Category Archives: NCAAM

T For 3: The Return

The Return of T For 3

Tyler is back with ‘T For 3 –  The Return’ to get into several hot topics in the sports world! From the potential returns of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor, to Luka Doncic being on his MVP watchlist, and more!

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The Fighting Illini Are on the Rise

The Fighting Illini return to Champaign motivated after a canceled postseason campaign incited Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn to withdraw from the NBA draft. The Illini are intent on chasing an NCAA title. Joining them in their quest for basketball immortality will be a mixture of top 50 prospects, seasoned seniors, and unexpected international gems. How good will Illinois be and is a trip to the Final Four a possibility for them?

The Rise of the Fighting Illini

Last Season

Last season they led the Illini to an impressive 21-10 record. It gave them their best win percentage since 2010. They also finished fourth in the Big Ten winning 13 of 20 games against conference opponents. Illinois was a strong defensive and rebounding team, not an uncommon style for a Big Ten club. They were also known for getting to the charity stripe effectively, ranking 13th among all Division I teams.

Struggles were very apparent for Brad Underwood’s side. Perimeter shooting ranked 297th in attempts and percentage, and turnovers, a lowly 269th. The only bright spot from the outside was sophomore guard Alan Griffin. He shot over 41 percent while the team as a whole shot just over 31 percent.

The team was projected to make it to their first NCAA tournament since 2013. All of that changed once the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The virus dashed fans’ hopes at watching the Illini navigate a deep run in the tourney. Dosunmu made the All-Big Ten second team and Cockburn won Big Ten Rookie of the Year. Both are small consolations in a year that could have been much more.

The Offseason

Dosunmu and Cockburn looked to be headed to NBA futures, but unfinished business is still ahead for the dynamic tandem. On July 31st Dosunmu released a video on his Twitter.

“My dream has been to play in the NBA, but first I need that national championship.” – Ayo Dosunmo/Twitter

Later that same day, Cockburn announced he will be withdrawing from the NBA as well to join Dosunmu, backing the orange and blue for one more season.

It wasn’t all good news over the summer. Alan Griffin, the team’s only sharpshooter transferred to Syracuse. And senior Andres Feliz, who was second in assists (2.9), rebounds (5.0), and third in points (11.0), graduated.

The subsequent lockdowns in Illinois have hindered practices and training for Illinois. More of the onus was placed upon the players to stay in shape, eat well since regular structured offseason activities were not always possible.

The Freshman recruits

The incoming freshmen looking to fill in the gaps include Puerto Rico-born Andre Curbelo and Illinois’ own Adam Miller. In just the first three games, Curbelo and Miller have had an enormous impact. In the opening contest against North Carolina A&T, Miller and his fellow Morgan Park High School Alum, Dosunmu, scored 28 points to beat the Aggies by a score of 122-60.

Miller went six of eight behind the arc, helping Illini surpass the school record of three-pointers made in a game with 17. Against Chicago State the next day, Curbelo contributed 18 points off the bench in just 20 minutes. He was a big reason why the Illini routed the Cougars 97-38.

Season Outlook

The last time the Fighting Illini were ranked in the preseason top ten was in 2004. They went all the way to the national championship game. That team featured Deron Williams who would go on to have an incredibly successful NBA career. Will this team echo the Illini of old, or will the inexperience of this team leave them wanting more again?


The talent in Illinois is extraordinary, with more depth than any in Brad Underwood’s previous teams. Junior Giorgi Bezhanishivli, a former starter for the squad, is a versatile forward. He could add some experience to a bench that features mostly underclassmen and transfers. Underwood for his part has coached his previous schools to four straight NCAA tournament appearances for Stephen F. Austin and Oklahoma.


The big unknown for this team is who will provide consistent offense. Especially when Dosunmu is on the bench or in the midst of a cold streak. Cockburn is a tremendous defender and physical presence on the inside. But he’s been completely shut down on the offensive end by some of the premier Big Ten defenders. Iowa’s Luka Garza held Cockburn to just six points in their first meeting last year.

Adam Miller could be that necessary spark. Miller averaged 21.5 points on 71% in his first two appearances. But he had a much tougher game against Ohio. It nearly cost Illinois as Miller went without a bucket on the perimeter in a tight 77-75 against the MAC opponents.

