2012 MLB Season Ramps Up, NBA and NHL Continues Surge Towards Playoffs

It’s an exciting week for sports fans as the 2012 Major League Baseball season officially gets off the ground, with more games coming online each and every day, subsequently making for even more wagering choices at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here on our website. Along with the host of new options for betting on sports derived out of Major League Baseball, the continuation of the drive towards the NBA and NHL playoffs makes sportsbook betting at this time of year an even more challenging and engaging experience on each passing day. For Thursday then, with online sportsbook betting choices ranging from baseball to basketball to hockey, let’s dive in and take a look at the best looking match-ups and the best betting lines to chase for Thursday night. Heading to another of the best sports betting sites reviewed here, we turn to the Intertops Sportsbook for our wagers today.

First up, as we have a reasonably full day of Major League Baseball on tap, it’s high time to jump in feet first for a host of great looking opening day match-ups taking place across the U.S., with the schedule loaded primarily with National League games on Thursday. For starters, a number of this year’s top teams picked to be in the playoff hunt are in action, as first the Philadelphia Phillies open play on the road against the Pittsburgh Pirates, with Phillies’ ace Roy Halladay squaring up against the Pirates’ newly acquired Erik Bedard, and secondly the Atlanta Braves begin their season against the New York Mets, with an outstanding duel set up between the Braves’ Tommy Hanson, and the Mets’ Johan Santana. Another very interesting battle takes place in Southern California tonight, as the Los Angeles Dodgers put their Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw on the mound against the San Diego Padres, who feature a new starter in Edinson Volquez. This match-up is perhaps the most favorable from a pitching standpoint, as you can bet Clayton Kershaw will be coming out blazing yet again in 2012, while Volquez has a ways to go to prove he can have better control and issue less walks than he has typically in the past. In a contest favoring the pitchers at PetCo Park in San Diego, look for a strong outing by Kershaw to keep the Padres’ bats in check, giving the already low 6 runs on the over/under a good challenge. Another outstanding pitcher’s duel to check out tonight is in the American League, as two of the perennial playoff contenders clash in Detroit with the Tigers hosting the Boston Red Sox. With AL Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander facing Jon Lester, you can be sure that this should be a fantastic opening night, as each of the highly-touted pitchers will have to contend with two of the most proficient batting orders in the AL. With a few additional games getting underway tonight, make sure to check out all the betting lines at Intertops Sportsbook and pick out the best looking bets for your betting ticket today.

Moving along to action in the NBA and NHL tonight, a short list of 4 games is available for basketball action, as is typical of a Thursday of online sportsbook betting. However, as is also typical, a number of the match-ups on Thursday are between marquee teams, and for tonight the pinnacle of the NBA offerings lie with the Chicago Bulls vs. the Boston Celtics in a classic battle from the United Center in Chicago. With Boston looking to get back on its feet after suffering a tough one-point loss at home to San Antonio to snap a 5-game winning streak, they’ll have a tough challenge on the road against Chicago, who may get star guard Derrick Rose back in action after an 11-game absence. His return can’t come soon enough for the Bulls, who have dropped 2 consecutive games and are starting to feel the pressure from Miami, the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference, who sit just 2 games back of Chicago in the standings. Defense will be a major factor between these two teams tonight, as evident by the low 177 total points on the over/under, but I expect the Bulls to rally back and avoid a 3rd straight loss, just edging out the Celtics tonight. Catch other top action with playoff implications as the New York Knicks head to face the Orlando Magic, with the host team desperate to break out of a 4-game slide that started with a blowout loss to the Knicks in New York. There’s no better way to break a losing streak than by beating the team that put you in it, so look out for Dwight Howard and the Magic to get back to defensive basics and overcome the understaffed Knicks tonight.

In exciting NHL action tonight, the playoff push boils down to the final few games left on the schedule, and for tonight some extremely important games are on tap for a number of teams in the league still looking to solidify their place in the Stanley Cup playoffs. For starters, the biggest game I’m paying attention to tonight is out West, as the Los Angeles Kings host the San Jose Sharks at Staples Center. I’ll be in attendance for this clash between heated rivals, as the Kings look to maintain the slimmest of leads over the Pacific division with a victory on home ice. With the final 2 games for both teams between one another, this home-and-home series is definitely worth following, as it will determine playoff seeding in the Western Conference, and will effect who reigns as champion over the Pacific Division. Also up for grabs is the final spot in the Eastern Conference, with the Washington Capitals tied on points with the Buffalo Sabres and both teams in action tonight. Buffalo gets a tough draw on the road against the Philadelphia Flyers, while Washington will host the Florida Panthers, the latter team having an opportunity to wrap up the Southeast division title, and end a 4-game losing skid at the same time. Desperation is sure to be a major factor in both games tonight, so expect high-flying action, and a good probability that at least one of these games goes into overtime tonight. Other great competition takes place as Dallas Stars try to stay playoff relevant needing a win against Nashville, and Colorado tries to win its final two games to have a shot at a playoff spot, provided they can avoid playoff elimination at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It’s a great night of sports and online sportsbook betting set up for you at one of the top sports betting websites like the one at Intertops, so jump into the action for the best available betting lines on the best contests featuring the most exciting competition, and enjoy both the start of the Major League Baseball campaign and the push to the playoffs in NBA Basketball and NHL Hockey.

