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Wednesday, Mar 29

   by Larry Ness - 03/29/2006

The NIT championship game is set and it will feature the 2004 champs against the 2005 champs! Michigan turned a seven-point deficit into a 33-24 halftime lead by closing the half on a 19-3 run against Old Dominion. ODU shot a single-game season-low 28 percent from the floor in losing 66-43 to Michigan, as the team's leader scorer (Isaiah Hunter) made just one-of-15 shots and scored two points. Hunter had a strange tourney, scoring 28 at Colorado and 29 at Hofstra but going 2-of-11 for eight points in ODU's other game against Manhattan.

My free play is on the Ind Pacers over the Atl Hawks at 7:05 ET. Tuesday I made it a PERFECT 3-0 sweep, winning my 20* NIT Game of the Year (South Carolina) and another Las Vegas Insider (Michigan) in college hoops plus cashed a 22* NBA winner on the Pistons. My recent tourney run is now up to 9-1, including 6-0 on Las Vegas Insiders! Check back after 1:00 ET for my Wednesday NBA plays.

Michigan, which ended the season by losing seven of its last nine games, has now won four straight in the NIT to advance to Thursday's title game. Adding in the team's 5-0 run to the 2004 NIT title (Michigan was just 13-18 LY and sat out the postseason), the Wolverines have won nine straight postseason games (all in the NIT). Michigan was led by the 6-11 Courtney Sims, who scored 18 points. Sims entered the game with an 11.0 PPG average but had scored a total of just 16 points in Michigan's first three NIT games this year!

In the other semifinal game, South Carolina broke open a close first half with a 14-4 run, taking a 39-32 lead into the half. The Gamecocks shot 60 percent for the game in the 78-63 win. South Carolina, which won last year's NIT title, was just 14-14 on Feb 28 but has gone 8-1 SU and 9-0 ATS since! The team's only loss in that stretch has been to Florida (49-47) in the SEC title game! By the way, how are the Gators doing these days?

As for Louisville, which was in last year's NCAA Final 4, the loss ends a disappointing first year in the Big East for the Cardinals. For us pointspread 'junkies', it should be noted that the Cardinals (who were a two-point underdog in this game) finished the year 0-10 SU and 3-7 ATS in games in which they were underdogs!

The Gamecocks can become just the second team to win back-to-back NIT titles (St John's did it in 1943 and 1944) by beating Michigan on Thursday. The early line on that game has South Carolina favored by 4 1/2 points with a total of 129.

All three of the NBA's best teams were in action last night with the Pistons edging the Mavs 97-90 and the Spurs winning in LA over the Clippers, 98-87. Detroit's win keeps them atop the NBA with a league-best 56-14 record while Dallas' loss, coupled with San Antonio's win, moves the Spurs (55-16) one game ahead of the Mavs (54-17) in the race for the West's best record.

In other action, Memphis saw its seven-game winning streak snapped by Seattle 98-97, as Ray Allen hit the game-winner with 0.3 seconds left in the game.The Suns lost 132-110 at Milwaukee, as the Bucks set a franchise-record with 18 3-pointers. The team's 11 3-point FGs (13 attempts) in a 46-point third quarter, were the most 3-pointers made by one team in any quarter in NBA history!

The Magic overcame an 11-point 4th quarter deficit in Chicago to beat the Bulls 97-93 (outscored Chicago 24-11 in the quarter). The Bulls were just 3-of-21 in that final period and the Magic have now won two straight road games, following a 16-game road losing streak. Sacramento, which had its 14-game home winning streak snapped on Sunday by the Warriors, lost again in Arco last night 97-84 to the Wizards. Surprisingly, the Wizards won despite the absence of the league's 4th-leading scorer, Gilbert Arenas (29.1 PPG).

The playoff picture in the East has fifth-seeded Washington (37-33) leading both Indiana (35-34) and Milwaukee (36-35) by a 1 1/2-games. Philly is eighth, two games up on the Bulls and four up on the Celtics. In the West, the Clippers lead the Grizzlies by a half-game for the fifth spot, while the Lakers have moved 2 1/2-games ahead of the Kings in the seventh spot. The Kings (8th) lead the Jazz by 1 1/2-games and the Hornets by two.

Tonight's NBA schedule features an 11-game card with ESPN airing the Pistons/76ers at 7:35 ET and ESPN2 carrying the Jazz/Nuggets at 10:05 ET. Detroit's (56-14) win (and cover) over Dallas last night 'ups' the Pistons to just 3-9-2 ATS in their last 14 games. Detroit is also just 3-11-2 ATS in its last 16 road games. The 76ers are coming off a 92-79 home loss to the Pacers on Sunday, the team's second-lowest point output of the season. Philly is also just 2-9 SU and 4-7 ATS over its last 11 games. Detroit is favored by 4 1/2 points (187).

Denver leads Utah by 6 1/2 games in the Northwest Division but the Jazz are just 1 1/2-games back of the Kings for that final playoff spot in the West. Denver's won nine of its last 12 and enters on a five-game home winning streak. Denver is favored by seven points (199 1/2).

Cleveland hosts Dallas at 7:05 ET (Cavs are favored by two points with a total of 185) and can clinch the team's first playoff appearance since 1998 (first-ever for LeBron). The Mavs now trail the Spurs by one game in the Southwest Division and are just 1-5 SU and 0-6 ATS vs the NBA's elite teams since Mar 1. That lone win was against the Cavs in Dallas on 3/14, when Dallas held Cleveland to eight points in the 3rd quarter of a 91-87 win.

Memphis had its seven-game winning streak snapped last night and must now try to bounce back in the Meadowlands vs the Nets (7:35 ET), who enter this game on a nine-game winning streak (7-1-1 ATS) and having won 20 of their last 23 home games. This should be a defensive game as the Nets have allowed more than 85 points in just two of their last nine games and the Grizzlies allow just 88.7 PPG, the second-best figure in the league. NJ is favored by six points (174).

NCAA notes

The AP All-American teams were announced the other day and it came as no surprise that both JJ Redick and Adam Morrison were unanimous first-teamers. Joining them on the first-team were Duke's Shelden Williams, Villanova's Randy Foye and Washington's Brandon Roy. Reddick becomes the first repeat first-teamer since Duke's Jason Williams in 2001-02. Redick and Williams become the ninth set of teammates to make the first team (most recently was Duke's Williams and Battier in 2001).

Also of note is that in an era when the college game's best players often leave early for the NBA, four of the five first-teamers were seniors, with junior Morrison as the lone interloper. The second and third teams contained four seniors, two juniors, three sophomores and one freshman (third-teamer Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina). It should also be noted that Glen Davis of LSU (a third-teamer) is the ONLY one of the 15 players whose team made it to the Final 4!

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

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