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NCAA Saturday Afternoon Basketball: Wisconsin/Ohio State Preview

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Jan 23, 2021

CBS features a high-profile showdown between two nationally-ranked teams from the Big Ten at 4 PM ET.Wisconsin was embarrassed on January 12th in a 77-54 loss at Michigan. That was likely the worst defensive effort from head coach Greg Gard’s team this season. The Badgers have not allowed more than 77 points, and the Wolverines’ 51.6% field goal percentage was the highest mark that they had allowed an opponent to shoot all season. Gard has successfully had his team tighten things up on defense since that setback. They held Rutgers to 37.3% shooting three days later in a 60-54 victory on the road. Wisconsin then kept Northwestern to 41.2% shooting on Wednesday in a 68-52 win over the Wildcats. D’Mitrik Trice scored 12 points in the win. He leads the team with a 14.8 points-per-game scoring average. Micah Potter added 10 points, and he is scoring 12.1 points-per-game while leading the Badgers with a 6.7 rebounds-per-game average. Trice and Potter are two of the five seniors back from the group last year that was co-champion of the Big Ten conference with a 14-6 mark.Wisconsin is tied in second place in conference play with a 6-2 mark. They trail Michigan, who is alone in first place with an 8-1 record. The Badgers have impressive wins against Michigan State, Minnesota, Indiana, at Rutgers in conference play, plus a high-profile victory against Louisville from their non-conference schedule. Wisconsin’s three losses are to Maryland, Marquette, and the Wolverines. The Badgers rank 10th in the nation in the Associated Press poll with a 12-3 record. Ohio State had their three-game winning streak end on Tuesday in a 67-65 upset loss at home to Purdue. The Buckeyes led that game late before the Boilermakers made a 3-pointer with five seconds left to seal the victory. That loss spoiled the effort of Duane Washington, who made six 3-pointers and scored 21 points. The junior makes 39.3% of his 3-pointers, and he leads Ohio State with a 15.7 points-per-game scoring average.The Buckeyes are 5-4 in Big Ten play this season with losses at Northwestern and Minnesota and two defeats against Purdue. They have defeated Rutgers twice with a signature victory against Illinois to help place them in sixth place. Head coach Chris Holtmann’s team bolsters their NCAA Tournament resume with a quality win over UCLA. With an 11-4 record for the season, Ohio State ranks 15th in the AP poll.Wisconsin is 10-1 at home at the Kohl Center, where they are outscoring their opponents by 17.2 points-per-game. The Badgers hold their opponents to 58.8 points-per-game on 38.0% shooting when playing at home. Ohio State is 4-3 on the road with a +0.6 net point differential per game. Ohio State guard C.J. Walker got upgraded to probable with his thumb injury. Jimmy Sotos is doubtful with a shoulder, and Ibrahima Diallo is out the season with a knee injury. Wisconsin is not at full strength either, with freshman Ben Carson out indefinitely with an upper-body injury and freshman Carter Gilmore questionable with an undisclosed issue. BookMaker lists Wisconsin as a 5.5-point favorite with the total set at 132.5.

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

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Jan 23, 2021

The Saturday sports card features a busy college basketball schedule plus games in the NBA, NHL, and English Premier League.The college basketball card tips off at noon PM ET. Kansas visits Oklahoma on ESPN. The Jayhawks are ranked ninth in the nation by the Associated Press. They are 1.5-point road favorites with the total set at 142.5 (all odds from BetOnline). Creighton hosts UConn on Fox-TV. The Bluejays rank 11th in the nation by AP, while the Huskies are 23rd in that poll. Creighton is an 8-point favorite with the over/under at 138.5. South Carolina plays at home against Auburn on ESPN2 as a 2.5-point favorite with a total of 154.5. At 12:30 PM ET on the NBC Sports Network, George Mason visits Saint Joseph’s as a 3.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 145.5.At 2 PM ET, Baylor plays at Oklahoma State on CBS. The second-ranked Bears are an 8.5-point road favorite with a total of 145.5. SMU visits Central Florida on ESPNU as a 4-point road favorite with an over/under of 138.5. North Carolina hosts North Carolina State on ESPN as a 6.5-point favorite with a total of 146.5. Florida plays at Georgia on ESPN2 as a 4-point road favorite with an over/under of 151.5. At 2:30 PM ET, Villanova plays at home against Providence on Fox. The third-ranked Wildcats are 11-point favorites with a total of 139.5. Richmond hosts LaSalle as a 14.5-point favorite with an over/under of 144 on the NBC Sports Network. Navy is home against Army on the CBS Sports Network as a 4.5-point favorite with a total of 134.Florida State plays at home against Clemson on ABC at 3 PM ET. The Tigers rank 20th in the AP poll. The Seminoles are 6.5-point favorites with an over/under of 136.5.At 4 PM ET, Wisconsin visits Ohio State in a showdown on CBS of nationally-ranked Big Ten opponents. The Badgers rank 15th, and the Buckeyes are 10th in the AP poll. Ohio State is a 5-point favorite with a total of 134.5. West Virginia plays at Kansas State on ESPN2 with the 14th-ranked Mountaineers 11.5-point road favorites with an over/under of 135. St. John’s hosts Utah Valley on FS1 as a 14.5-point favorite with a total of 154. Louisville plays at home against Duke on ESPN as a 3-point favorite with an over/under of 141. At 4:30 PM ET, VCU is at home against Dayton on the CBS Sports Network as a 4.5-point favorite with a total of 135.5. UCLA visits Stanford at 5 PM ET on Fox. The 24th-ranked Bruins are a 4.5-point road favorite with an over/under 139.5.At 6 PM ET, Marquette plays at home against DePaul on FS1. The Golden Eagles are a 9.5-point favorite with a total of 141.5. Kentucky hosts LSU on ESPN as a 1.5-point favorite with an over/under of 147.5.San Francisco plays at home against Saint Mary’s at 7 PM ET on the CBS Sports Network. The Dons are 3-point favorites with a total of 128.5.Colorado visits Washington State on ESPN2 at 8 PM ET. The Buffaloes are 10-point road favorites with an over/under of 134.5. The nationally-televised card concludes at 10 PM ET with BYU hosting Pepperdine on ESPN2. The Cougars are 12-point favorites with a total of 149.5.The NBA has seven games on the docket for Saturday. Three games tip-off at 8:05 PM ET, with the remaining four games starting at 9:05 PM ET. None of the games are on national television.The NHL has five games on the Saturday schedule. Tampa Bay plays at Columbus at 2:08 PM ET as a -156 money line favorite with an over/under of 5.5. Winnipeg plays at home against Ottawa at 10:08 PM ET to conclude the card. The English Premier League has just one match for Saturday. Aston Villa plays at home against Newcastle United at 3 PM ET as a -1 goal line favorite with a total of 3. The game is on the NBC Peacock app.

