Insider Insight: Loaded
March 3, 2023
SuperBook Insider Michelle Knezovic believes the SEC Tournament should serve as a preview to the Big Dance
Alabama will roll into the SEC Tournament as the conference’s No. 1 seed, but the shark-infested waters of the SEC are far deeper than just the Tide.
SuperBook Sports Insider Michelle Knezovic believes the conference already fields six “locks” for the NCAA Tournament: Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas A&M and Arkansas.
“Things get a little murky at Vanderbilt and Auburn, though,” says Knezovic. “Both teams are capable of going on a run in the SEC tournament, but I could only see either of those teams getting into the tournament if they win it.”
The conference is loaded as it surges into March, and Alabama has held steady at the No. 2 spot in the country, but there are plenty of teams that could contend for the title.
“This is this is one of the more interesting SEC Tournaments because of the middle of the pack teams,” adds Knezovic a sports talk radio host in Nashville at 102.5 The Game. “Alabama is the clear No. 1 team in the SEC, but every other team is right there. Right now it’s Alabama and then everyone else.
“Tennessee’s star point guard Zakai Zeigler tore his ACL earlier this week and that is going to be a huge loss for the Vols – their offense isn’t the same without him. Vanderbilt, another team in the middle of the pack, is unsure of the health of Liam Robbins, their best player who’s giving them a double-double almost every game. Two of those teams, when fully healthy could’ve made a run next week. I think Alabama will win the conference tournament, but I am hoping to see a Texas A&M, Tennessee or Kentucky give them a run for their money.”
Kentucky, the conference’s truest blue blood, finishes its season as the No. 23 team in the country, a ranking that suggests the Wildcats are good, but have much to prove. In Knezovic’s eyes, Kentucky hasn’t played at a championship level this season – but has the talent that could go on a run, ala North Carolina a year ago.
Can the Crimson Tide – a name more synonymous with championship football – really win it all though?
“Alabama has proven it with their consistency this year,” says Knezovic. “The SEC is a tough conference and the Tide has been almost perfect. I think they are the clear favorite to win the SEC and will be a one-seed when the bracket comes out.
“When it comes to the tournament, yes, they have the talent to win it all. But, how often does a No. 1 seed actually get it done?
“In other words, this is why March Madness is the best tournament in sports.”
The Big Three
A trio of games worth considering on Friday night
Memphis Grizzlies at Denver Nuggets
Ball Arena – Denver, CO
10:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Denver -5.5
The Nuggets are currently the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, 5.0 games ahead of their nearest competitor. Who is in second place? That would be the Grizzlies, who are trying their best to catch Denver and gain home court throughout the Western Conference playoffs. It is a daunting task, but one that would be made easier with a win on Friday night.
This will be the second matchup between the Nuggets and Grizzlies in just four games. The two teams squared off on Feb. 25, a game in which Memphis won by 18 points. With the win, Memphis was able to even the series at 1-1, making tonight’s game even more meaningful.
The oddsmakers don’t expect history to repeat itself this time around. The line is set at -5.5 in favor of the Nuggets, who have won seven out of their last 10 games. The Nuggets are widely regarded as one of the best teams in the NBA and certainly the team to beat in the West.
Why? Because they have five-time All-Star and likely three-time MVP Nikola Jokić on their squad. Sometimes, it’s unfair to say that one player is the reason for a team’s success, but in this case, it’s completely fair and backed up by the facts.
The Nuggets are 24-0 this season when Jokić has a triple double and are 29-1 when he records at least 10 assists. The team revolves around him, literally.
Michael Porter Jr., Bruce Brown, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Aaron Gordon are all having career years when it comes to efficiency. All of this just speaks volume to how good of a player Jokić really is; he makes everyone better.
All eyes will be on him in this one. In the last game against Memphis, he was held to just 15 points, 13 rebounds and three assists. There is no doubt that he will be looking to do more in order to get his team the win.
It should be a fantastic matchup between the Western Conference’s two top teams. But in the end, Denver will prevail.
Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Denver M/L (-200)
Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics
TD Garden – Boston, MA
7:30 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Boston -11.0
The free money bet of the day award goes to… the Nets at the Celtics. What. A. Disaster.
Brooklyn went from title contender to bottom-tier in a hurry. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden all on the same team? What a genius idea! Fast forward to the present day, just two years after the Nets big three joined together, and all three superstars are on different teams.
While it was a smart move for the Nets to deal the stars, it has left them in quite a hole for this season. They have lost eight out of their last 10 games, including their last four in a row.
The good news is that Mikal Bridges and Spencer Dinwiddie, the two biggest returns in the trades, have been playing exceptionally well. It just hasn’t been enough to keep the Nets afloat.
They still sit sixth in the East, but are fading quickly. The Nets will need all the wins they can get as the season comes to a close.
However, they won’t get one on Friday night when they go on the road to play Boston. The Celtics have dropped to the No. 2 seed in the East, but are only half a game back of the Bucks. They are 11 games ahead of the Nets and have 45 wins with 19 games left to play.
The Celtics have also won eight out of their last 10 and have a 25-7 home record. Needless to say, there is a reason Boston is favored by 11.0 points. The Nets are a struggling team with a completely revamped roster, and the Celtics are a young yet experienced team that is expecting a championship.
The Celtics are at home, needing a win in order to gain back control of first place. This one is a layup, expect a Boston blowout tonight.
Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Boston -11.0 (-110)
Orlando Magic at Charlotte Hornets
Spectrum Center – Charlotte, NC
7:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Orlando -3.0
When the Magic are favored in a basketball game, you know it’s a dumpster fire matchup in which the only people watching are diehard fans or people who want to make it a little more interesting. If you’re reading this, you’re probably in the latter category.
So, what’s the right way to lean? Despite it being a home game for Charlotte, the Hornets aren’t favored. That’s not only because they have a worse record, but it’s also due to the fact that LaMelo Ball, arguably the Hornets best player, suffered a fractured ankle and is out for the season. It’s a crushing blow to an already tanking Hornets team that currently sits 14th in the East at 20-44.
The Magic aren’t much better at 26-37 (13th), but they have shown signs of improvement and hope for the future. First-overall pick Paolo Banchero, the likely NBA Rookie of the Year, is having a phenomenal inaugural season, averaging 19.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Banchero has paced the Magic in scoring all season long and has the makings of a superstar.
But it hasn’t been enough for Orlando, as they are four games out of the play-in tournament with 19 games to play. All in all, while they may be out of it, they still have the future of their franchise to develop and play for. The Magic will likely hold a high overall draft pick in this year’s draft, and they may get a player that will propel them to being a playoff team.
They are closer to becoming a decent NBA team than the Hornets are, and they are far healthier at the moment. This one may be between two awful teams, but there is still a clear advantage in favor of the Magic.
Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Orlando M/L (-165)
Today’s best packaged deal
- Denver Nuggets M/L -200
- Boston Celtics -11.0
- Orlando Magic M/L -165
Jason Schlefsky’s Three-Leg Parlay = +360
As individual bets, they’re hard not to like on Friday night. Put them all together and the value becomes too tough to ignore.
Joey Logano to win the Pennzoil 400 (8/1)
Joey Logano is currently second in the NASCAR standings. He finished second at Daytona, pushing him up the standings. While not the favorite to win in Las Vegas, the No. 22 car should be near the lead most of the day. Logano is a three-time winner at this track, so he knows how to get it done on the 1.5-mile oval. He’s a great choice to win this weekend and rocket to the top of the standings.