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Ness Notes: Thursday, Jan 7

by Larry Ness

Thursday, Jan 07, 2021

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."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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NHL Hockey Futures Bet: Colorado Avalanche to Win 2021 Stanley Cup

by Al McMordie

Thursday, Jan 07, 2021

The NHL season will start next week, so it's time for our Stanley Cup futures wager.  Last season, we cashed the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7-1 odds, which continued our jaw-dropping success on our futures selections.  Over the last few years, we have cashed:  2020 - Lightning (7-1), Dodgers (4-1); 2019 - Nationals (18-1), Virginia (22-1); 2018 - Warriors (-160); 2017 - Astros (10-1); 2016 - Warriors (5-1); 2014 - Spurs (14-1).  We also have three futures selections ongoing:  Baylor (12-1) in NCAA Basketball, Milwaukee Bucks (+650) in NBA Basketball, and the New Orleans Saints (10-0) in NFL Football.Let's now turn our attention to this upcoming NHL season.  Our futures selection to win the 2021 Stanley Cup is the Colorado Avalanche, currently at +700 odds at BetAnySports.  The season that the NHL is about embark on will look quite a bit different than those in the past.  There will be a shortened schedule of 56 games and the teams have been realigned into four new divisions, including an all-Canada group (the North Division).  The Avalanche are an improving team, having gone from 90 points (in a regular 82-game schedule) in 2018-2019, to 92 points in just 70 games last year, which projects to about 108 points in a full season.  The Avs finished second in the Central Division to the Blues, but they had by far the largest point differential in the Western Conference at +46.  This, despite a shortened season that included several stretches where the Avs were shorthanded due to injuries to key players.  Already the most potent offense in the West, the Avs acquired winger Brandon Saad from Chicago over the off-season and the 27-year-old will likely debut on the Avs' second line, making this team even scarier to defenses than it already is.  Perhaps most important to their chances at a high seed and a deep playoff run is the fact that teams will only play within their division this season and the Avs were a combined 4-2 against the Blues and Golden Knights last season.  Those two clubs figure to be Colorado's main competition in the months ahead.  The Avs won't have to worry about the Stars -- who knocked them out last Fall -- as Dallas has moved to a new division.  If they were a little soft on the blue line last season the Avs could very well have plugged that hole with the acquisition of young D-man Devon Toews from the New York Islanders.  They will also likely be debuting #1 pick (2019) Bowen Byram, considered to be one of the best young defensive prospects in the game.  If the goalie tandem of Francouz and Grubauer can stay healthy and get hot in the post-season, the Avs could very well hoist the Cup for the third time in their history.  Take Colorado at +700 odds.  As always, good luck...Al McMordie.

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NCAA Thursday Night Basketball: UCLA/Arizona State Preview

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Jan 07, 2021

The college basketball doubleheader on ESPN concludes at 10:30 PM ET in a battle of Pac-12 teams with NCAA Tournament aspirations.UCLA has won two in a row and seven of their last eight games after their 65-62 win at home against Colorado on Saturday. That win for the Bruins in a pick ‘em matchup represents their highest-profile victory of the season. The triumph raised their record to a 7-2 mark.It was not all good news of Saturday for head coach Mick Cronin as he was alerted before the game that his 6’9 senior forward Chris Smith would miss the rest of the season with the torn ACL he suffered in the previous game against Utah. Smith was scoring 12.6 points-per-game while adding 6.4 rebounds-per-game this season. Cronin still has plenty of talent available to him on his roster. The Bruins returned all five starters plus most of his bench players from the team that won eleven of their last fourteen games last season. The team also added Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang who missed the first four games of the season with an injury but has averaged 11.0 points-per-game since returning to action. Jaime Jacquez leads the team by scoring 13.3 points-per-game while adding 5.8 rebounds-per-game.UCLA has a balanced offensive attack with four players that average double-digits even after the loss of Smith. The Bruins rank 11th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency according to the metrics at kenpom. This group established a defensive identity in their good second-half run last season that was akin to Cronin's teams in his tenure at Cincinnati. This team has taken a step back defensively as they rank just 67th in adjusted efficiency by kenpom. They are effectively defending the perimeter, with opponents making only 29.7% of their 3-pointers. Yet opponents are finding success inside the arc as they are nailing 52.2% of their 2-point shots, 239th in the nation. Arizona State plays for the first team since December 16th when they were upset at home by a 76-63 score as a 13-point favorite against UTEP. COVID has since canceled their two scheduled games with the Washington schools in conference play. They bring a 4-3 record into this game.Head coach Bobby Hurley returned three starters from the team that was 20-11 last year. He added two impact freshmen in five-star recruit Josh Christopher and four-star Marcus Bagley to give the Sun Devils one of the most talented starting five units in the nation. Senior guards Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge, Jr. bypassed the NBA in the spring to return this season. Martin is scoring 16.9 points-per-game while adding 3.6 assists-per-game with Verge, Jr. contributing 15.4 PPG along with 3.0 APG.Arizona State ranks 49th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 76th in adjusted defensive efficiency using kenpom numbers. Bagley has missed three games with a calf injury, and Verge, Jr. missed two games in December due to contract tracing for COVID. The Sun Devils’ best victory was against Rhode Island. Their three losses were against UTEP, Villanova, and San Diego State by an 80-68 score on their home court. UCLA also lost on the road to the Aztecs, 73-58, in their first game this season. The Bruins’ second loss was to Ohio State, while their most impressive wins are against Marquette and Utah. BookMaker lists UCLA as a 1-point road favorite with the total set at 147.5.

