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Thursday, Jan 26

   by Larry Ness - 01/26/2006

The biggest news coming out of last night's busy 12-game NBA schedule was that yes, Ron Artest was going to the Sacramento Kings for Peja Stojakovic. Here's hoping the Maloof brothers don't get rid of The Palms Hotel anytime soon!

As for on court action, the Pistons needed OT but their 106-102 win over the Bucks give them a 35-5 record, making it the fourth-best 40-game start in NBA history.

My free play for Thursday is on South Alabama over Denver at 9:00 ET. Another 2-1 night in CBB on Wednesday and my college hoops run, since Jan 14, has reached 16-6-1! Even more impressively, my CBB 15* plays have cashed at the rate of 77.8% since Jan 1, after winning my first CBB totals play of the season.

My 15* play on DePaul/Marq 'under' on Wednesday, 'covered' by MORE than 30 points! Don't miss my 15* CBB Underdog Shocker tonight, my LONE play on a busy 36-game CBB 'board'!

Thursday night's NBA card has just three games with TNT carrying a doubleheader. The Phoenix Suns are in Miami to take on the Heat at 8:05 ET. The Suns beat the Heat 11-93 in Phoenix back on January 6, scoring 47 points in the first quarter! Shaq was held to a season-low eight points in that contest and these days, must feel like he's still playing for the Lakers. Tonight's game marks Miami's 12th consecutive contest against a Western opponent. Miami is 7-4 SU and ATS in the first 11. The Heat are favored by 5 1/2 points tonight with a total of 211 1/2.

In the late game (10:35 ET), the Mavericks, owners of the league's third-best record at 32-10, visit Seattle to take on the Sonics. Dallas is 17-6 on the road (matching Detroit for the most road wins of any team) but just 10-11-2 ATS. Seattle has won back-to-back games for the first time since Bob Hill took over as head coach (4-7 overall) but enters at just 14-27, after last year's 52-win season. Dallas is favored by 5 1/2 points with a total of 210 1/2.

No. 9 West Va entered the AP poll at No. 9 on Monday, the school's first visit to the top-10 in 24 years. The Mountaineers stay won't last long, as they were beaten at home last night (58-52), by a Marshall team that entered the game with a 7-9 record. The loss ended West Va's 12-game winning streak, which was the nation's longest.

Illinois easily beat Minnesota last night 77-53, and captured its 32nd straight home win (a new school record). Gonzaga also has 32 straight home wins but both top-10 schools trail Southern Illinois, which owns the nation's longest current home winning streak at 33 straight.

For those of you who may not have gotten the late scores, two schools from the Mountain West Conference are worthy of mention. Air Force, a school on its THIRD coach in three seasons, has opened 17-3 after beating UNLV last night (52-50).

Former Nugget head coach Jeff Bzdelik has done a great job. Especially when you consider last year's MWC co-player of the year (6-10 center Nick Welch), was lost to an injury, prior to the start of the season. Last night, the Falcons overcame an 11-point first half deficit and ended the game on a 14-5 closing-run!

Everyone remembers Steve Fisher's dramatic run to the national title with Michigan back in 1989. Well these days, Fisher is living the good life in San Diego. However, in his seventh year at San Diego State, Fisher has the Aztecs off to their best start (13-6) in more than 20 years and their best conference start (6-1) in more than 30 years!

The Aztecs beat New Mexico last night 75-69 (a non-cover that hurt me!) but Fisher's team deserves kudos for its great start. In guard Brandon Heath (17.9 PPG) and forward Marcus Slaughter (16.6-10.6 RPG), the Aztecs own the league's most dynamic inside-outside combo.

Tonight at 7:00 ET on ESPN, No. 2 Duke plays its first game since it lost to Georgetown on Sunday (ending a 17-0 start). All three of the nation's remaining unbeatens lost last Saturday and Duke will try and match Pittsburgh's effort, which beat Syracuse 80-67 on Monday, not Florida's, which lost last night at South Carolina 68-62, when the Blue Devils visit Blacksburg.

Duke escaped versus Va Tech in its first meeting against the Hokies (12/4), winning 75-74 on a 40-foot shot by Sean Dockery at the buzzer. Va Tech enters this game 0-5 in the ACC but the five losses have come by just a combined 25 points. Duke is favored by 11 points and the total is 141.

The only other game on national TV tonight in college basketball's 36-game 'board' schedule, is a Sun Belt game, La-Lafayette at Western Kentucky. At 9:00 ET on ESPN2, the Hilltoppers, 13-5 including a league-best 5-1 conference mark, host the Rajun' Cajuns, who are just 5-12 and own the worst conference mark of any of the Sun Belt's 11 teams (1-5). Western Ky is favored by 11 points with a total of 142 1/2.

In a game not on TV but NOT to be missed, No. 3 Memphis hosts 14-3 UAB at 8:00 ET. The Tigers are off to the second-best start in school history but are actually looking up at the Blazers in the C-USA standings. UAB is at 4-0 in league play, while Memphis is 3-0. With West Va's loss last night, UAB's 10-game winning streak is the nation's longest. Memphis is favored by 10 with a total of 154.

Ness notes is available Monday through Friday by 1:00 ET. Due to travel plans, my NFL coverage will begin next Monday.

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