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NCAA Wednesday Night Basketball: Creighton/Providence Preview

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Jan 20, 2021

The opening contest in a college basketball doubleheader on FS1 features a rematch of a game on January 2nd in Big East decided on a game-winning shot with just 0.8 seconds left to play. Christian Bishop’s clutch shot gave Creighton a 67-65 victory at Providence as a 4-point favorite. Ed Cooley’s team has found themselves in several close games this season. The Friars followed up that loss by getting beat at Xavier, 74-73, via a 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left on the clock a week later. Those heartbreaks may have contributed to their flat effort on January 12th at Marquette, where they fell behind by 16 points before losing to the Golden Eagles by a 79-69 score as a 4.5-point underdog. Some of the bounces have gone their way this season as they pulled out overtime victories against Seton Hall and DePaul.Providence has not played in eight days since their game on Saturday with Georgetown was postponed due to COVID issues. The Friars had three other conference games postponed in mid-December due to COVID. They are 7-6 on the season with a 3-4 mark in conference play. Cooley’s teams often continue to improve as the season wears on. He had his group on a six-game winning streak before last season got canceled. Just three players are back from that 19-12 team that played more than 12 minutes-per-game, yet two of them are in the top-three scorers in the Big East. Junior guard David Duke is scoring 19.9 points-per-game. Senior Nate Watson is adding 18.3 points-per-game with the 6’10 center pulling down 7.2 rebounds-per-game. Cooley considers Watson the best post-up player in the nation. The duo is scoring 51.5% of the 74.2 points-per-game that Providence averages per game while providing an inside-out scoring threat that Cooley facilitates with the 301st slowest pace in the nation. Guard A.J. Reeves scores 9.7 points-per-game as an outside shooting threat, but he is questionable for this game with an undisclosed issue.The Friars are eighth in the nation with a 6.9% non-steal turnover rate when they have the basketball. Providence ranks 41st in adjusted offensive efficiency and 101st in adjusted defensive efficiency according to the metrics at kenpom. The Friars only make 32.8% of their 3-pointers on the season, but they only take these shots 31.7% of the time, the 296th lowest rate in the nation. Providence has improved in conference play by making 38.9% of their 3-pointers, third-best in the Big East. The Friars are also holding their conference opponents to a 32.9% clip from 3-point land, third best. Providence’s highest-profile win is against Seton Hall, and they registered a non-conference victory against Davidson. They lost to Indiana and Alabama in non-conference play last month. Creighton had their six-game winning streak snapped on Saturday in a 70-66 upset loss in overtime at Butler as a 7-point favorite. The Bluejays went on a 23-3 run in the second half but still could not stave off overtime as they ultimately lost to the Bulldogs. They played that game without point guard Marcus Zegarowski who missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury. The junior is scoring 14.1 points-per-game while averaging 4.4 assists-per-game. He is questionable for this game. Creighton still has five other players that score at least 7.0 points-per-game, including Denzel Mahoney, whose 15.9 points-per-game scoring average leads the team. The Bluejays rank 11th in the nation in the Associated Press poll with a 10-3 record. They are 6-2 in Big East play with victories against Seton Hall, UConn, and Xavier. Their three losses were a one-point loss to Kansas and Marquette and the Bulldogs in conference play. Creighton ranks tenth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They are 11th with a 58.5% shooting percentage inside the arc, and they rank 36th with a 38.0% shooting clip from 3-point land. Their 57.8% effective field goal percentage is 11th best. The Bluejays are also playing strong fundamental defense. They are limiting their opponents to just a 43.0% shooting percentage inside the arc. They rank 35th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency using the metrics at kenpom.The Bluejays’ 2-point win on January 2nd was the fifth time in the last ten meetings between these two teams settled by 6 points or less. BookMaker lists Creighton as a 9.5-point favorite, with the total set at 146. The FS1 broadcast starts at 7 PM ET.

