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Joe Nelson - About Me

Joe Nelson has been featuring picks on Vegas Insider for over five years and has been a regular on the leader board, compiling top three finishes in the NFL, college football, the NBA, college basketball, and MLB. Well known for the Nelly’s Sportsline Green Sheet football newsletter, Nelson provides his best picks to Vegas Insider clients now focusing on the NBA and college basketball as well as baseball on the site.

With a statistics background and years of experience working with several established handicappers as well as nearly a decade as a professional handicapper, Nelson provides a unique approach with traditional methods as well as innovative strategies. Nelson’s handicapping focuses on team situations, schedule analysis, and line evaluation as well as a variety of statistical indicators that are incorporated into the process.

Nelson was the 2011 champion in the Wise Guys football contest, besting out a field of 72 national handicappers for the top prize and also has had great recent success on Vegas Insider including a strong 2011 baseball season and a great track record in both college basketball and the NBA over the last few years. Check out regular blog posts and articles for insight and commentary and be sure to get on board for daily pick packages throughout the year with Joe Nelson.

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By Joe Nelson
Posted 06/25/2014 at 01:19 PM

The MLB All Star break is still a few weeks away but most teams will reach the true midpoint of the season this weekend. Here are a few teams currently sitting outside of the playoff picture that could be due for big second half runs in the coming weeks. Keep an eye on these teams as they will merit backing at favorable pricing in many situations.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates were one of the best teams in baseball last season, winning a wild card spot with a 94-68 record. It has been a struggle for the Pirates in 2014 mainly in the starting rotation. Even with some challenges in the first three months the Pirates have managed to get to .500 and Pittsburgh has much better team statistics than the record would suggest. Only Colorado and Oakland have been stronger than the Pirates in team on-base-percentage this season. The Pirates have also had one of the National League’s best bullpens all season long. Pittsburgh has only had two starters stay in the rotation all season long, Charlie Morton and Edinson Volquez who both have had solid seasons. Despite few wins, Morton has been steady most of the season and after some early struggles Volquez has pitched better in recent weeks despite an inflated ERA for the season. Getting Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano back from the DL in the next few weeks should allow the Pirates to get the rotation on track. In the meantime Vance Worley and Jeff Locke have pitched well filling in and Brandon Cumpton is a highly regarded young pitcher even if he has not had great success this season. Pittsburgh has the depth to survive the injuries and this is a rotation that could thrive in the second half of the season. Pittsburgh has also received a great boost from Gregory Polanco in the lineup and the Pirates could prove to have one of the most complete teams in baseball for the stretch run even with the disappointing first half. Milwaukee has perhaps played over its head in the first half and the Cardinals are really battling injuries in the pitching staff so there may be an opportunity for the Pirates.
Kansas City Royals: The Royals briefly claimed first place in the AL Central in June but this is a team that could overtake the Tigers for good late in the season or at least emerge as a legitimate threat in the wild card race. The Royals have the fifth best team batting average in baseball despite poor slugging numbers but an unexpectedly great starting rotation has carried the Royals to a winning record this season. Kansas City has the sixth most quality starts in baseball, getting great results from overlooked veteran starters Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie. Young pitchers Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura have been looking more comfortable in recent weeks and along with James Shields this has become one of the most reliable starting rotations in baseball. Wade Davis has thrived in a relief role but he would be an emergency starter with experience for the Royals and the Kansas City bullpen has been solid in recent weeks despite some inconsistency early in the season. While Kansas City does not hit many home runs there are power threats in this lineup and streaky hitters like Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, and Mike Moustakas are likely to provide better second halves after disappointing first half statistics. Kansas City will also get Norichika Aoki back from the disabled list in the coming weeks to add depth to the offense. The Royals actually own a better run differential than the Tigers this season and only two teams in the AL have allowed fewer runs than Kansas City. The Royals have had success despite featuring a losing record vs. the AL Central this season and having already played 16 games vs. the very tough AL West. With a more favorable schedule in the second half the Royals can make a run.
Minnesota Twins: A long shot but a team to keep an eye may be Minnesota, a team that has been much more competitive than expected this season. The Twins had dreadful starting pitching in the first month of the season but the rotation has really come together. Phil Hughes has had an All-Star caliber season and Kyle Gibson has also emerged as a reliable option for the Twins in his second season. After rough early season results Kevin Correia and Ricky Nolasco have pitched much better in recent weeks as well. Journeyman Yohan Pino dominated in AAA in the first three months and he made a brilliant MLB debut last week so moving forward the Twins could have a very solid pitching staff, greatly over performing the overall season rankings. At the plate the Twins added Kendrys Morales in a surprising aggressive move and Oswaldo Arcia, Josh Willingham, and Sam Fuld have all returned from recent injuries as the team will give fewer at-bats to Aaron Hicks and they also cut Jason Kubel, two players that combined for 101 strikeouts on the season. Joe Mauer has also had his worst first half of a season in his career with marginal numbers and he seems likely to rebound with a more productive second half given his brilliant career track record. The infield production has also improved greatly in recent weeks for Minnesota with Danny Santana providing a great spark in a utility role and often taking over the leadoff spot and Eduardo Escobar and Eduardo Nunez have also blossomed with more playing time. The Twins have the best record in the AL Central against its own division at 16-12 which could pay off for Minnesota in the second half if they continue at that clip. The Twins are just 8-18 vs. the AL West and in interleague play however but with most of the toughest of those games out of the way Minnesota could also find better second half results. It might be a reach for the Twins to make a serious playoff run but don’t expect this team to fall off the map.



