Ness Notes: Thursday, Jan 7

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."

Wednesday CBB: The lone top-25 matchup on Wednesday was No. 10 Michigan hosting No. 16 Minnesota. Michigan's freshman center Hunter Dickinson scored a career-high 28 points and the Wolverines shot 56.9 percent from the floor while holding the Golden Gophers to 32.4 percent shooting. Michigan pounded Minnesota 82-57. The now 11-0 Wolverines should get consideration to be ranked higher in the AP Top-25 with SEVEN teams ahead of them that have at least one loss, including FOUR with two setbacks. Saturday's game vs Penn St has been postponed, so Michigan is next scheduled to play on Tuesday, Jan 12 at home vs current No. 8 Wisconsin, one day after the new poll is released. SEVEN Wednesday games featured ranked and unranked opponents, as the ranked teams went 6-1 SU but only 3-4 ATS. The lone SU loser was No. 19 Va Tech, which lost by two points at Louisville but did cover. Checking in on the Y-T-D numbers we find the higher ranked team going 22-10 (.686) SU but just 17-15 (53.1%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents, while ranked teams are 148-27 (.846) SU but only 90-83-2 (52.0%) ATS when taking on an unranked foe.

Thursday CBB: There are no matchups between ranked opponents on Thursday but FIVE games between ranked and unranked ones. No. 1 Gonzaga (10-0) will host 9-2 BYU, No. 5 Iowa (9-2) is at Maryland, No. 8 Wisconsin (9-2) is home to Indiana, No. 12 Illinois (8-3) at Northwestern and No. 17 Oregon (8-1) is at Colorado. BYU is the last team to defeat Gonzaga, recording a 91-78 victory on Feb. 22, 2020 in Provo. The Bulldogs have won 14 straight since that loss and are favored by 17 points. Iowa averages 92.7 PPG (5th in the nation) and Luka Garza's 27.5 PPG leads the nation. Maryland (6-5 / 1-4 in Big Ten) seems ill-equipped to pull off the upset. We'll see. Iowa is favored by 5 1/2-points. The Badgers haven't played since New Year's Eve, as their scheduled game against Penn State on Sunday was postponed due to coronavirus issues with the Nittany Lions. The last time out, Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 71-59 by holding the Golden Gophers to 31.3 percent shooting. Wisconsin is favored by eight points.

NBA Update: The 76ers won a 141-136 shootout with the Wizards, starving Bradley Beal's 60-point effort. Philly owns the NBA's best record at 7-1 (5-3 ATS). At the 'bottom of the barrel,' the Suns moved into a tie with the Lakers for the West's best record (6-2 SU & ATS) with a 123-115 win over the badly struggling Raptors. Toronto owns the NBA's worst record at 1-6 (also 1-6 ATS). It's a TNT doubleheader on Thursday, with 7-1 Philadelphia visiting 4-4 Brooklyn at 7:35 ET. The 76ers are a 1 1/2-point favorite. The nightcap is Dallas at Denver (10:05 ET), two teams that are both off to disappointing 3-4 starts. Denver is favored by 2 1/2-points. The defending champion Lakers are 6-2 (4-4 ATS) and looking to break a tie with the 6-2 Suns for the West's best record when they host the 3-4 Spurs. LA is favored by 6 1/2-points.

NFL Wild Card games (Saturday): The 11-5 Colts (No. 7 seed) will be in Buffalo to take on the 13-3 Bills (No. 2 seed) at 1:05 ET on CBS). The Colts are led by veteran QB Philip Rivers who is in his first season with the Colts but this contest could also be his last, either with the team or for his career. As for Buffalo QB Josh Allen set franchise records of 4,544 yards and 37 TDs as well as helping provide a new identity to a rising team that posted the franchise's best victory total since 1991 The Bills won the AFC East for the first time since 1995 but enter this game having lost their last SIX playoff contests since last winning a postseason game following the 1995 season. Buffalo is favored by 6 1/2-points (over/under is 51).

Up next, it's the 10-6 Rams (No. 6 seed) and the 12-4 Seahawks (No. 3 seed) meeting for a third time this season in Seattle at 4:40 ET on FOX. The teams split their two meetings this season, with Los Angeles winning 23-16 on Nov 15 at home (Week 10), while the Seahawks 'returned the favor' with a 20-9 win in Seattle (Week 16). Los Angeles head coach Sean McVay was asked whether he had a timetable to determine his starting QB and replied, "Yeah," he said. "Saturday at 1:39." Jared Goff suffered a fractured right thumb in a 20-9 loss at Seattle on Dec.27 and had surgery the following day. John Wolford replaced Goff last weekend against Arizona, helping the Rams clinch a playoff berth with an 18-7 victory. Wolford completed 22 of 38 passes for 231 yards and rushed for a team-high 56 yards, becoming the first player in NFL history to throw for 200 and rush for 50 in their debut. Seattle has no QB concerns with Russell Wilson (4,212 yards / 40 TDs / 13 INTs) plus two excellent WRs in Lockett (100 catches / 10 TDs) and Metcalf (83 catches / 10 TDs). LA's defense ranks 1st in scoring (18.5 PPG) and first in total D (281.9 YPG) but Seattle's defense has allowed just 15.0 PPG over it's last seven games. Seattle is favored by 3 1/2-points and the over/under is 42 1/2. 

Saturday's final contest finds the 11-5 Tampa Bay Bucs (No. 5) visiting 7-9 Washington (No. 4 seed) at 8:15 ET on NBC. Six-time Super Bowl-winning QB has led the Bucs to their first playoff appearance since 2007 and he and the Bucs draw Washington, which was able to 'earn' a playoff spot by winning the NFC 'Least' with a sub-.500 record. Brady's had an excellent season (4,633 yards with 40 TDs and 12 INTs). He's thrown for at least 341 yards in FIVE of the last seven games, with 20 of his franchise-record 40 TDs coming in that span. Washington was once 2-7 but ended the season on a 6-1 run, including going 5-1 with Alex Smith as its starting QB. More notably, Washington's defense has allowed just 14.9 PPG over it's regular season-ending 6-1 run. The Bucs are favored by 8 1/2-points and the over/under is 45. There have been FOUR teams to enter the postseason with a sub-.500 or 8-8 record since 2002 (when the NFL expanded to 32 teams) and ALL four won their first playoff game.

Friday's Notes will preview Sunday's three games.

Good luck...Larry

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