Ness Notes (Jan 22)

And then there were NONE! Three Division I teams began Saturday undefeated but by day’s end, all three had lost. No. 1 Duke lost at Georgetown (87-84) and No. 2 Florida lost at Tennessee (80-76), both falling to 17-1. No. 9 Pittsburgh (now 15-1) lost at St John’s, 55-50.

My free play for Sunday is in college hoops, Xavier over St Louis at 7:00 ET. I’m playing BOTH title games in the NFL on Sunday, featuring a LEGEND Play (14-3 in FB ’05!) on the Car/Sea game plus my first Las Vegas Insider Play of the postseason on Pit/Den. I’m also releasing my first total of the postseason, my 20* Playoff Total of the Year! Regular visitors to the site will remember that I won my ONLY total play of the 28-game bowl season on Tulsa/Fresno St ‘under’ (my 20* Bowl Total of the Year!).

Coming off a GREAT Saturday in BKB in which I won my 20* Eastern Conference 1st-Half GOY (NJ 103-83 over Boston), my 22* in CBB (Stanford over Arizona St), my 20* Sun Belt GOY (Troy St over Mid Tenn St) and ‘pushed’ with my latest 15* (LSU), be SURE to check out my BKB action for Sunday, obtainable by 10:00 ET!

Pittsburgh was the first team to fall, playing at St John’s at 12:00 ET. The Panthers shot 7-of-26 from the floor in the first half and committed 12 turnovers. St John’s led 31-19 at the half and held on to win by five. Duke’s game at Georgetown tipped off at 1:30 ET. Georgetown jumped to a 42-28 rule at the half, as the Hoyas shot 67 percent. After opening a 16-point rule early in the second half, the Hoyas withstood a furious Duke rally, as the Blue Devils truly had a chance to tie on their final possession.

Georgetown’s 87-84 win was achieved via a barrage of backdoor layups (a Princeton tradition) and some old-fashioned stubborn defense (a former Hoya tradition of the John Thompson era). John Thompson III, Thompson’s son and a Princeton grad (and former head coach), ends Georgetown’s nine-game losing streak against ranked opponents and marks the school’s first win over a No. 1-ranked team since February 27, 1985! Duke’s JJ Redick equaled his career-high of 41 points in the game but Duke’s other All-American, Shelden Williams, scored just four points.

Florida took the court in Tennessee knowing Duke and Pitt had already lost. The Gators, unranked in the preseason, were staring at a No. 1 ranking come Monday with a win. The Gators led by six at the half but couldn’t keep up on. The game was close throughout the final 10 minutes and was tied at 76-all, with 45 seconds remaining.

Capping a STRANGE day in college hoops, Savannah St beat Longwood, 70-69. The Tigers won on a basket with five seconds left and the win is meaningful because it marks the school’s first over a Division I program, since Jan 22, 2003! You read that right! Savannah St became the second school in the last half-century to go winless last year (0-28) and two years ago went 4-24 but had to relinquish all four wins for using an ineligible player. Savannah St opened this year with a win over Wilberforce (an NAIA school) but had lost 18 straight before Saturday! Longwood by the way, is 3-16.

Sunday’s CBB schedule features just nine games, none on national TV. However, ABC begins its TV coverage of the NBA on Sunday. The 76ers are in Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves (Minnesota is favored by six points with a total of 190) and the Nuggets are in San Antonio to take on the Spurs (SA is a seven-point choice with total of 190).

As of today, the Pistons are clearly the league’s best team, as they’ve opened with an NBA-best 32-5 mark. The quick start is the best in franchise history and it includes two DOMINATING wins over the SA Spurs, who beat the Pistons in seven games during last year’s NBA Finals. The Pistons seemingly have no challengers in the East, unless the Heat start playing way better than they currently are.

While the Spurs have equaled their start from last year at 31-9, tying a franchise record for best 40-game start, Manu Ginobili hurt his ankle (AGAIN!) in Friday’s win over the Heat. With Ginobili expected to be out for awhile, the Spurs could be hard-pressed to stay ahead of Dallas (30-10) and maybe already Phoenix (26-13), for the West’s best record. We’ll see?

AFC Championship Game

The Steelers take on the Broncos in Denver at 3:00 ET. The Broncos are favored by three points and the total is 41. Pittsburgh has won six straight games (5-1 ATS) and will attempt to become the first No. 6 seed (since 1990) to improvement to the Super Bowl. The Steelers have won at Cincinnati and Indianapolis so far and could join the 1985 New England Patriots as the only teams to ever win three straight road games in the same postseason.

Pittsburgh is 15-3 on the road since the beginning of the 2004 season (including the postseason) and QB Ben Roethlisberger is 14-1 SU and 12-3 ATS as a starter on the road. Big Ben is the first QB since the merger, to have led his team to a conference championship game in his first two seasons. After performing poorly in last year’s postseason (3 TDPs / 5 INTs / QB rating of 61.3), he’s been noticeable this year (5 TDPs / 1 INT / 124.7 rating).

The Broncos have historically been a great home team and are 6-1 all-time in AFC title games, including 4-0 in Denver. Shanahan has won two Super Bowl titles (’97 and ’98 seasons), beating Cowher and the Steelers in Pittsburgh 24-21 in 1997, in the AFC title game. Cowher is just 1-4 in five past AFC title games, with all five being played in Pittsburgh.

In Plummer’s three years in Denver, the Broncos are 21-4 SU at home but just 12-11-2 ATS! They come into this game as one of two teams to have gone 8-0 at home during this year’s regular season and including last Saturday’s win over the Patriots, have won 11 straight games at home.

NFC Championship Game

The Panthers visit the Seahawks at 6:30 ET, where Seattle is favored by 3 1/2 points with a total of 43 1/2. Carolina, like Pittsburgh, is attempting to win its third straight road playoff game this postseason and truly will be playing its fourth straight road game (won at Atlanta in Week 17). Also like Pittsburgh, Carolina has been a great road team

The Panthers have tied an NFL record with FOUR straight road playoff wins (’03 and ’05 postseasons) and QB Jake Delhomme is 5-1 as a playoff starter (10 TDPs / 2 INTs / 108.4 QB rating). Four of those wins have come on the road, tying Delhomme with Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Roger Staubach for the most career road wins in postseason history. Going back to the 2003 season, Carolina is a exceptional 17-2 ATS as an underdog!

Seattle, in just its second-ever championship game in its 30-year history (this is Carolina’s third title game in its 11-year history!), is like Denver, unbeaten at home this year. The Seahawks are now 9-0 SU after beating Washington, going 7-2 ATS. Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck is making just his fourth career start in the playoffs (1-2) and Shaun Alexander, the league’s MVP in 2005, is expected to be fine after leaving last week’s game with a concussion (of observe: Alexander has averaged just 2.3 YPC in three past playoff games!).

The Seahawks’ win over Washington last week ended a 21-year playoff drought and gave Mike Holmgren his first win in four playoff games with Seattle. Of course, Holmgren won a Super Bowl with the Packers following the 1996 season and lost in the Super Bowl to the Broncos, the following season.

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