Ness Notes: Thursday, Jan 21

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 FOUR games between ranked opponents last Saturday but there has been just ONE since, when No. 2 Baylor beat No. 9 Kansas 77-69 on Monday. That result made higher ranked teams 27-15 (.643) SU but just 21-21 (50.0%) ATS on the season. The next meeting between ranked opponents won't come until Saturday. Four ranked teams played Wednesday, including top-10 teams No. 8 Houston and No. 10 Wisconsin. The Cougars easily avenged their lone loss of the current season by routing Tulsa 86-59 to move to 12-1. As for the now 11-3 Badgers, they beat Northwestern 68-52, as the Wildcats have now gone 0-6 SU & ATS since entering the AP poll back on Dec 28 at No. 19. It was a bad night for the other two ranked teams, as No. 11 lost 74-70 at home to Providence and No. 20 Clemson was blown out for a second straight game, 83-65 at Georgia Tech (lost 85-50 at home to UVa last Saturday). Just two ranked teams are in action on Thursday, 12-2 Iowa (No.4) home to 8-6 Indiana and 11-2 UCLA (No. 24) at 7-8 Cal. Iowa is averaging 92.2 PPG (2nd in the nation), led by the nation's leading scorer, Luka Garza (26.9 PPG on 62.5% shooting, including 47.9% on threes). The Hawkeyes are favored by 10 points. UCLA opened the season as the AP's 22nd-ranked team but lost its season-opener 73-58 at San Diego St. However, the Bruins are 11-1 since that loss and have opened 7-0 in the Pac 12 for the first time since the 1993-94 season. UCLA has SIX players averaging at least 10 PPG and visits Berkeley having beaten Cal SEVEN straight. The Bruins are favored by nine points.

NBA: It was a busy 10-game Wednesday schedule, with ESPN airing a doubleheader. Philly won 117-109 at home over Boston, behind Embiid's 42 points. The Sixers now own the East' best record at 10-5 (had opened the season 7-1). The Suns won the second game, 109-103 at the Rockets. Other notable results were the Nets losing 147-135 in double-OT at Cleveland, as Kyrie scored 37 points in his first game since Jan 5. How will the Harden, KD and Kyrie 'triplets' play out? The Clippers routed the Kings 115-96 to join the Lakers at 11-4 (best record in the league). The NBA's two-worst teams lost, Detroit 123-115 (OT) in Atlanta to fall to 3-11 and Minnesota 97-96 at home to the Magic to fall to 3-10. Troubling news comes with the NBA postponing Friday's Washington Wizards-Milwaukee Bucks game. Bradley Beal said the Wizards were "fighting the league" on playing the game with only eight players available and six others sidelined by the league's health and safety protocol. It's the 17th NBA game postponed this season because of the league's health and safety protocols and the SIXTH consecutive Wizards game to be called off.  I guess the good news is that it's 3-8 Washington, NOT the Lakers, Clippers or Bucks.

Speaking of the Lakers and Bucks, the two square off tonight in Milwaukee in the first game of TNT's doubleheader at 7:35 ET. The defending champion Lakers have LBJ & A.D. and are tied for the NBA's best record (11-4) with the Clippers. They also own the league's best point differential (+10.1). The Bucks have had the NBA's best regular season record the last two seasons & Giannis has won back-to-back MVP awards. Milwaukee is 9-5 and has the NBA's 2nd-best point differential (+9.8). The second game tips at 10:05 ET, as the 5-8 Pelicans are in Salt Lake city to take on the 10-4 Utah Jazz, who own the longest current winning streak at SIX in a row. The Jazz opened 2-2 but are 8-2 over their last 10 games, averaging 111.9 points, 49 rebounds, 24.7 assists, 5.3 steals and 6.6 blocks per game while shooting 47.5% from the floor Their opponents have averaged 104.1 points on 43.2% shooting. Milwaukee is currently a one-point choice over LA and Utah is favored by seven points over New Orleans.

NFL: How did the Bills and the Chiefs reach the AFC Championship Game? Buffalo QB Josh Allen did not have a big day against the Ravens (206 passing yards / one TD) and the Bills ran for just 32 yards but the Buffalo D held Baltimore's running game in check. Then, with 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter and Buffalo up 10-3 and Baltimore threatening to tie the score, CB Taron Johnson literally "stole the show." He picked off Lamar Jackson and returned it 101 yards for a TD. His interception return matched George Teague's INT return in Green Bay's 28-24 win over Detroit in a wild-card playoff on Jan 8, 1994. Speaking of 1994, the Bills advanced to the AFC championship game for the first time since 1994. Buffalo also extended a season in which it has broken numerous droughts by claiming its first AFC East division title in 25 years and, with last week's victory over Indianapolis, winning its first postseason game since the same year. WRs Diggs and Brown each had eight catches (Diggs caught Allen's lone TD pass). The Bills head to KC on an EIGHT-game winning streak and have won 11 of 12 (lone loss was the result of that 'Hail Mary' miracle at Arizona in Week 10). 

Patrick Mahomes hadn't played in 21 days (since the Chiefs clinched the AFC's top seed in Week 16) but thee Chiefs began their postseason defense of last year's Super Bowl title by scoring on each of their FOUR first-half possessions while generating 293 yards to build a 19-3 halftime margin. Mahomes completed 11 of his first 12 passes and was 19 of 25 for 233 yards by halftime. He also rushed for a 1-yard TD, making him the first player since the 49ers' Steve Young in 1995 with three straight playoff games with TDs on the ground and through the air. He has also thrown 15 TD passes without an INT in his five career playoff home games! Mahomes was KO'd from the game in the third quarter and the Chiefs had to hold on for a 22-17 win. KC becomes the first AFC team to host three consecutive conference title games. I'll give the latest update on his condition (he's currently in the NFL's concussion protocol) in my Friday preview.

I'll preview both championship games in Friday's Notes plus weigh in on the retirement of Philip Rivers.

Good luck...Larry

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