Ness Notes: Tuesday, Jan 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."

CBB: Let's start with the latest AP poll, released Monday afternoon. Gonzaga and Baylor opened No. 1 and No. 2 in the preseason poll and remained 1 and 2 for the NINTH straight poll. The same teams appeared in the top-five, as 8-1 Villanova remained No. 3, despite not playing since Dec 23. 12-2 Iowa leapfrogged 11-2 Texas, as the Hawkeyes are now No. 4 and the Longhorns are No. 5.  10-1 Tennessee is up to No. 6 (from 10th), while 11-1 Michigan held on to the No. 7 spot despite getting crushed 75-57 at Minnesota. Rounding out the top-10 are 11-1 Houston at No. 8, 10-3 Kansas at No. 9 and 11-3 Wisconsin at No. 10. 9-2 UVa jumped five sports to No. 13 and 11-3 Alabama went from unranked to No. 18 on the strength of a seven-game winning streak. Illinois opened 8th in the preseason and is lucky to still be ranked (No. 22) with its 9-5 record. Duke has played just EIGHT games and at 5-3, fell out of the top-25, ending the second-longest active streak of consecutive rankings at 91. Gonzaga is now second at 87, while Kansas was ranked for the 229th straight week. UCLA opened No. 23 in the preseason poll but lost its opener at SD State. However, at 11-2 overall (7-0 in the Pac 12), the Bruins are back at No. 23. Speaking of teams NOT meeting expectations (like Duke, currently unranked), we have preseason No. 10 Kentucky at 4-8, preseason No. 13 Michigan at 8-4, preseason No. 16 North Carolina at 8-5 and preseason No. 18 Arizona St at 4-6.

Monday saw No. 2 Baylor move to 13-0 with an 77-69 home win over No. 9 Kansas, which fell to 10-4 (bye-bye top-10 ranking next Monday Jayhawks). However, Baylor didn't cover as an 8 1/2-point favorite, as Kansas threw in a "meaningless," bank-shot 3-pointer at the buzzer. In games between ranked opponents, the higher ranked team is 27-15 (.643) SU but just 21-21 (50.0%) ATS. The lone ranked team in action against an unranked foe on Monday was No. 23 UConn, which lost 74-40 at home to a St John's team that entered just 7-7. Tuesday's schedule has no scheduled games between ranked opponents but does have SEVEN games between ranked and unranked opponents, including three from the AP's top-10. No. 3 Villanova is hopeful of taking the court tonight at home vs 9-5 Seton Hall, for the first time since Dec 23. The Wildcats are favored by nine points. No. 6 Tennessee is 10-1 and will travel to Florida to play the 6-4 Gators (Vols are favored by seven points) and No. 7 Michigan, off its first loss of the season, is home against 8-6 Maryland (Wolverines are favored by 10 points).

NBA: Monday was MLK Day and the league featured a busy NINE-game schedule, including a TNT tripleheader. I doubt there was much interest in Memphis beating Phoenix 108-104 (except to bettors of that game) but the Bucks/Nets and Warriors/Lakers game got most people's attention. The East's two-best teams (my opinion) went toe-to toe with Kevin Durant making the go-ahead three-pointer with 36 seconds left in a 125-123 Brooklyn win. Harden had 34 points and 12 assists, while Durant finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and six assists to give the Nets their FOURTH straight victory. Antetokounmpo had 34 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists for Milwaukee, which had its four-game winning streak stopped. Middleton added 25 points (but missed a potential game-winning three at the buzzer) and Jrue Holiday had 22. The defending champion Lakers welcomed the Warriors to Staples Center with the league's best record (11-3) and on a five-game winning streak but Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors rallied from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Lakers 115-113. LeBron James' three-pointer gave the Lakers a 97-83 advantage early in the fourth before the Warriors battled back. They trailed 106-97 with 5:52 remaining before going on a 15-2 run that gave Golden State its first lead. LBJ had a chance to win it at the end but missed a three-pointer at the buzzer as the Lakers had their five-game winning streak snapped. According to Stats LLC, it is the first time in 284 home games that James and his team took a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter and lost in regulation. Just another night in the NBA.

Four weeks in, the Lakers still own the NBA's best record at 11-4 but the Clippers are hot on their trail at 10-4, after four straight wins. The Jazz have won five straight and are now 9-4. Utah's five-game winning streak is now the longest active in the NBA, tied with, of all teams, the Memphis Grizzlies (just 7-6 on the season). Boston's 8-4 record tops the East, although the 9-5 Bucks own the league's second-best point differential at plus-9.8 PPG (Lakers are No. 1 at plus-10.2), while Boston's is only plus-1.3. The Nets have now won FOUR in a row and at 9-6, own the 4th-best point differential at 5.6 PPG (Clippers are 3rd-best at 6.3 PPG). Charlotte opened 6-2 but has now lost SIX straight (longest-active streak), although 3-9 Minnesota and 3-10 Detroit have the league's two-worst records. The T-wolves have a minus-10.1 PPG differential, the ONLY team losing by an average of double digits. Interestingly enough, Minnesota is 5-7 ATS (not bad), while Detroit actually owns a winning ATS record of 7-5-1. Following that, it should surprise no one that the league's best ATS record (10-4) belongs to the 6-8 Chicago Bulls. And so it goes...

Wednesday's Notes will feature a first-look at the NFL's Championship Sunday, the first week of the NHL and more.

Good luck...Larry

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