS 20