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NCAA Friday Night Basketball: Purdue/Michigan Preview

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Jan 22, 2021

The FS1 Friday night college basketball doubleheader features two Big Ten teams in the thick of the conference title and preparing to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament in March.Michigan lost their first game of the season last Saturday in a 75-57 upset loss at Minnesota as a 5-point favorite. The Wolverines responded with a strong effort on Tuesday in a decisive 87-63 victory back at home in Ann Arbor against Maryland as a 13.5-point favorite. Head coach Juwan Howard’s team raced out to a 17-3 lead in the first six minutes of that game and held a double-digit lead over the Terrapins for most of the rest of the game to cruise to the victory.Michigan made 12 of 24 shots from 3-point land in dominating Maryland. Howard got balanced scoring from his team despite his freshman phenom, Hunter Dickinson, taking only three shots and netting just 3 points. Dickinson is the team’s leading scorer with a 15.7 points-per-game scoring average. Senior Isaiah Livers led the team with 20 points. He is second on the team with a 14.1 points-per-game scoring average. The Wolverines have six players who average at least 8.6 points-per-game. With a 12-1 record on the season, Michigan ranks seventh in the nation in the Associated Press poll. They are seventh in adjusted offensive efficiency according to the metrics at kenpom. The Wolverines are ninth with a 59.2% shooting percentage inside the arc, which helps elevate their effective field goal percentage to 58.2%, also ninth in the nation. Michigan has the eight rated adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They are holding their opponents to 40.8% shooting inside the arc, fourth-best in the country. Purdue won their fourth in a row on Tuesday with their 67-65 upset victory at Ohio State as a 6.5-point underdog. Trevion Williams topped the team's box score with 16 points. The 6’10 junior leads the team with a 15.4 points-per-game scoring average. He also adds 9.5 rebounds-per-game. During the Boilermakers’ current winning streak, Williams is scoring 19.3 points-per-game. Head coach Matt Painter continues to see improvement from his team as he has integrated five freshmen into a ten-man rotation. Purdue has two victories against the Buckeyes this season, along with high-profile wins against Indiana and Michigan State to give them 11 wins this season. The Boilermakers are 6-3 in conference play with losses to Iowa, Rutgers, and Illinois. Purdue also lost to Clemson and Miami (FL) in non-conference play. Kenpom ranks the Boilermakers offense at 38th and their defense at 28th in adjusted efficiency.Michigan will be playing only their fourth game away from home at Crisler Arena. Purdue is unbeaten in their six games at home at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette. They are outscoring their visitors by 13.3 points-per-game while holding them to only 63.5 points-per-game and a 38.4% field goal percentage. BetAnySports lists Michigan as a 4.5-point road favorite with the total set at 139.5. The FS1 broadcast starts at 7 PM ET.

