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Dinero Tracker - Feb. 9
Editor's Note: Antony Dinero's NBA selections can be purchased daily on VegasInsider.com. Click to win!

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Last night's ATS Records
NBA: 5-2 | NCAA BB: 13-21

Thursday's action wasn't as exciting as Wednesday's but continued my slide in college as a tough two days filled with backdoor covers or falling just shy on a total continued. The pros was much kinder once again, although my two losses came by a half-point, which is never pleasant. If Jusuf Nurkic had just made his second free-throw in the closing stages of Portland's 109-103 OT win over Charlotte, it would've been a much happier evening. Atlanta hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer in my guarantee loss that liked it plus 1.5 in Orlando, but that only pulled it within a bucket. The Hawks had their chances and lost to the depleted Magic, so it was a wager I don't regret. The same can't be said for a lot of what went down in college, where there were a number of whiffs in addition to a few maddening bad beats. The NBA lock is now 17-for-25 (68%) since Jan. 11. Here's Thursday's recap, complete with some of the highlights (and lowlights):

FRIDAY'S FREE SELECTION

The pick: Minnesota -7
Jimmy Butler is back in town playing the best basketball of his career, and since LeBron James got the last word in Wednesday's classic OT game in Cleveland, I don't think a hangover ensues for the Timberwolves. The Bulls have a lot of moving parts keeping them from gaining a rhythm, from Zach LaVine still working his way back to Kris Dunn barely out of concussion protocol and still not playing. Lauri Markkanen returns from paternity leave, so the expectation here is that the Timberwolves will be able to put this game away. Ride Minnesota and lay the points.

THURSDAY'S FREE SELECTION

The pick: Oregon -5
The Ducks have slipped back to 5-5 in Pac-12 play in a season where the conference is undeniably down, so Dana Altman's team badly needs to get on track over the next three weeks. Look for an increased sense of urgency to fuel Oregon here since its a big swing game considering it will be favored against Washington State this weekend and then can make significant closing statements in a four-game stretch against the league's top teams, USC, UCLA, Arizona State and Arizona. The Ducks can still rescue their season. It just has to start tonight against the sizzling Huskies, who have pulled off four straight league wins, three of them upsets. Look for Elijah Brown and Payton Pritchard to have big games and lay the points, riding Oregon.

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Result: We got back on track to make it 4-for-5 on freebies after laying a million points with Villanova and watching them get dropped outright by St. John's. The Ducks restored order by stifling Washington 65-40. This was certainly a fun one to be on because there was never any doubt this was coming in over the final 10 minutes of action. This line went from -5 to -8 at one point, but Oregon covered the line shift comfortably.

THURSDAY'S BIG PAYDAY

The pick: South Dakota -9, South Dakota/IPFW OVER 154
The Mastodons have won consecutive games in Fort Wayne by a double-digits, but they're a team that hasn't fared well on the road since their up-tempo style doesn't travel as well, particularly against teams capable of filling it up themselves. The first meeting between these teams featured the Coyotes winning by 10 in Indiana on Jan. 11, but this return game should be higher-scoring, though likely with a different result. Ride South Dakota -9 and back the over for the in-game parlay.

Result: The Coyotes got up 21-3 and never trailed, pulling off a wire-to-wire act after scoring the first 11 points. Their second-half lead never dipped below double-digits, so we were never in danger of losing the cover and the over came in late since IPFW fought to lose 86-69. The teams combined for 87 second-half points to deliver on the total portion of the in-game parlay.



LOCK THAT DIDN'T CLICK

The pick: Arizona -9
This is a golden opportunity for the Wildcats to show that the next 6 weeks will be different than the first few months of the season. UCLA has the look of a 10 seed that's going to struggle to make the NCAA Tournament this season, while U of A can challenge for a spot on the top rung if they can get themselves straight. Expect that to begin with a strong effort here. Lay the points and ride Arizona, guaranteed.