Major League Baseball Opener: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Miami Marlins

It’s opening night tonight for two of the most exciting teams in Major League Baseball, as the World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals get set to meet up with the completely revamped Miami Marlins, for a great showdown at the new Marlins Park in Miami, Florida, with the first pitch set to come out at 7:00 PM ET.

For the Miami Marlins, it’s a year of complete change, as they get set to start life at a gorgeous new facility in Miami, with new uniforms, new management and new players abound. Having had without a doubt one of the busiest off-seasons in Major League Baseball, this year’s Marlins squad is already talked about as a true contender in the NL East, led by a new manager, Ozzie Guillen, who has proven that he knows how to win championships both with the Marlins (part of the coaching staff for the 2003 World Series winners) and without (at the helm of the Chicago White Sox). There’s a heap of new talent for the Fish this season, with acquisitions ranging from All-star shortstop Jose Reyes, to starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano, and talented closer Heath Bell. Add that into an already potent mix of capable hitters, and there’s good reason to be positive on this year’s Miami squad, even if you might not be so optimistic towards the new team logo and uniforms (which, dare I say, are hideous). Superficial things aside though, Miami looks from the get-go to be a tough competitor all season long, with a good pitching rotation, an ace closer in the pen, and a wealth of hitters across the batting order. No doubt ready to give a real test to the defending World Series Champions tonight, expect the Marlins to be energized, excited, and ready to play ball this evening.

The St. Louis Cardinals on the other hand retain a large chunk of their World Series winning line-up, albeit with the absence of one very big, and very powerful key ingredient; Albert Pujols. Shipped off to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the offseason, the Cardinals get set for life without the Big A, though chances are likely the effects of the Pujols trade won’t be nearly as negative as some may believe. Though the Cardinals also start off the season without their long-time manager Tony LaRussa, who retired after winning the World Series last season and has been replaced by former Cardinals’ catcher Mike Matheny, the core team led by a number of veterans should be well positioned to begin the season without missing a beat from last year. With their pitching rotation most intact, led by Adam Wainwright, tonight’s starter Kyle Lohse, the youngster Jaime Garcia and the veteran Jake Westbrook, St. Louis should be well prepared once more for the long and grueling 162-game season. Though they’ll be missing their playoff ace Chris Carpenter, who starts the season on the disabled list, the staff is more than capable of carrying the load in his absence. On offense, despite missing the centerpiece in Albert Pujols for the first time in 12 years, the Cards are far from being short on talent. With World Series MVP David Freese set to have another solid year, and with plenty of great hitters from catcher Yadier Molina, newly-acquired Carlos Beltran, power-hitter Matt Holliday, the speedy Rafael Furcal and the veteran switch hitter Lance Berkman, this year’s Cardinals may not hardly feel the effects of Pujols’ absence, provided they can stay healthy.

Looking at the pitching match-up for tonight’s contest between St. Louis and Miami, we’ve got a great duel set up for us as Kyle Lohse (14-8, 3.31 ERA in 2011) battles it out with the hard-throwing but injury-prone Josh Johnson (3-1, 1.64 ERA in 2011). Lohse, in his 11th year, saw a marked improvement in his form last season, and was impressive last year on the road with a 8-3 record and a 3.13 ERA. His changeup is especially important for him to have working well from the get-go, as he’s not overwhelming with his fastball, and doesn’t strike many batters out. Key for Lohse tonight against a very talented group of Marlins hitters is to get ahead in the count, and keep the ball down in the strike zone. When Lohse jumps out with a lead in the count, he’s poised and confident, and uses a good range of pitches to keep batters guessing and generates lots of ground balls. Heavily reliant on his defense, Lohse must avoid getting behind in counts, and must avoid leaving the ball up in the strike zone. Johnson on the other hand is without a doubt Miami’s ace when he is healthy, as the 6’7″ fireballer simply mows through opposing line-ups with a devastating fastball and vicious slider. Though injuries are a concern, coming into tonight’s game off a 9 strikeout, 1 walk performance in 5.2 innings of work in his final spring training start, there should be plenty of optimism that Johnson will come out guns blazing tonight in a historical start at the Marlins new ballpark. Johnson should have an advantage from a pure-pitcher standpoint, and if he has command tonight, he’ll likely be the better of the two pitchers. That said, Lohse is more than capable of keeping pace, provided he gets good support from his defense, and avoids making the big mistake in the heart of the Marlins batting order.

Betting Lines for St. Louis Cardinals vs. Miami Marlins at Sportsbetting Sportsbook

For the opening day of MLB play between these two teams, the host Miami Marlins start off with a solid favorite on the money line, with -180 odds to win straight up behind Josh Johnson. The St. Louis Cardinals will get +160 odds as underdogs coming into tonight’s match-up.

Against the spread, Miami will need to cover 1.5 runs (+115 odds) to beat the spread tonight, whereas the St. Louis Cardinals will have +1.5 runs in their pocket (-135 odds). While this game should be tight judging by the quality of starting pitching, with two huge batting orders squaring off, there is a high likelihood that one side or the other will be able to pull away from this game tonight.