Arguably the biggest key for a successful season has to be limiting turnovers. Averaging over 12 turnovers a game, Illinois gave away too many chances. Especially for a team that prides itself on effort plays and high basketball IQ. Dosunmu needs to play within himself and trust his talented squad. His 81 turnovers were the fifth most in the Big Ten. That will have to be improved if a national title run is in the cards.


Overall Illinois has a good chance at positioning itself at the top of the Big Ten. They’re even a potential high seed going into Indy. A lot could hinge on the limited but important senior leadership. Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams have spent every year under Brad Underwood’s tutelage.

Both are currently in the starting rotation but have been unheralded heroes of a core ripe with potential. Keep your eyes on Champaign this Wednesday. Illinois faces another top ten opponents in the number two ranked Baylor Bears.

 

Sports Can’t Breathe

What a start to the turn of a new decade, 2020 has been relentless. First, the sports world gets shook with a tragic helicopter accident killing nine people including Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter.  Shortly thereafter the world is hit with a Coronavirus pandemic deemed Covid-19.  An invisible menace that’s had us quarantined for the last three months and has claimed thousands of lives.

Then on Monday, May 25th, 2020 on Memorial Day, a day to celebrate our fallen servicemen and women, a police officer took the life of yet another unarmed black man named George Floyd.  You can say my community’s collective breath was taken away in eight minutes and 46 seconds.  Going into the sixth month of 2020, the second half of this year I’m sure we’re all wondering when will the director say cut!

Sports Can’t Breathe

This Is Supposed to Be About Sports

It took me a week to construct this piece because I was angry, upset, and didn’t want my emotions to completely take over my writing. You see, I’m a black man in my 40s, same as Mr. Floyd, and that could’ve easily been me.   I’ve had my experiences with racial profiling from police and civilians.

To see a video of officers of the law who took an oath to protect and serve the community hold down a human being and kneeling on his neck for over eight minutes watching him die is one of the worse crimes to witness.  The disturbing part is this was the third such incident in a month where a black individual was murdered.  What those cops didn’t know is that George Floyd was good friends with former NBA player Stephen Jackson and he would be the catalyst in leading a global protest for justice.

I understand that this is supposed to be a sports column and I can assure it is.  It will just be a little different approach on this one. Almost four years ago it was in a football stadium, 2016, that former San Francisco 49ers   quarterback Colin Kaepernick exercised his American right to protest.  His peaceful protest was to sit during the national anthem to bring awareness to police brutality of black people.

Even after people saw this as disrespectful to our military, he consulted with a serviceman and changed to more appropriate kneeling.  Players began following Kaepernick in this protest and the message was interrupted by President Trump making this issue about respecting the American flag.  The president even went to the lengths of insulting the players and the mothers of these exceptional athletes by calling them sons of b*****s.

NFL Had a Chance to Take a Stand

The NFL and owners had the opportunity to support its diverse players but instead decided it valued its bottom line more than human life.  In the process exiling Kaepernick from the league who never received another contract offer.  One of the most outspoken owners, Jerry Jones, had plenty to say about that protest in 2016. Fast forward to today, crickets.  Countless mothers and fathers being taken away leaving children without parents with no repercussions just doesn’t seem American.

Now the NFL wants to make statements of support for the black community when it’s convenient and is the right thing to do.  It comes off as disingenuous because it took protesting and rioting on a global scale to finally be heard as a community.  The league and its owners could’ve done like their NBA counterparts and given support when it was uncomfortable to the very people that make this a billion-dollar industry.  We’ve all heard the saying “get out of your comfort zone”.  This is supposed to represent growth within one’s self.  Time to get out of your comfort zones.

How Can Sports Make an Impact

One thing we’ve learned since March 11th, 2020 is how important sports are to our way of life.  We can see that from the most-watched documentary in history, “The Last Dance”.  In this instance, though this issue shouldn’t just be blanketed by the restart of the NBA or any sporting event for that matter.  Instead whenever the NBA starts all the players should refuse to play, same for when the NFL starts.

This stance may not happen but a more feasible impactful statement could.  The NFL taking accountability for the lack of understanding of what Kaepernick’s kneeling protest was bringing attention to.  Second, rectify this by teams offering Colin a contract giving him the opportunity, if he chooses, to exit the game his way.  Lastly, at the start of any sporting event letting the clock run for eight minutes and 46 seconds with no movement and displaying the statement, “I can’t breathe”.

