Insider Insight: Brink of Madness
March 10, 2023
…and no, we’re not talking about SuperBook Insider Darren McKee (aka, “D-Mac”)
It’s been a mad March – already! – for one of Denver’s most prominent radio voices, Darren McKee, known by most as simply “D-Mac.” Or is it maddening? As a Syracuse alum and someone who follows both the ACC and Pac-12 very closely, the past few days have already given D-Mac plenty to ponder heading into tourney time.
First, his alma mater: Not only will the Orangemen not be invited to the NCAA Tournament, but longtime, legendary Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is out.
“I was saddened to see Boehiem’s end come down to this,” says McKee. “It wasn’t graceful and seems confusing. What an ugly end to a 47-year run. It’s absurd how long he has been there and it feels like there was a better way to handle the situation. Many of us in the ‘Cuse have a love-hate relationship with Boeheim because he frustrates us – but he IS Syracuse basketball, which we all love. I actually was a student when Adrian Autry was a player! So, the tradition stays in house, which is cool. Boeheim intimidated me as a young reporter as he has intimidated many over the years. But I have more love in my heart than hate, so at the end of the day, I am sorry to see him go.”
McKee says that a Syracuse-less ACC Tournament will likely be won by none other than Duke, which throttled Pittsburgh 96-69 on Thursday.
Across the country, a little closer to his microphone, McKee has his eyes on the Pac-12.
While his allegiance is with the Sun Devils of ASU – his son’s school – he believes the road to a Pac-12 title goes through UCLA (AP No. 2), USC and Arizona (No. 8) – any of which could get deep into the March Madness bracket.
“The Bruins are on a tear, but sadly so is Jaylen Clark’s Achilles – or at least that’s what’s feared,” McKee says. “The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year’s absence likely will be felt down the road. So, UCLA, who has basically owned the conference this year, will probably dip out sooner than expected and those ‘Cats from Arizona will probably push through to the Final Four.
“I have a sinking feeling Arizona is going to get over on USC and UCLA to win it all. I hope I am wrong. Things get dicey if UCLA gets a top seed.”
But if forced to pick his national champion now, before the bracket is released, Denver’s one and only D-Mac has a pick that might surprise you.
“I’m really curious about Houston,” admits McKee. “I will watch their conference championships and expect Houston to roll easily. That being said, the Pac-12 always figures out how to lose eventually, and in the spirit of Christian Braun of the Denver Nuggets, I will take Kansas (2) to go all the way. Unless Hakeem or Clyde Drexler get in a Time Machine I can’t roll with Houston despite an awesome season for them.”
He might be mad after all. But that’s perfectly okay in March.
The Big Three
A trio of games worth considering on Friday night
Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards
Capital One Arena – Washington, DC
7:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Atlanta -1.5
If there was ever any game to conjure up an image of mediocrity, it would be this one. The Hawks and Wizards playing each other is like a fight over who gets the left and right middle seat on an airplane.
Either way, it’s gonna be a rough ride. So, let’s just call it even.
Atlanta is perhaps the NBA’s finest example of average. The Hawks are the No. 8 seed in the East at 33-33. They score 108.3 points per game and give up 109.1.
Washington is also pretty average, as it currently is the 10th seed in the East at 31-35. The Wizards score 113.3 points per night and give up 113.4.
The best player on the floor will be Hawks point guard Trae Young. Young is averaging 26.7 points and 10.1 assists. Although he boasts great numbers, he still isn’t doing what a superstar should do. He doesn’t lead his team to enough wins.
Last season, the Hawks finished ninth. They got through Charlotte and Cleveland in the play-in tournament, only to get swept by the Heat in the first round of the playoffs.
This season was supposed to be a bounce-back year for the Hawks. They acquired Dejounte Murray from San Antonio to help with that very cause. Yet, they are struggling even worse than last year.
As for the Wizards, it has also stayed the same. Washington has won just three playoff games in their last five seasons, and they are on pace to make it six seasons. Bradley Beal, the Wizards top scorer has had a bit of a down year. He was not named an All-Star and has only played in 44 of 66 total games.
Both the Hawks and Wizards have star power, but year after year, they fail to make any use of it. Is it the front office? The owners? Who knows?
Nonetheless, the two teams will square off Friday night and one team is going to get the win. But who? Will it be the average Hawks or the average Wizards?