On total runs, the magic number stands at 7 for the over/under. One very important note here with regards to scoring runs is the fact that this new Marlins Park complex is completely untested as a hitting venue. What we do know is that the dimensions of the park, which are almost across the board deeper than Sun Life Stadium, the Marlins’ former home, should favor pitchers more than hitters, as both the left and right center field power alleys are extremely deep, and straight away center is a massive bomb at 416 feet away. That should give the pitchers an advantage at this park this season, and help keep the run totals down. With that in mind though, and with both starting pitchers likely to be limited in pitch counts, the bullpens will be a bigger factor tonight in how this game plays out, and how many runs are scored. With expectations that we’ll see a fair number of pitchers for both sides, that should help to keep hitters from dialing in, and should boost the prospects for the game leaning towards the underside of total runs.

Regardless of which way you wager on tonight’s opening night at a fantastic new ballpark, featuring the defending World Series Champion Cardinals against a new and improved Marlins team, expect a great atmosphere for game time, with exciting fan fare and great on-field action to properly kick off the MLB regular season games taking place this week. Head down to grab the top sports bets for tonight’s game at the Sportsbetting Sportsbook, one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here at CR.

Major League Baseball Opening Night, NBA, NHL Bets on Tap

Though the Major League Baseball season has technically already begun with the two games played between the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo last week, tonight’s first game on U.S. soil marks the official christening of the 2012 MLB season, which starts out with a bang as the new-look Miami Marlins host the 2011 MLB World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. With the game taking place at a brand new Marlins’ Park Stadium in Miami, and a completely revamped Marlins team ready to take on the defending World Champs, tonight’s lone MLB game makes for a perfect teaser wager at one of the top online sportsbooks reviewed here. As the season ramps up this week with a full plate of sports betting options on baseball by the weekend, you won’t want to miss out on the exciting start of this year’s MLB season, and all the great betting options that naturally come along with it. Thus, as we can’t resist jumping into the betting action on baseball today, join me in check out the Sportsbetting Sportsbook for an initial wager on tonight’s clash between two teams with high expectations. Tonight’s pitching match-up features a great duel between St. Louis’ Kyle Lohse, a staple for the Cards in last year’s playoff run, and Josh Johnson, a staff ace for the Marlins albeit with a penchant for accumulating injuries as the season wears on. However for tonight, you can bet both pitchers will be at top form in a nationally televised game, where the Marlins are -180 favorites to win (St. Louis is a +160 underdog), and the over/under at 7 runs could be tough to reach even with two powerful line-ups, considering the talent level of the starting pitching for tonight’s game.

Moving along to other action for betting on sports at the Sportsbetting Sportsbook, check out the wealth of games available for NBA basketball tonight, as a number of quality match-ups will be sure to make your sportsbook betting options that much more interesting. Starting out with a match-up that has rarely been exciting this time of year, the Los Angeles Clippers will be the host team for an intercity showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers, as the two teams continue to battle for first place in the Pacific division, as well as 3rd and 4th place in the Western Conference playoff picture. The Clippers have been on an absolute tear at the moment, winning 6 straight games to pull within a game and a half of the Lakers in the standings, however the Lakers have also been playing very well down the stretch, winning 6 of their last 8 games. Since the Lakers’ questionable road form all but goes out the window for tonight’s game at Staples’ Center, this match-up is certain to be well contested from start to finish, with the Clippers getting a slight edge on the betting lines at -3 points against the spread and -150 odds straight up. Make sure to catch a number of other potentially great NBA games for online sportsbook betting today, as the San Antonio Spurs put their 8-game winning streak on the line against the surging Boston Celtics (who have won 5 straight as well), the Miami Heat take to the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Dallas Mavericks host the Memphis Grizzlies, and the Utah Jazz bring on the Phoenix Suns as the two teams battle for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Switching over to a pair of games in NHL Hockey today, first catch a fantastic pairing of teams as the Detroit Red Wings host the St. Louis Blues at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Though both teams have wrapped up their spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there’s no doubt that with just 3 games remaining for both sides, each of them will be looking to push into the playoff with the most momentum possible. As St. Louis has slipped a bit down the stretch, perhaps to start resting up their players, look for Detroit to have an edge at home, where they have been simply outstanding this year at a record of 31-6-2. For the second of the two NHL games on tap today, make sure to check out the Tampa Bay Lightning in action against the Montreal Canadiens for another good looking wager at Sportsbetting Sportsbook. While neither team is in the playoffs this season, I’m looking for Tampa Bay to continue their strong finish with a solid cast of scorers, and hand Montreal their 5th straight loss as they continue to settle into the doldrums of last place in the Eastern Conference.

Lastly for sportsbook fans today, European football kicks off once more with another set of quarterfinal games in the UEFA Champions League, as Real Madrid hosts Apoel Nicosia for what should be an easy second leg match at home, and Chelsea brings on Benfica for a match at Stamford Bridge, which could make for a huge boost to the Blues in another year of managerial turmoil and unmet expectations. While the Cypriot underdogs Apoel have certainly been fun to watch in this year’s Champions League competition, they’ll more than likely get an unceremonious send-off from the tournament in today’s match with the top Spanish side, no doubt with one or two goals coming by way of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. For Chelsea on the other hand, there will be even more pressure to have a solid outing in front of their home fans with just a small 1-0 advantage on aggregate against Benfica, so look for no let-up in form as the Blues grab another 2-goal victory over the Portuguese challengers to progress into the semifinal round. All-in-all, it’s another top day for online sportsbook betting at one of the best sports betting sites reviewed right here, so jump into the action today and make those hard-earned dollars work for you!

