Ness Notes: Thursday, Jan 14

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."

CBB: No. 4 Texas was at home to No. 15 Texas Tech in the lone Wednesday game involving ranked opponents. Texas scored 48 points in the first half (10-point lead) against a team allowing just 58.0 PPG but while the Longhorns led almost the entire game, Tech's Mac McClung made a long jumper with THREE seconds left to give No. 15 Texas Tech a 79-77 win, ending the Longhorns' 4-0 start in the Big 12. That 4-0 start in Big 12 play was Texas' best since the 2010-11 season when it began league play with 11 straight wins. Higher ranked teams are now 25-12 (.676) SU but just 20-17 (54.1%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents Y-T-D. Three ranked teams, No. 16 Louisville, No. 18 Virginia and No. 21 Ohio St, all won and covered vs unranked opponents.

Thursday's play was supposed to include four ranked teams meeting unranked opponents (no top-25 matchups were scheduled) but THREE were postponed due to COVID. The list includes No. 5 Iowa, No. 11 Houston and No. 22 Oregon. Still on the schedule is No. 1 Gonzaga (12-0) hosting 4-5 Pepperdine. The top-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs are one of only THREE undefeated college basketball programs in the top-25 and they've steamrolled their first three WCC opponents, winning 85-62, 86-69 and 116-88. Saturday's 116-88 win at Portland saw Joel Ayayi log the first triple-double in program history (12-13-14) points. Pepperdine hasn't beaten the Zags since 2002 (a span of 39 games!) and hasn't won at Gonzaga since 1998. Gonzaga has won 45 straight at home (longest active streak) and is favored by 25 1/2-points. Pepperdine on the moneyline?

NBA: The big news Wednesday was the Rockets sending James Harden to the Nets in a blockbuster four-team trade that also involves the Pacers and Cavaliers, completing the unhappy star's exit from Houston and setting up a potential superteam in Brooklyn. That's assuming Kyrie feels like playing. The details of the trade are all over the net and TV. ESPN featured a Wednesday doubleheader, as the Nets were in MSG to take on the Knicks (Nets won 116-109, as Kyrie missed again) and the nightcap featured the Pelicans in LA to face the Clippers. Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points, Paul George added 27 and the Clippers defeated the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans 111-106. The Pelicans were missing starters Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe but still covered. The Lakers won easily at OKC 128-99 and upped their NBA-best record to 10-3.

TNT features a doubleheader on Thursday, as the Rockets are at the Spurs (7:35 ET) and the Warriors are at the Nuggets (10:05 ET). Not sure who will suit up for 3-6 Houston but note that the Spurs return home off a 4-1 road trip and are now 6-5. The Warriors are 6-5 on the season, after playing SEVEN straight at home (4-3 SU & ATS). The Nuggets 'exploded' out of the gates last season at 12-2 but enter this game just 5-6. The Spurs are favored by seven points and the Nuggets by five. Also playing on Thursday is the NBA's worst team, the 2-8 Toronto Raptors. The Raptors are 'home' (actually in Tampa) to host the 6-6 Hornets and are favored by NINE points (Toronto is 3-7 ATS!).

Closing CFB thoughts: It was just a formality (no more split national champions these days with the CFP in place) but the AP released its final poll for the 2020 season on January 12 and Alabama was No. 1, followed by Ohio State, Clemson, Texas A&M and Notre Dame. The preseason poll came pretty close, as Clemson was No. 1 (finished third), Ohio State was No. 2 (finished 2nd) and Alabama was No. 3 (finished 1st). NINE of the AP's final top-10 entered the season ranked somewhere in the AP's preseason top-25, with the exception of Northwestern. The Wildcats were coming off a 3-9 season but went 7-2 and grabbed the No. 10 spot in the final poll. Overperforming were Cincinnati (No. 20 to open the season) and Iowa St (No. 23). The Bearcats finished 9-1 and ranked No. 8 and the Cyclones finished 9-3 and ranked No. 9.

10 schools were ranked in the preseason top-25 but finished 'out of the money.' Three of them were in the top-10! No. 6 LSU (defending champs) finished 5-5, No. 7 Penn St finished 4-5 and No. 9 Oregon wound up 4-3. Joining Penn St in opening the season ranked but finishing sub-.500 were No. 25 Tennessee (3-7), No. 16 Michigan (2-4) and No. 19 Minnesota (3-4). 

There were also 10 schools unranked which finished the year ranked. BYU ended 11-1 and ranked No. 11, Indiana 6-2 and ranked No. 12, Coastal Carolina 11-1 and ranked No. 14, ULL 10-1 and ranked No. 15, Liberty 10-1 and ranked No.17, Miami-Fl 8-3 and ranked No. 22, Ball St 7-1 and ranked No. 23, San Jose St 7-1 and ranked No. 24 and Buffalo 6-1 and ranked No. 25. TWO schools each from the MAC, the SBC and from the Independents made the final top-25. Sports fans and bettors alike were VERY lucky to see the 2020 CFB season 'survive!"

Friday's Notes will preview the NFL's Division Round games.

Good luck...Larry

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