SEC Basketball Championship

SEC Tournament Final: Ole Miss vs. Florida

Ole Miss Rebels vs. Florida Gators (-11, 138.5)

Mississippi is one game away from taking its NCAA Tournament fate out of the hands of the selection committee. The third-seeded Rebels will face off against No. 1 seed Florida on Sunday in the SEC tournament championship game in Nashville, Tenn. Ole Miss entered the conference tournament as a bubble team and would like to ensure its spot in the NCAA Tournament by earning the automatic bid reserved for the SEC champion.

The Gators have had little trouble advancing to the championship game, blowing out Louisiana State in the quarterfinals on Friday and using a second-half surge to end Alabama’s tournament run on Saturday. Florida is playing for NCAA Tournament seeding, and is hoping a conference tournament triumph will put it into a No. 2 seed. To get there, the Gators will need to slow down Rebels star Marshall Henderson, who has averaged 25 points in the first two tournament games.

TV: 1 p.m. ET, ABC

ABOUT MISSISSIPPI (25-8): The Rebels have won six of their last seven games to surge back onto the top of the bubble. Mississippi had fallen off with a stretch of five losses in seven games from Jan. 29 to Feb. 20, which included a 78-64 setback at Florida on Feb. 2. Henderson scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half and Derrick Millinghaus scored with 1.1 seconds left to give the Rebels a 64-62 win in the quarterfinals over Missouri on Friday. Henderson went for 23 and Ole Miss had an easier time on Saturday with a 64-52 triumph over Vanderbilt. The Rebels were without point guard Jarvis Summers, who was injured on Friday, against the Commodores, and the sophomore is questionable for Sunday’s finale. Henderson hit seven 3-pointers en route to 25 points but the rest of the Ole Miss players combined to shoot 32.5 percent in the loss at Florida last month.

ABOUT FLORIDA (26-6): The Gators shot 51.6 percent and had four players with at least 13 points in the win over Ole Miss and have used that same strong defense and balanced offense in the SEC tournament. Erik Murphy starred with a career-high 27 points in the opener against LSU and Kenny Boynton took over on Saturday, keying a 15-0 run in the second half and scoring all 16 of his points after the break in the 61-51 triumph over Alabama. Florida stumbled a bit with three losses in the final six games of the regular season but has turned things around after a series of tough practices earlier in the week. The Gators are trying to secure their first SEC tournament title since 2007.

TRENDS:

* Underdog is 6-0 ATS in the last six meetings.
* Under is 4-1 in Rebels’ last five overall.
* Gators are 1-4 ATS in their last five games following a S.U. win.
* Under is 7-1 in Gators’ last eight overall.

TIP-INS

1. Mississippi has not won the SEC tournament since 1981 and has not made the championship game since falling to Kentucky in 2001.

2. Boynton snapped a 13-game streak of shooting under 50 percent when he went 6-for-12 on Saturday.

3. Henderson has hit at least three 3-pointers in eight straight games.

The Play: Gators win, but Ole Miss keeps it close and slow down equals under. Take Miss +11 & under 138

Hoops 2/24

No. 18 Ohio State looks for payback at home when No. 4 Michigan State pays a visit on Sunday afternoon.

When these two teams met on Jan. 19 in East Lansing, the Spartans pulled out a 59-56 victory behind a balanced attack. That win gave MSU its third win in four tries (SU and ATS) in this series, a run that started with a 58-48 win in Columbus last season. The Spartans are coming off a tough home loss to Indiana on Tuesday, but they are 4-0 after a loss this season and 9-2 SU after an ATS defeat. Ohio State ended a three-game ATS losing skid with a 71-45 pounding of Minnesota on Wednesday, when it held the Gophers to 29% FG and 13% threes.