Tuesday Night NBA Clash: New York Knicks at Indiana Pacers

The injury-riddled New York Knicks (27-26, 9-16 away) travel to take on the Indiana Pacers (31-21, 16-7 home) tonight at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana, for what should be an exciting game between two Eastern Conference foes both looking to solidify their place in the NBA playoffs race.

Indiana on the one hand has continued to play great basketball this season, and is on a path to lock down home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Playing excellent ball especially at home, and excelling behind a stout defense that is allowing just 93.8 points/game, the Pacers will seek to build on a clutch 104-102 overtime win on Sunday against Houston, after getting a day of rest following 7 games in 10 nights and back-to-back games over the weekend. Winning 6 of their last 9 games has shown that Indiana continues to play well despite a hectic schedule, and coming back home with a rested squad will certainly give them a leg up against a tough opponent that has had their number so far this year.

New York on the other hand is simply trying to be a playoff consideration at this point, playing extremely well since the middle of March, but continuing to suffer the injury bug, which has plagued this year’s surprise stand-out Jeremy Lin, as well as their All-Star forward Amare Stoudamire. While that hasn’t seemed to effect the bottom line for New York recently, as they’ve won 9 of their past 11 games, in the grueling push to the playoffs in a lockout-shortened season, it’s almost certain that the Knicks won’t be able to keep up a similar pace without getting two of their top scorers back into action soon. For now though, it looks as if New York is starting to find consistency with Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler in the line-up, with the three players finally showing an ability to win both the gritty, scrappy games, and the high-scoring run-and-gun contests.

In this match-up tonight, the Pacers will try to end a 3-game slide against the Knicks while at the same time attempting to keep pace of the Orlando Magic, who sit a half-game ahead of Indiana 3rd place in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers will have a leg up on New York via their depth, which has been impressive with 7 players averaging better than 9.2 points/game. The Pacers are big on the glass courtesy of the massive 7’2″ Roy Hibbert (8.8 rebounds/game), and have gotten increasingly more consistent play from David West (12 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Danny Granger (18.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg), the latter of whom is coming off a season-high 32 point effort against Houston on Sunday. Against a Knicks team that won’t have the depth especially in the front court, it’ll be essential for the Pacers to have good defensive contributions from Hibbert, West and Tyler Hansbrough tonight around the basket, who collectively make for a formidable and lengthy group inside. Forcing New York to resort to more shots from the outside tonight will give Indiana a solid advantage, especially as the Knicks are not good from beyond the 3-point arc (%31.5), and can struggle when unable to drive to the lane and get easy buckets.

For New York to have success, Carmelo Anthony will have to play a physical game in a tough head-to-head match-up against Indiana’s power forward David West, and find ways to penetrate the lanes and get better looks at the basket. Under the power forward role in the last two games, Anthony has shown a resurgence in form averaging 26.5 points and 8.5 rebounds/game, well above his season averages in both categories. However, against a big opponent like Indiana, Anthony will need help from his smaller guards, including J.R. Smith, Baron Davis and Iman Shumpert, each of whom are capable scorers but tend to suffer from inconsistent form. Shumpert, averaging 9.8 points/game on the season, comes in averaging 20 points in his last 3 games, and will look to bounce back off a poor shooting night against Cleveland (3-for-12, 10 points). Filling in for Jeremy Lin for the duration of the year, Shumpert simply must continue to have better scoring contributions, and also expand his role as a ball distributor. While Baron Davis has picked up the slack in assists, producing 5.1 per game (Lin was at 6.1 apg before his torn meniscus), Shumpert must also do better to get the ball moving to open Knicks players, especially considering the size of the Indiana Pacers in opposition. Without good movement and good open looks at the bucket, New York will have trouble stacking up head-to-head with a bigger, more physical Pacers team tonight.

Betting Lines for Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks at TopBet Sportsbook

The Indiana Pacers are a solid favorite on the money line for tonight’s match-up with the Knicks, getting -245 odds to win while New York sits at +205 underdogs. Indiana is 5-2 straight up in their last 7 match-ups at home, whereas the Knicks are just 2-5 straight up in their last 7 games on the road. However, head-to-head, the Knicks have won both meetings home and away against the Pacers this season, with a lofty 14.5 point margin of victory.

Against the spread, Indiana must cover the -6 points as favorite at home (-110 odds), while New York will get +6 points to play with at the same odds. The Pacers however haven’t been great against the spread at home, going 10-13 this year, and 24-28 overall. The Knicks also haven’t been great picks ATS, with a 10-15 record away from home and 27-26 altogether.

On the total points betting line tonight, the mark to stay within or beat stands at 191.5 points. Current betting trends at TopBet Sportsbook are showing upwards of %72 of wagers going for the over wager tonight, however with New York vastly improved on defense under new head coach Mike Woodson (86.3 points allowed in 11 games, 96.5 points allowed prior to his takeover), and Indiana strong on defense at home, the under wager on total points looks quite appealing, especially as these two teams stayed on the underside of total points in the last meeting in Indiana (a 102-88 New York win).

