Ness Notes: Thursday, Nov 19

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."

NBA Draft: The NBA finally held its draft last night, some FIVE months later than it was originally scheduled. Surprisingly, the lottery (first 14 picks) played out without a SINGLE deal being made. The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Georgia guard Anthony Edwards with the first pick, the Golden State Warriors took Memphis center James Wiseman with the No. 2 pick and guard LaMelo Ball followed as the third pick to the Charlotte Hornets. I'll get to the two guards in a minute but let me deal with Wiseman and the Warriors, first.

Wiseman is a 7-foot-1 center who played only THREE games last season for Memphis because of eligibility issues and a 12-game suspension due to rules violations. The thought (hope?) is that he will be able to give Golden State a physical presence alongside Draymond Green in the Warriors' frontcourt. The Warriors fell to the bottom of the standings last season following FIVE consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, amid injuries to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Just prior to the draft, Thompson suffered a right leg injury during a workout on Wednesday afternoon with several NBA players in Los Angeles. Thompson felt pain in the calf area when he landed on his leg, according to sources. The Warriors are worried it's possibly an Achilles tendon injury but are holding out hope it's not as serious and are determined to wait on the MRI results on Thursday morning. What a turn of events it would be if that MRI reveals real damage. 

Edwards led all Division I freshmen with 19.1 points per game last season and was the SEC Freshman of the Year and Ball averaged 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists in 12 games for the Illawarra Hawks in Australia's National Basketball League. Maybe it's just me but these two picks eerily remind me of the NBA's 2017 draft, when Washington's Markelle Fultz was that draft's No. 1 pick by the 76ers and UCLA's Lorenzo Ball was chosen No. 2 by the Lakers. Fultz was able to play just 33 games (15 starts) in his two years with Philly, averaging just 7.7 PPG and 3.4 APG while shooting 41.4%, including 26.7% on threes. Fultz was traded to Orlando and last season, played 72 games, making 60 starts. He upped his scoring 12.1 PPG and his assist total to 5.1 per, while shooting 46.5% (although he was still an 'ugly 26.7% on threes). Is that what one expects from the top player in a draft? As for Ball, he was also a major disappointment for the team that drafted him, before the Lakers traded him to New Orleans. Ball has developed into a solid NBA guard (his three-season averages are 10.7-6.1-6.6), who plays very good defense, but it's HIGHLY unlikely he will ever be the player Magic predicted he would be.

Will Edwards and LaMelo Ball make it "deja vu all over again" in this latest NBA draft? As reported by Elias Sports Bureau, Edwards joins Fultz as the only players in the lottery era to go No. 1 overall coming from a program with a record of .500 or worse in his final college season. The Georgia Bulldogs went 16-16 (including 5-13 in the SEC) and would have NOT played in the NCAA Tourney if there had been one. If that does give one pause, how about the following comment attributed to Edwards earlier this week that he’s “not really into basketball?” LaMelo is the younger brother of Lonzo and is the NBA really ready for another constant daily press conference from 'Poppa LeVar?' LaMelo has had a winding road up to this point, playing in Lithuania and then Australia, before being chosen by Charlotte. Best of luck to both the T-wolves and Hornets but "color me skeptical!" On to college football. 

MACtion recap: With Buffalo and Kent St each winning on Tuesday to reach 3-0, it sets up a showdown on Nov 28 (Saturday after Thanksgiving) in which Buffalo plays at Kent St. The winner will move to 4-0 in what is just a six-game schedule in the MAC for 2020. The victor will have a near-stranglehold on the East Division title, owning a one-game advantage while also having the tiebreaker edge, with just two games left. Wednesday's results saw Ball St and Toledo each move to 2-1 with wins over Northern Illinois (31-25) and Eastern Michigan (45-28), respectively. In the MAC's "Game of the Week," Western Michigan rolled up 628 yards in snapping Central Michigan's seven-game home winning streak with a 52-44 win. QB Kaleb Eleby was just 12 of 20 but passed for 382 yards with five TD passes. WRs Eskridge (four catches for 212 yards with three TDs) and Hall (four catches for 110 yards with two TDs) were the beneficiaries of Eleby's outstanding game. However, my guess is the duo may say that they did have "something to do with it," as well. Western Michigan is now 3-0 in the MAC West (Broncos are averaging 50.3 PPG) and has beaten TWO of three schools (Central Michigan and Toledo) that sit at 2-1. The exception is Ball St which will get to host Western Michigan on Dec 12 (regular-season finale for both). However, the Broncos will host Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan the next two Saturdays, teams which are a combined 0-6. Meanwhile, Ball St has to play on the road at both Toledo and Central Michigan. Western Michigan is sure "lookin' good" as the MAC West's division winner.