Michigan State doesn't have great offensive firepower, averaging just 70.0 PPG, but it does have a strong FG Pct. (46.8%) and also rebounds very well with a +6.9 RPG margin. Defensively, the Spartans are outstanding, allowing 59.6 PPG on 39.1% FG.Junior SG Keith Appling (13.8 PPG, 3.9 APG) leads the team in scoring, but shoots just 41% FG and 32% threes. Appling had 15 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals in last month's win over OSU. C Adreian Payne (9.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG) also had a huge game against the Buckeyes with 14 points (5-of-6 FG) and five rebounds. He shoots an exceptional 59% FG including 10-of-18 threes. Sophomore swingman Branden Dawson (10.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG) also shoots a high percentage (56% FG), but makes just 54% of his foul shots. Dawson had nearly a double-double against Ohio State last month with nine points and 10 rebounds. Freshman SG Gary Harris (13.2 PPG) is the team's most consistent three-point shooter at 43%, while making 47% FG and 75% free throws.

Ohio State's offense is solid, averaging 70.7 PPG on 45.4% from the field and 36.5% from three-point range. The Buckeyes also help themselves by committing just 11.0 TOPG. But where OSU really shines is on the defensive end, allowing just 59.0 PPG on 39.3% FG. PF Deshaun Thomas leads the Big Ten with 20.1 PPG thanks to a 45.3% FG clip (38% threes) and 84% from the free-throw line. Thomas lit up the Spartans for 28 points (10-of-20 FG, 6-of-11 threes) and seven rebounds last month. Junior SG Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (9.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG) shoots an identical 45.3% FG, and is slightly better from long range at 39% threes. Smith was awful against MSU earlier this year, making just 2-of-7 shots for six points in 30 minutes. PG Aaron Craft (9.2 PPG, 4.3 APG, 3.7 RPG, 2.0 SPG) didn't shoot well against the Spartans last month either (2-for-8 FG, 1-for-5 threes) but he did have six assists and five steals. For the season, he's shot just 39% FG (31% threes), but he makes 81% of his foul shots and is a tenacious on-ball defender. Backup PG Shannon Scott (5.0 PPG, 3.8 APG, 1.7 SPG) has been outstanding in taking care of the basketball, as his 3.13 Ast/TO ratio shows.

Look for OSU to win can cover here...the Play: OHIO STATE -3 $$$$

Also Cincinnati visits (25) Notre Dame (-2)

The Bearcats have lost four of five games and have slipped to 10th place in the Big East. Cincinnati would slip below .500 in league play with a loss to the Fighting Irish and any further decline could put their NCAA tournament hopes in jeopardy. Notre Dame has won six of its last eight games. The Fighting Irish defeated the Bearcats 66-60 in Cincinnati on Jan. 7, but are just 1-5 ATS in their last six home games. Irish get off the snide and win and cover vs struggling Cincy team!

The Play: NOTRE DAME -2' $$

SUPER BOWL XLVII

Baltimore Ravens (13-6 SU, 9-9-1 ATS) vs. San Francisco 49ers (13-4-1 SU, 11-7 ATS)
Super Bowl XLVII (SB 47)
Date/Time: Sunday, February 3rd, 2013, 6:30 p.m. EST
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
TV: CBS

Point Spread: SF -4
Over/Under Total: 48

Two storied franchises already famous for winning a Super Bowl title will get another chance to make history in the NFL's showcase game Sunday, February 3rd, when the Baltimore Ravens clash with the San Francisco 49ers in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans for Super Bowl 47.

Not only have both teams already won at least one World title, and in the 49ers case five of them, but this year's Super Bowl will make history when one of these teams loses in a title game. Both the Ravens and San Francisco have never lost in a Super Bowl appearance, with the Ravens just one-for-one (2001) while the Niners are five-for-five (1982, '85, '89, '90, '95) including their, 55-10, drubbing of Denver in Super Bowl 24 (1990) the last time they played for a title in the Superdome.

For the third straight year a team that has come all the way from the wild card round will have another shot at winning a fourth playoff game in the Super Bowl, thanks to the Ravens upset of the New England Patriots in impressive fashion in Sunday's AFC Championship game, 28-13. Ray Lewis and the Baltimore defense is once again playing at a championship level, shutting out Tom Brady and the Patriots in the second half in order to spring the Ravens into their franchise's second appearance in the big game and their first since their, 34-7, win over the New York Giants in Super Bowl 35 in 2001.

