Snow may be blanketing much of the country, but the sports betting landscape is still hotter than ever heading into this weekend.
The NBA playoff race is taking shape with some early-season surprises (and disappointments), just in time for a nationally televised rematch of last year’s NBA Finals. We’ve also got a must-see showdown between two Top 5-ranked teams in college basketball and a big clash of East Coast rivals on the ice.
Let’s get to all the action, Showstoppers!
No. 3 Michigan Wolverines @ No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes
Sunday, February 21 | TV: CBS
The Wolverines and the Buckeyes collide in one of the greatest college rivalries in sports. This could be a year where we see both of their hoops programs as No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament when all is said and done. Can you believe we’re less than a month away from Selection Sunday?
Michigan sits atop the super-competitive Big 10 division, with its only defeat coming last month to Minnesota. Second-year coach Juwan Howard has the Wolverines playing some very physical, top-notch basketball, but the Buckeyes will have their biggest test yet against an Ohio State team that swept last year’s head-to-head series.
Michigan freshman Hunter Dickinson has been a force in the inside and on the defensive end, but senior Isaiah Livers has been the Wolverines’ most dangerous weapon. He’s shooting 45% from three-point range, the highest mark of his career. Guard Franz Wagner has also made strides this year with his on-ball defense and explosive drives to the basket.
Three out of Ohio State’s four losses were to unranked Big 10 teams in Purdue and Northwestern. But the Buckeyes have been on quite a roll over the last month, led by the play of forwards E.J. Liddell and Justice Sueing, and the long-range shooting of guard Duane Washington Jr. Although the 7-foot-2 Dickinson will be very tough to defend, he could pose a liability against the athleticism of Ohio State’s smaller, quicker starting lineup. We’re giving the Buckeyes a very slight edge here.
Miami Heat @ Los Angeles Lakers
Saturday, February 20 | TV: ABC
What’s happened to the Heat this season? They’ve gone from NBA Finals contenders to clawing back into the Eastern Conference playoff mix alongside the likes of the Hawks and Bulls. As coach Erik Spoelstra struggles for answers, a brutal road gauntlet against some of the best teams in the West hasn’t done Miami any favors. After some recent losses to the Jazz, the Clippers and the Warriors, it’s time to play the Lakers on national TV. You better believe LeBron James will be ready to put on a show.
The only thing going in the Heat’s favor is Anthony Davis will miss at least 3 weeks due to a calf strain and re-aggravation of his Achilles tendinosis. To take advantage of his absence, the Heat would be smart to get Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler working in the post more. Under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t look good for Miami here, but this is bound to be a close contest without Davis on the court.
Miami’s crummy road record is the biggest thing holding us back from riding with the all-out upset.
Philadelphia Flyers @ Boston Bruins
Sunday, February 21 | TV: NBC
The Bruins are playing some of the best overall hockey in the NHL. They currently lead the East Division with a 10-2-2 record (and undefeated at home), but the Flyers aren’t that far behind at 8-3-2. Led by veteran winger Brad Marchand, Boston has also racked up defensive stops and hasn’t been defeated at home yet. The Bruins are among the league’s elite in goals-against per game and penalty kill percentage. Their goaltending duo of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak is a huge part of that success.
The Flyers have been hit really hard by COVID-19 lately, with four of their last five games being postponed. Even if they can get some of their talents back on the ice, this doesn’t bode well for their chances against a team they’ve already lost to four straight times this season, albeit a few games by narrow margins.
Despite the improved scoring punch from James van Riemsdyk, it’s going to be pretty tough for the shorthanded Flyers to keep up with the Bruins’ eighth-ranked power play attack.