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Tuesday, Mar 21

   by Larry Ness - 03/21/2006

The term "March Madness" was coined referring to the NCAA tournament not the NIT. However, last night the NIT provided its share of excitement and maybe a little 'madness' of its own.

Home teams had gone 14-2 SU and 11-5 ATS in 16 first round games but in last night's six second round contests, home teams went 1-5 ATS (or at best 1-4-1) in winning four of six games. Michigan needed double-overtime to survive Notre Dame (87-84) and Hofstra won at St Joe's 77-75 in single overtime.

My free play tonight is on South Carolina over Florida State at 7:00 ET. My win with the Clippers on Monday upped my current NBA run to 63% winners since Feb 3. Although it's a fairly busy schedule tonight, I see just one STANDOUT play. Don't miss my 10* Eastern Conference Game of the Month!

Miami-Florida won at Creighton (53-52) and Missouri State edged Houston (60-59) in a pair of one-point games. Old Dominion (a 10 1/2-point favorite) beat Manhattan just 70-66 and Louisville beat Clemson 74-68, the only game in which the home team won ATS.

ESPN airs the final two games of the NIT's second round tonight, as South Carolina is at Florida State (7:00 ET) and Minnesota visits Cincinnati (9:00 ET). FSU is favored by 3 1/2 points (129 1/2) and the Cardinals are favored by eight points (136).

I'll recap the NCAA tournament to-date tomorrow and then Thursday and Friday, will preview the Sweet 16.

The Pistons beat the Hawks last night 91-84 in NBA action and still own the league's best record at 53-13. However, the team's pointspread slide continued, as the non-cover drops them to 1-8-1 ATS over their last 10 games. Kobe's 43 points led the Lakers over the Celtics (105-97) moving them a half-game ahead of the Kings for the West's seventh playoff spot.

The Clippers won in Houston 99-91, dropping the Rockets to 2-20 without T-Mac and moving the Clippers 13 games over .500 for the first time since the 1975-76 season, when the franchise was located in Buffalo. Milwaukee won 100-93 in Portland, dropping the Blazers to 3-19 since Feb 4 and keeping the Bucks well inside the playoff 'cut line' in the East.

Tonight's NBA schedule features a 10-game card with TNT televising a doubleheader. Houston is in Dallas at 8:05 ET and Phoenix in Utah at 10:35 ET.

The Mavs are 3-0 vs the Rockets this year (average margin of victory is by 16.7 PPG) and are in a life-and-death struggle with the Spurs for the Southwest Division title and the West's best record. The Mavs are 52-15 and the Spurs, 52-14. Dallas is favored by 12 points with a total of 176. The Spurs host the Warriors at 8:35 ET and despite a 29-4 home mark, are just 18-15 ATS. SA is favored by 11 1/2 points (189 1/2).

The Suns and Jazz play in the nightcap of the TNT doubleheader with Phoenix favored by 5 1/2 points (213). The Suns haven't played since losing in SA to the Spurs on Friday and haven't lost back-to-back games since Jan 22-24. Phoenix, which leads the NBA in scoring (108.3), FT percentage (81.1) and 3-point percentage (39.3), has won 17 of its last 21 games.

The Jazz are just 31-35 this year and are in danger of finishing with their second straight losing season (26-56 LY), after going 21 straight seasons without a losing record (from 1983-84 through 2003-04).

In three other games of note, Miami has won 15 of its last 16 games (just two of those wins have come over winning teams!) and is in Minnesota at 8:05 ET. The Heat are favored by 4 1/2 points with a total of 196. The Kings put their 13-game home winning streak on the line tonight (10-0 SU and ATS with Artest) when they host the Sonics at 10:05 ET. Sacramento is favored by nine points (214).

The Clippers visit the Hornets (8:05 ET), who have lost eight consecutive games both SU and ATS. The last time these teams met, the Hornets were held to just 67 points, including an NBA record-low 16 points in the second half. The Clippers are favored by three points (189).

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

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