Bryan Power Bryan Power
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YESTERDAY'S PLAYS
Matchup Selection W/L
NHL  |  Mar 21, 2019
Sharks vs Kings
Sharks
-210 at betonline
Lost
$210.0
Play Type: Top Premium

6* San Jose (10:35 ET): Normally, I wouldn't want to lay this much juice, but I'll make an exception here for the Sharks, who should absolutely roll tonight in LA. Much like when I took Winnipeg earlier this week, beating the Kings is a must here for the Sharks. The Jets are locked in a tight battle w/ Nashville for 1st in the Central, so they "had to have" the two points against arguably the worst team in the league Monday. They got the job done (did take OT) and so should San Jose, who finds itself locked into a tight battle w/ Calgary for the top spot in the Pacific. Again, they need these two points and the sorry Kings should be happy to oblige.

San Jose has not helped itself recently by losing three straight games. This followed a six-game win streak. So off three straight defeats, the Kings are the exact team the Sharks needed to face right now. A real positive is that San Jose is already 3-1 SU this season when off three or more straight losses. The most shocking thing about the current losing skid is that all three losses came at home and that they allowed 15 goals. Monday saw them get destroyed by Vegas, 7-3, so the team should be eager to hit the ice here. 

The Kings have also lost their last three games. But the big difference between them and the Sharks is the amount of losing that preceded these matching streaks. Los Angeles has won only twice in its last 18 games overall and has the worst goal differential in the sport at -60. They have scored the fewest goals in the league, which is always a problem, but especially tonight against a team like San Jose that ranks 2nd in the league in goals per game. The Sharks have won five of their previous six visits to Staples Center and should win in a rout tonight. This matchup is appropriately priced. 6* San Jose

Matchup Selection W/L
NBA  |  Mar 21, 2019
Pistons vs Suns
Pistons
-7 -109 at GTBets
Won
$100
Play Type: Top Premium

10* Detroit (10:05 ET): A few 'dud' performances on the road have really hurt the Pistons lately. First they were held to 75 and 74 points respectively, by Brooklyn and Miami, two teams they are in direct competition w/ for playoff spots. Then, after seemingly getting back on track w/ a couple of wins at home (over the Lakers and Toronto), they go out and lose at Cleveland to the lowly Cavs, 126-119 as 6.5-pt favorites. It's a similar class of opponent here - and a similar number - but this time I look for a much different result as the Pistons should roll the Suns tonight. Lay the points. 

Phoenix also happens to be off a loss as a favorite, which is something you can't say very often. Sure, losing has certainly been common for a team that's 17-55 SU (last in the Western Conference) on the season. But being favored is not something that happens often to the Suns. The fact they lost here at home to Chicago, 116-101 on Wednesday, doesn't exactly bode well for tonight. The Suns trailed basically wire to wire. Speaking of wire to wire, they've been in the basement of the Western Conference virtually the entire season. I see no reason to expect them to play well tonight.

Detroit, on the other hand, should be highly motivated. This road trip will only get tougher w/ stops in Golden State, Portland and Denver forthcoming. They already blew a very winnable game in Cleveland, allowing the Kevin Love-less Cavs to shoot a ridiculous 58.2% from the field. They can't afford to drop another game to a bottom-feeder. Blake Griffin did sit out vs the Cavs, so his return should spark the offense. It should be easy scoring on a Phoenix team that is tied for 28th in points allowed and 29th in efficiency. Covering the spread will require a little defense too and I expect the Pistons to be a lot better here than they were vs. Cleveland. 10* Detroit

Matchup Selection W/L
NCAA-B  |  Mar 21, 2019
Vermont vs Florida State
Vermont
+9 -109 at GTBets
Won
$100
Play Type: Top Premium

8* Vermont (2:00 ET): I'm seen "some" go so far as to label Florida State a "Final Four Darkhorse." Maybe that's true, but the designation has also made the Seminoles a tad bit overvalued here in Round 1. I concede that the Noles have lost only twice since January 22nd. Those losses were to North Carolina and the ACC Championship Game against Duke. They're 14-2 SU the L16 games. But this Vermont team is not to be taken lightly. The America East Champs play great defense and rebound shockingly well given their lack of height. It's also been a two-year journey back to the Tourney for the Catamounts. Take the points. 

