Ness Notes: Tuesday, Dec 1

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."

MNF: As I noted in yesterday's notes, in normal times (we are FAR from that at the present moment), the Seahawks/Eagles MNF game in Philadelphia would close out Week 12 of the NFL. However, Sunday's game between the Ravens and Steelers was rescheduled to Tuesday and yesterday, got pushed back until Wednesday. We'll see what Tuesday's developments are. Getting back to football "on the field," Seattle beat Philadelphia 23-17, as the 8-3 Seahawks moved a game ahead of the LA Rams in the NFC West, while the 3-7-1 Eagles dropped into third in the NFC East after entering the weekend with the division lead. New York and Washington are tied atop the NFC 'Least' at 4-7. Will this sad-sack division give us a champ with a losing record? Seems likely it will, right?

Back to the MNF game, Seattle turned the ball over on downs in Eagles territory on each of its first TWO possessions, including on fourth-and-goal the first time it had the ball. The Seahawks would go up 14-0 as Philadelphia went three-and-out on its first FIVE possessions against the Seahawks' league-worst defense, gaining a total of just FOUR yards. However, the Eagles drove 75 yards and scored with 12 seconds left in the half to close to 14-6 (naturally, missed the extra-point). It was 23-9 Seattle with the game winding down but the Eagles then drove 58 yards in just four plays, with Wentz completing a tipped Hail Mary pass from 33 yards out with 12 seconds left. Sanders then ran it in for two points, as the Eagles (plus-6 1/2) covered. Is it just me or has there been an inordinate number of similar ATS finishes in NFL 2020? With Bal/Pit now pushed to Wednesday (?), I will combine my NFL Week 12 recap and NFL Week 13 preview in Thursday's Notes.

College hoops: The AP preseason poll was released back on Nov 9, with No. 1 Gonzaga (28 first-place votes and 1,541 total points) edging out No. 2 Baylor (24 first-place votes and 1,540 total points) for the top-spot. The AP's first regular season poll was announced Monday and Gonzaga extended its lead over Baylor (both schools have opened 2-0) by earning 57 first-place votes to Baylor's six (total points sit at 1,569 to 1,513). Preseason No. 3 Villanova (highest preseason ranking since 1995-96 season) fell to 12th with an 81-73 OT loss to Va Tech, while preseason No. 4 Virginia all the way to 15th, after a shocking 61-60 loss to San Francisco, as a 9 1/2-point favorite. 2-0 Iowa moved up to No. 3 (opened No. 5), matching its highest ranking since the 2015-16 team also reached No. 3, with preseason Player-of-the-Year Luka Garza averaging 33.5 PPG (on 86.2% shooting) with 9.5 RPG. 2-0 Wisconsin took over at No. 4 (up from No. 7) and 3-0 Illinois is No. 5, the school's first top-10 ranking since the 2004-05 team was ranked No. 1.

The rest of the top-10 features 1-0 Duke at No. 6, 1-1 Kansas (loss came to Gonzaga) at No. 7, 2-0 Michigan St at No. 8 (up from 13th), 1-0 Creighton at No. 9 (up from 11th, which was the school's highest-ever preseason ranking) and 3-0 Houston at No. 10 (up from 17th after beating then-No. 14 Texas Tech). Kansas is the lone one-loss team in the top-10 but the Jayhawks have now been ranked for the 222nd consecutive time, breaking a tie with I+UCLA (from 1966-80) for the longest streak in NCAA history. For some perspective, I'll add that Duke owns the second-longest active streak with 85! Dropping out were No. 22 UCLA and No. 25 Michigan (let's blame Harbaugh for that, too!). Moving into the top-25 were 3-0 Va Tech (win over 'Nova helped) and No. 19 Richmond, whose 76-64 win at then-No. 10 Kentucky was the school's first-ever road win over a top-10 opponent. Speaking of Kentucky, that loss dropped them to No. 20.

The current 2020-21 college basketball season opened last Wednesday (Nov 25), so Dec 1 makes it 'Day 7.' Entering Tuesday, there have been just THREE games between ranked opponents, No. 1 Kansas beating No. 6 Kansas 102-90, No. 3 Villanova beating No. 18 Arizona St 83-74 and No. 14 Texas Tech losing to No. 17 Houston 64-53. However, Tuesday's slate features two such matchups, as No. 6 Duke and No. 8 Michigan St (Coach K vs Izzo) square off, as do No. & Kansas and No. 20 Kentucky. The Champions Classic has been played as a doubleheader at a neutral site in the past but COVID-19 has changed all that. The game between No. 8 Michigan State and No. 6 Duke game was switched to Duke's campus, with the Blue Devils agreeing to visit Michigan State next year, while No. 7 Kansas and No. 20 Kentucky will meet in Indianapolis. Duke is favored by 3 1/2-points and Kansas by 4 1/2. The higher ranked teams are 2-1 SU and ATS so far in top-25 matchups. In games between ranked teams and unranked opponents, ranked teams are off to an impressive 39-4 (.907) start SU, while going 24-18-1 (57.1%) ATS. There are four such matchups on Tuesday, including No. 4 Wisconsin (-24.5) home to Green Bay and No. 9 Creighton (-19.5) taking on Omaha in a neutral-site setting among top-10 teams.

Wednesday's Notes will review the second CFP rankings from Tuesday night plus I'll get to that look at the highs (still unbeaten CFB teams) and lows (still winless teams) of CFB 2020. Hopefully, I'll be able to preview the NFL's Baltimore/Pittsburgh game, as well. "Fingers crossed."

Good luck...Larry

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