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NBA and NCAA Basketball Preview

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Jan 07, 2021

The Thursday sports card features action in college basketball and the NBA.The nationally-televised college basketball card begins at 5 PM ET, with Colorado hosting Oregon on FS1. The Buffaloes’ record dropped to 7-3 this season with their 65-62 loss at UCLA in a pick ‘em contest on Saturday. The Ducks rank 17th in the Associated Press poll with an 8-1 record. They won their eighth straight games on Saturday with a 73-56 win against Stanford as a 6.5-point favorite. Colorado is a 1-point favorite with the total set at 140.5 (all odds from BetOnline).At 7 PM ET, Iowa visits Maryland on ESPN2. The Hawkeyes are ranked 5th by the AP with a 9-2 record after a 77-75 win at Rutgers on Saturday as a 0.5-point favorite. The Terrapins fell to 6-5 after their 63-55 loss at Indiana on Monday as a 5-point underdog. Iowa is a 6.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 155.Wisconsin plays at home against Indiana on FS1. The Badgers rank 8th by the AP with a 9-2 mark after they defeated Minnesota at home by a 71-59 score as an 8-point favorite last Thursday. The Hoosiers are 7-4 after their 63-55 win against Maryland on Monday. Wisconsin is an 8-point favorite with an over/under of 130.5.SMU is at home against Cincinnati on ESPNU. The Mustangs lost their first game in seven contests this year on Sunday in a 74-60 loss to Houston as a 2-point underdog. The Bearcats are 2-6 with five straight losses after their 70-66 loss to Tulsa on Saturday as a 5.5-point favorite. SMU is a 6-point favorite with a total of 143.5.At 8 PM ET, Colorado State hosts UNLV on the CBS Sports Network. The Rams lost their second game of the season in eight games on Monday with their 78-65 loss at San Diego State as a 9-point underdog. The Runnin’ Rebels return to the court for the first time since December 5th when they won for the first time in their five games with a 68-58 win at Kansas State as a 3-point underdog. Colorado State is an 8.5-point favorite with an over/under of 145.5.The number one ranked team in the nation plays at 8:30 PM ET on ESPN with Gonzaga at home against BYU. The Bulldogs improved their record to 10-0 on Saturday with their 85-62 win against San Francisco as an 18.5-point favorite. The Cougars have won four in a row to raise their record to a 9-2 clip after an 87-79 win against Weber State as a 3-point underdog on December 23rd. Gonzaga is a 17-point favorite with a total of 163.At 9 PM ET, Stanford plays at home against Washington on FS1. The Cardinal is 6-3 with five wins in their last six contests after their 81-71 victory at Oregon State on Monday as a 5-point favorite. The Huskies are 1-7 after their 80-53 loss to Arizona as a 9-point underdog last Thursday. Stanford is a 10-point favorite with the over/under at 136.5.USC visits Arizona on ESPN2. The Trojans improved to 6-2 with a 62-46 win against Utah as a 4.5-point favorite on Saturday. The Wildcats’ four straight wins give them a 9-1 record after they defeated Washington State on the road by an 86-82 score as an 8-point favorite on Saturday. Arizona is a 3-point favorite with the total at 140.5.San Francisco hosts Portland on ESPNU. The Dons are 7-5 after their 85-82 loss to Gonzaga on Saturday. The Pilots are now 6-3 after their 84-68 loss at Seattle as a 4.5-point underdog last Wednesday. San Francisco is a 17.5-point favorite with an over/under of 147.San Diego State plays at home against Nevada on the CBS Sports Network at 10 PM ET. The Aztecs are 7-2 after their 78-65 win against Colorado State as a 9-point favorite on Monday. The Wolf Pack raised their record to 7-3 with their 84-74 win at New Mexico as a 5.5-point favorite on Saturday. San Diego State is a 12.5-point favorite with a total of 137.5.The Thursday card concludes at 10:30 PM ET with Arizona State hosting UCLA on ESPN. The Sun Devils return to action for the first time since December 16th when they were upset by a 76-63 loss to UTEP as a 13-point favorite. The Bruins improved their record to a 7-2 mark on Saturday with a 65-62 win against Colorado as a pick ‘em. Arizona State is 4-3 this season and is a 1-point favorite in this game with an over/under of 149.The NBA card features five games, including a doubleheader on TNT.The opening game on TNT has Philadelphia visiting Brooklyn for a 7:35 PM ET tip. The 76ers improved to 7-1 this season last night with their 118-101 victory against Washington as a 6.5-point favorite. The Nets snapped a two-game losing streak on Tuesday with a 130-96 upset victory against Utah as a 5-point underdog. That win evened Brooklyn’s record at 4-4. They will be without Kevin Durant tonight as he continues to quarantine due to his exposure to COVID. Philadelphia is a 2.5-point favorite with the total at 224.The nightcap on TNT starts at 10:05 PM ET with Denver hosting Dallas. The Nuggets raised their record to 3-4 with a 123-116 win against Minnesota as a 10-point favorite on Tuesday. The Mavericks also have a 3-4 record after upsetting Houston on the road as a 113-100 victory as a 4-point dog. Denver is a 3.5-point favorite with an over/under of 225.

