Three-Play Thursday: Best Bets for January 19

If you’ve ever wondered what makes this job so darn hard, Wednesday was a perfect example. Longwood and Arkansas nearly gave me an overall win for the day, but both came up one point short of a cash. Longwood’s was especially irritating, because the Lancers had two free throws to earn the cover with under five seconds left and bricked one, leaving me with a loss.

To borrow a phrase from Reed Galen of the Lincoln Project, we’re dealing with small numbers here. Vegas can’t and won’t get every game right, but they also usually won’t miss by much when they’re wrong. That means that you need to make sure to get your number as soon as you see it. When a bet looks good to you, don’t wait and risk it moving. As we saw last night, one point can be the difference between winning and losing.

We’ve got parlay plays today, so we’ve got even less margin for error. Here are my plays for January 19.


We’re just going for a win here, but if you really want to get aggressive, bump City to -1.5 and get it to +530. That’s because Spurs have taken six losses this season and four have been by two goals. The Sky Blues are coming off a loss to United where they were the better side, which should put them in an angry mood at the Etihad.

Dallas burned me last night when the defense collapsed, and I think the Stars take another loss here in Hollywood. Dallas comes in 1-5 when playing on zero rest, and the Kings haven’t played since Saturday. That should lead Los Angeles to pick up a win here. Meanwhile, the Devils have owned the Pacific Division, winning their past 11 meetings against that group. Seattle didn’t look great against Edmonton and might be coming down from the road high. New Jersey’s also dominated on the road all year and should provide value.


We’re hitting one of these eventually. Northern Arizona has been a stronger team in Flagstaff (as usual) and Idaho’s played pretty poorly when leaving the northern panhandle. Granted, Eastern, Montana and Montana State are three of the toughest trips in the Big Sky, but Idaho’s been blasted in all of them. Going up the hill isn’t ideal when you’re a bad road team.

Northern Colorado hasn’t been good no matter where it plays, and Eastern appears to be the class of the league this season. The Eagles shoot well from all over the court, and the Bears’ defense is suspect at best. But defense is the name of the game when Sacramento State and Idaho State match up. In five of the past seven meetings, at least one team has failed to break 60 points. I’d feel better if the game was in the Nest instead of Reed Gym, as Sac State plays better defense at home, but this game looks like a grinder even in Pocatello.


This parlay’s name comes from the fact that Queens, Lindenwood and Southern Indiana are all Division I newbies and Liberty’s moving to Conference USA next season. The Flames have proven defensive-minded, and they’re going into Swisher Gym, which means a slow-paced lockdown. Jacksonville’s 21-game Swisher Streak will be tested here, but the Dolphins will try to win with defense. So will Liberty, which should make 60 points a winning score.

Just across town in the River City, Queens-North Florida should become a track meet. The Royals have proven to be offensive-minded in their first Division I season, and the Ospreys should oblige. UNF allows more attempts than anyone in the nation, so the Royals should get plenty of shots. Queens isn’t playing defense right now either, which should send this near the 160s. Finally, Southern Indiana plays no defense away from Evansville. The Screaming Eagles give up an average of 81.2 points per game in road and neutral-site games, and that’s with a 57-point effort against Bowling Green. Take that out, and it’s 83.9 per game. Lindenwood’s only gotten three true home games, and the Lions topped 70 in two of them. Both teams play fast, so the points should come.

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