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Friday, Mar 24

   by Larry Ness - 03/24/2006

The nation's top-two scorers and the two leading player of the year candidates, Adam Morrison of Gonzaga and JJ Redick of Duke, both saw their seasons end last night.

Duke, a No. 1 seed, scored its fewest points in a game (54) since 1996, as JJ Redick made just 3-of-18 shots (11 points) in the team's eight-point loss to LSU. Duke shot just 28 percent for the game and got just four points from its bench!

My free play is on the Chicago Bulls over the New Orleans Hornets at 8:35 ET. I'm following my perfect 3-0 sweep in college hoops last night with my 20* Sweet 16 GOY plus another exclusive Las Vegas Insider Play in the tourney (2-0 last night and 71% in the NCAAs to-date!). NBA fans, check back later as I will have NBA plays for Friday.

Duke had entered the tourney as the nation's No. 1-ranked team and continued a trend that has seen just four schools ranked No. 1 in the final AP poll since 1979, go on to capture the national title in that same season! The list of teams that have done it includes North Carolina (1982), Duke (1992), UCLA (1995) and Duke (2001). As for LSU, the Tigers will have a chance on Saturday to make their first Final 4 since 1986, when they became the lowest seed-ever in a Final 4 (11).

Gonzaga entered its game with UCLA with the nation's longest active winning streak (20 games) and led by as many as 17 points in the first half (led by 12 at the half). The Bulldogs still led 71-62 with 3:26 left but UCLA outscored them 11-0 the rest of the way. Morrison, who finishes as the nation's top scorer with a 28.1 PPG average for the year (Redick finished at 26.8), scored 24 points.

Clyde Lovellette of Kansas (1952) is the only player in NCAA history to have led his team to a national title in the same year in which he was the nation's leading scorer. Over the last three decades, only Larry Bird of Indiana State (1979) and Dennis Scott of Ga Tech (1990) have led their respective teams to a Final 4 berth in the same season in which they finished among the nation's top-10 scorers. Both Morrison (1) and Redick (2) saw their seasons end two games shy of the Final 4.

Texas had beaten West Va earlier this year 76-75 and last night beat the Mountaineers 74-71, when Kenton Paulino hit a three-pointer at the buzzer. In the night's other game, No. 13 Bradley saw its improbable season end in an 80-64 loss to Memphis (No. 1 seed). Memphis advances to its first Elite-8 since 1992 on Saturday with a chance at the school's third-ever Final 4 appearance. Bradley's 16-point loss drops mid-major at-large teams to 0-9 in Sweet 16 play (average loss by 14.3 PPG)!

Tonight's four games begin at 7:10 ET with Boston College taking on Villanova (Villanova is favored by 2 1/2 with a total of 140 1/2). George Mason takes on Wichita State at 7:25 ET and the Patriots are 2 1/2-point favorites with a total of 124. The late games are Georgetown/Florida around 9:40 ET (Gators are three-point favorites with a total of 128 1/2) and Washington/U Conn around 9:55 ET (U Conn is favored by six with a total of 155 1/2).

BC and Villanova are very familiar with each other, as the Eagles just moved from the Big East to the ACC this past season. As for the George Mason/Wichita State game, the Patriots beat the Shockers 70-67 in February at Wichita, in a BracketBuster game. Since both of these teams are mid-major schools playing as at-large teams, that 0-9 streak referred to earlier, has to end.

Georgetown and Florida have both come out of nowhere this year and in the Huskies vs Huskies battle, U Conn is a No. 1 seed with two national title since 1999, while Washington is 0-4 in four previous trips to the Sweet 16.

Going pretty much un-noticed on Thursday, was South Carolina beating Cincinnati 65-62 in the NIT (game started at 6:00 ET). The Bearcats suspended two players (White and Muhammad) just hours before tip-off and the line went from Cincy minus-3 1/2 to South Carolina closing as a two-point favorite.

The Gamecocks' win completes the NIT's Final 4 (Old Dominion vs Michigan and South Carolina vs Louisville scheduled for next Tuesday) and gives South Carolina an opportunity to become just the second school to ever win back-to-back NIT titles. St John's did it in 1943 and 1944.

Despite Kevin Garnett's 25th consecutive double-double, the T-wolves blew a big lead in the Meadowlands last night and lost to the Nets, 86-82. The T-wolves have now lost nine straight road games and 22 of their last 25! For the Nets, it was the team's seventh straight win and their 19th win in their last 22 games in the Meadowlands.

The Hornets couldn't make it two straight wins (after ending an 0-8 SU and ATS run the other night vs the Clippers), losing to Houston 93-92. It marked Houston's first Southwest Division win this year (the last team to get its first division win!) and only its third win in 22 tries without T-Mac.

Memphis beat the Clippers for its fifth straight win and closed to within a half-game of LA for that fifth playoff spot. As pointed out yesterday, the fifth-place finisher gets either Dallas or SA, while the sixth-place finisher draws Denver in the first round.

Speaking of Dallas, the Mavs missed a great opportunity to pass SA in the standings last night, losing at home to the Warriors 122-121. However, of bigger concern for both Dallas and SA might be the news that came out of Phoenix last night.

It wasn't the Suns' 125-108 win over the Blazers that may have the Mavs and Spurs nervous, but rather Amare Stoudemire's first appearance of the season (he sat out the first 66 games recovering from a knee injury!). Stoudemire, in just 19 minutes of action, scored 20 points and pulled down nine rebounds!

Tonight's 10-game NBA card is highlighted by Detroit's visit to Indiana at 7:05 ET. The Pistons still own the league's best record (54-13) while the Pacers are just 34-32 but as you may know, these guys have a 'history'! O'Neal is back for Indiana (so is Tinsley) and the Pistons are just 2-8-1 ATS over their last 12 games. Detroit is favored by 3 1/2 points (180). The Spurs are in Portland at 10:05 ET and are 10 1/2-point road favorites (179 1/2). The Spurs are 53-15 and the Mavs are 53-16, so every game is huge! Even against a Portland team that's 3-20 since Feb 4.

Orlando looks to end its franchise-worst 16-game road losing streak tonight in Philadelphia (7:05 ET). The 76ers got Iverson back (29 points) on Wednesday and ended a four-game losing streak with a 115-106 win over the Hawks. Philly is favored by six points (201) but Orlando is 2-0 vs Philly this year and has won seven of its last 11 trips there. The T-wolves will try to end their nine-game road losing streak (22 of 25 road losses as well!) when they visit Toronto at 7:05 ET. The Raptors are favored by 4 1/2 points (199).

Ness Notes is available by 1:00 ET Monday through Friday. Check over the weekend for my feature story on the NCAA tournament.

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