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Friday, Feb 17

   by Larry Ness - 02/17/2006

The NBA's final night of action prior to the four-day All Star break featured two old-fashioned blowouts! The Bulls beat the 76ers 117-84 for their most lopsided win of the year and the Suns routed the Rockets, 109-75.

Believe it or not, that game was not as close as the final score. Phoenix led by 32 at the half (largest 1st-half lead of any team this year) and by 98-53, after three quarters. The All Star game is on Sunday, with the West favored by five points and a total of 259.

My free play on Friday is Cornell over Princeton at 7:00 ET. The Bulls' easy win (117-84) upped my current NBA run to 13-2-1 since Feb 3. However, I've struggled in college hoops lately, with last night's half-point loss on Washington (a 22* play), being fairly TYPICAL of my recent LUCK, or lack thereof. I'm passing on Friday, getting ready for a BIG Saturday.

Two of the three top-25 teams in action on Thursday won. No. 13 Boston College beat Miami 65-54 and No. 20 Washington edged Oregon, 75-72. However, No. 17 Georgetown lost its second straight (following a seven-game winning streak), 57-51 at Marquette.

The Citadel lost at home to the College of Charleston, 72-52 on Thursday. The Bulldogs (0-13 in the Southern Conference), join South Florida (0-11 in the Big East) and Texas State (0-11 in the Southland) as the only three Division I schools still winless in conference play.

ESPN's BracketBuster games get underway tonight with three games, two televised by ESPNU. Albany visits Va Commonwealth at 7:00 ET in a game in which the Rams are favored by eight points with a total of 132 1/2.

The late game at 9:00 ET is more interesting, as Akron 19-5 and 12-2 in the MAC visits Nevada, 19-5 and 9-3 in the WAC. Nevada, a school that's won 25 games each of the last two years, including THREE games in the NCAA tournament, is favored by six points with a total of 133 1/2.

Penn, 7-0 in the Ivy League (and one of just SIX remaining schools still unbeaten in conference play), is at Columbia tonight (7:00 ET). The Quakers are favored by 14 1/2 points with a total of 133 1/2.

It will be a MONSTER weekend in college basketball, as along with the regular glut of TV games carried on Saturday and Sunday (nearly 20), the ESPN family of networks will air 11 BracketBuster games. The most intriguing will be No. 24 Bucknell at Northern Iowa on ESPN2 at 12:00 noon ET.

Bucknell (21-3) is ranked for the first time in school history and heads into the game on a 12-game winning streak (2nd to only George Washington's 13-game streak). The Bison are also one of just SIX schools still unbeaten in conference play (12-0 in the Patriot League) and while this isn't a conference game, it will be the school's biggest showcase since upsetting Kansas in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament.

Northern Iowa was ranked at No. 25 a few weeks ago (the school's first top-25 appearance in its 106-history) but enters on a two-game losing streak. The 21-6 Panthers have been to the NCAA tournament in each of the last two years.

No. 2 Duke (12-0 in the ACC), No. 3 Memphis (9-0 in C-USA), No. 5 Gonzaga (10-0 in the WCC) and No. 7 George Washington (11-0 in the A-10), join Bucknell and Penn as the only schools still winless in their respective conferences. ALL will be in action over the weekend.

No. 2 Duke hosts Miami-Florida on Sunday, No. 3 Memphis is at Tulane on Saturday, No. 5 Gonzaga is at Loyola-Marymount on Saturday and No. 7 George Washington is at Richmond on Sunday. As mentioned earlier, GW owns the nation's longest current winning streak at 13 straight wins but both Memphis and Gonzaga join Bucknell, just one win behind with 12 straight victories.

The Citadel is off for the weekend (a blessing) but South Florida will take a 13-game losing streak as well as its 0-11 Big East record into a home game with Rutgers on Saturday. Texas State, losers of 12 straight and 0-11 in the Southland, host Texas-San Antonio, also on Saturday.

Ness Notes is available Monday through Friday by 1:00 ET. This weekend's "feature story" will be on the 2005-06 Detroit Pistons.

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