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Jan 6

by Larry Ness

Wednesday, Jan 06, 2021

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."As a freshman, DeVonta Smith caught the game-winning pass in overtime of the 2018 College Football Playoff title game against Georgia (note: it was the 2017 season), as the iconic play was coined, "2nd-and-26!" Smith captured college football's most prestigious award last night, becoming the first receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Michigan's Desmond Howard in 1991. Smith beat out three other finalists, all of whom were QBs; Alabama's Mac Jones, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Florida's Kyle Trask. Smith won the award with 477 first-place votes to finish with 1,856 points. Lawrence was second with 222 first-place votes and 1,187 points. Smith was CFB's best wide receiver and its most accomplished overall player, leading the FBS in receptions (105), receiving yards (1,641) and receiving TDs (20). Some may be surprised to learn that he's just the THIRD player in Alabama's storied football history to capture the Heisman. For all his wins (323) and national championships (six), Bear Bryant never coached a Heisman winner. Nick Saban has coached all three of 'Bama's Heisman winners, as Mark Ingram won in 2009 and Derrick Henry in 2015. Saban has already matched Bear's six national titles and is it a 'sign of things to come' to note that Alabama won national titles in each of the previous two seasons in which one of its players won the Heisman? CBB: There was just one game between ranked opponents, as No. 15 Rutgers visited No. 23 Michigan St. Rutgers forced 18 turnovers (had 13 steals) but shot 30.5% overall (including 3 of 12 on threes) plus made just 6 of 17 FTs. MSU ended the game on a 17-5 run and won 68-45. Is Izzo's team back on track? The Spartans opened 0-3 in the Big Ten for the first time since the 2001-02 season. FIVE ranked teams met unranked opponents and went 4-1 SU but just 1-4 ATS. The lone SU loser was No. 13 Missouri getting beat badly 78-63 at Mississippi St. Updating the Y-T-D numbers we find the higher ranked team going 21-10 (.677) SU but just 16-15 (51.6%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents, while ranked teams are 142-26 (.845) SU but only 87-79-2 (52.4%) ATS when taking on an unranked foe.Wednesday's CBB: The lone game between ranked opponents is No. 10 Michigan hosting No. 16 Minnesota. Michigan is 9-0 and the only other teams from major conferences without a loss, Gonzaga and Baylor, hold the top-two spots in the AP rankings. Also note that two other Big Ten schools, Iowa and Wisconsin (both 9-2), are still ranked above Michigan in the AP poll (Iowa is No. 5 and Wisconsin is No. 8). The Wolverines are favored by 7 1/2-points. SEVEN ranked teams are in action tonight against unranked opponents, including three top-10 teams. No. 2 Baylor (-12) is home to Oklahoma, No. 7 Creighton (-5) hosts Seton Hall and No. 9 Tennessee (-8.5) is home to Arkansas. Note that both the Vols and Razorbacks lost for the first time this season last Saturday but while 7-1 Tennessee is ranked in the AP's top-10, 9-1 Arkansas is unranked. One last thing. No. 21 Duke has played just five games (3-2) and will take the court for the first time Duke since a 75-65 victory at Notre Dame back on Dec. 16. The Blue Devils canceled all non-conference games after the ND contest but then also saw ACC games vs Pittsburgh and at Florida State postponed. Duke will host Boston College tonight (hopefully) and is listed as a 12-point favorite.NBA Update: The season just passed its two-week mark yesterday (season tipped Dec 22). The defending champion Lakers have won FOUR in a row and are atop the West with a 6-2 record (just 4-4 ATS). LA also owns the West's best point-differential (plus-10.0), always a great indicator of the strength of a team. Sitting at 5-2 are the Phoenix Suns, who are off to the team's best seven-game start since the Suns opened 6-1 in 2009-10, the last time the franchise made the postseason. Remember the Suns' 8-0 SU & ATS performance in last season's Orlando 'bubble?' It may just have been a sign of things to come. FIVE teams which made last season's Western Conference postseason are currently sub-.500. Portland, Dallas and Denver have all opened 3-4, while Houston is 2-3 and OKC 2-4. Note: Portland currently owns the No. 8 seeded in the West.Moving to the East, the Philadelphia 76ers are an NBA-best 6-1 (5-2 ATS). Orlando and Indiana check in at 5-2. Where's Milwaukee, the team with the NBA's best record in each of the previous two seasons? The Bucks have opened just 4-3 but beware, Milwaukee owns an NBA-best plus-13.5 point-differential. Recent 'dead beats' like the Knicks, Cavs and Hawks have all opened 4-3. I'll close with the Toronto Raptors, who were the 2019 NBA champions and last season, entered the postseason as the East's No. 2 seed with a 53-19 record, despite losing Kawhi Leonard to the Clippers as a free agent. Note that the Raptors' record last season put them just 2 1/2-games back of the Bucks and was a half-game BETTER than the West's No. 1 seed, and eventual NBA champion Lakers! How QUICKLY things can change. The Raptors lost Monday night to the Celtics at their temporary home in Tampa 126-114, falling to 1-5 SU & ATS. NFL Wild Card weekend previewed Thursday (Saturday games) and Friday (Sunday games). Good luck...Larry

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NCAA Wednesday Night Basketball: Baylor/Oklahoma Preview

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Jan 06, 2021

The nightcap in the Wednesday night college basketball doubleheader on ESPN2 at 10 PM ET involves two Big 12 teams that will make the NCAA Tournament.Baylor hopes to make a deep run in the Big Dance in March. The Bears returned six players from their rotation that went 26-4 before the March shutdown. They have won their first nine games of the season after their 76-65 victory at Iowa State on Saturday as a 15.5-point favorite. Preseason All-American Jared Butler is averaging 16.0 points-per-game while adding 5.8 assists-per-game. MaCio Teague is the team’s second-leading scorer with a 15.9 points-per-game scoring mark. Baylor’s four-guard small-ball lineup has another two players averaging double-digits in points. UNLV transfer Jonathan Tcharmwa Tchatchoua is contributing 8.0 rebounds-per-game. The Bears rank second in the nation in the Associated Press poll. Their best win was a 13-point triumph against Illinois. COVID has postponed a handful of their games, with a showdown with Gonzaga in December being the most notable cancellation. Head coach Scott Drew has a balanced team that ranks third in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom while ranking fifth in adjusted defensive efficiency in those metrics. Baylor had scored at least 82 points in their first eight games before their 76 points on Saturday against the Cyclones. The Bears are fifth in the country in forcing turnovers in 27.3% of their opponent’s possessions. They also rank fifth in the nation by rebounding 40.5% of their missed shots. Baylor is also second in the country, with a 3-point shooting percentage of 43.8%. The Bears are scoring 92.9 points-per-game while outscoring their opponents by 30.3 points-per-game.Oklahoma has won four of their last five games, with their 75-71 win against West Virginia on Saturday as a 1.5-point favorite. That was the highest-profile win for head coach Lon Kruger’s team, with a victory against TCU being their second-best accomplishment. The Sooners lost by just two points against Texas Tech while suffering a 22-point loss at Xavier to account for their 6-2 record. Kruger had over 70% of the production return last year's 19-12 team. Austin Reaves leads the way this year with a 15.0 points-per-game scoring average while adding 5.4 assists-per-game and 5.0 rebounds-per-game. Forward Brady Manek is adding 12.6 points-per-game along with 4.6 rebounds-per-game. Oklahoma is 21st in the nation adjusted offensive efficiency and 64th on defense at kenpom. The Sooners have been tough to score on inside the arc, with opponents making only 42.2% of their 2-point shots. But Oklahoma is allowing opposing shooters to convert 39.6% of their 3-pointers. This contest continues a brutal stretch of games for Kruger’s team after playing ranked teams in Texas Tech and West Virginia before following up facing the second-ranked team in the country in Waco with a date in Lawrence against a Kansas team ranked sixth in the nation. The Sooners are scoring 81.7 points-per-game and outscoring their opponents by +10.8 points-per-game. BookMaker lists Baylor as an 11.5-point favorite with the total set at 151.