Result: The Wildcats thought they could get by on talent alone, failing to play a lick of defense and putting multiple reasons why this has been perhaps Sean Miller's most trying year on full display. Despite the presence of a Top-5 lock in 7-footer DeAndre Ayton, the Wildcats are soft and inexcusably bad on defense. They lost focus late in the first half, allowing UCLA guard Jaylen Hands to hit three straight 3-pointers to help put this game away. At home, that they weren't good enough to put themselves in position to rescue this result speaks volumes about how much underachieving @APlayersProgram is currently doing in Tucson.

TOTAL RECALL

The pick: Gonzaga/Pacific OVER 145
Damon Stoudamire has Pacific playing a lot better than they have since moving from the Big West to the West Coast Conference, but I don't see them scaring the Zags like San Diego did Saint Mary's. Expect the Tigers to be proficient enough offensively to score with Gonzaga, in part because they won't be able to stop them. Take the over here.

Result: While I could whine about how Tra Holder's game-winner for ASU against USC prevented OT and left us a basket short on the over, I'll confess to whiffing on this one. Gonzaga spotted the danger of getting into a track meet with the Tigers and played deliberately, working clock and often kicking it back out to reset after obtaining second chances. They failed to cover, too, and came nowhere near our prediction as the Bulldogs pulled out a 71-61 win.

CARDIAC ATTACK

The pick: Middle Tennessee -19.5
The Owls haven't played many teams better than the Blue Raiders squad that they're visiting tonight. Texas Tech, Georgia State and UNLV each beat depleted Rice by over 20 points, and you should expect this second of three straight road games to feature a total disconnect. Lay the points and ride Middle Tennessee.

Result: This beat was horrible. Middle Tennessee rolled to a 17-point lead and knocked down 15 3-pointers, two of which came on the first possessions of the second half, putting it up 23 points and en route to the wildly lopsided result I expected. Although Rice hung around, the Blue Raiders went up 28 points with 4:37 left and got a 3-pointer from walk-on Chase Miller that set the building off in putting them up 23 with 1:21 remaining. Although the Owls hit a pair of free-throws with 32 seconds left, so long as MTSU milked the shot clock, this would wrap right there. Instead, the Blue Raiders wanted to get Miller one last look, and he took the shot with enough time for Rice to rebound, get down the court and put in a Najja Hunter layup at the buzzer. Final score: 94-75.

SWING AND A MISS

The pick: Duke +1.5/OVER 167
Losing to St. John's should be a major wake-up call for a Blue Devils squad that simply doesn't defend like they should. If going up against a rival in their house can't get them amped up after an unforgiveable loss in Madison Square Garden, Mike Krzyzewski has major issues on his hands. The Tar Heels will struggle to stop them and are overly reliant on Joel Berry. Ride Duke and the over for the in-game parlay.  

Result: Maybe Mike Kryzezewski and Sean Miller can have conference call therapy, since they appear to be in the same boat in fielding incredibly talented teams that can't be bothered to defend. Joel Berry and Kenny Williams had great games, Grayson Allen struggled and the Blue Devils squandered a first-half lead after scoring 50 points over the first 20 minutes. They were held to 28 in the second half in part because they failed to gather defensive rebounds, allowing the Tar Heels multiple second-chance opportunities that made the Blue Devils work to do the one thing that doesn't come easily. The under coming in was a slap in the face as UNC prevailed 82-78.

PROOF OF CLAIRVOYANCE

The pick: UC-Santa Barbara +1.5
In a strange development given that that the winner in this battle of 7-2 Big West teams takes over sole possession of the conference lead, the top forwards for both teams will be sidelined. Chima Moneke and Jalen Canty each got suspended, but between those substractions, the visiting Gauchos have to like that trade off considering what a great rebounder/defender Moneke is. I don't see UC-Davis surviving his absence. Take the points and ride UC-Santa Barbara.  

Result: This went as expected, since the Aggies couldn't defend without Moneke and got blitzed at home by the Gauchos. UCSB scored 49 first-half points and shot 56 percent from the floor. Nevada transfer Leland King had 19 points and 15 boards to help fill in for Canty. The Gauchos shot 11-for-20 from 3-point range an put the game away at the light.


Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at mejia@vegasinsider.com

  
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