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Ness Notes: Friday, Jan 22

by Larry Ness

Friday, Jan 22, 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."Just two ranked teams were in action on Thursday, No. 4 Iowa home to 8-6 Indiana and No. 24 UCLA at Cal. Iowa took a 37-31 halftime lead but with Iowa still ahead 53-44 midway through the second half, Indiana rallied to tie the score at 53 with a 9-0 run, then took control of the game by limiting the Hawkeyes to just three FGs over the game's last 12 minutes. Luka Garza led Iowa with 28 points plus Joe Wieskamp added 16 & 12 but the Hawkeyes, who came in averaging 92.2 PPG, were held to 69 points while shooting just 38.1 percent from the floor, including 21.7 percent from the three-point line in a 12-point loss. UCLA opened the season as the AP's 22nd-ranked team but lost its season-opener 73-58 at San Diego St. However, the Bruins moved back into the top-25 last Monday (at No. 24). The Bruins were able to push back on Cal's bid for an upset by edging the Golden Bears 61-57 in Berkeley. UCLA was held to 17 points under its average points per game but beat Cal for the EIGHTH straight time and remained undefeated in the conference at 8-0 while improving to 12-2 overall with a 61-57 win.The only Friday game involving a ranked team is No. 7 Michigan (12-1) at 11-5 Purdue. Michigan started the season with 11 consecutive victories before falling 75-57 at Minnesota last Saturday but routed Maryland 87-63 in a game they never trailed on Tuesday. The win came even though Michigan's leading scorer Hunter Dickinson (15.7 PPG) only took three shots and scored three points. The Boilermakers welcome Michigan to Mackey Arena on a current four-game winning streak that began when they rallied from 17 points down against Michigan State back on Jan 8. The Boilermakers have outscored opponents by a combined 39 points in the second half over the last four games. Purdue's 6-10 Trevion Williams (15.4 & 9.5) has scored in double figures in 11 consecutive games, averaging 19.3 PPG in that stretch. Michigan is favored by 4 1/2-points.Looking ahead to the weekend, there will be three games between ranked opponents, all being contested on Saturday. No. 6 Tennessee (10-2) is home to No. 19 Missouri (9-2), No. 10 Wisconsin (12-3) is home to No. 15 Ohio St (11-4) and No. 11 Creighton (10-4) is home to No.23 UConn (7-2). The nation's top-two teams will also play on Saturday. No. 1 Gonzaga (14-0 / 6-7-1 ATS) is home to 5-2 Pacific and No. 2 Baylor (13-0 / 10-3 ATS) will play at 9-3 Oklahoma St. Higher ranked teams are 27-15 (.643) SU but just 21-21 (50.0%) ATS on the season. I'll check back on CBB in Monday's Notes.NBA: LeBron James scored a season-high 34 points to help keep the Los Angeles Lakers undefeated on the road this season with a 113-106 win against Milwaukee. The Lakers made 19 of 37 (51.4 percent) on threes, extending their franchise-best road start to 8-0 (Lakers are an NBA-best 12-4). In the TNT nightcap, Donovan Mitchell scored a season-high 36 points to lead the Utah Jazz to a 129-118 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in Salt Lake City. The Jazz have now won SEVEN in a row (longest active streak) using a 19-2 run over a 4 1/2-minute 3rd-quarter surge that gave Utah a 96-80 lead.ESPN features a Friday doubleheader, opening with 8-5 Boston at 10-5 Philadelphia at 7:35 ET. These teams met Wednesday in Philly, with Embiid's 42 points leading the way to a 117-109 win (Sixers outscored the Celtics 31-17 in the 4th quarter). Boston has lost two straight after a five-game winning streak and the 76ers are 8-1 at home. Boston's Tatum has been out due to COVID-19 protocols but head coach Brad Stevens said Tatum has a "50-50 chance" of playing Friday. Philly is favored by  4 1/2-points. The second game features the 7-7 Nuggets at the 8-5 Suns at 10:05 ET. Denver center Nikola Jokic is averaging a triple-double 14 games into a 72-game schedule (25.1-11.4-10.0), as the Nuggets play the Suns both tonight and Saturday in Phoenix. Friday will be the third game for Phoenix after having three postponed due to contract-tracing concerns after playing the Washington Wizards on Jan 11. It will also be the second game against the Nuggets this season, as the Suns won 106-103 in Denver on New Year's Day. Suns are favored by one point.The 11-4 Clippers can match the Lakers at 12-4 with a home win over the 6-7 Thunder (Clippers are favored by 13 points). The Bulls may be just 6-8 but they own the NBA's best pointspread record (10-4 ATS), as they play at the 6-8 Charlotte Hornets (Hornets are favored by 3 1/2-points). The 5-9 Raptors own the league's worst ATS record (4-10) and are home to the 6-7 Heat (Raptors are favored by 2 1/2-points). The league's two-worst teams are also in action tonight, as the 3-11 Pistons are home to the 4-9 Rockets (Pistons are favored by 3 1/2-points) and the 3-10 Timberwolves are home to the 7-7 Hawks (Hawks are favored by six points).NFL: I'll do a special NFL-only Ness Notes on Saturday (preview of AFC and NFC champions games), with the latest update on Patrick Mahomes. Philip Rivers 'obit:' The San Diego Chargers coveted Eli Manning and wanted to select him with their first round pick of the 2004 NFL Draft. However, after Manning indicated before the draft that he would not sign with them, the Chargers agreed to a draft day deal with the NY Giants. San Diego selected Manning first, then traded him to New York for Rivers, taken by the Giants fourth, plus draft picks. Rivers was one of 17 QBs taken in the 2004 draft, along with Manning and the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger Rivers announced his retirement on Wednesday, ending a 17-year career with the Chargers 16) and Colts (one). Eli and "Big Ben" each own two Super Bowl rings but while Rivers has had a prolific career, he leaves without a Super Bowl title (more later).Rivers walks away as an eight-time Pro Bowler. His 63,440 passing yards ranks fifth behind Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, plus his 421 passing TDs ranks fifth behind the same foursome. One HAS to admire his 240-game streak of regular season starts, as it ranks second to only Favre's 297 among QBs. He made the playoffs in a modest SEVEN of his 17 seasons but never advanced past the Conference Championship and his lone trip there was in the 2007 season at New England (lost). That said, it's hard to argue his impact with the Chargers' franchise. The Chargers were 35-77 in the seven years prior to his arrival but 76-36 in the seven years after, while winning the division in each of his first FOUR seasons as the starter. Is he a Hall-of-Famer? Consider this. Just two QBs in the Super Bowl era have made the Hall of Fame without playing in a Super Bowl, Warren Moon and fellow Charger Dan Fouts. Then again, Joe Namath is in the Hall of Fame because he won a single Super Bowl, albeit one of the most famous of all-time. However, Namath made just 129 starts in his 13-year career, going 62-63-4 as starter. His career completion percentage is a pathetic 50.1% and he threw 173 TD passes against 220 INTs. Beauty is ALWAYS in the eye of the beholder.Good luck...Larry

