Ness Notes: Monday, Jan 25

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."

NFL: Super Bowl is set and while it's not a rematch of the first-ever Super Bowl (Kansas City/Green Bay), one would be hard-pressed to argue against the fact that this is going to be one of the most-anticipated matchups of all-time. Tom Brady left New England and Bill Belichick in his rearview mirror and while the Pats failed to win the AFC East for the first time since 2008 by going 7-9 (Belichik's only other losing season in New England came in his first season with the Pats in 2000), Brady led one of the NFL's biggest losers (Tampa Bay) to its second-ever Super Bowl. Sunday was NOT a vintage Brady performance, as he passed for 280 yards with three TDs but also threw three INTs, all coming on THREE consecutive possessions, after the Bucs led the Packers 28-10 early in the third quarter. Rodgers threw for 346 yards with three TDs and one INT (had a QB rating of 101.6 to Brady's 73.8) but the Tampa Bay D sacked Rodgers (the likely MVP) FIVE times. The Bucs never trailed in snapping Green Bay's seven-game winning streak but were aided by a strange (I'm being kind here!) decision from Packers head coach Matt LaFleur with just over two minutes remaining in a 31-23 game. After three straight incompletions had the Packers facing fourth-and-goal from the 8, the Packers elected to kick a field goal to get within five. Green Bay NEVER saw the ball again in the 31-26 loss. LaFleur can explain all he wants but there was NO excuse. However, I want to point out this. Imagine if the Packers had been a SIX-point dog? You think you wouldn't heard cries of a "FIX" coming from every direction? Let's face the facts. Coaches and players (in ALL sports) often make "INCONCEIVABLE" choices (a shout out to Princess Bride fans) just like our politicians, on a regular basis!

Brady is now off to his 10th Super Bowl (six wins in his first nine tries), where the G.O.A.T. will take on the defending champion Chiefs, led by Patrick Mahomes who many (most?) believe is the "G.O.AT. in waiting!" Mahomes left last week's win over the Browns in the 3rd quarter with a concussion and he wasn't cleared to play until Friday. The Bills led 9-0 after one quarter but all will remember that Kansas City fell behind by double digits in all THREE of its postseason wins last season. It was "deja vu all over again," as the Chiefs would outscore the Bills 38-6 to take a commanding 38-15 lead by the mid-4th quarter. Mahomes threw for 325 yards with three TDs and zero INTs, giving him an 15-0 TD-to-INT ratio in his six career playoff home contests. Brady becomes the first QB to play a Super Bowl on his team's home field, as the Bucs will face the Chiefs at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium on Feb 7. That's never happened in 54 previous games. However, the G.O.A.T and his team are early three-point underdogs to the "G.O.A.T. in waiting" and the defending champion Chiefs. The over/under is 56.

CBB (Fri-Sun recap):There were just three top25 matchups over the last three days (all on Saturday. The higher ranked teams had a bad run of it, as No. 6 Tennessee lost 73-64 at home to No. 19 Missouri, No. 10 Wisconsin (which allowed 52 and 53 points its previous two games) lost 74-62 at home to No. 15 Ohio St and while No. 11 Creighton won 74-66 at home to No. 23 UConn, the Huskies covered by a half-point! Higher ranked teams are now 29-16 (.644) SU but just 21-24 (46.7%) ATS on the season. The nation's top-two teams were in action on Saturday, as No. 1 Gonzaga moved to 15-0 (but just 7-7-1 ATS) by beating Pacific 95-69 and No. 2 Baylor to 14-0 (11-3 ATS) with an impressive 81-66 win at Oklahoma St.

While it was smooth sailing for the Bulldogs and the Bears, 11 other ranked teams were in action on Saturday vs unranked teams and were able to go just 5-6 SU plus combined for a money-burning 3-8 ATS mark. The highest-ranked team to lose was No. 9 Kansas, which lost 75-68 at Oklahoma. The Jayhawks are now 10-5, having dropped three consecutive games for the first time since 2013. Kansas has been ranked for 229 consecutive weeks and while the Jayhawks won't drop out of Monday's new poll, their season is sure headed in the WRONG direction. Also losing on Saturday were No. 16 Va Tech, No. 17 Minnesota, No. 20 Clemson, No. 21 Oregon and No. 24 UCLA.