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NBA and NCAA Basketball Preview

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Jan 06, 2021

The Wednesday sports card features action in college basketball and the NBA.The college basketball card tips off at 1 PM ET with two games. Tulsa visits South Florida as a 1-point road favorite with the total set at 127.5 (all odds from BetOnline). St. Bonaventure plays at home against Saint Joseph’s as a 12-point favorite with an over/under of 145.At 6 PM ET, Richmond hosts Rhode Island on the CBS Sports Network. The Spiders have lost two of their last three games after their 69-66 loss to St. Bonaventure on Saturday to lower their record to a 7-3 mark. The Rams are 5-5 after winning their last two games with a victory against Saint Joseph’s on Saturday by an 85-77 score as a 12-point favorite. Richmond is a 4-point favorite with the total at 145.At 7 PM ET, Tennessee plays at home against Arkansas on ESPN2. The Volunteers lost their first game in eight games on Saturday in a 71-63 upset loss to Alabama as a 10-point favorite. The Razorbacks also suffered their first loss in ten games on Saturday in their 81-68 upset loss to Missouri as a 6.5-point favorite. Tennessee ranks ninth in the AP poll, and they are an 8-point favorite with an over/under of 142.5.Butler hosts Georgetown on FS1. The Bulldogs are just 2-5 after losing on Saturday at Seton Hall, 68-60, as an 8.5-point underdog. The Hoyas have lost three in a row to drop to 3-6 with their 64-60 loss to Marquette as a 4.5-point underdog. Butler is a 4.5-point favorite with the total at 141.Xavier plays at home against St. John’s at 8 PM ET on the CBS Sports Network. The Musketeers dropped to 8-2 with two straight losses after their 85-68 upset loss to Seton Hall as a 3-point favorite last Wednesday. The Red Storm take the court with their 6-4 record for the first time since December 20th when they defeated Georgetown by a 94-83 score as a 4-point favorite. Xavier is a 7-point favorite with an over/under of 155.5.Baylor hosts Oklahoma at 9 PM ET on ESPN2. The Bears improved their record to a 9-0 mark on Saturday with their 76-65 win at Iowa State as a 15.5-point favorite. The Sooners have won four of their last five games with their 75-71 victory against West Virginia as a 1.5-point favorite on Saturday. Baylor is an 11.5-point favorite with the total at 151.Creighton is at home against Seton Hall in a game broadcast on FS1. The Bluejays are 8-2 with four straight wins after they won at Providence by a 67-65 score as a 4-point favorite. The Pirates have won three in a row to improve their 8-4 mark with their 68-60 win against Butler. Creighton is a 5-point favorite with an over/under of 148.5.Texas A&M visits South Carolina on ESPNU. The Gamecocks are 2-2 after they beat Florida A&M by a 78-71 score as a 19-point favorite on Saturday. The Aggies are 6-2 with three wins in their last four games after they defeated Auburn on Saturday by a 68-66 score as a 1-point favorite. South Carolina is a 4-point favorite with the total at 137.5.At 10 PM ET, Utah State plays on the road against New Mexico on the CBS Sports Network. The Aggies have a 7-3 record with six straight wins after they defeated Air Force on the road by a 72-53 score as a 14.5-point favorite on Saturday. The Lobos are 3-4 with four straight losses after their 84-74 setback against Nevada on Saturday as a 5.5-point underdog. Utah State is a 14-point favorite with an over/under of 139.5.The college basketball card concludes at 11 PM ET with Boise State hosting Air Force on FS1. The Broncos won their seventh game in a row to raise their record to a 7-1 mark with their 87-86 win at San Jose State as a 26-point favorite on Saturday. The Falcons are 3-5 after their loss at home to Utah State on Saturday. Boise State is an 18-point favorite with the total set at 132.5.The NBA card features 11 games featured by a doubleheader on ESPN. The opening contest on ESPN tips off at 7:35 PM ET with Miami playing at home against Miami in a rematch of their Eastern Conference Finals series. The Heat won  Game 7 of that series by a 125-114 score on September 27th in the bubble as a 3-point underdog. Miami raised their mark this season to a 3-3 record on Monday when they crushed Oklahoma City by a 118-90 score as a 9-point favorite. Boston has won four of their last five games to improve their record to 5-3 with their 126-114 upset win at Toronto on Monday as a 6-point underdog. The Heat are 2.5-point favorites with an over/under of 218.The ESPN doubleheader concludes with the Los Angeles Clippers visiting Golden State for a game starting at 10:05 PM ET. The Warriors have pulled off two straight upset victories to improve to 4-3 after their 137-106 win at home against Sacramento as a 1-point underdog on Sunday. The Clippers fell to 5-3 on Tuesday when they were upset at home against San Antonio by a 116-113 score as a 7.5-point favorite.