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NFC Conference Championship: Packers/Buccaneers Preview

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Jan 22, 2021

The NFC Conference Championship Game features a rare clash between future Hall of Famers in Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. The two quarterbacks have only faced off against each other three other times as starters, although one of those encounters was earlier this year. Tampa Bay upset Green Bay at home in Week 6 on October 18th, 38-10, as a 2.5-point underdog. The Buccaneers earned the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl last Sunday with their 30-20 upset win at New Orleans as a 2.5-point underdog. The Tampa Bay defense held the Saints to 294 yards while forcing four turnovers. The Bucs only gained 316 yards on offense but did not turn the ball over. Brady completed 18 of 33 passes for 199 yards with two touchdown passes. Brady completed 65.7% of his passes in his first season in the Buccaneers offense for 4633 yards with 40 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions in the regular season. In his two playoff games, Brady completed 40 of 73 passes for a 54.8% completion percentage. He has thrown for 580 yards in those two games with four touchdown passes and no interceptions. Green Bay reached the NFC Conference Championship Game on Saturday with their 32-18 win against the Los Angeles Rams as a 9.5-point favorite. The Packers held the Rams to only 244 yards while gaining 484 yards of offense themselves. Rodgers completed 23 of 36 passes of 296 yards with two touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown. Rodgers completed 70.7% of his passes during the regular season for 4299 yards with 48 touchdown passes and five interceptions. Both of these quarterbacks were underwhelming in their October meeting. Rodgers experienced his lowest passer rating of the season with a 35.4 mark after completing only 16 of 35 passes for 160 yards. Two of his five interceptions this season were in that game. Brady completed 17 of 27 passes for 166 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Buccaneers added safety Antoine Winfield to their injury list on Thursday with an ankle, although he was a full participant in practice. Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter and guard Ali Marpet were full participants in practice, with their respective calf and pectoral issues. Wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, running back Ronald Jones, and defensive backs Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jordan Whitehead were limited participants in practice on Thursday. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul did not participate in practice with a knee and a non-injury related issues. Wide receiver Antonio Brown did not practice either with his knee injury and will be a game-time decision. The Packers had ten players participate in only limited practice on Thursday, including wide receiver Allen Lazard and linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Tight end Marcedes Lewis did not participate in Thursday’s practice with a knee injury. Tampa Bay and Green Bay are on six and seven-game winning streaks. BookMaker lists the Packers as a 3-point favorite with the total set at 51.5. Kickoff is set on Sunday at 3:05 PM ET on Fox.