CFB Weekend: There will be three games between ranked teams this weekend, all of which will be played on Saturday (stay tuned). There will be 13 more games, featuring ranked teams against unranked opponents and as I noted in Monday's Notes, we finally saw the ranked teams in those matchups begin to assert themselves the previous two weeks. Ranked teams went a perfect 14-0 SU against unranked opponents from Nov 3-7 but still could NOT win more than 50 percent ATS, going 6-7-1. However, when 'all the dust had settled' from the week of Nov 10-15, ranked teams had gone 12-1 SU against unranked opponents (then-No. 19 SMU's loss to Tulsa being the exception) and more significantly, a MONEY-MAKING 11-2 ATS! That leaves the Y-T-D numbers at 94-23 SU (.803) and 53-62-2 ATS (46.1%) entering this week. The first of those 13 games  will go tonight, when Tulsa hosts Tulane. The Golden Hurricane are ranked (No. 25) for the first time since the final poll of 2010 (24th) and the last time Tulsa was ranked during the regular season was back in 2008. (at No. 19). Tulsa is favored by 6 1/2-points. There are four games on Friday but NONE involving ranked opponents. However, before moving on to Saturday, let's look at the latest COVID-19 disruptions. Ohio U at Miami-Ohio (Tuesday), Utah St at Wyoming (Thursday) and UAB at UTEP (Friday) were all canceled. As of Thursday morning, 11 Saturday games have been either postponed or canceled, including ranked schools No. 5 Texas A&M (for the second straight week), No. 12 Miami-Fl (moved to Dec 19), No. 15 Marshall, No. 22 Texas (moved to Dec 12) and No. 24 ULL. Fingers crossed that this represents the final list of games to be affected this weekend but that may be wishful thinking. 

Saturday games: The higher ranked teams have gone 17-3 SU and 16-4 ATS when top-25 teams have squared off in 2020 and there are three such matchups this Saturday. No. 3 Ohio St welcomes 9th-ranked Indiana to Columbus. The Buckeyes have won their last 15 Big Ten games by double digits, while the Hoosiers own their highest ranking since being No. 4 back in 1967 and this game marks the school's first-ever meeting of top-10 teams. Ohio St is favored by 20 1/2-points. No. 10 Wisconsin has had two games canceled but have won the two games it has played, 45-7 and 49-11. The Badgers will play at No. 19 Northwestern, which is off to its first 4-0 start in Big Ten play since 1996. The Wildcats have been very successful against the Badgers at home, winning FIVE of the last six matchups at Ryan Field. However, the Badgers are favored by seven points. The third top-25 matchup on Saturday features "Bedlam" in Norman, Oklahoma as the 14th-ranked Oklahoma St Cowboys take on the 18th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. It's a Spencer vs Spencer battle of QBs, as Spencer Sanders of Oklahoma State faces his counterpart Spencer Rattler of Oklahoma. Oklahoma St is 4-1 in the Big 12 and Oklahoma is 4-2 (Iowa St leads at 5-1). A win Saturday by Oklahoma St would not only put the Cowboys in the driver's seat for their first Big 12 Championship Game berth (top-two teams meet on either Dec 12 or Dec 19), but would virtually knock the Sooners out of contention, ending their FIVE year run of conference titles with two regular-season games remaining. That said, Oklahoma is favored by seven points.

No. 2 Notre Dame (owners of the nation's longest active winning streak at 14) has an off week and No. 5 Texas A&M has had its game with Ole Miss postponed. Three top-10 teams are involved in top-25 matchups (see above), leaving five, top-10 teams playing unranked opponents. No. 1 Alabama is home to Kentucky, with the Tide favored by 30 points. No. 4 Clemson comes off a bye week AND a loss at Notre Dame on Nov 7, to play at 2-6 Florida St. Trevor Lawrence is back for the Tigers, who are favored by 35 1/2-points. No. 6 Florida plays at winless Vandy (0-6), where the Gators are favored by 31 1/2-points as Kyle Trask continues his OUTSTANDING season (28 TD passes in six games with just three INTs). No. 7 Cincinnati faces its toughest test to-date, playing in Orlando against UCF. The Bearcats are averaging 41.6 PPG and allowing just 12.4 PPPG, but UCF takes the field with an offense averaging 51.3 PPG plus has won 23 of its last 24 home games! The Bearcats are favored by six points. Last but NOT least, we have the 8th-ranked BYU Cougars looking to move to 9-0 on the season with a home win over North Alabama. Pretty sure the Cougars will do just that, as they are favored by 48 points.

I didn't forget the NFL, which opens its Week 11 with a "Battle 4 First" in the NFC West between the Cards and Seahawks in Seattle. The NFC West has a three-way tie at the top between the Cards, Rams and Seahawks (all are 6-3).The Cards and Seahawks square off in Seattle and barring a tie, one will move to 7-3. The Rams play Monday night in Tampa against the Bucs, making their path to 7-3 a real test. The Cardinals overcame a 10-point fourth quarter deficit back in Week 7 in a SNF matchup at home, to edge the Seahawks 37-34 on a Zane Gonzalez 48-yard FG with 15 seconds remaining in OT (note: Gonzalez had previously kicked a 44-yarder as time expired in regulation). Seattle is favored by three points and the over/under is 57. The NFL takes 'center stage' in Friday's Notes.

Good luck...Larry

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