Ness Notes: Friday, Dec 25

by Larry Ness

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at 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."

2020-21 Bowl season: The "no drama" bowl season continued on Thursday in the New Mexico Bowl, which was moved from Albuquerque to Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, due to COVID-19 restrictions in New Mexico. Hawaii turned a pair of first-quarter interceptions into TDs and took a 21-0 lead at the half. QB Chevan Cordeiro's had three first-half TD passes, one set up by his 52-yard run. RB Calvin Turner Jr. caught a 75-yard TD pass and when Houston had closed to 21-14, returned a kickoff 92 yards for a TD  "All the money" came in on Hawaii (Houston closed as a 7-point favorite, after opening as a 12-point choice) and it was 'right.' The final score was 28-14 (no scoring in the 4th quarter). Favorites are now 4-2 SU & ATS to open the bowl season. The first three bowl games averaged 73.7 PPG but the UCF/BYU total closed at 79 1/2, so the overs were 2-1, not an expected 3-0. However, Wednesday's two bowl games combined for just 76 points, as both stayed under and Thursday's final score of 42 was well below the closing total of 60. Two overs and four unders, so far. Friday's bowl game was previewed in Thursday Notes, if interested. The current line has Buffalo up to 5 or 5 1/2-point favorites (over/under is 54 1/2).

It's a Christmas Day NFL game (4:30 ET on FOX/NFL Network) between the 6-8 Vikings and the 10-4 Saints in New Orleans. The Saints have lost two in a row (following a NINE-game winning streak) and are now ONE game behind 11-3 Green Bay. The Saints are tied with the 10-4 Seahawks but own the tiebreaker, currently allowing them to hold on to the No. 2 seed. The 6-8 Vikings are not officially eliminated from postseason play just yet but the team's playoff hopes are clearly on 'life support.' New Orleans is favored  by seven points and the over/under is 51. Saturday's bowls will be covered in a "special" Saturday edition of Ness Notes, along with a preview of Saturday and Sunday's NFL Week 16 games

CBB: The NBA has 'owned' Christmas Day in recent years but the Big Ten has decided in this 'Year of COVID' to 'crash the party.' In fact, COVID sparked the move. Typically, the NCAA upholds a rule requiring three days off around Christmas but the organization waived the regulation as various teams remain on campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. So, Big Ten hoops will play FOUR Christmas games that feature four ranked teams. The first game features a top-25 showdown between No. 9  Wisconsin (7-1) and No. 12 Michigan St (6-1) at East Lansing at 12:30 ET. The lone game without a ranked opponent in this Christmas 'grand slam' is 5-2 Maryland visiting West Lafayette to take on 6-3 Purdue. No. 19 Michigan (6-0) travels to Lincoln to play 4-4 Nebraska at 6:00 ET and No. 4 Iowa (7-1) visits Williams Arena in Minneapolis to take on 7-1 Minnesota. Wisconsin opened a small road favorite but early movement has Michigan as a two-point choice. Higher ranked teams are 13-7 SU but just 9-11 ATS against lower-ranked teams. In the two games featuring ranked teams vs unranked opponents, Michigan is an eight-point favorite at Nebraska and Iowa a 6 1/2-point road choice at Minnesota. Ranked teams are 116-17 (.872) SU but a more modest 71-60-2 (54.2%) ATS vs unranked opponents Y-T-D.

It's its Christmas, it MUST be the NBA. The ESPN/ABC family has a Christmas Day Extravaganza with FIVE games, beginning at 12 noon ET with New Orleans at Miami and concluding with the Clippers visiting Denver at 10:30 ET to play the Nuggets. The Heat surprised almost all (surely Milwaukee fans!) by making it to the NBA Finals, where they lost in six games to the Lakers. However, the Heat were the NBA's best ATS team in last year's "bubble-based" playoffs, going 16-5 ATS. Miami is favored by 3 1/2-points. Speaking of Milwaukee, the Bucks are up next (2:30 ET), when they host Golden St. Milwaukee overcame a 17-point deficit entering the 4th quarter in their season-opener at Boston on Wednesday, only to lose 122-21, when Giannis short-armed a free-throw attempt that would have sent the game into OT. As for Golden St, I guess the best way to put it is, "these are not your father's Warriors." Milwaukee is favored by 10 1/2-points. 

The Kevin Durant-led Nets (Kyrie would say the Irving-led Nets) are in Boston to face the Celtics, where Brooklyn is a three-point road favorite. It's the second straight game in which Boston has been a home dog. It didn't turn out well for Milwaukee. Will Brooklyn fare better? The Lakers opened their title defense Tuesday night and lost at Staples Center to co-tenants, the LA Clippers. The Lakers celebrated their NBA title with a ring ceremony (often a jinx as I pointed in taking AND winning with the Clippers!), then trailed by as many as 22 points early on against the Clippers before rallying but eventually losing 116-109. As for the Mavs, Luka Doncic led the Mavericks to the playoffs last season to end the franchise's three-season absence but Dallas lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. The Mavs opened their season Wednesday night but lost 106-102 to the Suns, who picked right up where they left off from last year's Orlando 'bubble' (Suns were 8-0 SU & ATS). LA is favored by 6 1/2-points.

The  5-game game Extravaganza finally concludes with the Clippers visiting the 'Mile High City" to take on the Nuggets. Most should remember (surely the Clippers and Nuggets do) LA's stunning collapse in their second-round exit in last season's playoffs. The Clippers led the series 3-1 and had a double-digit lead in the second half of Game 5 but the Nuggets came back to win, and then rallied again in Game 6, before finishing the upset in Game 7. Knee-jerk says take the Clippers but they are off a BIG win over the Lakers, while the Nuggets are off a wild home OT 124-122 loss to the Kings in their season-opener. This ISN'T an easy business. The Clippers are a three-point road favorite.

See you Saturday for that "special" edition of Ness Notes (Bowls and NFL, only). I'll catch up with CBB and the NBA on Monday.

Merry Christmas...Larry

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