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Jan 5

by Larry Ness

Tuesday, Jan 05, 2021

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."Jay Berwanger (Chicago) was the first Heisman winner in 1935 and LSU's Joe Burrow its most recent winner (2019). The 202 winner will be announced tonight at 7:00 ET (ESPN), nearly a month after its traditional ceremony date. There will also be no pomp and circumstance, just another casualty of "The Year of COVID." A trio of QBs, Mac Jones (Ala), Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) and Kyle Trask (Fla) are joined by WR DeVonta Smith (Ala) as the four finalists. Lawrence was the preseason favorite but if he wins it, it would be more of a lifetime achievement award, as Jones and GTrask have had more prolific seasons. The betting favorite is WR Smith, who is arguably the most-talented player in the nation (pretty much the definition of the award, right?). He would be just the SEVENTH winner not to be a QB or RB. Results and commentary in Wednesday's Notes.CBB: The latest AP poll was released on Monday afternoon and the top-two spots remained the same for the SEVENTH consecutive poll (including the preseason poll). 10-0 Gonzaga maintained its No. 1 ranking (63 of 64 votes), while 9-0 Baylor stayed at No. 2, getting the lone remaining first-place vote. I can't confirm this but "I'm told," that Dabo Swinney voted the Bears No. 1 because after all, Gonzaga plays in the West Coast Conference, not a 'real' league like the Big 12. 9-1 Villanova is No. 3  but the Wildcats haven't played since Dec 23 and Monday announced it was postponing games scheduled for Jan 5, 8 and 13 due to COVID. The remaining members of the top-10 are No. 4 Texas (8-1), No. 5 Iowa (9-2), No. 6 Kansas (8-2), No. 7 Creighton (8-2), No. 8 Wisconsin (9-2), No. 9 Tennessee (7-1) and No. 10 Michigan (9-0). Dropping out of the top-25 were Big Ten schools Northwestern (19) and Ohio St (25), New to the poll are 8-1 Clemson, which is back in at No. 19 (tied with 8-1 Va Tech) and 7-1 St Louis at No. 23, making its first top-5 appearance since the 2013-14 season. Before catching up on the CBB "numbers' Y-T-D, let me add a few thoughts on the return of 'Shaka Ball' (now in Austin, Tx) and the early season success (for the second straight season) of Juwan Howard of "Fab-Five' fame at his alma mater, Michigan.The Longhorns owned just one previous win in 17 tries at Lawrence when they routed the Jayhawks 84-59 on Saturday, ending a 17-game conference win streak by Kansas. It marked the most lopsided defeat for head coach Bill Self in his 18 seasons coaching the Jayhawks and it matched the largest margin of defeat for ANY Kansas team in the 65-year history of the Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Other than that, it was "just another loss." Texas opened the season No. 19 in the preseason poll and entered the top-10 (at No. 10) back on Dec 21, its first top-10 ranking under Shaka Smart. Texas was up to No. 8 before the win at Kansas and the Longhorns are now No. 4, the school's first top-5 ranking since Feb of the 2011 season under head coach Rick Barnes (Barnes is currently at Tennessee and his Vols are No. 9). Juwan Howard was part of Michigan's famous or infamous "Fab-5" depending on one's point of view (I'll let others argue that one). However, Howard has surely surprised  most (all?) by 'exploding' out of the blocks for the second straight season, as Michigan's head basketball coach. The Wolverines won the Battle 4 Atlantis last season and reached No. 4 in the nation after a 7-0 start. However, Michigan would go 12-12 after that, ending 19-12 when the season was shut down. Michigan opened this season No. 25 in the AP's preseason poll but fell out, despite not losing. The Wolverines finally re-entered the poll at No, 25 on Dec 21, jumped to No. 16 on Dec 28 and Monday came in at No. 10. Way to go Juwan!Checking up on games played from last Friday through Monday night. There have been just four matchups of top-25 schools in that span, with the higher ranked team going 3-1 SU (lone loser was Kansas vs Texas) and 2-2 ATS. In games between ranked and unranked opponents, the ranked teams were 9-3 SU but just 6-6 ATS from Fri-Mon. Updating the Y-T-D numbers we find the higher ranked team going 21-9 (.700) SU and 16-14 (53.3%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents, while ranked teams are 138-25 (.847) SU but just 86-75-2 (53.4%) ATS when taking on an unranked foe.Tuesday's CBB: There is just one game between ranked opponents, as No. 15 Rutgers (+2) is at No. 23 Michigan St but five games between ranked and unranked foes. No. 4 Texas (-12.5) is home to Iowa St, No. 6 Kansas (-6) is at TCU, No. 13 Missouri (-2) is at Mississippi St, No. 18 Texas Tech (-16) is home to Kansas St and No. 19 Clemson (-5) is home to NC State.NBA two-week update in Wednesday's Notes.Good luck...Larry