Sportsbook Betting on NBA Basketball, NHL Hockey, Upcoming MLB Action

Well folks, the NCAA College Basketball is now officially in the bag with the Kentucky Wildcats crowned champions in what has been a truly wild and magnificent ride over the past number of months. While there’s no doubt the pinnacle of College Basketball will leave a bit of a void for sports fans looking into some exciting options for online sportsbook betting on Tuesday, a resurgence of NBA Basketball games coming up combined with 10 NHL Hockey games and a pair of second-leg, quarterfinal Champions League matches getting underway will certainly provide plenty of opportunities to jump into the action immediately. Make note as well that as the week progresses, the 2012 Major League Baseball season gets fully underway with spring training wrapping up tomorrow, and the first regular season game in the U.S. takes place tomorrow night with an exciting match-up between the new-look Miami Marlins and the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals from the sparkling new confines of Marlins Park in Miami, Florida. You definitely won’t want to miss out on the opening week festivities for Major League baseball, and with the void left from College Basketball, a new sports season is sure to bring about an exciting change in form for your betting ways to come. Checking into another one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here today, Bovada Sportsbook) fits the bill for the best sports betting opportunities available, as we’ll look to nab a couple of key upcoming wagers from NBA Basketball and NHL Hockey, to MLB Baseball and UEFA Champions League Soccer.

Starting off the day, we have two Champions League quarterfinal matches lined up, which should make for exciting action for soccer fans around the world today. With both matches kicking off at 11:45 AM PST, make sure to add in a few wagers for the second leg of competition between Barcelona and AC Milan, as well as Bayern Munich vs. Marseilles, as each match will determine who moves on to the semifinal round, and both should be hotly contested just as the first legs between each two teams were last week. In the first pairing between two European giants, Barcelona and AC Milan remain tied on aggregate after a 0-0 draw in Milan, and heading to Camp Nou for today’s match, Barca will certainly have the upper hand in front of one of the most exciting and invigorated home crowds in all of sports. I still view the first match as a fluke 0-0 draw, and without an overly impressive defensive effort from AC Milan, Barca would be in comfortable position heading home for today’s match. However, even with the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas in tow for Barca, another shutdown defensive game and a well placed strike from Milan goal scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic could spell disaster for arguably one of the best teams in the world, so don’t count out Milan pulling off a major upset if they can keep Barca’s top scorers off the board. For the second match today, Bayern Munich finds itself in a much more comfortable position, up 2-0 on aggregate heading back home to the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. Bayern has looked all too strong behind Mario Gomez, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery in the face of Marseilles, who will need huge performances from Loic Remy, Andre Ayew and Mathieu Valbuena if they are to prevail on the road tonight. If you haven’t checked out the action on European Soccer at one of the top online sportsbooks, the pinnacle of European competition is a great place to start, and Bovada Sportsbook will have you perusing betting lines and placing wagers for the matches about to start in no time.

Moving down the home stretch towards the playoffs, both NBA Basketball and NHL Hockey are in full-form tonight, with plenty of good options to choose from at Bovada Sportsbook. In the NBA, catch a great battle between the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers, in a dog fight between two Eastern Conference teams that are scrapping for the NBA playoffs to come. In another big East Coast showdown, look out for the match-up between the Miami Heat and the visiting Philadelphia 76ers, which has the Heat at home with a heavy advantage on the betting lines. For favorable match-ups that could support parlay wagers, look to the Orlando Magic to stop a 3-game skid in a game against Detroit tonight, check on the Memphis Grizzlies who could secure a 3rd straight win at home against Golden State, and expect the Los Angeles Lakers to come up big on home court against the New Jersey Nets. Make sure to find a couple sweet contests in the NHL today as well with playoff implications everywhere as only a couple games remain in the regular season for each team, and the final few playoff spots in each conference have yet to be wrapped up. Key match-ups to look out for include the San Jose Sharks vs. Dallas Stars, with both teams fighting for playoff spots and/or the Pacific division lead, the Buffalo Sabres desperate for a win at home against Toronto to pull even with the Washington Capitals for 8th spot in the Eastern Conference, and catch some big-time showdowns as the Pittsburgh Penguins head to Boston to face the Bruins, and the New York Rangers travel to meet up with the Philadelphia Flyers in what should be another hard-hitting, exciting showdown. Find all this great action for online sports betting and more at Bovada Sportsbook today, and look forward to a blooming Major League Baseball season to come with even more great sports betting options to come!

NCAA Basketball National Championship: #1 Kentucky vs. #2 Kansas

While this year’s episode of March Madness has seen some of the most elite programs in NCAA College Basketball get booted unceremoniously from the NCAA Tournament well before their expected time, it is perhaps a bit of a surprise that we’ve come all the way down to the NCAA Basketball Championship game with a #1 and a #2 seed still left standing, and the tournament favorite, the Kentucky Wildcats, looking well-positioned to fulfill their destiny as the team picked to win it all from the get-go. However, with the Wildcats facing a very capable, well-coached, and talented shooting team in the Kansas Jayhawks tonight for a 9:23 PM ET tip-off at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, once again we find ourselves up against an anything goes type of match-up for online sports betting in which by no means does the favored team have a guaranteed road to victory. As such, let’s try to look at some of the key factors for tonight’s game, as well as some key betting lines at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here on our website.