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

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Jan 22, 2021

The Friday sports card features college basketball, the NBA, and the NHL. The college basketball card tips off at noon ET, with Wright State visiting IUPUI as an 11-point road favorite with the total set at 147.5 (all odd from BetOnline).The nationally-televised college basketball schedule begins at 7 PM ET. Michigan travels to Purdue on FS1. The Wolverines are ranked seventh in the nation by the Associated Press with a 12-1 record. They defeated Maryland, 87-63, on Tuesday as a 13.5-point favorite. The Boilermakers have won their last four to improve to 11-5 after their 67-65 upset win at Ohio State as a 6.5-point underdog on Tuesday. Michigan is a 3-point road favorite with an over/under of 138.Siena hosts Saint Peter’s on ESPNU at 7 PM ET. The Saints maintained an unbeaten 6-0 record last Saturday with their 74-72 win at Rider as a 5.5-point favorite. The Peacocks are 6-5 with two straight losses after their 63-60 upset loss at Canisius as a 3-point favorite back on January 2nd in their most recent game. Siena is a 4-point favorite with a total of 132.5.Ohio plays at home against Ball State on CBS Sports Network at 7 PM ET. The Bobcats are 7-6 with two losses in their last three games after their 89-79 upset loss to Kent State as a 2-point favorite on Saturday. Ball State fell to 6-6 after their 81-71 upset loss at Miami (OH) on Tuesday as a 3.5-point favorite. Ohio is a 5.5-point favorite with an over/under of 148.San Diego State visits Air Force at 9 PM ET on FS1. The Aztecs dropped to 9-4 after a 64-59 loss at Utah State as a 3.5-point underdog on Saturday. The Falcons are 4-8 with five losses in their last six games after their 77-58 loss to Wyoming as a 3.5-point favorite on Monday. San Diego State is a 15.5-point road favorite with the total at 126.5.Cleveland State hosts Milwaukee at 9 PM ET on ESPN2. The Vikings had their nine-game winning streak snapped on Saturday in an 85-49 loss at Wright State as an 8.5-point underdog. The Panthers fell to 5-4 with their second-straight loss on Saturday in an 81-74 loss to IUPUI-Fort Wayne as a 3-point favorite. Cleveland State, 9-4, is a 4.5-point favorite with an over/under of 133.5. Boise State plays Fresno State at home at 9 PM ET on the CBS Sports Network in a rematch of their encounter on Wednesday. The Broncos won that game by a 73-51 score as an 11.5-point favorite to raise their record to 12-1. The Bulldogs have lost three in a row to fall to 5-6. Boise State is a 14.5-point favorite with a 136 total. The NBA schedule has 11 games on tap. A double-header on ESPN tips off a 7:30 with Philadelphia playing at home against Boston. The 76ers won their third in four games with their 117-109 victory against the Celtics as a 4.5-point favorite on Wednesday. Philadelphia raised their record to 10-5. Boston had been on a five-game winning streak, but they now have lost their last two games to fall to 8-5. The nightcap on ESPN has Phoenix playing at home against Denver. The Suns ended their two-game losing streak with a 109-103 win at Houston as a 5.5-point favorite on Wednesday. The Nuggets have won four of their last six games with a 119-101 win against Oklahoma City as a 10.5-point favorite on Tuesday. Phoenix is a 1-point favorite with a total of 218.5.The NHL schedule has eight games. Three games start at 7 PM ET. The card concludes at 10 PM ET with Colorado playing at Anaheim as a -210 money line road favorite with an over/under of 5.5.

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NCAA Thursday Night Basketball: Arizona/Arizona State Preview

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Jan 21, 2021

The Thursday night college basketball game on ESPN features two in-state rivals from the Pac-12 dealing with player attrition and game cancellations due to COVID.Arizona ended their two-game losing streak last Thursday in a 98-64 victory at Oregon State as an 8-point favorite. Freshman Bennedict Mathurn stepped up to score 31 points against the Beavers, taking over the shooting guard starting position for Jemarl Baker, Jr. The senior was scoring 12.0 points-per-game before suffering a season-ending wrist injury in the previous game against UCLA. Mathurin is one of the gems in head coach Sean Miller’s top-five freshman class. He was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week earlier in the month after scoring 18.5 points-per-game and averaging 8.5 rebounds-per-game against Washington and Washington State.Miller lost his top-seven scorers from the team that finished 21-11 last season. He returned three players with good pedigrees from last year’s rotation, including a Kentucky transfer in Baker. Miller added a loaded freshman class of seven players, including four-star recruits, and brought in three impact transfers in James Akinjo from Georgetown, Jordan Brown from Nevada, and Terrell Brown from Seattle. Akinjo leads the team by scoring 13.6 points-per-game with three other players averaging double-digits besides the injured Baker. Miller was using a nine-man rotation before the Baker injury. He has some interesting pieces to continue building as he continues to tinker with his starting lineup. The Wildcats have had seven of their games either postponed or canceled because of COVID. The program also issued a self-imposed postseason ban for this season earlier this month. Miller says his team will stay focused on winning a Pac-12 regular-season title. His team is 10-3 on the year with a 4-3 mark in conference play. Arizona’s highest-profile victory was against Colorado after a soft non-conference campaign. Miller’s team is the 11th tallest in the nation, led by 7’0 center Christian Koloko who recently entered the starting lineup. The Wildcats are 11th by rebounding 37.1% of their missed shots. Arizona also has the nation’s 17th best free throw rate. Kenpom rates Arizona as the 18th best offensive in adjusted offensive efficiency. The defensive performances remain a work in progress for Miller, with his team ranking 58th by kenpom’s numbers in adjusted defensive efficiency. Arizona State has lost four games in a row after their 80-79 upset loss at Oregon State on Saturday as a 6-point favorite. That was just the third game for the Sun Devils since December 16th, as four of their last seven scheduled games got postponed because of COVID issues. It took three weeks for head coach Bobby Hurley’s team to play again after getting upset by UTEP, 76-63, despite being a 13-point favorite on December 16th. Arizona State was without four players in their regular rotation, including captain Remy Martin when they returned to the court on January 7th against UCLA. Yet the undermanned group took the Bruins to overtime before losing, 81-75. Hurley was still missing those four players two days later in a 73-64 loss to USC, with his team staying competitive for most of that game. Martin did return to action against the Beavers but made only 3 of his 13 shots. Martin missed all eight of his shots from 3-point land, and he is 8 of 37 from behind the arc this season. This team is considered Hurley’s most talented in his sixth year with the program. Martin and Alonzo Verge bypassed the NBA to return to the team, and Hurley added a five-star potential one-and-done recruit in Josh Christopher. COVID complications and playing shorthanded explains much of the reasons why the Sun Devils are 4-6 at this point of the season. Yet the play on the court has been a disappointment. Arizona State is making only 28.3% of their shots from 3-point land in conference play, which is problematic in Hurley’s run-and-gun system that prioritizes 3-point shooting. The Sun Devils take 39.6% of their shots from behind the arc, 125th most in the nation, yet only 29.7% of their points come from these shots, which ranks 203rd. Hurley is still without two rotation players, with Jalen Graham out because of mononucleosis and Taeshon Curry in the COVID contact tracing protocol.BetAnySports lists Arizona as a 2.5-point road favorite with the total set at 154.