This would serve as a reminder that our country as a whole has a lot of work to do eradicating systemic racism and ensuring equality for all Americans.

College Basketball Picks: Late Slate Games

Mid-major conference tournaments are in full effect as bigger schools are wrapping up their 2019-2020 regular season games today and tomorrow. Saturdays tend to trend towards the underdog as two weeks ago three of the top five teams lost outright. There are two A-10 games that peak interest and of course the greatest rivalry in college basketball.

North Carolina (13-17) at 12 Duke (24-6)

Spread: Duke -10.5

Over/Under: 153

Time: 6 p.m ET

TV: ESPN

The greatest rivalry in college sports and arguably in the Mt. Rushmore of rivalries in all sports. DukeNorth Carolina, while both teams are having completely different seasons this game is always appointment TV.

Duke opened as an 11.5 point favorite and there has been significant money coming in on the underdog. In their last meeting, the Tar Heels had all but secured a victory in Chapel Hill until Tre Jones turned into Houdini and sent the game into overtime and the Blue Devils snuck out a victory at the Dean Smith Center.

Look for North Carolina to give Duke all they can handle in this game as the Tar Heels are a much better team than their record indicates.

The Pick: UNC +10.5

George Washington (12-18) at 3 Dayton (28-2)

Spread: Dayton -20.5

Over/Under: 138.5

Time: 7 p.m ET

TV: ESPN+

Yes, the Colonials of George Washington are getting backed in this game and its simple quite frankly. Dayton has already locked up the outright title of the A-10 conference. This line opened at -22 in favor of the Flyers and has seen some significant movement with the sharps backing George Washington.

It has since bet all the way down to -20.5. George Washington has the same exact record ATS as Dayton (15-14) so although the Colonials have a record under .500 the record against the spread is what really matters.

The Pick: George Washington

St. Bonaventure (19-11) at St. Louis University (22-8)

Spread: SLU -5

Over/Under135

Time: 8 p.m ET

St. Louis is on a four-game winning streak and continues to depend on their efficient guard play. Jordan Goodwin who is leading the Billikens with 15.5 ppg has been playing with a lot more assertiveness averaging 22 ppg in the winning streak. Both teams have an 11-6 conference record in the A-10 and are battling for the fourth seed in the upcoming conference tournament. SLU has been terrific at home with a 14-3 record. Look for them to end their regular season on a positive note with a win over St. Bonaventure.

The Pick: SLU -5

College Basketball Picks: The Race for Selection Sunday

Teams are cramming to pad their resume as selection Sunday is just over two weeks away. The Big Ten’s regular-season title is just about secured as Maryland holds a two-game lead over four teams tied for second place with three games to go.

We’ll be talking about two of those teams tied for second place and which angle to wager on in that huge Big Ten matchup. In the Big East, it’s a little bit of a tighter race. Seton Hall only holds a one-game lead over Villanova and Creighton. Five of the top six teams in the conference will be playing today as the focus stays on the early games.

CBB Picks: Race for Selection Sunday

Providence (16-12) at 12 Villanova (22-6)

Spread: Nova -7.5

Over/Under: 137.5

Time: 12:00 p.m ET

TV: FOX

Villanova has been finding their stride at just the right time as they are on a five-game winning streak. The Wildcats are looking to tie things up with Seton Hall atop the Big East Conference. Nova is averaging just over 71 ppg in home conference games and loves shooting the three-ball as they rank 31st in the nation in 3PA.

Providence is coming off of a big win against Marquette at home but the Wildcats are a different story when it comes to the Friars. They have won at Wells Fargo Center since 2016. The Friars are facing a red hot Wildcat team that is clicking on all cylinders.

The Pick: Nova -7.5

16 Penn State (21-7) at 18 Iowa (19-9)

Spread: Iowa -4

Over/Under: 152

Time: 12:00 p.m ET

TV: Big Ten Network

Iowa has been unbeatable at home, Literally. They are 8-0 in conference home games and averaging a whopping 79.3 ppg in those games and currently one game back of a tie for second place. Hawkeyes have one of the best players in the country in Luka Garza. The Wooden Award candidate is nearly averaging a double-double and loves playing at home.

Penn State has a workhorse of their own in Lamar Stevens who has led the Nittany Lions to a 21-7 record and in a four-way tie for 2nd in the Big Ten. At this point in the season, Iowa is catching Penn State at the right time.

