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Tuesday, Mar 14

   by Larry Ness - 03/14/2006

It's rare that the NIT 'steals' the headlines from the NCAA tournament but that may be the case tonight as Hall of Fame head coach John Chaney announced his retirement last night, while the NCAA's big news is its play-in game. Chaney has coached for 34 years (24 at Temple) winning 741 games (516-252 at Temple). Only four active coaches own more career wins than Chaney and he's taken Temple to the NCAA tourney 17 times.

My free play for Tuesday is on Fairleigh Dickinson over Manhattan at 7:00 ET. Join me tonight for another 15* play in the NBA (now 7-3 since Feb 3) and in college hoops, for my 20* NIT Opening Round GOY (4-2 last week with my 20* tourney Games of the year).

Unfortunately, he'll also be remembered for the fact that he owns the most NCAA tournament wins by any coach to have not reached the Final Four (23). Chaney took Temple to five Regional Finals (the last of which was in 2001), losing all five times!

His 40 career NCAA games ranks him third behind only Guy Lewis (44) and Eddie Sutton (65) for most tournament games without a Final 4 trip. Temple's appearance tonight in the NIT (the Owls host Akron), marks the school's fifth consecutive NIT appearance, not good news for a school that was once an NCAA regular.

The NIT (now owned and run by the NCAA) begins tonight with a 16-team, eight-game opening round. Once the most prestigious tournament in college basketball, the NIT is now the one event no team wants to be back in, as defending champs. That distinction is held by South Carolina this year.

The Gamecocks won this title last year and came within a 49-47 loss to Florida in the SEC title game on Sunday, of not returning as the defending champs. South Carolina begins its "unwanted defense" tomorrow vs Western Ky.

In a change just this year, schools that won their regular season titles but lost in their respective conference tourneys, were guaranteed bids to this year's NIT. Delaware State (MEAC), Fairleigh Dickinson (NEC), Ga Southern (Southern), Manhattan (MAAC), Northern Arizona (Big Sky) and Western Ky (SBC) were the six schools that benefited this year.

As mentioned earlier, Western Ky opens tomorrow against South Carolina but the other five regular season champs all play tonight. Fairleigh Dickinson is at Manhattan, Delaware St at Northern Arizona and Ga Southern is at NC-Charlotte. ESPNU carries Rutgers at Penn St (8:00 ET) and ESPN has Virginia at Stanford (9:30 ET).

The NIT has four No. 1 seeds this year and they are Cincinnati, Maryland, Michigan and Louisville. Hofstra (24-6) has the most wins of any NIT participant which also gives them the distinction of having the most wins of any team not in the NCAA tournament. The Pride will host Nebraska on Thursday.

Missouri St, with an RPI of 21, owns the distinction of owning the highest rating of any team in this year's NIT which also means the Bears own the highest RPI of any school not in the NCAAs! The Bears don't play their first game until Friday.

For the first time in five years, the NCAA's play-in game does not include a school with a losing record. Interestingly, those sub-.500 teams went a perfect 4-0 SU and ATS the last four years in the play-in game. Tonight, it's 18-14 Monmouth versus 16-15 Hampton (7:30 ET on ESPN).

Monmouth is a deep team (nine players average double digits in minutes) but just two players average double-digits in scoring. Hampton had lost six of seven games to end the regular season but then beat the MEAC's No. 3 and No. 1 seeds to take the conference tourney. Monmouth is favored by four points with a total of 124 1/2.

In Monday's NBA, the Pacers beat the Magic 97-83. Orlando has now lost 19 of its last 23 games. Keeping up with the Magic are the Knicks, who lost for the 24th time in their last 28 games last night (108-96 to the Nuggets). The Nets won 90-77 in Houston, as the Rockets fell to 1-15 without Tracy McGrady. Adding insult to injury, David Wesley, the only Rocket to have played in every game this season, missed his first game of the season last night after getting hurt against the Spurs on Sunday.

The T-wolves may not be in the class of the Magic and Knicks but they did lost their fifth straight game last night at the Clippers (95-87), giving them their 19th loss in their last 22 road games.

Tonight's NBA features a nine-game schedule. The Mavs and Spurs (tied at 49-14) are both home tonight, with Dallas hosting Cleveland at 8:35 ET (Mavs are favored by 7 1/2 points with a total of 187) and San Antonio hosting the Hornets also at 8:35 ET (Spurs are favored by 10 1/2 points with a total of 179 1/2).

The Lakers eliminated the Kings in the playoffs in each of their three championship years (2000-02) but these days, these two former Western Conference powers are battling at the bottom of the playoff 'picture'. The Lakers (7th) lead the Kings (8th) by a half-game and the Kings are just a half-game ahead of the 9th-seeded Hornets. However, Sacramento takes a 12-game home winning streak (9-0 SU and ATS with Artest) into its game with the Lakers tonight at Arco (10:05 ET). The Kings are favored by seven points with a total of 204.

In Seattle, the Sonics host the Suns at 10:05 ET. The last time these teams met was Jan 22 in Phoenix and in that game, the Sonics beat the Suns in double-overtime, 152-149. The 301 points scored marked the highest scoring NBA game since 1995. The two teams also combined for an NBA single-game record by making 32 three-pointers. The Suns have won eight of their last 10 games on the road, while the Sonics are playing much better since the break, going 5-5 SU and 7-3 ATS. Phoenix is favored by 5 1/2 points and the total is 226!

Ness Notes is available by 1:00 ET Monday through Friday.

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