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Jan 21

by Larry Ness

Thursday, Jan 21, 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."CBB: There were FOUR games between ranked opponents last Saturday but there has been just ONE since, when No. 2 Baylor beat No. 9 Kansas 77-69 on Monday. That result made higher ranked teams 27-15 (.643) SU but just 21-21 (50.0%) ATS on the season. The next meeting between ranked opponents won't come until Saturday. Four ranked teams played Wednesday, including top-10 teams No. 8 Houston and No. 10 Wisconsin. The Cougars easily avenged their lone loss of the current season by routing Tulsa 86-59 to move to 12-1. As for the now 11-3 Badgers, they beat Northwestern 68-52, as the Wildcats have now gone 0-6 SU & ATS since entering the AP poll back on Dec 28 at No. 19. It was a bad night for the other two ranked teams, as No. 11 lost 74-70 at home to Providence and No. 20 Clemson was blown out for a second straight game, 83-65 at Georgia Tech (lost 85-50 at home to UVa last Saturday). Just two ranked teams are in action on Thursday, 12-2 Iowa (No.4) home to 8-6 Indiana and 11-2 UCLA (No. 24) at 7-8 Cal. Iowa is averaging 92.2 PPG (2nd in the nation), led by the nation's leading scorer, Luka Garza (26.9 PPG on 62.5% shooting, including 47.9% on threes). The Hawkeyes are favored by 10 points. UCLA opened the season as the AP's 22nd-ranked team but lost its season-opener 73-58 at San Diego St. However, the Bruins are 11-1 since that loss and have opened 7-0 in the Pac 12 for the first time since the 1993-94 season. UCLA has SIX players averaging at least 10 PPG and visits Berkeley having beaten Cal SEVEN straight. The Bruins are favored by nine points.NBA: It was a busy 10-game Wednesday schedule, with ESPN airing a doubleheader. Philly won 117-109 at home over Boston, behind Embiid's 42 points. The Sixers now own the East' best record at 10-5 (had opened the season 7-1). The Suns won the second game, 109-103 at the Rockets. Other notable results were the Nets losing 147-135 in double-OT at Cleveland, as Kyrie scored 37 points in his first game since Jan 5. How will the Harden, KD and Kyrie 'triplets' play out? The Clippers routed the Kings 115-96 to join the Lakers at 11-4 (best record in the league). The NBA's two-worst teams lost, Detroit 123-115 (OT) in Atlanta to fall to 3-11 and Minnesota 97-96 at home to the Magic to fall to 3-10. Troubling news comes with the NBA postponing Friday's Washington Wizards-Milwaukee Bucks game. Bradley Beal said the Wizards were "fighting the league" on playing the game with only eight players available and six others sidelined by the league's health and safety protocol. It's the 17th NBA game postponed this season because of the league's health and safety protocols and the SIXTH consecutive Wizards game to be called off.  I guess the good news is that it's 3-8 Washington, NOT the Lakers, Clippers or Bucks.Speaking of the Lakers and Bucks, the two square off tonight in Milwaukee in the first game of TNT's doubleheader at 7:35 ET. The defending champion Lakers have LBJ & A.D. and are tied for the NBA's best record (11-4) with the Clippers. They also own the league's best point differential (+10.1). The Bucks have had the NBA's best regular season record the last two seasons & Giannis has won back-to-back MVP awards. Milwaukee is 9-5 and has the NBA's 2nd-best point differential (+9.8). The second game tips at 10:05 ET, as the 5-8 Pelicans are in Salt Lake city to take on the 10-4 Utah Jazz, who own the longest current winning streak at SIX in a row. The Jazz opened 2-2 but are 8-2 over their last 10 games, averaging 111.9 points, 49 rebounds, 24.7 assists, 5.3 steals and 6.6 blocks per game while shooting 47.5% from the floor Their opponents have averaged 104.1 points on 43.2% shooting. Milwaukee is currently a one-point choice over LA and Utah is favored by seven points over New Orleans.NFL: How did the Bills and the Chiefs reach the AFC Championship Game? Buffalo QB Josh Allen did not have a big day against the Ravens (206 passing yards / one TD) and the Bills ran for just 32 yards but the Buffalo D held Baltimore's running game in check. Then, with 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter and Buffalo up 10-3 and Baltimore threatening to tie the score, CB Taron Johnson literally "stole the show." He picked off Lamar Jackson and returned it 101 yards for a TD. His interception return matched George Teague's INT return in Green Bay's 28-24 win over Detroit in a wild-card playoff on Jan 8, 1994. Speaking of 1994, the Bills advanced to the AFC championship game for the first time since 1994. Buffalo also extended a season in which it has broken numerous droughts by claiming its first AFC East division title in 25 years and, with last week's victory over Indianapolis, winning its first postseason game since the same year. WRs Diggs and Brown each had eight catches (Diggs caught Allen's lone TD pass). The Bills head to KC on an EIGHT-game winning streak and have won 11 of 12 (lone loss was the result of that 'Hail Mary' miracle at Arizona in Week 10). Patrick Mahomes hadn't played in 21 days (since the Chiefs clinched the AFC's top seed in Week 16) but thee Chiefs began their postseason defense of last year's Super Bowl title by scoring on each of their FOUR first-half possessions while generating 293 yards to build a 19-3 halftime margin. Mahomes completed 11 of his first 12 passes and was 19 of 25 for 233 yards by halftime. He also rushed for a 1-yard TD, making him the first player since the 49ers' Steve Young in 1995 with three straight playoff games with TDs on the ground and through the air. He has also thrown 15 TD passes without an INT in his five career playoff home games! Mahomes was KO'd from the game in the third quarter and the Chiefs had to hold on for a 22-17 win. KC becomes the first AFC team to host three consecutive conference title games. I'll give the latest update on his condition (he's currently in the NFL's concussion protocol) in my Friday preview.I'll preview both championship games in Friday's Notes plus weigh in on the retirement of Philip Rivers.Good luck...Larry