By Joe Nelson
Posted 04/13/2014 at 12:18 PM

With the NCAA Tournament over the NBA Draft decisions will dominate the headlines in the coming weeks. While the status of several key players remains unknown, it is not too early to take a look at how the rosters could shape up next season. Here is a very early preview of the 2014-15 college basketball season in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin: After a final four run the Badgers are likely to be the favorites in the Big Ten next season and a team that should start in the national top five. Wisconsin loses Ben Brust, a great shooter and a high energy sparkplug that was a strong rebounder despite his small stature. With Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker planning to return to school Wisconsin will return seven of its top eight scorers and the major decision to make will be whether to mainly play small with Bronson Koenig moving into the starting lineup or play a bigger lineup with Nigel Hayes moving into a starting role and allowing Dekker to play at his natural small forward position. Promising freshman Ethan Happ could also find minutes on this team and greater roles for sophomores Vitto Brown and Jordan Hill could add depth to the team as well as the return of Zak Showalter after a redshirt season.
Nebraska: Not many expected the Cornhuskers to be ready for the NCAA Tournament this season but with an 11-7 campaign in the conference season Nebraska made the field before an ugly performance in the big dance opportunity. The chance to build on that success will be there for the growing basketball program as outside of Ray Gallegos, every major contributor is scheduled to return. Terran Petteway will be a Big Ten player of the year candidate after averaging over 18 points per game last season and Nebraska should be one of the top defensive teams in the conference. Nebraska will be far from a one-year wonder as the Cornhuskers should return to the NCAA Tournament and pose a legitimate threat in the Big Ten race next season.
Michigan: John Beilein overcame the loss of three NBA draft picks last season with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway leaving early and Mitch McGary injured all season. Michigan delivered a Big Ten championship and a run to the elite eight in the NCAA Tournament so this is a team that can reload. The roster for the Wolverines is not clear as McGary could return or go into the NBA draft despite barely playing last season. Nik Stauskas seems likely to leave for the NBA and Glenn Robinson may do the same. Even if everyone goes, Michigan will still be a team that can compete well in the conference. The Wolverines will have an experienced backcourt with Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, and Spike Albrecht and expanded roles for Zak Irvin and Jon Horford will allow for a still very promising lineup. Michigan has three promising forwards committed for next season including Kameron Chatman, a four star recruit from Oregon and there will not likely be a huge drop off for the Wolverines.
Minnesota: The 2014 NIT champions could be a player in the Big Ten race next season in the second season under Richard Pitino. Austin Hollins departs but six of the team’s top eight scorers are back in action next season including what should be a great backcourt with seniors Deandre Mathieu and Andre Hollins. Four forwards with experience return and the freshmen on the team that saw little playing time could step into expanded roles with immediate success. Having the extra practice time and playing in a championship setting can be a confidence builder, as several recent NIT champions have gone on to make deep NCAA Tournament runs in the following years. Minnesota has been stuck in a state of good but not great seasons in recent years and with some potential openings at the top of the conference this could be a team that breaks through.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes opened the season strong in 2013-14 and then completely dissolved late in the year, barely making the NCAA Tournament and failing to survive the first day. Roy Devyn Marble, Melsahn Basabe, and Zach McCabe all will graduate, taking over 30 points per game out of the equation. Iowa still will return a good group of experienced players and should still have excellent depth. Iowa will obviously need to improve defensively and get more consistent play but the Hawkeyes can produce a similar season in 2014-15. Iowa’s ceiling may not be as high as it was last season but given the disappointing finish, a better season in a Big Ten that could be fairly wide open in the top half is possible.
Maryland: Joining the Big Ten will be a challenge but Maryland went 9-9 in ACC play last season including being one of two teams to beat Virginia. There was only one senior on the roster and John Auslander only played in 10 games as the Terrapins will make the conference move with a full cupboard. Former Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz will rejoin the league and Dez Wells and Seth Allen return as the top two scorers on the team, Allen with a chance to play a full season after missing the first half of the season last year. Maryland also is bringing in a very promising recruiting class with four star players at every position, led by point guard Melo Trimble and seven-footer Trayvon Reed. The adjustment to the conference and the youth on the team might mean Maryland is a year away but it may not take long for the Terrapins to succeed even with the lukewarm results in recent ACC seasons.