The Maryland/Minnesota and Clemson/Florida St games deserve special mention. The Terps are just 3-6 in the Big Ten this season but all THREE wins have come on the road against ranked teams. Maryland's three road wins have come at Wisconsin, at Illinoi and now at Minnesota. Wisconsin was ranked 6th, Illinois 12th and Minnesota 17th at the time of each win. Maryland becomes the first team to have such success on the road while being unranked in the last five seasons. The Terps are now the first Division I program to have three or more top-17 road wins in the same season as an unranked team since Wisconsin did so 2015-16, It's also the first time in program history that Maryland has won three road games against ranked teams. 

As for Clemson, the Tigers were 9-1 (and ranked No. 12) after a 74-70 win over NC State on Jan 5. The Tigers then had a forced 11-day break (COVID) and returned to the court on Jan 16 at home, only to lose for an 11th straight time to UVa, 85-50. The Tigers followed with an 83-65 loss at Ga Tech and then Saturday's 80-61 loss at FSU. Clemson was allowing 57.6 PPG in its first 10 games (was 5th-best in the nation at the time) but in its three straight losses, has allowed 82.7 PPG. Teams can often lose their 'shooting touch' after a layoff but I don't remember a team losing its ability to play defense! 

Monday's card features a game between No. 12 Texas Tech (11-4) at No. 14 West Va (10-4) but the only other ranked team in action will be No. 13 Virginia (13-2) at home against 9-4 Syracuse. This will be Texas Tech's first game since Jan 16 after both of the Red Raiders' scheduled matchups last week were postponed due to COVID-19 protocols at TCU and Iowa State. West Virginia just returned from a two-week pause on Saturday with a 69-47 road victory at Kansas State. Prior to the shutdown, the Mountaineers lost two of three games, all decided by four points or fewer. West Va is favored by  1 1/2-points. Syracuse's win against No. 16 Virginia Tech on Saturday was its first against a ranked opponent in more than a year (last was a 63-55 overtime win at Virginia on Jan 11, 2020). The Orange get a chance to win at Charlottesville again tonight but note that Virginia is riding a six-game winning streak and has won 14 consecutive ACC games dating back Feb 8, 2020.  UVa is favored by seven points. The new AP poll comes out Monday afternoon and will be one of the features of Tuesday's Notes.

NBA: The season tipped off back on Dec 22 and Monday's games will conclude FIVE weeks of play. My Tuesday Notes will take a five-week "look-back." Sunday highlights were the Clippers winning their SEVENTH in a row to match the Lakers at 13-4 for the league's best record in the league. The Celtics snapped a three-game slide with a 141-103 win over the Cavs and the Bucks ended a two-game skid with a 129-114 win over the Hawks. The Wizards got back on the court last night for the first time since beating the visiting Phoenix Suns 128-107 back on Jan 11. Head coach Scott Brooks and the Wizards were simply happy to be back on the court but the San Antonio Spurs used their depth to beat Washington 121-101 on Sunday night (Wizards). It also marked Russell Westbrook's return to the court in more than two weeks due to a left quadriceps injury. He finished with nine points, eight rebounds and six assists in 25 minutes. Remember the 2011-12 season when KD, Westbrook and super-sub Harden made the NBA Finals with OKC? As part of Tuesday's NBA report, I'll delve into a "Where are they Now" comment?

It's a busy 10-game NBA card on Monday. The 13-4 Lakers will try to keep their perfect 9-0 road record in tack with a visit to Cleveland to play the 8-8 Cavs (LA is favored by 10 1/2-points). The East's top record belongs to the 12-5 Philadelphia 76ers, who are in Detroit for a second straight night to take on the Pistons. Detroit owns the NBA's worst record (3-13) but is 8-7-1 ATS. Philly is favored by  6 1/2-points. The 9-6 Celtics are hoping that Jayson Tatum (26.9 PPG) can play tonight, as he hasn't played since Jan 8 after being placed in the league's COVID-19 protocol. The Bulls welcome Boston to Chicago with a 7-9 record but also happen to own the NBA's best ATS mark at 11-5 (Jazz are also 11-5). Boston is favored by four points.

Good luck...Larry

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