San Francisco just kept plugging away at the Atlanta Falcons quick 17-point lead in Sunday's NFC Championship game, and eventually their grind-it-out approach wore away at the Falcons and helped the 49ers score a, 28-24, victory for another NFC title and the franchise's sixth trip to a Super Bowl. The 49ers defense also stepped it up in the second half of Sunday's title-game win, shutting down the Falcons and Matt Ryan's passing attack after halftime to take control of the game and preserve the Niners ticket to another big game.

With Championship Sunday barely hours old, the oddsmakers opened up Super Bowl 47 betting odds with San Francisco as early 4-point favorites.

The over/under total opened at 49.5, but it has already started its move with almost two weeks before kickoff since many online sportsbooks have already dropped the total to 48 with a few even lower to 47.5 to counter the early steam.

With nearly two weeks to scheme, it's often hard to truly handicap the Super Bowl game because literally, no stone will go unturned in regards to offensive and defensive tactics for this game.

We know that the 49ers offense will go into the game as the likely favorite due to the dynamic nature of it's new quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. As Kaepernick showed in the NFC title game, just his mere potential in the read-option running game (just two carries) makes defenses have to defend all 11 players on the 49er offense, a task that burned Green Bay out on the edge but Atlanta right up the gut with Frank Gore in consecutive weeks in the playoffs.

One could argue that the Ravens with their 3-4 defense, a strong run-stuffing presence in the middle with Haloti Ngata, Ma'ake Kemoeatu and Ray Lewis, and hard-tackling safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, may be one of the best defenses well-equipped to stop the Niners running game.

The Baltimore offense is also peaking at the right time, and don't look now but quarterback Joe Flacco now has six playoff game victories on the road and eight wins overall in his career as the Ravens signal caller. Flacco has been stellar in the playoffs (8 TD, 0 INT, combined 116 QB rating) and may finally start getting some of the respect he should be getting, has led the Ravens resurgence as they are averaging 30 points per game in the playoffs with new play-caller Jim Caldwell pushing all the right buttons.

But Flacco, Caldwell and the Ravens will need the whole 13 days to scheme on how to attack the San Francisco defense, which took a few early blows against both the Packers and Falcons in successive weeks, but has had the finishing power to close games out in the second half all season long (3rd in yards, 2nd in scoring).

One would also be remiss if they didn't mention the connection on the sideline with the Harbaugh brothers, although already it's been over-dubbed the "Super Baugh." John is 50-years-old and coaching in his first Super Bowl after five straight playoff appearances and a near-miss last season in his fifth year as the Ravens head coach, while Jim (49 years-old) is only in his second year in San Francisco, and already has had the 49ers in the championship game in both seasons and their first Super Bowl game since 1995.

There's only a handful of meaningful games between these two teams in recent history, although the Ravens did beat the 49ers in last year's, 16-6, defensive struggle in M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Of course that was with Alex Smith at QB, but Baltimore has also won three in a row against the 49ers and are 4-1 SU since the 1993 season.

The neutral setting of the Superdome could help to even things out on the field too, since in the past 20 years of the Ravens-49ers series the home team is a perfect 5-0 SU and ATS. With no true "home" team, maybe the betting trend plays out differently on the carpet in the Superdome.

The under is 4-1 in Baltimore's last five playoff games, and when combined with San Francisco's defense this season, its no wonder most of the early steam has been on the under. But the 49ers have been dynamic on offense with Kaepernick, and their increased scoring alone has made the over go 6-0 in the 49ers last six games overall.

The Play: 49ers -4 & OVER 48

Bonus uper Bowl History

• Baltimore’s top guns – the alias Smith and Flacco – have been
a chief contributor to this franchise’s all-time best 13-7 postseason
record in NFL history. The Ravens are 1-0 SU and ATS in their only
Super Bowl appearance.

• San Francisco has yet to lose a Super Bowl, going 5-0 SU and 4-1
ATS all-time.

