Ness Notes: Friday, Jan 15

by Larry Ness

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: There were no top-25 matchups in Thursday play and the only ranked team to play on Thursday was No. 1 Gonzaga, which hosted Pepperdine. The Waves were playing their first game after a 23-day layoff due to COVID-19 concerns but Pepperdine only trailed by a score of 43-39 at halftime. However, Gonzaga pulled away for a 95-70 win but a non-cover (Bulldogs closed as a 27 point favorite). The Bulldogs are 95-0 against West Coast Conference teams not named Saint Mary's or BYU since 2014 (note: BYU won 62-52 at St Mary's last night). Gonzaga is 13-0 SU but just 6-6-1 ATS on the season. However, the Zags have won 17 straight games and 46 straight at home (longest active streak).

Joining Gonzaga as unbeaten teams which have played double digits in games are 13-0 Drake, 12-0 Winthrop, 11-0 Baylor (No. 2) and 11-0 Michigan (No. 7). Drake matches Gonzaga's win total but hasn't played since Jan 4 and its next game isn't scheduled until Jan 26 because of COVID issues. Winthrop moved to 12-0 by beating Longwood at home last night and will play Longwood at home again tonight. A second straight win over the 3-12 Lancers, would give the Eagles 18 straight wins, ONE more than Gonzaga (Winthrop is favored by 16 1/2-points). Talk of unbeatens naturally leads to a discussion of winless teams. Three schools remain winless after at least 10 games. South Carolina St is 0-13 (has lost 19 in a row), Idaho is 0-10 (11 straight losses) and Mississippi Valley St is 0-10. Chicago St is 0-9 but deserves mention because it ended last season on a 19-game losing streak, giving the Cougars 28 consecutive losses. However, Chicago St won't lose any more games this season, as the school suspended the remainder of its 2020-21 men's basketball season due to COVID-19 back on Dec 23.

There are no top-25 matchups on Friday, but No. 9 Wisconsin will play at Rutgers. When the Badgers visited seventh-ranked Michigan on Tuesday, it looked like a great Big Ten contest but the Wolverines used a 36-3 run bridging the halves to rout the Badgers 77-54! 10-3 Wisconsin plays at Rutgers, which opened 6-0 and was ranked 11th in the AP, but has now lost THREE straight (and four of five), to fall to 7-4. Both teams badly need a win and I will note that the Scarlet Knights have gone 24-4 SU at "The RAC" (Rutgers Athletic Center) since the start of last season. Wisconsin is favored by three points. Higher ranked teams are 25-12 (.676) SU but just 20-17 (54.1%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents Y-T-D. There are FOUR such meetings over the weekend, all on Saturday. No. 2 Baylor is at No. 15 Texas Tech, No. 7 Michigan is at No. 23 Minnesota, No. 12 Clemson hosts No. 18 Virginia and No. 14 Illinois is home to No. 21 Ohio State. I'll check back in with college hoops in Monday's Notes.

NBA: Thursday's TNT doubleheader saw the short-handed Houston Rockets win 109-105 at the San Antonio Spurs. NONE of the players the Rockets received in the trade -- Victor Oladipo (from the Indiana Pacers), Dante Exum (from the Cleveland Cavaliers), and Rodions Kurucs (from the Brooklyn Nets) -- was in uniform on Thursday, forcing Houston to field a makeshift lineup that more than held its own. San Antonio led 99-90 with 4:39 to play but the Rockets outscored the Spurs 19-6 the rest of the way. Christian Wood (23.1 PPG and 10.1 RPG on the season) had 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. In the nightcap, Denver center Nikola Jokic had 23 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, Jamal Murray had 17 points and nine rebounds, as the host Nuggets beat the Golden State Warriors 114-104. The Nuggets were missing two starters, Michael Porter Jr. (COVID-19) and Gary Harris (personal reasons). Jokic is averaging 24.2-11.2-10.4 through 12 games. Can he pull a Russell Westbrook? The Raptors were able to win 111-108 over the Hornets but were not able to cover. Toronto, just two years removed from an NBA title, owns the NBA's worst SU and ATS record so far in the current season (3-8 SU & ATS).

ESPN is back in the doubleheader business on Friday, as the 6-4 Mavericks take a four-game winning streak into Milwaukee to face the 8-4 Bucks (7:35 ET), followed by the 4-6 Pelicans taking on the 10-3 LA Lakers at Staples Center (10:05 ET). The Bucks have won SIX of seven to reach 8-4 but are just 6-6 ATS. However, the team's plus-11.4 point differential is an NBA-best. Milwaukee is favored by 6 1/2-points. The defending champion Lakers own the NBA's best record but like the Bucks, are a modest 7-6 ATS. However, also like Milwaukee, LA owns the second-best point differential at plus-10.5. The Pelicans expect to play without Eric Bledsoe (eye), Zion Williamson (health and safety protocols) and Lonzo Ball (knee). LA is favored by 10 points. The Chicago Bulls may be just 4-7 but they own the NBA's best ATS record at 8-3. The Bulls visit OKC to play the 5-6 Thunder, who are 0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS at home! The game is a pick'em.

I spent too much time on CBB and the NBA, so I'll offer an NFL-only Saturday edition of Ness Notes.

Good luck...Larry

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