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NBA and NCAA Basketball Preview

by Big Al Staff

Tuesday, Jan 05, 2021

The Tuesday sports card features action in college basketball and the NBA.The college basketball card tips off at 2 PM ET, with Kent State hosting Toledo as a 1.5-point favorite with the total set at 145.5 (all odds from BetOnline). At 7 PM ET, ESPNU has Texas Tech playing at home against Kansas State. The Red Raiders fell to an 8-3 record on Saturday with an 82-77 upset loss at home to Oklahoma State as an 8-point favorite. Texas Tech begins the week ranked 18th in the nation by the Associated Press. Kansas State has a 5-6 record after losing at home to TCU on Saturday as a 3.5-point underdog. Texas Tech is a 16-point favorite with an over/under of 125.Davidson visits Duquesne at 7 PM on the CBS Sports Network. The Wildcats fell to 5-4 after their 80-74 loss at home to Richmond as a pick ‘em last Wednesday. Duquesne fell to 2-2 on Sunday when they were upset at George Washington as an 8-point favorite. The Dukes are a 1-point favorite with a total of 136.Florida plays at Alabama at 7 PM ET on ESPN2. The Gators are 5-1 with two straight wins after defeating LSU by an 83-79 score as a 1-point favorite on Saturday. Alabama has won three in a row after they upset Tennessee in Knoxville as a 10-point underdog on Saturday by a 71-63 score to improve their record to 7-3. The Crimson Tide are 2.5-point favorites with an over/under of 154.The opening game in the Tuesday night college basketball double-header on ESPN at 8 PM ET involves two teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference underperforming despite NCAA Tournament aspirations. North Carolina snapped a two-game losing streak on Saturday with their 66-65 victory over Notre Dame as a 9.5-point favorite. The Tar Heels had lost on the road at Georgia Tech and North Carolina State before that win. Head coach Roy Williams’ team has also experienced high-profile losses at Iowa and on a neutral court against Texas on a buzzer-beating shot. North Carolina has posted victories against Kentucky and Stanford.Miami (FL) has opened the season 4-4 after losing two straight games along with four of their last five contests. The Hurricanes last played on Saturday, where they lost at home to Clemson, 66-65, as a 4.5-point underdog. That setback came on the heels of a 2-point loss at Virginia Tech. North Carolina is a 3-point road favorite with the total set at 140.5.Michigan State hosts Rutgers on ESPN 2 in a battle of ranked Big Ten foes at 9 PM ET. The Spartans ended a three-game slide on Saturday with an 84-77 victory at Nebraska as a 9.5-point favorite. MSU is 7-3 and ranks 23rd in the AP poll. The Scarlet Knights have lost two of their last three games after losing a nail-biter at home to Iowa on Saturday, 77-75, as a 0.5-point underdog. Rutgers has a 7-2 record, and they rank 15th by the AP. Michigan State is a 1.5-point favorite with the over/under at 152. UConn travels to Marquette for a 9 PM ET tip on FS1. The Huskies rebounded from their first loss in five games to start the season against Creighton by defeated DePaul, 82-61, as an 8.5-point favorite last Wednesday. Marquette snapped a three-game losing streak on Saturday with a 64-60 victory at Georgetown as a 4.5-point favorite to improve their 6-5 record. The Golden Eagles are 4.5-point favorites with a total of 139. Memphis visits Central Florida on ESPNU at 9 PM ET. The Tigers have won two of their last three games to improve their record to a 6-4 mark with their 58-57 win against South Florida as a 10-point favorite last Tuesday. The Knights are 3-3 after losing two in a row on Saturday with a 68-61 upset loss at South Florida as a 1-point favorite. Memphis is a 1-point road favorite with an over/under of 137.The nationally-televised college basketball card concludes at 10 PM ET on ESPN, with Kansas playing at TCU. The Jayhawks last played on Saturday when they were stunned at home against Texas in an 84-59 loss as a 4.5-point favorite. Kansas is ranked sixth by the AP with an 8-2 record. The Horned Frogs have won five in a row with their victory at Kansas State on Saturday, 67-60, as a 3.5-point favorite. TCU raised their record to 9-2. The Jayhawks are a 5.5-point road favorite with the total set at 138.5.Five games are on the NBA docket. The card starts at 7:30 PM ET with Brooklyn hosting Utah. Chicago visits Portland at 10:30 PM ET to conclude the slate. None of the games are on national television.

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NCAA Tuesday Night Basketball: North Carolina/MIami Preview

by Big Al Staff

Tuesday, Jan 05, 2021

The opening game in the Tuesday night college basketball double-header on ESPN at 8 PM ET involves two teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference underperforming despite NCAA Tournament aspirations. North Carolina snapped a two-game losing streak on Saturday with their 66-65 victory over Notre Dame as a 9.5-point favorite. The Tar Heels had lost on the road at Georgia Tech and North Carolina State before that win. Head coach Roy Williams’ team has also endured high-profile losses at Iowa and on a neutral court against Texas on a buzzer-beating shot. North Carolina has posted victories against Kentucky and Stanford.Williams’ experienced his worst record as the North Carolina head coach last year, with his team finishing with a 14-19 record. While Cole Anthony moved on to the NBA from that team, Williams did see most of the contributors last season return. He buttressed that group with one of the top-three incoming freshmen classes in the nation with three five-star recruits and another three four-star recruits. The Tar Heels continue to struggle to make baskets. Last year’s team had an effective field goal percentage of 46.4%, with that group making only 30.4% of their shots from the 3-point line. North Carolina has an effective field goal percentage of 46.5% this season, and they are making only 28.7% of their 3-pointers. Those marks rank 265th and 288th in the country. The Tar Heels are crashing the boards like a typical Williams-coached team as they rank third in the nation by rebounding 41.4% of their missed shots.  Miami (FL) has opened the season 4-4 after losing two straight games along with four of their last five contests. The Hurricanes last played on Saturday, where they lost at home to Clemson, 66-65, as a 4.5-point underdog. That setback came on the heels of a 2-point loss at Virginia Tech. Expectations were high for head coach Jim Larranaga’s team that has finished below .500 in the last two seasons after four straight 20-win seasons. Larranaga brought back all but one starter and another rotation player from the team last year that finished 15-16. He added two freshmen rated in the top-100 along with Cincinnati transfer 7’1 Nysier Brooks. Yet injuries have ravaged the Hurricanes, which left them to just six scholarship players at a low point in mid-December. Two starters in the frontcourt, Sam Waldenburg and Rodney Miller, are out the season. Their top-40 rated freshman Earl Timberlake missed time. Kameron McGusty, the team’s second-leader scorer last season, has been out with a hamstring injury. The most significant loss has been from the absence of pre-season All-American point guard Chris Lykes who has been out since early December with an ankle injury. McGusty returned to the court on Saturday, where he played 28 minutes and scored 9 points, but his status in this game remains in doubt after experiencing soreness afterward. Lykes remains out for this game. The bright side of all this attrition for Larranaga has been that rising sophomores Isaiah Wong and Harlond Beverly have stepped up to fill in the void with scoring and leadership. Miami won as an underdog against Purdue but got upset against Florida Gulf Coast and lost to Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech in addition to the Tigers on Saturday.Despite the losses on their frontline, the Hurricanes are still getting quality play from their interior players. They rank 32nd in the nation by limiting their opponents to rebounding only 21.9% of their missed shots. Miami is also blocking 14.2% of their opponent’s shot attempts, ranking 20th best in the nation. Larranaga’s team is not offering many freebies to their opposition either. They have a free throw attempt-to-field goal attempt ratio of 20.2%, sixth-lowest in the nation. The Hurricanes are struggling to score points. They rank 304th with a 28.0% clip from 3-point land. The ESPN broadcasts start at 8 PM ET. BetOnline lists North Carolina as a 3-point road favorite with the total set at 140.5.