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Jan 20

by Larry Ness

Wednesday, Jan 20, 2021

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."CBB: Tuesday's schedule had no scheduled games between ranked opponents but did have SEVEN games between ranked and unranked opponents, including three from the AP's top-10. No. 3 Villanova took the court for the first time since Dec 23 and eked out a 76-74 win over Seton Hall. The Wildcats returned from a 27-day break but the Pirates gave them all they wanted. Seton Hall snapped a 17-game road losing streak to Villanova with a 70-64 victory last February and again gave the Wildcats fits (game-winning FT came with 1.9 seconds remaining). No. 6 Tennessee lost 75-49 at Florida, despite the Gators missing three of their top players. The Vols fell to 10-2 by shooting 29.3 percent from the floor and 3 of 18 from three-point range. Tennessee ranked third in the NCAA in scoring defense (57.2 PPG) but the 75 points the Vols gave up were the most on the season. No. 7 Michigan bounced back from its first loss of the season (75-57 at Minnesota last Saturday) with an easy 87-63 win over Maryland. The four other ranked teams went 3-1 SU & ATS (all seven were 5-2 SU & 4-3 ATS), with the other loser being No. 15 Ohio St 67-65 at home to Purdue. No. 18 Alabama (now EIGHT straight wins), No. 19 Missouri and No. 22 Illinois all won and covered.Wednesday again has no top-25 matchups (higher ranked teams are 27-15, .643 SU but just 21-21, 50.0% ATS this season) and COVID concerns have postponed SEVEN games involving ranked teams vs unranked ones, including one top-10 team (No. 5 Texas). Two top-10 teams are in action, No. 8 Houston (11-1) is home to Tulsa (8-4), looking to avenge its lone loss of the season when the Cougars lost 65-64 at Tulsa back on Dec 29. Houston is favored by 12 points. No. 10 Wisconsin (10-3) is home to 6-6 Northwestern. The Wildcats opened 6-1 (3-0 in the Big Ten) when it beat Ohio St 71-70 back on Dec 26. Northwestern entered the AP poll at No. 19 on Dec 28 but the Wildcats have since gone 0-5 SU & ATS. The Badgers are favored by  11 1/2-points. Two more ranked teams are in play, No. 11 Creighton (10-3) at home vs 7-6 Providence and No. 20 Clemson (9-2), coming off an 'ugly' 85-50 home loss to UVa on Saturday, visiting Atlanta to play 6-3 Georgia Tech. Creighton is favored by nine points and Clemson by 1 1/2-points.NBA: Just two games last night, as the disappointing Nuggets beat the Thunder 119-10 to even their record at 7-7. The Jazz won 118-102 at home over the Pelicans to move to 10-4, extending their winning streak to SIX in a row (league-high). It's a busy 10-game Wednesday schedule, with ESPN airing a doubleheader. 8-4 Boston is at 9-5 Philadelphia at 7:05 ET and 7-5 Phoenix is at 4-8 Houston at 9:35 ET. The Celtics own the East's best record, while Philly is tied with Milwaukee for the second-best mark. Both teams are dealing with COVID protocols and injuries. The 76ers are favored by 4 1/2-points. The Suns jumped out to a 5-1 start but have lost FOUR of their last six, while the Houston roster is still in flux due to injury. Guard John Wall (knee) remains sidelined. Forward Danuel House Jr. (COVID protocols) and guard Dante Exum (calf), who was acquired along with Oladipo last week, are also out. Guard Sterling Brown (right leg) is questionable to play after missing the past two contests. Phoenix is favored by 5 1/2-points.The NBA's two-worst teams are also in action, as the 3-10 Pistons are at the 6-7 Hawks, while the 3-9 Timberwolves are home to the 6-8 Magic. As I noted in Tuesday's Notes, the T-wolves have a minus-10.1 PPG differential, the ONLY team losing by an average of double digits. Interestingly enough, Minnesota is 5-7 ATS (not bad), while Detroit actually owns a winning ATS record of 7-5-1. The Pistons are a five-point road dog and the T-wolves are a 3 1/2-point home dog. The 10-4 LA Clippers have won four straight and a win tonight at Staples Center over the 5-9 Kings would allow the Clipps to match the Lakers' NBA-best record of 11-4. LA is favored by 10 1/2-points. NFL: How did the Packers and Bucs reach the NFC Championship Game? The Packers scored on each of their first five series and led the Rams 25-10 early in the third quarter. When all was said and done, the Rams' top-rated defense (had allowed 18.5 PPG on just 281.9 YPG) was shredded for 32 points on 484 yards, allowing 28 FDs (GB was 8 of 12 on 3rd downs). Rodgers threw for 296 yards with two TDs and no INTs (108.1 QB rating) plus had a one-yard TD run. His TD run was the first by a Packers QB in a playoff game at Lambeau Field since Bart Starr's winning sneak in the Ice Bowl against Dallas on Dec 31, 1967. The Green Bay defense held the Rams to just 244 yards, allowing LA to convert just 2 of 8 third downs (0-1 on 4th down). Green Bay has now won SEVEN in a row, holding its opponents to 18.4 PPG during that stretch.Tom Brady and the Bucs' offense turned three of four Saints turnovers into TDs and Tampa Bay beat the Saints 30-20 in the divisional round of the playoffs Sunday night at New Orleans. The Saints had beaten the Bucs in BOTH regular season meetings, 34-24 at home in Week 1 and then 38-3 at Tampa in Week 9. Two of those TDs came on short passes to WR Mike Evans and RB Leonard Fournette. Then, after an interception by LB Devin White, Brady drove the Bucs to the one-yard-line, from where he scored himself with 4:57 left to virtually ensure his 14th trip to a conference championship game but his first in the NFC. Brady finished 18 of 33 for 199 yards with two TD passes and that TD run. The 30-20 Tampa Bay win resembled more of a defensive struggle, as the Bucs had a modest 316 total yards and the Saints had just 294. However, unlike in his previous two meetings with the Saints (five INTs and six sacks), Brady was not intercepted and largely avoided pressure, taking only one sack.The Packers reached the NFC championship game for the fourth time in seven seasons as they chase their first Super Bowl berth in a decade (2010 season). It will be their first NFC title contest at Lambeau Field since hosting for the 2007 season, when they fell to the New York Giants 23-20 in overtime. Rodgers was on Green Bay's roster during that 2007 season backing up Brett Favre. Brady will try to advance to his 10th Super Bowl (the Bucs are hoping for just their SECOND Super Bowl appearance) in a showdown with Rodgers. I'll recap how the Bills and Chiefs reached the AFC championship game in Thursday's Notes and then preview both games in Friday's Notes.Good luck...Larry