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UFC 257 Preview: Poirier vs. McGregor 2

by Ben Burns

Thursday, Jan 21, 2021

Love him or hate him, Conor McGregor sure can sell tickets. Every time the cocky Irishman fights, it's a big deal. Saturday sees him take on Dustin Poirier. The two previously fought, back in 2014. On the rise at the time, a young McGregor took care of business in short order. So, will the rematch be worth the price of admission? Poirier vs. McGregor 1The first fight happened so long ago, that McGregor wasn't even on the "Main Event." It didn't last long. Conor predicted a first round KO and stated that he'd "bounce Poirier's head off the canvas." Watch the replay. That's essentially what happened. McGregor made it look easy. He had barely broken a sweat by the time referee Herb Dean was pulling him off.Could The Rematch Be Any Different? The first fight was so long ago that the two are entirely different people. McGregor is now a global superstar. He's made millions and has his own line of Irish whiskey. Poirier has quietly done a lot, too. Not only has he had a daughter and founded his own charity, but he's also beaten the likes of Max Holloway, Anthony Pettis and Justin Gathje, to name a few. Poirer had this to say: "I don’t feel like I’m as emotional a fighter as I was then. My outlook now is trying to stay in a place of gratitude and be grateful for the position I’m in and be grateful for the fights that I have, the family I have. I’m just thankful."The OddsDepending on the book, McGregor is roughly a 3-to-1 favorite. Take back on Poirier is +250. The O/U line is set at 2.5 rounds. One has to lay some pretty steep juice to play the 'under' though. Currently, the price on the U2.5 ranges from -180 to -200, with the 'over' bringing back +150 to +160. The Rest Of The CardI don't plan on getting involved in the Main Event. I expect Conor to win but I'm not willing to lay the big price on him. There are some other interesting fights though. Amanda Ribas is an exciting fighter, who should win again. However, Dan Hooker vs. Michael Chandler should be a more competitive battle. (I've got my eyes on another one, too.)Enjoy all the fights, as well as this weekend's NFL Championships games. Until next time, good luck ... Ben Burns

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

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Jan 21, 2021

The Thursday sports card features college basketball, the NBA, the NHL, and the English Premier League. The college basketball card tips off at 2 PM ET, with Buffalo hosting Eastern Michigan as a 12-point favorite with the total set at 150.5 (all odd from BetOnline).USC travels to Stanford at 5 PM ET on FS1. The Trojans are a 4.5-point road favorite with the total set at 140. Memphis plays at home against Wichita State at 7 PM ET on ESPN2. The Tigers are 3-point favorites with an over/under of 139. Morehead State hosts Southeast Missouri State on ESPNU as a 7.5-point favorite with a total of 127.5.Iowa plays at home against Indiana at 9 PM ET on FS1. The Hawkeyes rank 4th in the nation by the Associated Press. They are 10.5-point favorites with an over/under of 151.5. UCLA visits California at 9 PM ET on ESPNU. The Bruins rank 24th by the AP, and they are 9-point road favorites with a total at 136.5. Arizona plays at Arizona State on ESPN at 9 PM ET as a 2.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 153.5. BYU plays at home against Portland on the CBS Sports Network at 9 PM ET. The Cougars are laying 22.5-points with the total set at 149.Utah State plays at home against Colorado State on FS1 at 11 PM ET. The Aggies are 8.5-point favorites with an over/under of 140.The NBA has three games headlined by a TNT doubleheader starting at 7:35 PM ET, with Milwaukee hosting the Los Angeles Lakers. The Bucks had their four-game winning streak end on Monday with their 125-123 upset loss at Brooklyn as a 2.5-point favorite. The Lakers had their five-game winning streak end on Monday with their 115-113 upset loss at home to Golden State as a 9-point favorite. Milwaukee is a 1-point favorite with the total at 229.The nightcap on TNT has Utah playing at home against New Orleans at 10:05 PM ET. The Jazz have won six in a row with their 118-102 win against the Pelicans as a 6.5-point favorite on Tuesday. The Pelicans have lost six of their last seven games. Utah is a 6.5-point favorite with an over/under of 218.Six games are on the NHL schedule. The NBC Sports Network has a doubleheader starting at 7 PM ET with Tampa Bay playing at Columbus as a -162 money line favorite with the total at 5.5. The Lightning have won their first two games of the season as they defend their Stanley Cup championship after a 5-2 win against Chicago last Friday. The Blue Jackets look to rebound from a 3-2 loss at Detroit.The second game on the NBC Sports Network has Vancouver playing at home against Montreal at 9:30 PM ET. The Canucks won the opening contest of this two-game series in Vancouver with a 6-5 victory.The English Premier League has Liverpool at home against Burnley on the NBC Sports Network at 3 PM ET. The Reds are a -1.75 goal line favorite at Anfield with an over/under of 3.

