FCS quarterfinals prediction and an NBA side: Best Bets for Dec. 9

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New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) celebrates with guard Trey Murphy III (25) in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons in New Orleans, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. The Pelicans won 104-98. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Each day, one of our experts will offer up a best bet (or two or three) that mobile sportsbooks are offering. It might be a traditional spread bet, a player prop or one of the various odds boosts that books offer.

Here are our best bets for Friday, Dec. 9:

TOP PLAY

The play: FCS playoffs, Samford at North Dakota State OVER 62½

The odds/bet: -110 ($33 to win $30)

The book: Caesars Sportsbook

Time/TV: 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

Our take: It’s a bit of a slow sports night in the middle of a very busy time, so why not turn your attention to the little guys?

Here, we have THE powerhouse in FCS football, North Dakota State, trying to play its way into the national semifinals for the 11th time in the past 12 seasons, with only a quarterfinal exit in the spring 2021 COVID-delayed season left out.

And chances are, the Bison will do just that; they’re -1000 on the money line and very likely are moving onto next week’s semifinals. (By the way, while we’re on the topic, the FCS and Divisions II and III have had 16- and 24-team playoffs for years, so stop the weeping and gnashing of teeth over the expansion of the big boys to 12 teams.)

But you’re paying a huge premium to back NDSU here against Samford, which employs the Air Raid offense and will put up plenty of points against a Bison defense that has been uncharacteristically generous this year. Meanwhile, Samford can’t stop anyone, either, only surviving last week’s game against Southeastern with a 48-42 overtime victory.

Samford quarterback Michael Hiers is questionable with a wrist injury, but his backup, Quincy Crittendon, passed for 316 yards and four touchdowns last week.

This one should be fun. Consider Samford +18½ as well, but it’s the total that should be the easy play.

OLD WEST SHOWDOWN

The play: NBA, Pelicans money line over Suns

The odds/bet: +105 ($10 to win $10.50)

The book: Caesars Sportsbook

Our take: The red-hot Pelicans have won five straight and are suddenly in first place in the Western Conference standings. They’ve done this without the support of last year’s leading scorer, Brandon Ingram, who’s out with a toe injury, and part of the time without defensive stopper Herb Jones and shooting guard C.J. McCollum.

Regardless, this is a team that ranks in the NBA’s top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency over the past month and has seen Zion Williamson blossom into the star that many predicted. It’s also a testament to one of the NBA’s deepest rosters that players like Jose Alvarado and Trey Murphy have had big scoring nights while bigger names sat out.

Enter the Phoenix Suns, who are just a half-game behind New Orleans after ousting them in six games in the first round of the playoffs last season. Unlike New Orleans, Phoenix has struggled with some depth issues, particularly on defense. The Boston Celtics lit up the Suns from beyond the 3-point arc on Wednesday — no shame there, as the Celtics do that to just about everyone — but it was the 11th time in the past 15 games that the Suns have allowed at least 110 points and also their third loss in four games.

The Pelicans lost these teams’ first meeting with an injury-depleted roster. Closer to full strength and motivated to even the season series before they play again Sunday, this time should be different.

HOW WE’VE FARED

Thursday’s best bets

NFL: Rams +6 over Raiders (WON $30)

NFL: Rams team total OVER 19.5 points (LOST $10)

Friday’s profit/loss: +$20 (1-1)

Total for the week: -$48 (2-6)

Total for December: -$36 (6-10)

Total for 2022: +$336.40 (320-340)

NOTE: If a line or odds are minus, it considers the juice one must lay to place the bet. Ex: Team A is -160 on the money line, one would have to bet $160 to win $100 (or $16 to win $10). OR Team B is a 5-point favorite at -110, one would have to bet $110 to win $100 (or $11 to win $10.)

Conversely, on positive lines, if Team C is +140 on the money line, a $100 would bring in $140 (or $10 to win $14).

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