• The NFC has controlled the last 31 Super Bowls, going 21-10 SU and
20-9-3 ATS, including 4-0 SU and ATS the last four years. However,
the AFC actually holds the upper hand of late, going 9-6 SU the last
15 years.

• 15 of the last 18 quarterbacks have owned a QB Rating of 92.6 or
better.

• Teams who lost SU as a playoff favorite last year (Niners) are 4-9 SU
and ATS, including 0-5 ATS as favorites.

• Teams off a SU underdog win (Ravens) are 13-6-1 ATS, including
7-1-1 ATS off back-to-back SU underdog wins.

• Favorites who allow 3.9 or more Yards Per Rush (Niners) are 3-6
SU and 2-7 ATS.

• Teams with a better win percentage (Niners) are on a 3-6 SU and
0-9 ATS slide.

• The last seven NFC representatives have faced the AFC East in their
designated non-conference games.

• 12 of 18 Super Bowl games on artifi cial turf have played ‘Under’
the total.

Conference Championship ~ AFC

Baltimore Ravens (12-6 SU, 8-9-1 ATS) vs. New England Patriots (13-4 SU, 10-7 ATS)
2013 AFC Championship Game
Date/Time: Sunday, January 20th, 2013, 6:30 p.m. EST
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
TV: CBS
by Badger, Football Handicapper.

Point Spread: Bal +9/NE -9
Over/Under Total: 51.5

After a long summer of OTA's, 17 weeks of a regular season and two weeks of playoff football we're right back to where we all started … with the Baltimore Ravens playing the New England Patriots for the second consecutive season in the AFC Championship game this Sunday in Gillette Stadium.

Sunday's game will be a rematch of last year's AFC title game where the Ravens came a dropped touchdown pass, then a shanked field goal away from making it to last year's Super Bowl. It will also be a rematch of a week three game this season that saw the Ravens get a crumb of redemption back from the Patriots with a slim victory at home in Baltimore, 31-30.

Baltimore is back in this year's AFC Championship after pulling off the upset of the 2013 playoff season in last week's double-overtime stunner in Denver, 38-35. The Ravens pulled off the upset (closed as 10-point underdogs at some sportsbooks) when Jacoby Jones inexplicably got behind the Broncos defense for a game-tying 70-yard touchdown pass with 31 seconds left in regulation, then nailed the Broncos coffin shut with an interception of Peyton Manning and a 47-yard field goal by rookie kicker Justin Tucker early in the second overtime period.

New England earned the right to defend their AFC title when they dispatched the Houston Texans in the Divisional round last Sunday, 41-28. The Patriots overcame a momentum-swinging opening kickoff return by the Texans to take back control of the game and never let go, as Tom Brady threw for 344 yards and three scores to give New England their second straight title game appearance and fifth overall since the 2001-02 season.

Oddsmakers originally set the opening point spread for Sunday's AFC title rematch with New England as large 9.5-point favorites at home, but with the most of the early money raining down on the Ravens (up to 75-80 % at some online sportsbooks) the number has come down the hook to minus -9 at most sportsbooks on the Web and most of the properties out in Las Vegas.

The over/under total opened at 51.5 and has yet to move in either direction at most books, although if you look really hard you may find a token 51 or even a 52 at sportsbooks willing to put the push result back in play.

When breaking down this game offensively you really have one team's approach that is well known, and one that is sort of a mystery.

You pretty much know exactly what you're going to get with New England and Brady, even though the Patriots will be missing one of their biggest offensive weapons in tight end Rob Gronkowski (re-broke his forearm vs. Houston) throughout the rest of the playoffs. New England just plugs in players like backup running back Shane Vereen (three TDs vs. Texans) for Gronk, keeps defenses on the field with their "hurry-up" attack, and let's Brady make the adjustments and calls at the line of scrimmage to take advantage of what the defense gives them in mismatches.

Baltimore's defense has played well in the playoffs with their leader Ray Lewis back in the middle calling the plays, but with a limited pass rush due to nagging injuries to their best two rushers (Terrell Suggs on the edge, Haloti Ngata inside), and a secondary missing their best cover corner (Lardarius Webb) it could turn into a long day for the Ravens against the surgical-like Brady.