In a game that features some of the elite players in college basketball, the team that can keep the most of their top scorers on the court and out of foul trouble will have a major upper hand in tonight’s contest. This factor, which has been huge for the Kansas Jayhawks in particular all season long, will be especially crucial in what will be a physical, grinding game between two very talented shooting teams that like to push the ball under the basket. For Kansas, their star forward Thomas Robinson has to be as careful as possible on defense to avoid racking up fouls early on. The Jayhawks aren’t deep down low if Robinson gets in foul trouble, and without his efforts (averaging 17.7 points and 11.7 rebounds/game) available at every possible moment, the bigger, deeper Wildcats will have a huge advantage. Finding the most suitable defensive match-up for Robinson will be interesting to watch tonight, as most expect to see Michael Kidd-Gilchrist pairing up with Robinson in the paint. A versatile and extremely talented defender, Kidd-Gilchrist will have to keep Robinson frustrated, and avoid picking up fouls when Robinson clearly has his beat. With so many young Kentucky defenders in the paint, including Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones, Kentucky really has to be careful to avoid banging bodies too much with a stronger Thomas Robinson. However, if they can double team and frustrate Robinson into making poor shots, and force a offensive foul or two, UK has a big upper hand in tonight’s game without a doubt.

Another huge factor in tonight’s game is how the opening minutes play out. Kansas simply cannot afford to be trailing the game from the get-go like they were against Ohio State in the Final Four, and expect to be hanging around towards the end of the game. While Kentucky can use their depth and aggressive defense to overcome a built-up deficit from early in the game, Kansas may not have that luxury, especially considering their talent pool only extends so far. While its’ evident that Kansas’ two top starters, Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, once again have to be shooting well from the beginning, it’s perhaps even more important tonight that the Jayhawks lesser-known contributors get off to a solid early start as well. Jeff Withey, Kansas’ 7-foot center, must be a part of the early scoring discussion, as well as have a huge presence on defense against UK’s Anthony Davis. Kentucky is big in the paint, and will play physical inside, and Withey has to respond with an aggressive game, which has been sorely lacking in this year’s tournament. Aside from 15 points and 8 boards against North Carolina in the Elite 8, Withey doesn’t have another double-digit effort in scoring or rebounding during the Tournament, and was just 2-for-4 for 4 points and 8 rebounds against Ohio State on Saturday. One thing he has done well however, which will pay dividends in the title game, is his blocking ability. Jeff Withey is averaging 5.4 blocks/game during the 2012 NCAA Tournament, and up against Anthony Davis, who is averaging 4.4 blocks/game during the Tournament and is another elite shot-blocker, it will be crucial for Withey to hold his own on defense, and provide enough offense to force Kentucky to pay attention to him as well as Robinson.

Transition offense is once again a huge factor in tonight’s game, especially for Kansas. With both teams playing very well in set, half-court defensive schemes (Kansas averages 61.9 points/game to opposing offenses, Kentucky averages 59.0), the Jayhawks especially have to get out and run with the ball against a more lengthy and athletic Kentucky squad, that has a bigger and more capable defense courtesy of their size and speed at each position. Kansas must push the ball whenever they can, especially on turnovers and by getting quick outlet passes on defensive rebounds. Both Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson have great speed and can shoot the ball well, so getting into transition offense and driving towards the hoop before Kentucky can set up will be a key factor, especially with Kentucky having a size advantage on defense around the perimeter. For Kentucky on the other hand, who is equally adept at transition basketball, they’ll look to have Marquis Teague helping to push the pace, and hope to see good shooting nights from Doron Lamb and Darius Miller in particular. These two players take the most 3-point shots for UK, who shoots at a very solid 38.5 percent from 3-point range collectively (vs. Kansas’ %34.3), so with Lamb getting anywhere near his season average of %46.5 from deep, Kentucky will give Kansas a tough time trying to match 3-point production, and may force the Jayhawks to pull more attention away from bigger threats like Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who will be waiting to be fed the basketball should Kansas push too much towards defending outside.

Betting Lines for #1 Kentucky vs. #2 Kansas at Intertops Sportsbook

For the Championship game in the NCAA Tournament, we head to a champion-caliber sportsbook for the betting lines on tonight’s clash between two of the NCAA’s elite basketball programs. First up on the betting lines is a look at the money line, which finds the Kentucky Wildcats as fairly heavy favorites at -320 odds to win straight up, while the Kansas Jayhawks get +260 odds as underdogs. Although Kentucky has better depth, with Kansas’ solid defense and athletic ability making this match-up likely to go either way, the Jayhawks look to be the best bet for straight up pickers today, provided you’re comfortable backing a heavy underdog.

Against the spread is where things really start to get interesting. Kentucky is favored by 6 1/2 points, a margin which they’ve overcome in every tournament game thus far. For Kansas, a 6.5 point underdog in the title game is once again intriguing, considering that if Kansas can keep their players out of foul trouble, and can push the ball in transition, they’ll be more than in the hunt to cover the spread…they’ll be ready for a possible upset and an NCAA Championship trophy. As sports fans, we all hope to see a championship game come down to the wire, and after seeing Kansas’ remarkable comeback against Ohio State on Saturday, we’ll expect the Jayhawks to at minimum give a valiant effort down the stretch to cover the points spread as underdogs.