Well, any time two average teams go against one another, it’s always best to take the home team. The home crowd creates an advantage, one that will be needed considering these two teams are eerily similar.
This will be the third matchup between the two teams. The series is currently tied 1-1. The Wizards get home court advantage in this one, take them to win.
Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Washington M/L (+100)
Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs
AT&T Center – San Antonio, TX
8:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Denver -12.0
And the free money bet of the day award goes to… the Nuggets. The Nuggets are currently the No. 1 seed in the West at 46-20. They are coming off one of their worst losses of the season against the Bulls.
It was their first home loss since Jan. 22, and just their second home loss in their last 26 home games. But this time they didn’t lose by one or two points; they lost by 21. It was an absolute disaster, but it might’ve been the best thing for the Nuggets, who have been riding high pretty much all season.
Maybe getting blown out at home is a learning curve they desperately needed in order to regroup. They need a chance to rebound and get back on track. There’s no better way to do that than to play the Spurs.
San Antonio is 16-49, 14th in the West. They have the NBA’s third-worst record. They are likely in rebuild mode, especially after losing Dejounte Murray to the Hawks.
Teams in rebuild mode are likely out of it come March, and that is exactly the case for the Spurs. They are 15.5 games out of the playoffs with 17 to play. That stat only serves to inform you that the Spurs have been awful this year, and they don’t have much to play for at this point.
All Spurs fans can hope for is a top lottery pick that Gregg Popovich can use to potentially turn the tables on a struggling San Antonio team. It’s the perfect matchup for a Nuggets team that just got embarrassed on Wednesday night.
While the Nuggets have essentially locked up the top seed in the West, they are still fighting to claim the title of the NBA’s best record, guaranteeing home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Head coach Michael Malone, who’s in the running for Coach of the Year, has stated this in the past, and any loss from here on out could prove to be a detriment to claiming the best record.
Denver is a 12.0-point favorite, meaning it would have to be a near blowout for them to cover the spread. However, that has a very real chance of happening. The Nuggets hold themselves to high standards, standards that must be kept going into the playoffs. They will without a doubt come ready to play in San Antonio.
Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Denver -12.0 (-110)
Portland Trail Blazers at Philadelphia 76ers
Wells Fargo Center – Philadelphia, PA
7:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Philadelphia -8.5
Joel Embiid is now the NBA’s leader in points per game, while James Harden is the league leader in assists. The two stars have propelled the 76ers to a 43-22 record, which is good for third place in the Eastern Conference.
They will play host to the Trail Blazers, who are 31-35, 12th in the West. While the two teams are on very different ends of the spectrum when it comes to the standings, it is a meaningful name for both squads.
Philadelphia is just 2.0 games back of Boston, which currently retains the No. 2 seed in the East. Portland is just a game out of earning a spot in the play-in tournament.
Despite it being meaningful for the Trail Blazers, however, there isn’t much they’re going to be able to do against the 76ers, especially on the road. Philadelphia is 24-10 at home and have beaten Portland once already this season, a game in which Joel Embiid had 32 points and James Harden had 14 assists.
Portland is 14-20 on the road this year and have lost six out of their last 10 games. If Damian Lillard wants to have a shot this year, the Blazers have to start winning right now.
Unfortunately for them, they won’t get the win on Friday night. Embiid and the Sixers will handedly take care of them.
Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Philadelphia -8.5 (-110)
Today’s best packaged deal
- Alabama M/L (-340)
- Purdue M/L (-275)
- Florida Atlantic M/L (-400)
- Tennessee M/L (-240)
- UCLA M/L (-260)
Hoop Harlen’s Five-Leg Parlay = +333
As conference tournaments roll on, put together whatever big favorites still remain in the late stages.
Adam Scott over Rickie Fowler in round two (+110)
Both players enter the second round of The Players at even par, tied for 49th place. So, they each need to have a good Friday to put themselves in position to make a run over the weekend; they’re eight shots back of Chad Ramey on the leaderboard. Fowler is currently 25th in the FedEx standings, so he’s the slight favorite in this head-to-head matchup. But he shot three-consecutive rounds of 73 in last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. Scott would’ve bested that in two out of three days, posting a 71 in round two and a 72 on Sunday. That pattern leans toward the Aussie on Friday.