The Ravens best defense against Brady and New England might be their resurgent offense, which has come back to life in the postseason. Baltimore has averaged 459 yards and 31 points a game in their two playoff wins, with most of the credit due to a reworked offensive line that now features veteran Bryant McKinnie back at left tackle and Michael Oher flipped over to right tackle. Last week the Ravens ran the ball 39 times behind that "new" offensive line against a stiff Denver run defense, an approach they'll likely try and repeat on Sunday to try and keep the chains moving and keep Brady standing on the sideline.

Baltimore will also take their shots down the field to receiver Torrey Smith, who had another breakout game against Champ Bailey and the Broncos last weekend. Smith will likely draw Patriots corner Aquib Talib on most plays, a matchup the Ravens have to like despite the fact Talib has played very well since joining the Pats at the trading deadline. Smith had 127 yards and two scores for the Ravens in their week three win this season, and Flacco threw for 382 yards and three scores in that game as well, so Baltimore can't be afraid to stay aggressive in order to reverse the results of last year's title-game loss.

In last year's AFC Championship game the Ravens followed the script and held a six-minute advantage in time of possession, they just weren't able to overcome the Patriots second-half adjustments. Baltimore also lost the battle of field position throughout most of the second half, giving up twice as many return yards as they had in the game. Considering the Ravens also gave up two returns for touchdowns last week against the Broncos, the handful of special teams plays in this game will be crucial for the Ravens to change their fate this season as well.

Last year's gave closed with Baltimore as 7-point underdogs at home, so the big number shouldn't automatically scare away bettors from a wager on the Ravens. Baltimore is also a perfect 2-0 ATS this year in the playoffs, 10-4 ATS in their last 14 road playoff games, and the underdog and road team is a solid 3-0-1 ATS the last four times these two teams have met on the gridiron. New England is only 2-7 ATS in their last nine home playoff games, so there's plenty of betting trends and reasons why most of the early money has been siding with the visiting Ravens.

After the Wild Card round of the playoffs saw all four games stay under the total, the Divisional round went the other way with all four games flying over the total. As a whole the under is 5-2 in the last seven head-to-head meetings in Gillette Stadium. The under is also 5-2 in Baltimore's last seven playoff games as well, but the over is 7-1 in New England's last eight games played in January.

The play: PATS -7'

Conference Champioship Sunday ~ NFC

San Francisco 49ers (12-4-1 SU, 10-7 ATS) vs. Atlanta Falcons (14-3 SU, 9-7-1 ATS)
2013 NFC Championship Game
Date/Time: Sunday, January 20th, 2013, 3:00 p.m. EST
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.
TV: FOX
Point Spread: SF -4/ATL +4
Over/Under Total: 48.5

For the second consecutive season the San Francisco 49ers will play in the NFC Championship game, but this year they will have to go on the road to do it when they face the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome Sunday afternoon on Fox with the winner getting a shot at the National Football League's ultimate prize, Super Bowl 47.

The 49ers emerged out of the Divisional round of the playoffs as the clear team to beat by virtue of their, 45-31, victory over the Green Bay Packers last Saturday. Young starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown on the 49ers very first series of the game, but that was the last time he and the Niners would look bad as Kaepernick racked up 444 total yards and four touchdowns and San Francisco scored on six of their last eight possessions in the game in the impressive win.

Now the 49ers will face an Atlanta team that won the most exciting game of the NFL's postseason thus far when they slipped past the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, 30-28.

After watching the Seahawks take a 28-27 lead with just 31 seconds remaining in the game, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan moved the team 41 yards in two plays to set up kicker Matt Bryant's game-winning 49-yard field goal. Not only did Ryan's last-second heroics help to save the Falcons, who blew a 20-point lead in the second half, but it also got the monkey off the back of Ryan and head coach Mike Smith who both notched their first playoff win and put the Falcons back in the NFC Championship game for the third time in franchise history and first time since the "Dirty Birds" team of 1999.