To the total points betting lines, the over/under for the final dance stands at 137.5 points. With Kansas knowing that it has to get out in transition to score against a Kentucky team that excels in set defense, expect this game to be fast-paced from the get-go. We know Kentucky can score regardless of what defense is in front of them, so the over/under really comes down to how well Kansas can shoot in the face of the Wildcats. If Kansas can move the ball like they did in transition against North Carolina, and has a hot hand from the onset, this game looks primed to push past the total points mark. If Kentucky can slow the transition offense of Kansas down and avoid turnovers, a defensive game will give the Wildcats an advantage, and will likely keep the points total under the mark.

In the final showdown of the NCAA Basketball season, expect a brilliant game between two of the elite programs in College Basketball, making for an outstanding opportunity for online sportsbook betting at one of the best sports betting sites reviewed right here. Whether you’re backing the favored Kentucky Wildcats or the underdog Kansas Jayhawks, there’s little doubt that the action of the championship game will become even more exciting with a stake in the game placed at a top sportsbook like the one at Intertops!

NCAA Tournament Title Game, NBA, NHL Action Leads Sports Betting into New Week

The peak of the 2011-12 NCAA Basketball season is finally upon us as we head into yet another new week of sports and online sportsbook betting, and with a classic showdown between #1 Kentucky and #2 Kansas taking place tonight, there’s little question as to what will be the center of sports betting attention today at one of the top sports betting websites reviewed here. Two of the nation’s elite basketball programs, led by two of the winningest coaches in recent college basketball history, get set to tip-off tonight at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, for the send-off game in what has been a truly amazing, unpredictable, and always exciting NCAA Basketball season. Thus, with the game mere hours away from closing yet another chapter in college sports, first and foremost we find ourselves digging over the betting lines at one of the best sports betting sites reviewed here, with our sportsbook of the day found at Intertops Sportsbook. Kentucky finds itself primed as a 6 1/2 point favorite against the spread, with -320 odds to win straight up, while Kansas makes for an appealing underdog at +260 odds on the money. While Kentucky and Kansas are just about the only teams I’ve gotten right all the way through the brackets so far this year, with the way my selection has played out in the tournament, and with the surprising upsets we’ve seen throughout March Madness, I’m deciding against all initial gut reactions about this game, which lean towards taking the depth and physical ability of the Wildcats over the Jayhawks, who have to rely on a few key players to push them through each and every game. For the first bet of the new week, one with plenty of risk and excitement, I’m taking Kansas as the NCAA basketball national champion to close out the year with an upset win over the team picked by just about everyone in the nation to win it all.

With plenty of other sports action in play to start out another week, we turn our attention over to the NBA, which begins its final push towards the NBA playoffs in a lockout-shortened, 66-game season. As the games become more critical, the online sports betting on pro hoops becomes that much more predictable, as the odds of catching a team on an off-night, or getting upset at home by a huge underdog become less and less of a factor. For the best games and the best sports betting on NBA hoops this evening, check out a plethora of great match-ups on tap, with the top game of the evening set in Dallas as the Mavericks host the L.A. Clippers. The Clippers ride into Texas on a 5-game winning streak, and a 1 1/2 game lead over Dallas for 4th spot in the Western Conference playoff picture, however Dallas has been playing well winning 7 of their last 10 games and continues to be a tough, defensively challenging team on home court. With the Clippers winning 5 straight games at home, but losing their last 3 on the road, this is a crucial game for Lob City especially as 9 of their 14 remaining games will be played out on the road. Having not won in Dallas in nearly 5 years while losing 17 of their last 19 against the Mavericks, it’s a huge game for Los Angeles to win if they are to boost their road confidence at a critical time. Feeling saucy about a slight underdog listing for the Clippers at +4.5 points against the spread, I’ll play the first wager safe by hoping L.A. can challenge the Mavs enough to keep this one close, even if they don’t shake the monkey off their back and get a win.

Looking around for other top NBA match-ups today, find another great Western Conference showdown as the Memphis Grizzlies head into a tough battle against the Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the league’s top home teams on the season. OKC continues to blaze towards the plyoffs, winners of 6 straight with each victory coming by at least 9 points (especially impressive considering the recent high-level match-ups against the Lakers, Bulls and Heat). With Memphis generally struggling to play well away from home, and with Oklahoma City pounding teams on their own court (23-4 overall, averaging a massive 106.9 points/game at home), OKC could be a solid bet to take covering the points spread at -8 this Monday evening. For another big match-up, shift gears to a fine match-up in the Windy City, as the Chicago Bulls host the Houston Rockets for what should be a hard-fought game that the Rockets must find a way to win. Sitting just 1 game above Utah for 8th spot in the Western Conference playoff race, Houston has to find a way to shake its awful road form this season, and overcome a Bulls team that has beaten them 6 straight times. Without Derrick Rose though, the Bulls could once again find themselves in a dogfight against another high-scoring team out of the West, with 3 straight losses coming at the hands of Western Conference foes. That said, with Houston still missing top scorers Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin, Chicago should be in line to pick up a win, albeit perhaps not as convincing as the 8 points given to them as favorites. Another good match-up to side with an underdog tonight, look for Houston to keep this game interesting, as the Rockets certainly need the win more than the recuperating Bulls do this evening.

