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Friday, Jan 13

   by Larry Ness - 01/13/2006

Case closed, at least until June! The Pistons left NO doubt last night that they are the NBA's best team. Back on Christmas Day, the Pistons had beaten the Spurs 85-70 in Detroit but Manu Ginobili had missed that one for San Antonio. However, last night in San Antonio (and with Ginobili playing), the Pistons 'spanked' the Spurs, 83-68! In college hoops, Pittsburgh moved to 13-0 for just the 4th time in its 100-year basketball history, with 73-65 win over DePaul.

My free play on Friday is the NY Knicks over the Atl Hawks in the NBA at 7:35 ET. In Friday's action, I'm following my 20* Pac-10 GOY winner on the Washington Huskies with my 10* Added Game of the Month in college hoops plus feature my 10* Western Conference Game of the Month in the NBA. NFL fans, look for my NFL plays by 3:00 ET, today.

The Panthers join No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Florida (both 15-0), as the nation's only unbeaten teams. Duke will play at 13-3 Clemson on Saturday, Florida is home to an 8-5 Auburn team on Saturday and Pitt is at 13-2 Louisville on Sunday. Two members of the "30-30-30 club" have home games on Saturday. Illinois hosts 11-3 Michigan and Gonzaga hosts 5-9 Pepperdine (the Waves are 1-6 on the road). Southern Illinois, the other school which has won 30 straight home games (the longest active streak in college hoops), is on the road for the next three games.

The NFL's Divisional Round is this weekend. Saturday's two games feature head coaches who have combined to win NINE Super Bowls (Belichick and Gibbs have three each, Shanahan has two and Holmgren one), while Sunday's four coaches own a grand total of ZERO!

New England's Tom Brady is the only QB remaining to have won a Super Bowl title (3), while Chicago's Rex Grossman is the only QB making his first playoff start. Brunell and Delhomme both picked up their THIRD playoff road wins last week and if you don't think that's a big deal, know this. Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw, the only two QBs to have won four Super Bowl titles, each have exactly TWO career road wins in the playoffs!

Both No. 6 seeds are still alive (Washington and Pittsburgh) but no No. 6 seed has ever reached a conference championship game (since 1990 when the league went to a 12-team format). New England is a No. 4 seed and four previous No. 4 seeds have made it to a conference title game. By the way, all FOUR of them went on to make the Super Bowl, with two of them winning (Denver in 1998 and Baltimore in 2000).

The four AFC teams left are familiar teams. Denver, Indy and New England were all division winners from last year, while Pittsburgh won the North in 2004, going 15-1. As for the NFC, only Seattle was in last year's playoffs and the Seahawks lost in the wildcard round!. Carolina, Chicago and Washington all had LOSING records in 2004.

With Carolina playing at Chicago, if Washington were to upset Seattle, it would guarantee an NFC title game in which the two participants would have had losing years just the season before. How rare is that? Well it's NEVER happened since the 1970 merger and one has to go all the way back to the NFL Championship game of 1946 (Bears vs Giants) to find a similar situation. In 1945, the Bears went 3-7 and the Giants went 3-6-1 but then met the next year for the NFL title!

Since 1990, AFC home teams in this round have gone 22-8 SU but just 14-15-1 ATS. Home teams have fared much better in the NFC, going 27-3 SU and 22-6-2 ATS!

The current lines as of Friday morning are as follows. Seattle is favored by 9 1/2 points over Washington with a total of 41 and Denver is a three-point favorite over New England with a total of 44 on Saturday. Indy is favored by 9 1/2 points over Pittsburgh with a total of 47 1/2 and Chicago is a three-point favorite over Carolina with a total of 30 1/2 on Sunday.

Ness Notes will be available on Saturday and Sunday at 7:00 ET.

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