"Officiating is worse than it's ever been before."
It's a sentiment I hear and read a lot. This means there are two possibilities. Either officiating is worse than it's ever been, and it gets worse every year, or we're all just a bunch of reactionary fools with short-term memories. I won't rule out the former, but I suspect the latter is the case.
Officiating is probably better than it's ever been. What has changed is our consumption of sports. Televisions are better than ever, as are the cameras used to broadcast on them. Nearly every TV broadcast of a major sporting event now has an official either in the booth or in a studio on call, always ready to weigh in on a ruling. There's something else that's changed recently that is impacting the way fans view officials. It's the reason you're reading this newsletter: gambling.
While it's always existed, the legalization in many states has led to a lot more casual bettors. This means many neutral observers of big games, like the AFC Championship, suddenly have a rooting interest in their bets. Any debatable call that goes against the bet then becomes a grievance. Grievances then become "the officiating is worse than it's ever been before! I've never seen such poorly called games!"
But you have, and you will again. However, you will never read any stories better than these.
Now let's get to tonight's picks, which are better than they've ever been before.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
No. 11 Baylor at No. 10 Texas, 9 p.m. | TV: ESPN
- Key Trend: The over is 10-2-1 in Texas' last 13 games.
- The Pick: Over 146.5 (-110)
It's not a robust slate of college basketball games tonight, but what we lack in quantity is made up for with some quality here. The Big 12 is the best league in the country, so nearly every game is a banger. This leads to a lot of high-quality, closely contested games, and this affair between Texas and Baylor shouldn't be any different.
Texas is coming off an 82-71 loss at Tennessee this weekend, but it's at home tonight, where the Longhorns are 12-1, winning by an average of 18.3 points per game. They're also 6-7 ATS at home this season. Meanwhile, Baylor is only 3-2 straight up on the road and 2-2-1 ATS, so there's nothing there worth a damn, either. That said, the Bears have won six straight, including three on the road against West Virginia, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. Still, when I crunch the numbers and look at the situational stats, there's not much room on the spread.
Where there is some space to exploit is the total. Baylor might be the best offense in the country, and Texas is ranked 10th in offensive efficiency. Neither has been spectacular defensively. Texas ranks 35th nationally in defensive efficiency, but in conference play, its efficiency rises from 95.8 to 103.7. In conference play, the Bears rank last in damn near every defensive category. Big 12 opponents have an eFG% of 52.9% against them (worst in the league) and are shooting 56.2% from two (also worst in the league)! Texas lives inside the arc on offense, which is the opposite of Baylor's approach.
The Bears aren't great inside, but they're shooting 35% from three in conference play and take more threes than anybody else in the league. Do you want to guess which Big 12 team ranks last in the league in three-point shooting against it? Yep, it's Texas at 36.3%. I don't feel confident trying to figure out who will win, lose or cover the spread in this one, but the matchup tells me it will be higher-scoring than expected.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model and I disagree about the spread. I don't see any value in betting it. The model sees quite a bit.
💰 The Picks
Warriors at Thunder, 8 p.m. | TV: NBA League Pass
The Pick: Thunder +5 (-110) -- We're reaching the point where the Warriors are essentially an auto-fade any time they're on the road -- especially when they're favored. There are two versions of the Golden State Warriors: the Home Warriors, who are 19-6 overall and 15-9-1 ATS, and the Road Warriors, who are 5-18 on the road straight up and 7-16 ATS (that includes a mark of 2-8 ATS when favored on the road).
Yet they continue to be favorites because they're the Warriors. The Thunder might not be the Warriors, but they're not as awful as you think. OKC is only a half-game out of the playoffs at the moment. They've also been something of an ATM when it comes to betting, as the Thunder are 31-17-1 ATS and 24-11-1 ATS as an underdog, covering by an average of 6.2 points per game. Tonight we're betting on the team that's consistently underrated on the market against the team that is consistently overrated.
🏀 College Basketball
No. 13 Iowa State at Texas Tech, 9 p.m. | TV: ESPN2
The Pick: Texas Tech +1 (-110) -- I told you that Texas Tech is the worst team in the Big 12, however, they're not as bad as their record suggests. That said, this is a last stand with me and the Red Raiders. They're 0-8 in the Big 12 and only 1-6-1 ATS against Big 12 teams, and those performances are having a significant impact on how the market views the Red Raiders.
But my numbers could be wrong! So I've decided tonight is the night. I'm taking the Raiders one more time. Either they finally pull through and cover (and considering the spread, possibly win), or I'm putting them on my No Fly List for the rest of the season. I won't hold it against you if you want to stay away. However, if you ride with me, you'll have my eternal respect, and you can't put a price on that.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: Our Patrick McDonald told you last week that Max Homa would win at Torrey Pines, and now he's telling you what to expect from this week's PGA event at Pebble Beach.