Vermont fans feel center Anthony Lamb is as good as any player in the country. He was certainly the best player in his conference. The Catamounts allow just 62.6 PPG, which is the 16th best in the entire country. In conference play, they allowed just 0.885 points per possession. The last five games saw them allow an average of just 52.6 PPG. Only three teams in the country gave up fewer offensive rebounds. Something else that's key is how often Florida State sends its opponents to the free throw line and how good Vermont is at converting when they get to the charity stripe. Unaccustomed to being an underdog, Vermont will be very motivated here. By the way, this game is being played in Hartford, which is much closer to Burlington than it is Tallahassee. 

Back to the journey. Last year, Vermont was one of the top mid-majors in the country. But on their home floor, they were upset by UMBC (on a buzzer beater). We all know what happened w/ UMBC (became 1st 16-seed to win a NCAA Tourney Game). Vermont was not going to be denied this year, however. They got revenge on UMBC is this year's America East Final and here they are, a year more experienced. I think that after making a run to the ACC Final, FSU is due for a letdown. Vermont is the kind of team that pulls upsets in this Tournament. 8* Vermont

Matchup Selection W/L
NCAA-B  |  Mar 21, 2019
Abilene Christian vs Kentucky
Abilene Christian
+23 -115 at BMaker
Lost
$115.0
Play Type: Top Premium

8* Abeline Christian (7:10 ET): Little is known about 15-seed Abilene Christian. But Kentucky HC John Calipari seems at least a little scared, at least when it comes to those particular Wildcats' three-point shooting. And for good reason. Abilene Christian is connecting at a somewhat ridiculous 38.6% from behind the three-point line this year. Granted, the level of competition in the Southland is nothing close to what the Wildcats will see here. But given their proficiency from behind the arc and how many points they're getting, I think the underdog is a strong call here. No one will give them a chance. I think they'll outperform expectations rather easily.

So here's the deal on Abilene Christian. They were NOT regular season champs in the Southland (finished 2nd), but did unseat New Orleans in the Tournament Final, 77-60, and were 4.5-point favorites in that game. This is their 1st ever NCAA Tournament berth, but it's an experienced group w/ three seniors and one junior among the starting five. Admittedly, it's not a team w/ a lot of height and depth took a hit when two reserves were dismissed earlier in the year. But this team's level of three-point shooting can keep them in any game. 

Kentucky was really strong down the stretch and should have beaten Tennessee in the SEC Tournament. But they faltered late and lost that game. As per usual, UK has a young roster. They've got plenty of talent, but I can see the players looking past this game and onto the next round. They've only covered 1 of their last 6 games. Also, Coach Cal's team will not be able to trade threes w/ Abilene Christian. Only 23.6% of UK's points come from behind the arc. That's bottom 20 in the country. The three-point shot alone should be able to keep the underdog within the generous spread here. 8* Abeline Christian

Matchup Selection W/L
NCAA-B  |  Mar 21, 2019
St. Mary's vs Villanova
St. Mary's
+5½ -109 at pinnacle
Won
$100
Play Type: Top Premium

10* St. Mary's (7:20 ET): If you recall past Tournament runs (of mine), then you know defensive efficiency is a metric I lean on heavily this time of year. It can be particularly useful when the underdog has a higher DE rating. Such is the case here w/ St. Mary's taking on Villanova. Make no mistake about, this Villanova team is nowhere close to LY's juggernaut that ended up cutting the nets down. That team ranked 11th nationally in DE. This year, the Wildcats ranked 73rd, which (in my eyes) makes them susceptible to suffering a 1st round upset. I'll take the points here.

You have to wonder whether or not St. Mary's would be in the NCAA Tournament had it not been for an upset of Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament Final. But the Gaels did win that game and thus are here as an 11-seed. They are no defensive juggernaut (55th in efficiency), but they have a higher rating than 'Nova and are also comparable on the offensive end (21st vs. 16th). I just don't see the gap between the teams that the oddsmakers seem to. St. Mary's has won a NCAA Tournament game each of the last three years. They play at a very slow pace and also crash the glass at a solid rate. If they can beat the Zags, well, they are capable of beating anyone on any given night. 

Villanova entered LY's Tournament as the betting favorite. That is certainly not the case this year. While they did win both the Big East regular season title and tournament, the league was down. The Wildcats also won the last two games by just four (Xavier) and two (Seton Hall) points. Also, despite a high number of attempts from behind the three-point line, the Wildcats aren't converting at their usual rate in 2018-19. I've had this team earmarked as having the potential for suffering an outright loss in the 1st round for some time. I'm not wavering from that. 10* St. Mary's

PICKS IN PROGRESS
Matchup Selection W/L
NBA  |  Mar 22, 2019
Grizzlies vs Magic
Magic
-9 -107 at pinnacle
Lost
$107.0
Play Type: Top Premium

10* Orlando (7:05 ET): The Magic are trying to make the playoffs, something they have not done in the post-Dwight Howard era (which goes back to 2012). Right now, they are 1.5 games behind Miami for the 8-seed and have won three in a row. All three wins have been by double digits. Now, they've hardly faced the stiffest competition during that time. Two of the wins were against Cleveland and Atlanta while the other was against New Orleans w/o Anthony Davis. But those wins show me that Orlando is "doing what it should do" and that trend should continue tonight at home against Memphis. 

