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Tuesday, Feb 21

   by Larry Ness - 02/21/2006

Duke is back on top of the college basketball world with its 108th No. 1 ranking by the AP. Only UCLA, which has been atop the AP poll on 128 different occasions, has more No.1 rankings to its credit. U Conn, No. 1 the past four weeks dropped to No. 3, with Villanova matching the school's best-ever ranking at No. 2 (was also No. 2 for two weeks in December 1995).

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Memphis, despite not losing, fell to No. 4 and Gonzaga stayed at No. 5. George Washington is at No. 6, the school's highest ranking since it was No. 5 in February of 1955. GW and Gonzaga own the nation's longest current winning streak at 14 straight, while Memphis is one game behind, winners of 13 consecutive games.

Four top-25 teams were in action last night, with only No. 14 West Va losing. The Mountaineers lost for the fourth time in their last five games, 60-58 at Syracuse. West Va did not attempt a SINGLE free throw in the game, partly because it spent most of the game 'bombing away' from the three-point arc (made just 12-of-33). No. 5 Gonzaga won its 14th straight game, 81-71 at Portland (non-cover). The Bulldogs are now 12-0 in the WCC (one of five Division I schools still winless in conference play) and own 21 straight WCC wins going back to last year.

No. 22 Oklahoma escaped with a 71-70 win at Texas Tech, as a tip-in with 4.5 seconds remaining was not only the game-winner but the Sooners' only FG in the game's last eight minutes. Nevada, celebrated its return to the rankings at No. 25 (tied with Northern Iowa), by squeaking past Idaho in Moscow, 74-68.

Four top-25 teams are in action tonight and ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU have four televised games. No. 3 U Conn hosts Notre Dame at 7:00 ET. The Irish opened Big East play 1-8 but have won three straight over Rutgers, South Florida and Seton Hall. However, the Huskies are another matter, as U Conn is 13-0 at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 85-59. U Conn is favored by 13 1/2 points with a total of 153 1/2.

No. 11 Boston College visits Virginia at 7:00 ET. BC has won 10 of its last 11, losing only to Duke (83-81). However, Virginia is 11-2 at home this year. BC is favored by 2 1/2 points with a total of 133 1/2. No. 16 Kansas hosts Baylor at 8:00 ET and the red-hot Jayhawks have won nine straight (8-1 ATS) and 16 of their last 18. Baylor, which didn't play a non-conference schedule this year because of probation, enters 2-10 in the Big-12. Kansas is favored by 23 points with a total of 134.

No. 8 Illinois (up from 14) is at Michigan on ESPN (7:00 ET). Michigan has lost four of five lately and takes an 11-game losing streak against the Illini into this game. Illinois is favored by 1 1/2 points with a total of 134 1/2. The second half of the ESPN doubleheader is Alabama at Arkansas (9:00 ET). Arkansas is favored by 7 1/2 points with a total of 137 1/2.

Rounding out the TV matchups are Xavier at Dayton on ESPN2 (7:30 ET) and Southern Illinois at Evansville on ESPNU (9:00 ET). Xavier is favored by 1 1/2 points (total is 131 1/2) and Evansville is favored by seven points (total is 120).

South Florida (0-12 in the Big East) and losers of 14 straight is at Providence at 7:30 ET. Along with The Citadel, which stayed winless last night in the Southern Conference (0-13) when it lost to Furman 64-41 (lowest point total this year), the Bulls join the Bulldogs as the only two Division I schools still winless in conference play. Providence is favored by nine points with a total of 132 1/2.

The NBA is back in action tonight with a 12-game schedule. The Pistons, owners of the league's best record at 42-9 but just 5-4 over their last nine games, host the Hawks at 7:35 ET. Atlanta upset the Pistons 99-98 on Feb 7 in Atlanta as a 10-point 'dog'. Detroit is favored by 14 points with a total of 191.

The two teams chasing Detroit for the league's best record, 41-11 Dallas and 40-12 San Antonio, are also in action. The Mavs have won 15 of their last 16 (in all 15 wins held their opponents to under 100) and enter their game tonight with the Clippers (8:35 ET) on an 11-game (8-3 ATS) home winning streak. The Clippers, who had won nine of 10 games from Jan 27 through Feb 7, lost four of five right before the break, three times to teams with sub-.500 records. Dallas is favored by 8 1/2 points (total is 192).

The Spurs lost their final two games prior to the break, allowing 100 points in back-to-back games for the first time all year. SA is No. 2 in the league allowing 88.4 PPG and gets the struggling Sonics tonight in San Antonio (8:35 ET). Seattle, which won 52 games last year, is just 20-33 this season and enters having lost eight of its last 10 both SU and ATS. The Spurs are favored by 12 1/2 points with a total of 195 1/2.

Ness Notes is available by 1:00 ET Monday through Friday. A feature story runs on Saturday and Sunday.

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