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Jan 20

by Larry Ness

Wednesday, Jan 20, 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."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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NCAA Wednesday Night Basketball: Creighton/Providence Preview

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Jan 20, 2021

The opening contest in a college basketball doubleheader on FS1 features a rematch of a game on January 2nd in Big East decided on a game-winning shot with just 0.8 seconds left to play. Christian Bishop’s clutch shot gave Creighton a 67-65 victory at Providence as a 4-point favorite. Ed Cooley’s team has found themselves in several close games this season. The Friars followed up that loss by getting beat at Xavier, 74-73, via a 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left on the clock a week later. Those heartbreaks may have contributed to their flat effort on January 12th at Marquette, where they fell behind by 16 points before losing to the Golden Eagles by a 79-69 score as a 4.5-point underdog. Some of the bounces have gone their way this season as they pulled out overtime victories against Seton Hall and DePaul.Providence has not played in eight days since their game on Saturday with Georgetown was postponed due to COVID issues. The Friars had three other conference games postponed in mid-December due to COVID. They are 7-6 on the season with a 3-4 mark in conference play. Cooley’s teams often continue to improve as the season wears on. He had his group on a six-game winning streak before last season got canceled. Just three players are back from that 19-12 team that played more than 12 minutes-per-game, yet two of them are in the top-three scorers in the Big East. Junior guard David Duke is scoring 19.9 points-per-game. Senior Nate Watson is adding 18.3 points-per-game with the 6’10 center pulling down 7.2 rebounds-per-game. Cooley considers Watson the best post-up player in the nation. The duo is scoring 51.5% of the 74.2 points-per-game that Providence averages per game while providing an inside-out scoring threat that Cooley facilitates with the 301st slowest pace in the nation. Guard A.J. Reeves scores 9.7 points-per-game as an outside shooting threat, but he is questionable for this game with an undisclosed issue.The Friars are eighth in the nation with a 6.9% non-steal turnover rate when they have the basketball. Providence ranks 41st in adjusted offensive efficiency and 101st in adjusted defensive efficiency according to the metrics at kenpom. The Friars only make 32.8% of their 3-pointers on the season, but they only take these shots 31.7% of the time, the 296th lowest rate in the nation. Providence has improved in conference play by making 38.9% of their 3-pointers, third-best in the Big East. The Friars are also holding their conference opponents to a 32.9% clip from 3-point land, third best. Providence’s highest-profile win is against Seton Hall, and they registered a non-conference victory against Davidson. They lost to Indiana and Alabama in non-conference play last month. Creighton had their six-game winning streak snapped on Saturday in a 70-66 upset loss in overtime at Butler as a 7-point favorite. The Bluejays went on a 23-3 run in the second half but still could not stave off overtime as they ultimately lost to the Bulldogs. They played that game without point guard Marcus Zegarowski who missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury. The junior is scoring 14.1 points-per-game while averaging 4.4 assists-per-game. He is questionable for this game. Creighton still has five other players that score at least 7.0 points-per-game, including Denzel Mahoney, whose 15.9 points-per-game scoring average leads the team. The Bluejays rank 11th in the nation in the Associated Press poll with a 10-3 record. They are 6-2 in Big East play with victories against Seton Hall, UConn, and Xavier. Their three losses were a one-point loss to Kansas and Marquette and the Bulldogs in conference play. Creighton ranks tenth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They are 11th with a 58.5% shooting percentage inside the arc, and they rank 36th with a 38.0% shooting clip from 3-point land. Their 57.8% effective field goal percentage is 11th best. The Bluejays are also playing strong fundamental defense. They are limiting their opponents to just a 43.0% shooting percentage inside the arc. They rank 35th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency using the metrics at kenpom.The Bluejays’ 2-point win on January 2nd was the fifth time in the last ten meetings between these two teams settled by 6 points or less. BookMaker lists Creighton as a 9.5-point favorite, with the total set at 146. The FS1 broadcast starts at 7 PM ET.

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