With San Francisco looking virtually unstoppable and the Falcons getting into the title game by the skin of their teeth, oddsmakers were forced to open Sunday's NFC Championship game with the 49ers as 3-point favorites on the road. With most of the betting public clearly siding with the 49ers in the early going, the number has gone up to minus -4 or even -4.5 at most online sportsbooks after just a little over 24 hours of the point spread going live up on the board.

The over/under total has also seen its fair share of line movement as well, opening at 47.5 late on Sunday and moving up a full point to 48.5 at most sportsbooks, with a few rising as high as 49.5 before the run on the over was stopped.

The total has gone up quickly in part because Sunday's NFC title game figures to be a rather offensive one. Both teams combined for nearly 1,000 yards of total offense in the Divisional round (SF - 579, Atl. - 417), both teams combined for huge numbers in the running game (SF 7.5 yards per carry; Atl. 6.4 ypc) and both teams are stacked to the Georgia Dome roof with weapons on offense to make Sunday's game look like a potential shootout.

But if one team holds an edge on offense it has to be the 49ers, who with Kaepernick behind center, will feature his duel-threat capabilities on offense and make the Falcons defense work extra hard to stop this Sunday. If stopping running back Frank Gore behind the 49ers powerful offensive line wasn't hard enough already (Gore has 23-for-119, TD vs. GB), as soon as the defense falls asleep on the edge Kaepernick keeps it and has the speed to take huge gouges out of a defense with his legs.

Then when a defense starts creeping an extra safety down into the box to limit the Niners run game, Kaepernick has plenty enough arm to find his favorite target Michael Crabtree on the edge and over the middle behind the linebackers to keep defenses honest and move the 49ers down the field with ease. The Falcons defense did a great job of limiting the damage of Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks running game last week (46 yards on 16 carries), but they often lost contain on quarterback Russell Wilson (7 carries for 60 yards), which is a problem they must fix this week if they want any chance at stopping Kaepernick and the Niners.

That's going to put huge pressure on Atlanta defensive ends John Abraham, Jonathan Babineaux and Kory Biermann this week. Abraham reinjured his ankle in the Divisional game too, and is listed as probable for Sunday's game even though he spent the latter half of the previous game sitting on his helmet on the sidelines.

Atlanta and Ryan received a huge lift from Jacquizz Rodgers in last week's win over Seattle, as the second-year back offers a great change of pace to starter Michael Turner (14 carries, 98 yards) in the Falcon running game. But with Julio Jones, Roddy White and veteran Tony Gonzales consistently finding holes and seams in the defensive secondary, it's no secret that the Falcons prefer to attack teams with Ryan throwing the ball as much as possible.

Green Bay had their best success against the Niners defense early in the game when they were consistent with running the ball, and with 49ers end Justin Smith clearly limited with his triceps injury the San Francisco pass rush was very limited last weekend as well. So look for the Falcons to continue with that theme and pound the ball on early downs to get ahead of the chains, then take shots down the field with Jones, Gonzales and White when the Niners defense is on their heels.

These two NFC teams haven't met on the field since the 2010 season, in what ended up a 16-14 Falcons win at home in the Georgia Dome in early October. That game was highlighted by a game-changing play by Roddy White, who came back after a Ryan interception to strip Nate Clemons of the ball as Clemons was about to go into the end zone. The Falcons took the turnover back down the field and kicked the game-winning field goal with two seconds left in the contest.

White's play helped the Falcons beat the 49ers for the fourth time in a row (4-0 SU since 2004), as Atlanta has enjoyed a 6-4 SU record over San Francisco over the years including a 4-1 Su mark at home in the Dome.

The betting trends are mixed, but it should be noted that the underdog is a strong 9-3 ATS in the series between these two teams in the last 12 meetings. However, Atlanta is just 1-4 ATS in their last five home playoff games (0-5 ATS in last five playoff games overall), while San Francisco is 5-2 ATS in their last seven games in January and 4-1 ATS in their last five road games versus a team with a winning record.

The Play: 49ers -4

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