Heading into bets on the final week of games in regular season NHL Hockey play, the action will be fast and furious as a number of playoff spots are still not accounted for with just 3 games or less left to play. The Western Conference playoff race continues to be the most intriguing, especially as the Pacific division will likely not wrap up its fight for the title until the last day of the season, and with just two games on the docket for NHL action tonight, the one featuring the Los Angeles Kings against the Edmonton Oilers, is certainly one to take a closer look at. The Kings sit precariously in first place in the Pacific division, tied with Phoenix on points but ahead by virtue of their winning record against the Coyotes this year, and will simply have to find a way to win on home ice against a playoff-eliminated Edmonton team that has been very happy to play spoiler down the home stretch (going 6-2-2 in their last 10 games). As such, expect a valiant effort by the Oilers to continue to be the wrench in Western Conference playoff gears, but look for the Kings to figure out a way to pull out another win at home via solid defense tonight. Lastly for the only other available wager on NHL hockey, turn your attention East as the Washington Capitals head to Tampa Bay to face the high-scoring Lightning, in a must-win game for the Caps who sit in 8th spot in the East, just two points clear of the Buffalo Sabres. Washington has struggled on the road this season, but winning two straight games on shootouts heading into tonight’s contest, the Caps should be poised to pick up their 2nd straight win on the road in a critical match-up with just two games remaining on their schedule after tonight.

With great sports betting options like these heading into a new week, check out the wealth of betting lines available at your fingertips when visiting Intertops Sportsbook, one of the longest-standing, most continuously played sportsbooks by our staff here at CR. Make sure to squeeze in at least one wager for the final game in what has been an amazing NCAA Basketball season, good luck in any other bets taken out for tonight’s NBA and NHL competition, and catch us again tomorrow for more updates on all the best online sports betting opportunities at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed on our website.

Closing out the Weekend with NBA, NHL Action at Oddsmaker Sportsbook

With the NCAA Tournament Final Four in the bag and Monday’s College Basketball championship set up between the #1 seed Kentucky Wildcats and the #2 seed Kansas Jayhawks, Sunday makes for a perfect day to start looking into the betting lines for the NCAA title game, along with a host of options for wagering on the day’s action in NBA basketball and NHL hockey. With the start of the Major League Baseball season looming large, and the NHL playoffs quickly approaching with the NBA postseason to follow shortly after, now is a fun and exciting time to be a sports fan, and a fan of online sportsbook betting. For Sunday, with a host of NBA and NHL games set for the afternoon and evening, take a trip with us to one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here, with our pick of the day being the Oddsmaker Sportsbook. Although a number of sporting events are already underway this morning, there’s still 7 NBA games and 5 NHL contests on tap for the remainder of the day, giving a host of interesting betting lines for you at the Oddsmaker Sportsbook this afternoon.

Starting off with a look at the top NBA games in action, the big match-up of the day finds the Miami Heat headed into a tough road match-up against the Boston Celtics, who enter tonight’s showdown on a 4-game winning streak and look to create some distance in the Atlantic division, where the Celtics sit just a half-game up on the Philadelphia 76ers. Miami on the other hand has their sights set on a 3-game winning streak if they can overcome the stingy Boston defense today, which has contributed to the 8 straight losses experienced by Miami during the regular season while visiting the TD Garden. Always one to catch a turnaround in form however, I like the Heat to have a slight upper hand with the Celtics’ Ray Allen still out of action, and will look for Miami to pull off a clutch road win to continue their improvement away from home down the stretch. Other top games to watch out for in NBA play today include the Orlando Magic hosting the Denver Nuggets, the Houston Rockets taking on the Indiana Pacers, and the Portland Trail Blazers against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Look for Orlando to be determined to snap a 2-game slide at home provided they can slow the fast-paced scoring offense of the Nuggets, I’ll bank on the Indiana Pacers to play a tight enough game against Houston to cover the +4 points as underdogs, and will look for a high-scoring game between Portland and Minnesota that beats out the total points set at 198 at Oddsmaker Sportsbook today.

Moving over to the NHL hockey betting lines for Sunday, plenty of great showdowns remain on the docket, with the marquee game of the night finding the New York Rangers playing host to the Boston Bruins, with New York trying for a 4-game season-sweep of their Boston rivals while at the same time trying to regain control of the NHL points lead. Boston however has been on a tear down the home stretch, winning 6 of their last 8 contests, and has been a solid road team behind a high-scoring offense led by Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic. Against New York’s top scorers Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and captian Ryan Callahan, expect a physical and hard-hitting match-up tonight as despite both teams having already wrapped up a playoff spot, these two proud teams will certainly be looking to make a statement in a series that is likely to carry on into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Spot other top NHL games with playoff implications today as the Ottawa Senators need a win against the New York Islanders to stay firm in 7th place in the East, the Detroit Red Wings try to move up into 4th spot over divisional foes Nashville, provided they can pull off a win at home against the Southeast division-leading Florida Panthers, and Chicago hopes that they can leap-frog both Detroit and Nashville with a win over the Minnesota Wild and a rare Detroit loss at home. With just a couple games remaining before the NHL playoffs begin, be sure to catch some of the most exciting NHL action left in the regular season, as the games that affect playoff positioning are certain to have the same type of intensity expected out of the Stanley Cup playoffs to come. With NBA and NHL action today, along with betting lines on tap at Oddsmaker for tomorrow’s pinnacle of the NCAA Basketball season between Kentucky and Kansas, make sure to get down to one of the best online sportsbooks like the one at Oddsmaker today, and put your best wagers forward for what is certain to be a great day, and a great week of sports to come.