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Tuesday, Feb 28

   by Larry Ness - 02/28/2006

Duke and U Conn, the only two schools to have been ranked No. 1 this season, are No. 1 (Duke) and No. 2 (U Conn) in the latest AP Poll. Just one team dropped out from the previous poll, No. 25 Northern Iowa, which was tied for 25th with Nevada last week. So this week's top-25 actually has only 25 teams.

Ohio State is ranked ninth, the school's highest ranking since finishing eighth in the final poll of 1999-00. North Carolina, last year's champ, made the biggest move from No. 21 to No. 13. North Carolina State and Michigan State had the biggest falls (each fell seven spots), with NC St dropping from 15th to 22nd and Mich St from 18th to 25th.

My free play for Tuesday is Iowa State over Missouri at 8:00 ET. It's the first day of the conference tournaments in college hoops and and I'm releasing my 20* OVC Tourney GOY plus one of my exclusive Las Vegas Insider Plays (2-0 on Sat & Sun). In the NBA, I look to bounce back from a loss on Cleveland last night with my 10* Total of the Month (68% NBA run since Feb 3).

The first of four double-ranked games this week was played last night as No. 16 West Va edged No. 9 Pittsburgh, 67-62. Kevin Pittsnogle, who was 0-for-12 from the floor when these teams met on Feb 9, scored 26 points for the Mountaineers. West Va's win gives them a bye in the Big East tourney's opening round, while Pitt's loss (the Panthers' five league losses have come by a total of just 19 points) puts the Panthers in danger of not receiving a bye, as the Panthers could finish as low as the sixth-seed. No Big East team has won that conference's tourney when forced to play four games.

Also last night, No. 19 Oklahoma edged Oklahoma State 67-66, giving the Sooners their fourth consecutive one-point win. No. 5 Gonzaga got a three-point basket with just one second left, from a player averaging just four PPG, as the Bulldogs beat San Francisco 75-72.

The win gave Gonzaga a 14-0 record in the WCC, its second perfect regular season in the last three seasons. It also marked the team's 23rd straight conference win, its 16th straight win overall (matching GW for the nation's longest current streak) and its 38th consecutive home win. Gonzaga's home winning streak is easily the nation's best, as Hofstra owns the second-longest current home winning streak with 20 straight wins.

The "march to madness" begins on this final day of February. The Horizon League (three games) and the OVC (four games) begin their respective conference tournaments tonight, as part of Tuesday's 14-game college basketball 'board'. Three ranked teams are in action, No. 10 Illinois at Minnesota, No. 11 Boston College hosting Wake Forest (7:00 ET) and No. 21 LSU at South Carolina. The BC game is not on TV but Illinois and LSU are part of the ESPN doubleheader plus ESPN2 airs St Joe's at Xavier (7:30 ET). Xavier is favored by five points with a total of 131 1/2.

No. 12 Boston College, which opened 0-3 in the ACC this year, can clinch at least a third-place tie in the regular season by beating Wake tonight. The Demon Deacons, who won 27 games last year including a 13-3 ACC mark, enter this game 14-14 overall and 2-12 in league play. BC is favored by 10 1/2 points (142 1/2).

LSU owns the SEC's best overall record at 12-2 (last time LSU won the overall SEC regular season title was in 1999-00) and visits South Carolina tonight at 7:00 ET on ESPN. The Gamecocks are just 14-13 (5-9 in the SEC) but are favored by 1 1/2 points with a total of 130 1/2.

The late game on ESPN is Illinois at Minnesota. The Illini are hoping for a third straight Big-10 regular season title but it's a longshot. Illinois is in a three-way tie for second place (9-5) and first-place Ohio State (10-4) owns the tie-beaker over them. Minnesota is just 14-11 overall but is 12-4 at home. Illinois is favored by 3 1/2 points with a total of 123.

The NBA's "Big Three" all won and 'covered' last night and the Phoenix Suns, owners of the league's fourth-best record (38-17) are starting to make people believe they may be a factor in this year's postseason, with or without the return of Amare Stoudemire.

The Pistons beat the Cavs for the second straight day on Monday night, 84-72. Detroit outscored Cleveland 20-9 in the fourth quarter and upped its NBA-best record to 47-9. The Mavericks (45-11) beat the 76ers 104-92, giving them a 15-game home winning streak and 19 wins in their last 20, overall.

Chasing the Mavs are the Spurs (44-12), who beat the hapless Knicks, 121-93. For New York it marked its 20th loss in its last 22 games (6-16 ATS), the seventh by at least 20 points or more. The Suns continue to roll without Stoudemire, as they crushed the Rockets 111-94. It was their seventh straight win and the 18th straight game in which they topped 100 points. Like last year, the Suns are the NBA's highest scoring team, averaging 107.6 PPG.

Tonight's NBA card offers a modest three-game schedule.

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

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