Ness Notes: Wednesday, Jan 20

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: Tuesday's schedule had no scheduled games between ranked opponents but did have SEVEN games between ranked and unranked opponents, including three from the AP's top-10. No. 3 Villanova took the court for the first time since Dec 23 and eked out a 76-74 win over Seton Hall. The Wildcats returned from a 27-day break but the Pirates gave them all they wanted. Seton Hall snapped a 17-game road losing streak to Villanova with a 70-64 victory last February and again gave the Wildcats fits (game-winning FT came with 1.9 seconds remaining). No. 6 Tennessee lost 75-49 at Florida, despite the Gators missing three of their top players. The Vols fell to 10-2 by shooting 29.3 percent from the floor and 3 of 18 from three-point range. Tennessee ranked third in the NCAA in scoring defense (57.2 PPG) but the 75 points the Vols gave up were the most on the season. No. 7 Michigan bounced back from its first loss of the season (75-57 at Minnesota last Saturday) with an easy 87-63 win over Maryland. The four other ranked teams went 3-1 SU & ATS (all seven were 5-2 SU & 4-3 ATS), with the other loser being No. 15 Ohio St 67-65 at home to Purdue. No. 18 Alabama (now EIGHT straight wins), No. 19 Missouri and No. 22 Illinois all won and covered.

Wednesday again has no top-25 matchups (higher ranked teams are 27-15, .643 SU but just 21-21, 50.0% ATS this season) and COVID concerns have postponed SEVEN games involving ranked teams vs unranked ones, including one top-10 team (No. 5 Texas). Two top-10 teams are in action, No. 8 Houston (11-1) is home to Tulsa (8-4), looking to avenge its lone loss of the season when the Cougars lost 65-64 at Tulsa back on Dec 29. Houston is favored by 12 points. No. 10 Wisconsin (10-3) is home to 6-6 Northwestern. The Wildcats opened 6-1 (3-0 in the Big Ten) when it beat Ohio St 71-70 back on Dec 26. Northwestern entered the AP poll at No. 19 on Dec 28 but the Wildcats have since gone 0-5 SU & ATS. The Badgers are favored by  11 1/2-points. Two more ranked teams are in play, No. 11 Creighton (10-3) at home vs 7-6 Providence and No. 20 Clemson (9-2), coming off an 'ugly' 85-50 home loss to UVa on Saturday, visiting Atlanta to play 6-3 Georgia Tech. Creighton is favored by nine points and Clemson by 1 1/2-points.

NBA: Just two games last night, as the disappointing Nuggets beat the Thunder 119-10 to even their record at 7-7. The Jazz won 118-102 at home over the Pelicans to move to 10-4, extending their winning streak to SIX in a row (league-high). It's a busy 10-game Wednesday schedule, with ESPN airing a doubleheader. 8-4 Boston is at 9-5 Philadelphia at 7:05 ET and 7-5 Phoenix is at 4-8 Houston at 9:35 ET. The Celtics own the East's best record, while Philly is tied with Milwaukee for the second-best mark. Both teams are dealing with COVID protocols and injuries. The 76ers are favored by 4 1/2-points. The Suns jumped out to a 5-1 start but have lost FOUR of their last six, while the Houston roster is still in flux due to injury. Guard John Wall (knee) remains sidelined. Forward Danuel House Jr. (COVID protocols) and guard Dante Exum (calf), who was acquired along with Oladipo last week, are also out. Guard Sterling Brown (right leg) is questionable to play after missing the past two contests. Phoenix is favored by 5 1/2-points.

The NBA's two-worst teams are also in action, as the 3-10 Pistons are at the 6-7 Hawks, while the 3-9 Timberwolves are home to the 6-8 Magic. As I noted in Tuesday's Notes, 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. The Pistons are a five-point road dog and the T-wolves are a 3 1/2-point home dog. The 10-4 LA Clippers have won four straight and a win tonight at Staples Center over the 5-9 Kings would allow the Clipps to match the Lakers' NBA-best record of 11-4. LA is favored by 10 1/2-points.

NFL: How did the Packers and Bucs reach the NFC Championship Game? The Packers scored on each of their first five series and led the Rams 25-10 early in the third quarter. When all was said and done, the Rams' top-rated defense (had allowed 18.5 PPG on just 281.9 YPG) was shredded for 32 points on 484 yards, allowing 28 FDs (GB was 8 of 12 on 3rd downs). Rodgers threw for 296 yards with two TDs and no INTs (108.1 QB rating) plus had a one-yard TD run. His TD run was the first by a Packers QB in a playoff game at Lambeau Field since Bart Starr's winning sneak in the Ice Bowl against Dallas on Dec 31, 1967. The Green Bay defense held the Rams to just 244 yards, allowing LA to convert just 2 of 8 third downs (0-1 on 4th down). Green Bay has now won SEVEN in a row, holding its opponents to 18.4 PPG during that stretch.

Tom Brady and the Bucs' offense turned three of four Saints turnovers into TDs and Tampa Bay beat the Saints 30-20 in the divisional round of the playoffs Sunday night at New Orleans. The Saints had beaten the Bucs in BOTH regular season meetings, 34-24 at home in Week 1 and then 38-3 at Tampa in Week 9. Two of those TDs came on short passes to WR Mike Evans and RB Leonard Fournette. Then, after an interception by LB Devin White, Brady drove the Bucs to the one-yard-line, from where he scored himself with 4:57 left to virtually ensure his 14th trip to a conference championship game but his first in the NFC. Brady finished 18 of 33 for 199 yards with two TD passes and that TD run. The 30-20 Tampa Bay win resembled more of a defensive struggle, as the Bucs had a modest 316 total yards and the Saints had just 294. However, unlike in his previous two meetings with the Saints (five INTs and six sacks), Brady was not intercepted and largely avoided pressure, taking only one sack.

The Packers reached the NFC championship game for the fourth time in seven seasons as they chase their first Super Bowl berth in a decade (2010 season). It will be their first NFC title contest at Lambeau Field since hosting for the 2007 season, when they fell to the New York Giants 23-20 in overtime. Rodgers was on Green Bay's roster during that 2007 season backing up Brett Favre. Brady will try to advance to his 10th Super Bowl (the Bucs are hoping for just their SECOND Super Bowl appearance) in a showdown with Rodgers. I'll recap how the Bills and Chiefs reached the AFC championship game in Thursday's Notes and then preview both games in Friday's Notes.

Good luck...Larry

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