Now Memphis is a team that I've used somewhat regularly of late, in the underdog role. Their scoring defense (ranked #2 overall) is good enough to keep them in most games. But even though they just upset Houston (at home) Wednesday night, the Grizzlies have been giving up a lot more points than usual recently. It's an average of 130.6 PPG allowed in their L3 contests. Now they did need OT to overcome the Rockets and James Harden's 50 points. But the prior two games, both of which were on the road saw them allow 132 and 135 points to teams far worse than Orlando (Atlanta, Washington).

Maybe we should talk a little bit about Orlando's defense here. The Magic held the Pelicans to a 37.3 FG%, the fourth time in five games they've held an opponent below 42.0% from the field. In those five games, Orlando is allowing an average of just 96.6 PPG. Memphis is not a good road team (10-25 SU) and while the rank near the top of the league in scoring defense, they're also at the bottom in offense at 102.5 PPG. The Grizz are long out of playoff contention in the West, so motivation could be an issue moving forward. No so for Orlando, however, as they look to avenge an eight-point loss in Memphis from 12 days ago. The Magic are also a perfect 7-0 ATS at home this season when coming off B2B home games. 10* Orlando

Matchup Selection W/L
NCAA-B  |  Mar 22, 2019
Oregon vs Wisconsin
Wisconsin
-1½ -109 at GTBets
Lost
$109.0
Play Type: Top Premium

10* Wisconsin (4:30 ET): This just might be the most fascinating line of the entire 1st round. Oregon is undoubtedly hot right now as they ran through the Pac 12 Tournament, winning three of their four games by double digits en route to garnering the automatic bid (which they needed). The Ducks are a perfect 7-0 ATS in March and being priced like it as they are essentially a "pick 'em" taking on a Wisconsin team that has spent much of this season ranked in the top 25. Under normal circumstances, I might consider Oregon in this spot. But this is a horrendous draw facing a team that ranks in the top five (nationally) in defensive efficiency. 

Wisconsin comes into the Tournament ranked #21 in the country at 23-10 SU overall. They've won six of their last eight games. The only two losses were by two to Indiana and to Michigan State in the Big 10 semis. There have been instances of the Badgers dropping B2B games before, but I just do not see it happening here. This is one of the top defensive teams in the country and that carries a lot of weight w/ me this time of year. They also have an efficient offense, led by Ethan Happ, who is one of the better individual players in this entire Tournament. Oregon will NOT enjoy the pace at which Wisconsin likes to play. 

Oregon has actually won eight in a row going back to the final game of February, including two wins over regular season champ Washington. But the Ducks also benefited from having played all of those opponents at least one time before. Here, that won't be the case and Wisconsin certainly doesn't play like most Pac 12 teams. The irony here is Oregon is actually no slouch defensively either. They are top 20 in the country. Had they been matched up w/ any other 5-seed, I would have probably taken them. But the selection committee dealt them a bad blow with Wisconsin, who is simply the better team in every facet of the game. Remember, the Ducks lost their best player (Bol Bol) mid-season, something that isn't even being talked about anymore. A month ago, no one would have thought they'd be in the Tournament, let alone have a chance to beat a team like Wisconsin on a neutral floor. 10* Wisconsin

Matchup Selection W/L
NCAA-B  |  Mar 22, 2019
Washington vs Utah State
Washington
+3 -103 at betonline
Won
$100
Play Type: Top Premium

8* Washington (6:50 ET): Here's yet another matchup where defensive efficiency is the key metric to lean on. Washington may have run into the buzzsaw known as "Oregon" in the Pac 12 Tournament Final, but Mike Hopkins' Huskies were regular season champs in the conference and that should mean something here. I realize that the Pac 12 was most certainly "down" this season, but the Huskies are a top 20 team in the country in defensive efficiency and that makes them a fantastic value getting points in this 1st round matchup w/ Utah State. Take the points.