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2021 NCAA Football Championship Preview

by ASA, Inc.

Monday, Jan 04, 2021

OHIO STATE (7-0 / 4-3 ATS) vs ALABAMA (12-0 / 8-4 ATS) - @ Hard Rock Stadium, Miami FL  ODDS AT BETNOW.EU LINE – Alabama -7.5MONEY LINE – Alabama -280 / OSU +240TOTAL – 75  OSU PASS DEFENSE vs ALABAMA PASS OFFENSE – While the Buckeyes rolled through their shortened Big 10 winning 5 of their 6 games by double digits, their pass defense was not good.  That’s actually an understatement as OSU finished dead last in the conference in pass defense despite not facing a single QB ranked inside the top 50 in passing efficiency.  The best passing QB the Buckeyes faced was Indiana’s Michael Penix and he lit them up for 491 yards passing and 5 TD’s.  Now they face Bama’s Mac Jones who ranks as the #1 pass efficiency QB in the nation along with the deepest set of WR’s they’ve seen by far.  Despite last week’s loss, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence did complete 69% of his passes for 400 yards vs this pass defense.  HUGE EDGE TO BAMA  OSU RUSH DEFENSE vs ALABAMA RUSH OFFENSE – The Bucks rush defense was extremely impressive last week.  They completely shut down the Tigers running attack allowing only 44 yards on 22 carries.  Clemson star RB Etienne was held to 32 yards on the ground with a long of just 8 yards.  The Buckeyes are now ranked 2nd nationally defending the run allowing only 89 YPG.  The Crimson Tide faced a Notre Dame defense last week that ranks 17th vs the run and put up 140 yards rushing.  The three top 20 rush defenses that Alabama faced this season (ND, Georgia & Texas A&M) held them to 140, 147, and 109 on the ground this year on 4.1 YPC.  That’s a full 1 YPC under their season average.  EDGE OHIO STATE    OSU PASS OFFENSE vs ALABAMA PASS DEFENSE – Justin Fields was lights out vs Clemson throwing for 385 yards and 13.8 yards per attempt.  He also threw for 6 TD’s and had a QBR of 99.  His 13.8 yards per attempt and 99 QBR were by far the best numbers the Clemson defense has allowed this season.  We’ll have to keep a close eye on the info coming out of Columbus this week as Fields sustained a rib injury vs the Tigers and while he continued to play, he did say it was very painful and affected his throwing motion.  Bama limited Irish QB Ian Book to 229 yards passing and a QBR of 72.  For comparison’s sake, Book passes for 219 yards with a QBR of 60 just 2 weeks earlier.  That’s the same Clemson pass defense that was shredded by Fields.  The Tide faced 2 other QB’s this year ranked in the top 10 in efficiency, Florida’s Kyle Trask and Mississippi’s Matt Corral.  Trask went for 408 yards on 10.2 yards per attempt with 3 TD’s and QBR of 91.6.  Corral put up 365 yards passing on 13.0 yards per attempt with 2 TD’s and a QBR of 96.  EDGE OHIO STATE IF FIELDS IS HEALTHY  OSU RUSH OFFENSE vs ALABAMA RUSH DEFENSE – OSU’s rushing attack has really kicked it into high gear over their 2 games.  In the Big 10 Championship game vs Northwestern they ran the ball for 399 yards on over 9.0 YPC.  They followed that up by hitting Clemson for 254 yards rushing on nearly 6.0 YPC.  Those efforts were against two very solid defenses as Northwestern has allowed 4.4 YPC on the year and Clemson just 3.0 YPC.  Starting RB Trey Sermon has done most of the damage with 524 yards rushing in those 2 games.  His backup Master Teague is injured and did not play vs Clemson.  The Buckeyes rush offense now ranks 5th nationally.  They take on a Bama defense that allows just 110 YPG on the ground ranking them 13th.  Last week they allowed Notre Dame to gain 139 YPG on the ground, well below their season average of 211 YPG.  The Irish rank 24th in rushing and they were the best running team the Tide have faced this season.  The 2 best SEC running teams they faced were Texas A&M (27th nationally) and Ole Miss (26th) and the Bama defense has mixed results in those games.  They held the Aggies to just over 100 yards rushing but the Rebels gashed them for 268.  That game vs Ole Miss was early in the season and Alabama’s defense has improved drastically since them.  EDGE EVEN  CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY – It’s been a mix of close calls & blowouts in the CFP National Championship game.  There have been 6 championship games played since the CFP started with three of those games being decided by 5 points or less and the other three decided by 17 or more.  Alabama has won 2 of those National Championship games in 2016 & 2018 while Ohio State won the inaugural game in 2015.  Bama comes in as the #1 seed and OSU is the #3 seed.  Only one top seed has won the title and that was last season when LSU topped Clemson 42-25.  No #3 seed has ever won the National Championship.  AGAINST THE SPREAD – Last year was the first time the favorite (LSU) covered in the National Championship game.  The dog is 5-1 ATS.  It’s also been a high scoring game with the OVER going 5-1 with the average total points scored at 65.  The teams combined to score at least 60 points in 5 of the 6 championship games with the highest scoring game being 85 (Clemson 45, Bama 40) and the lowest being 49 (Bama 26, Georgia 23).  The current total on this game is 75 which is the highest ever set in the National Championship game.

