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Friday, January 27

   by Larry Ness - 01/27/2006

Billy Crystal's one-man show is titled "700 Sundays." NFL underdog bettors in 2005 may have felt this past season lasted 700 Sundays, as favorites 'covered' at a record rate. However, the current NFL season has totaled just 20 Sundays (including Christmas and New Year's Day).

My free play for Friday is in the NBA. Take the Cle Cavaliers over the Ind Pacers at 7:05 ET. I'm traveling on Friday and will take a rare 'pass'. Check back on Saturday, as my games will be available by 9:00 ET.

January 29 will mark the first Sunday in the last 21 with no NFL football, as everyone awaits Super Bowl XL in Detroit on February 5. The Steelers are either a 3 1/2 or four-point favorite with the total hovering around 47 or 47 1/2. Look for a week-long countdown to the Super Bowl beginning Monday.

In college hoops last night, No. 2 Duke had little trouble with Va Tech a second time around (no 40-foot final-second shot needed this time), winning 80-67 (game wasn't as close as the score). No. 3 Memphis ended UAB's 10-game winning streak by winning at home, 73-66.

In some late Pac-10 action, No. 10 Washington lost at Cal 71-69 and No. 17 UCLA won at Oregon, 56-49. Washington will travel to Maples Pavilion on Sunday, where the Huskies have lost 12 straight to the Cardinal.

There's a light six-game schedule in Friday's college hoops but loads of action on Saturday. ESPN and ESPN2 will combine to televise eight games on Saturday, beginning with Cincinnati at Georgetown (ESPN2) and Kansas at Iowa State (ESPN) at noon ET. Saturday's coverage ends with Texas at Oklahoma on ESPN2 at 9:00 ET.

CBS features Arizona at North Carolina at 1:00 ET on Saturday and regional coverage at 1:00 ET on Sunday (either Arkansas at Kentucky or Indiana at Minnesota).

Southern Illinois owns the nation's longest current home winning streak (33 straight) but the Salukis play at Illinois State on Saturday. However, both Gonzaga and Illinois (each with 32 straight home wins) play home games on Saturday, Gonzaga hosting Portland (8-12) and Illinois hosting Purdue (7-11).

The NBA weekend tips off with a busy 12-game schedule Friday night.The ESPN doubleheader has Cleveland at Indiana (7:05 ET) and the LA Clippers at Denver (9:35 ET).

The Pacers are finally rid of Ron Artest but just yesterday announced that Jermaine O'Neal will be out for at least eight weeks with a torn groin (OUCH!). Peja, acquired from the Kings for Artest, is not expected to play tonight. Indiana just lost at Cleveland this past Tuesday (96-66) and is currently a four-point home 'dog' (and climbing!) to the Cavs with a total of 181 1/2.

The Nuggets put their seven-game winning streak on the line tonight when the Clippers come to town (teams play again Saturday night in LA). Denver, after a disappointing 14-17 start (remember the Nuggets closed last year on a 25-4 run!), have gone 11-2 in January. Camby could be back in the lineup tonight and Denver is currently a six-point choice with a total of 196.

Other games to keep an eye on Friday night are Memphis at Detroit (Pistons are an eight-point choice with a total of 175 1/2), Sacramento at Boston (Celtics are favored by four with a total of 200) and Golden State at the LA Lakers (Lakers are a seven-point choice with a total of 207 1/2).

The Pistons are off to a 35-5 start, tying for the fourth-best 40-game start in NBA history. Memphis is the league's top defensive team and beat the Psitons both times last year, before losing in double-OT earlier this year.

Artest will make his King debut in Boston tonight (has been out since December 6) and if history is any indicator, it may be a winning debut. The Kings have beaten the Celtics four straight times and in 10 of their last 11 meetings.

In the Stalpes Center, Kobe returns to the court for the first time since his 81-point effort last Sunday against the Raptors, when the Lakers host the Warriors.

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