Utah State was a "bubble team" entering its conference tournament (Mt West), but took itself right off the bubble by winning in Las Vegas. They caught a break though when top seed Nevada was upset in the semifinals by San Diego State. That made for an easier than anticipated final, which the Aggies won 64-57 as six-point favorites. USU has won 10 straight to get to 28-6 SU on the year, but the level of competition in the Mt West isn't what it is in the Pac 12, even in a down year for the former. Utah State ranks only 47th in defensive efficiency, so again not sure they should be favored here against the regular season champs from a bigger (and better) conference. 

Washington plays a 2-3 zone as Hopkins is a Jim Boeheim disciple from Syracuse. My call is that Utah State is going to struggle to make shots against the unfamiliar defense. Also, when Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year Matisse Thybulle is on the floor, the Huskies force a turnover on 25% of their opponents possessions. Utah State actually allows a lower FG% than Washington over the course of the season, but that's also thanks to facing the dregs of the Mountain West. Save for Nevada LY, the MWC has really struggled in this event. Utah State went 17-17 SU last year and was picked to finish NINTH in the Mountain West before the season started. The spot is likely "too big" for them. 8* Washington

Matchup Selection W/L
NCAA-B  |  Mar 22, 2019
Ohio State vs Iowa State
Ohio State
+5½ -109 at pinnacle
Play Type: Top Premium

10* Ohio State (9:50 ET): Iowa State is riding high right now, coming off an impressive win in the Big 12 Tournament. But I also believe said run makes the Cyclones somewhat susceptible to a 1st round upset. The committee did them no favors here w/ the draw of an undervalued Ohio State team, who most will disregard simply because they finished w/ a losing conference record. The Buckeyes do come into the Tournament having lost four of five. However, key to that was they were w/o their best player (Kaleb Wesson). He's back now and OSU is a live dog here. Take the points. 

The edge in defensive efficiency here goes to the Buckeyes, who rank a strong 27th in that category, which is the second highest rating for any double digit seed. Meanwhile, Iowa State is 59th in defensive efficiency, putting them right behind 13-seed UC Irvine. In terms of single digit seeds, only five have a lower defensive efficiency rating than the Cyclones and two of them are either an 8 or 9 seed. Something that must be remembered here is that Iowa State had lost six of eight going into the Big 12 Tournament. Now they're the "toast of the town."

Ohio State played two horrible games w/o Wesson, losing by double digits at Purdue and Northwestern. They shot 33.3% and 29.6% in the two losses. But then they took Wisconsin to overtime (lost by 4) and Wesson returned. With Wesson back, they beat Indiana in the Big 10 Tourney before bowing out to top seed Michigan State (only lost by 7). Wesson's return is huge and makes the Buckeyes a much better team than how they looked down the stretch. Don't fall victim to recency bias, Ohio State is the play here. 10* Ohio State

Matchup Selection W/L
NCAA-B  |  Mar 22, 2019
Oklahoma vs Ole Miss
Oklahoma
+1½ -109 at pinnacle
Won
$100
Play Type: Top Premium

8* Oklahoma (12:40 ET): I'm again turning to defensive efficiency as the key metric for this NCAA Tournament and why not? It's been pretty foolproof in year's past. Three years ago, few would have predicted South Carolina would get to the Final Four. But the Gamecocks were actually top three in the country in D.E. (Last year's Cinderella, Loyola Chicago, was 17th). It's not the "end all, be all," but it is instructive. In this early Friday matchup, we're looking at Ole Miss team that ranks a rather pedestrian 65th in defensive efficiency going against an Oklahoma side that's 23rd. I think that's pretty significant when the better defensive team is taking points. 

Similar to last season, Oklahoma got off to a great start and then faltered a bit in the teeth of Big 12 play. The only difference is this year's team doesn't have Trae Young. But they are much better defensively (LY's squad ranked 85th in efficiency) and thus capable of winning at least one game (which the Young-led team failed to do LY). The Sooners are allowing a FG% of just 40.2 for the season, which is a very good number (2nd in the Big 12). While they did finish w/ a losing conference reccord, don't let that fool you. This is a team better designed to win in March than on a random Tuesday in January. 

Ole Miss was picked to finish 14th (last!) in the SEC before the season, so tip your cap to the job done here by 1st year HC Kermit Davis. But one thing Davis will have to work on moving forward is the defense, which is particularly suspect along the three-point line. Ole Miss opponents buried over 37% of 3PA, which is a really high number and will mean trouble against an OU squad that has multiple players that can shoot from deep. Also, the Rebels are one of the very worst teams in the field at defending in transition. The last five games saw them allow a FG% of 50.0 (!), so it's no wonder they lost four of the five games. 8* Oklahoma 

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