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Ness Notes: Monday, Jan 4

by Larry Ness

Monday, Jan 04, 2021

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."NFL Week 17 recap: As I always like to do, I'll start at the bottom. The Jacksonville Jaguars opened the 2020 season by upsetting the Indianapolis Colts 27-20 at home in Week 1 and proceeded to lose their next 15 games, capped by Sunday's 28-14 loss at Indy. It also deserves a mention that while the Jags finished with the NFL's worst record, their 7-9 ATS matches that of the 14-2 KC Chiefs, who finished with an NFL-best record but also a 7-9 ATS mark. As it so often is, the point spread is a great 'equalizer.' The win by the Colts allowed them to earn the NFL's seventh and final seed, despite the fact that they were one of four AFC teams to finish 11-5 (love those tiebreakers). The Colts have to consider themselves fortunate, as the NFL added a third wild card team for the 2020 season. Over in the NFC, the Chicago Bears lost 35-16 at home to the Packers but were able to get that 'lucky' No. 7 seed with their 8-8 record. The Arizona Cardinals 'fell flat' in LA against the Rams losing 18-7 and also finished 8-8 but lost to Chicago in a tiebreaker. Ok, let's now start at the top and work down.The KC Chiefs will open their defense of their Super title as the AFC's No. 1 seed and get the lone bye in the divisional round of the playoffs in two weeks. The 13-3 Buffalo Bills won the AFC East for the first time since 1995 and got the AFC's No. 2 seed.  Pittsburgh opened the season 11-0 but finished 12-4. However, it was good enough for the AFC's No. 3 seed, while Tennessee's 41-38 win over Houston earned them the No. 4 seed, as the 11-5 Titans captured the AFC South division in a tiebreaker over the Colts. Baltimore finished the season on a five-game winning streak and at 11-5 earned the No. 5 seed, while the 11-5 Browns have the No. 6 seed, ending the NFL's longest postseason drought (last made the playoffs in 2002). Green Bay matched its 13-3 record from the 2019 season but unlike last season when the 49ers, Packers and Saints all finished at 13-3, the Packers have the NFC's top record and get the No. 1 seed and that opening weekend bye. The 12-4 Saints edged the 12-4 Seahawks (via a tiebreaker) to capture the No. 2 seed (Seattle is No. 3) and the No. 4 seed goes to 7-9 Washington, which won the NFC 'Least.' The TB 'Bradys' finished 11-5 and will make the franchise's 1st playoff appearance in 13 years. Brady had four TD passes giving him 40 on the season. Tampa Bay's first playoff game in 13 years could be a lucky 13, as Tampa Bay earned the coveted No. 5 seed, giving them a wild card matchup with 7-9 Washington. The LA Rams gutted out an 18-5 win at home with John Wolford at QB against Arizona, earning the No. 6 seed with a 10-6 record. I'll have much more on the wild card weekend matchups in Thursday's Notes (Saturday games) and Friday's Notes (Sunday games).FIVE of last season's eight division-winners failed to repeat in 2020, with only Baltimore (14-2 winner of the AFC North last year) making the expanded playoff field in 2020 at 11-5. No team fell harder than the Pats, who had won 11 straight AFC East titles (17 of the last 19) but finished 7-9 in 2020. San Francisco won the NFC West with a 13-3 record last season and led the Chiefs by 10 points midway through the fourth quarter of last year's Super Bowl (would lose 31-20), but finished an injury-ravaged 2020 season with a 6-10 record. Houston entered the 2020 season having won the AFC South FOUR times in the previous five years but finished 4-12, while the Eagles won the NFC East last season at 9-7, only to end the 2020 season at 4-11-1 (last in the NFL"s worst division). Minnesota was a wildcard team in 2019 (10-6) but will be sitting the postseason out in 2020, after a 7-9 season. With two extra playoff spots available in 2020, there are SEVEN teams in the current playoff field which sat out the 2019 postseason. In order of best records, that list includes Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Indianapolis in the AFC, as well as Tampa Bay, the LA Rams, Chicago and Washington in the NFC. The 'unluckiest' team to miss the 2020 postseason field has to be the 10-6 Dolphins, who tied the Buffalo Bills for the best ATS record among all 32 teams (Bills and Dolphins were both 11-5). In case anyone was wondering, the Dallas Cowboys ended the season with the league's worst ATS record at 5-11 (Cowboys were 6-10 SU). Home teams went 7-9 SU and 9-7 ATS, with home dogs going 3-7 SU but 7-3 ATS. The Week 17 games averaged 52.4 PPG with 10 overs and six unders. I'll calculate regular season Y-T-D numbers in Thursday's Notes.Tuesday's Notes will be a BKB-only edition, checking in on the new AP poll (released Monday afternoon) in CBB and games played from Friday-Monday. Tonight concludes the second week of NBA action (opened Dec 22) and I'll offer some early reflections.Good luck...Larry

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