Michigan State: There are heavy losses for the Spartans with Adreian Payne and Keith Appling graduating. Gary Harris is expected to enter the NBA draft and Branden Dawson is said to be considering leaving as well. Michigan State will still have strong guard play next season with veterans Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine joined by highly regarded freshman point guard Lourawls Nairn. The frontcourt will return Matt Costello and Kenny Kaminski but there will be huge shoes to fill with Payne leaving and if Dawson also leaves Michigan State could really struggle up front. Michigan State always brings in solid talent but it does project as a serious step back season for the Spartans at the moment. One bright side to all the injuries last season was more playing time for younger players that might not have seen the court otherwise.
Illinois: After a strong non-conference performance Illinois ran into trouble in the Big Ten season with a 7-11 record but Illinois started to play its best late in the season. The top two scorers from last season are seniors-to-be Rayvonte Rice and Tracy Abrams and last year’s team was very young with only four upperclassmen. Illinois pulled in a promising recruit to add to the depth at forward as Leron Black out of Memphis should be expected to contribute immediately. Illinois could be an improved team that has a chance to climb back into the NCAA Tournament picture in 2014-15 if they can use the late season momentum that was built.
Indiana: The Hoosiers are not likely to retain star freshman Noah Vonleh but with Stanford Robinson and Yogi Ferrell Indiana will have an excellent backcourt. Jeremy Hollowell and Troy Williams can step in to bigger roles but the frontcourt will be lacking and in needing to replace Vonleh and glue-guy Will Sheehey it will be tough for Indiana to make a big leap. Indiana does have two highly rated recruits coming in but they are both guards so finding minutes won’t be easy. Indiana beat both Wisconsin and Michigan last season so the potential is there but they went just 3-6 against the bottom half of the conference with wildly inconsistent play, which starts with erratic head coach Tom Crean who could face a hot seat all season. 
Ohio State: The Buckeyes never could find a consistent offense last season to go along with its outstanding defense. Losing seniors Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith takes away two players that had great careers in Columbus. The Buckeyes could have a solid front court with Sam Thompson and Amir Williams but with LaQuinton Ross opting to leave early for the NBA the scoring options are limited. Senior Shannon Scott will have a hard time replacing Craft as he was actually an even worse shooter than the maligned Craft was last season. The Buckeyes do have the top rated incoming class in the conference with three four star recruits, led by D’Angelo Russell who could start right away in the backcourt. Ohio State turns new leaf with the loss of three prominent players and while they will likely take a step back defensively the scoring numbers could rise with the young lineup.
Purdue: The Boilermakers finished last in the Big Ten last season, losing each of the final seven games of the season. Purdue was mostly competitive however as they played close with several of the top teams in the conference but they could not deliver many upsets. Terone Johnson departs but the next six leading scorers on the team are expected back next season and Purdue also has a recruiting class that most place in the top three in the conference. It will be a big year for Matt Painter in his ninth season after some success but a few disappointing years in a row. Expect several of the freshmen to get minutes immediately, led by 7’1” Isaac Haas and small forward Vincent Edwards and this is a team that could close the gap with the rest of the conference.
Penn State: Long time starter Tim Frazier graduates for the Lions but five of the top six scorers are back in action led by dynamic guard D.J. Newbill. The Lions do not have impact freshmen joining the team but this will be an experienced team with solid depth. The Lions did not manage to beat any of the elite teams in the conference last season and four of the six conference wins came by four or fewer points. Penn State had a lot of trouble closing out games last season as well with several narrow losses and losing its senior point guard that was also a great defender is not likely to help in those late game tests.
Northwestern: With Chris Collins in his first season with the Wildcats, Northwestern made some waves, frustrating teams with great defense and slow play and scoring a few big wins. Offense was a serious problem for the Wildcats last season and top scorer Drew Crawford will graduate. Northwestern returns the next six leading scorers on the team but only three of those players averaged more than five points per game as this was not a high scoring team. Victor Law is one of the stronger recruits Northwestern has had in recent years and the local Chicago product could help provide a boost to the scoring potential for the Wildcats. It will be hard for Northwestern to get over the hump and climb closer to a first ever NCAA Tournament berth but this will still be a team that is tough to prepare for.
Rutgers: The Knights won just 12 games last season including going 5-13 in AAC play. Two of the top four scorers for Rutgers depart and while Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack both scored over 14 points per game last season Rutgers will likely struggle in the move to the Big Ten. Rutgers lacks high impact recruits though D.J. Foreman is likely to step into a prominent role at the power forward position right away. After greatly struggled on defense last season Rutgers will likely have a tough time in the Big Ten transition.


Nelson: Week 1 Clashes
Nelson: NFC West Preview
Nelson: NFC South Preview
Nelson: NFC North Preview
Nelson: NFC East Preview
2013-2014 NBA #3 Totals Leader: +993
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2013-2014 NFL Percent Leader: 60%
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2006-2007 NCAA FB Member Leader
2006-2007 NBA #3 Percentage Leader: 54%
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MLB Second Half Contenders

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