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NHL, NBA, EPL and NCAA Basketball Preview

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Jan 20, 2021

The Wednesday sports card features college basketball, the NBA, the NHL, and the English Premier League. The college basketball card tips off at 1 PM ET, with Davidson hosting Fordham as a 17-point favorite with the total set at 120.5 (all odds from BetOnline). The nationally-televised games begin at 7 PM ET, with Creighton playing at home against Providence on FS1. The Bluejays' six-game winning streak snapped with a 70-66 upset loss at Butler as a 7-point favorite on Saturday. Creighton is now 10-3 on the season, and they rank 11th in the Associated Press poll. The Friars lost their third game in a row with their 79-69 loss at Marquette eight days ago on January 12th as a 4.5-point underdog. This contest is a rematch of the Bluejays’ 67-65 win at Providence as a 4-point favorite on January 2nd. Creighton is a 4-point favorite with an over/under of 146.Colorado travels to Washington at 9 PM ET on ESPN2. The Buffaloes won their fourth straight game to improve to 11-3 with their 77-64 victory against Stanford as a 7.5-point favorite on Saturday. The 1-11 Huskies lost their eighth in a row after an 81-76 loss at UCLA as a 14.5-point underdog on Saturday. Colorado is a 12.5-point road favorite, with the total at 144.5.Boise State plays at home against Fresno State on FS1 at 9 PM ET. The Broncos lost their opening game at BYU, but they have since won eleven straight. They last played on Wednesday, where they defeated Wyoming on the road, 90-70, as an 11.5-point underdog. The Bulldogs are 5-5 after losing two in a row with their 79-65 loss at Nevada as a 6.5-point underdog on Sunday. Boise State is a 15-point favorite with an over/under of 140.Ten games are on the NBA schedule. An ESPN doubleheader tips off at 7:05 PM ET with Boston visiting Philadelphia. These two teams last played in August in the Celtics' four-game sweep in the first round of the playoffs. Boston had their five-game winning streak snapped on Monday in a 105-75 loss at home to New York as a 7-point favorite. The loss left them with an 8-4 record. COVID has impacted this team with Jayson Tatum out given quarantine protocols. Philadelphia fell to 9-5 after their loss at Memphis on Saturday by a 106-104 score as a 2-point underdog. The 76ers are also dealing with COVID issues with Seth Curry out indefinitely. Joel Embiid has been out with a knee issue, but he hopes to take the court tonight. The ESPN nightcap has Phoenix traveling to play Houston at 9:35 PM ET. The Suns have lost three of their last four games to see their record fall to 7-5 after getting upset at Memphis on Monday as a 5.5-point favorite, 108-104. The Grizzlies have been without Dario Saric and Jalen Smith, both in the COVID quarantine protocol. They are questionable for this game. Houston has lost four of their last five games after their 125-120 loss at Chicago as a 2-point favorite on Monday. This game will be the Rockets’ fourth since the blockbuster James Harden trade. John Wall is questionable with an illness. Five games are on the NHL schedule. The NBC Sports Network has a double-header starting at 7:05 PM ET with Toronto hosting Edmonton. The Maple Leafs are -144 money line favorites with the total at 6.5. The second game has Minnesota’s visit to Anaheim, with the Wild a -133 money line road favorite with an over/under of 5.5.The English Premier League continues with a double-header on the NBC Sports Network. Manchester City hosts Aston Villa at 1 PM ET as a -1.75 goal line favorite with an over/under of 3.25. Manchester United visits Fulham as a -1 goal line road favorite with the total set at 2.75 at 3:15 PM ET.

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