The Pick: Iowa -4.0

13 Seton Hall (20-7) at Marquette (18-9)

Spread: Marquette -2.0

Over/Under: 149.5

Time: 2:30 p.m ET

TV: Fox

Seton Hall is looking to sweep the season series against Marquette at Fiserv Forum. The Pirates are clinging on atop the Big East with a one-game lead over Villanova and Creighton. They have been a good team on the road as they only have one loss in road conference games and averaging 76.5 ppg in those games. This is going to be a great matchup between two of the best guards in the country in Myles Powell and Markus Howard.

Marquette has lost three of their last four games and is reeling. The one thing Marquette can do is score. The Golden Eagles are averaging 78.5 ppg in conference play. But, they are a lowly 1-6 when facing the top four teams in the conference. I think the Pirates will win this game outright so if you want to sprinkle in a little queso on the moneyline, feel free.

The Pick: Seton Hall +2

College Basketball picks: Top 25 Games

College basketball has been anything but consistent in this 2019-2020 season. Early on, the teams ranked number one couldn’t hold their ranking for more than a week. Today, there are three top-25 matchups that should be basically wrapping up the regular-season conference title with a win and Vegas never makes it easy with their on the money lines. But, we don’t shy away from big-time games, we wager on them.

Top-25 CBB Game Picks

3 Kansas (23-3) at 1 Baylor (24-1)

Spread: Baylor -1.5

Over/Under: 127.5

Time: 12:00 p.m ET

TV: ESPN

Kansas is looking to exact revenge at The Ferrell Center in Waco as Baylor has been the only team to knock off Kansas on their home floor and it wasn’t even close. Baylor dominated Kansas 67-55 back on January 11. But this has been a completely different Kansas team since then; rattling off 11 straight wins. Kansas has been averaging 73.8 ppg in February and is 6-0 in road conference games.

Baylor has been the most consistent team in college basketball this year and they’ve been one of the most profitable teams this year. Baylor comes in as the fourth-most profitable ATS at 16-6 according to The Action Network. This is setting up to be a great game with the top-ranked team at home against the third-ranked team that is the powerhouse of the Kansas Jayhawks.

The spread has been fluctuating since it opened up at -1.5 favoring the Bears at home and immediately was bet up to -2.5. The line has since been back down to -1.5 so significant money has been coming in on both sides. I’m looking at a total that has been bet down to 127.5 from 129.5 when betting opened. I would look to bet the over with the recent February scoring surge from Kansas; even up against the stifling Baylor defense.

The Pick: Over 127.5

14 Oregon (20-7) at 24 Arizona (19-7)

Spread: Arizona -4.5

Over/Under: 140

Time: 9:00 p.m ET

TV: ESPN

The second of three top 25 college basketball matchups is in the PAC-12 as Oregon visits Arizona at McKale Center. Oregon has been awful on the road in conference games with just a 2-5 record. In fact, they haven’t won a road conference game since January 30th at Cal. I don’t trust the Ducks here at all.

Meanwhile, Arizona has been great at home in conference play with a 5-1 record and averaging just over 78 ppg in those six games. These two teams faced each other back on January 9 with Oregon needing overtime to squeak out a victory against the Wildcats at home. This time, Arizona returns the favor.

The Pick: Arizona -4.5

2 Gonzaga (27-1) at 23 BYU (22-7)

Spread: Gonzaga -4.5

Over/Under: 158.5

Time: 10:00 pm ET

TV: ESPN2

Gonzaga is one of those teams where handicappers always try to find a game on their schedule where they are most susceptible to losing. That’s because year in and year out they are the standard in college basketball. This is the spot where most people have them losing and I just don’t see it.

Last Thursday they had their classic trap game at home against San Francisco and it was living up to its title in the first half as the Don’s were up 31-22 in Spokane. Only for Gonzaga to outscore San Fran 49-23 in the second half and win by 17 which ended up being an all-time bad beat with Gonzaga being favored by 16.5 points and covering on a last-second three.

Gonzaga is almost never a small favorite, they typically are a double-digit favorite which is why I tend to stay away from their games. The last time the Zags were this small of a favorite was on February 8 (-5) at St. Mary’s and ended up winning by 30 points. Both teams can really light up the scoreboard so I’m leaning towards the over. But, what I’m most confident in this game is the Bulldogs covering on the road.

The Pick: Gonzaga -4.5