Ness’s Notes (January 27)

Billy Crystal’s one man show is titled “700 Sundays”. NFL underdog bettors in 2005 may have felt that last season lasted 700 Sundays, as the favorites ‘covered’ at a record pace. However, the current NFL season has added just 20 Sundays (including Christmas and New Year’s Day).

My free game for Friday is in the NBA. Take the Cle Cavaliers over the Ind Pacers at 7:05 ET. I am traveling on Friday and will be taking a rare ‘pass’. Please check back on Saturday as my games will be available at 9:00 ET.

January 29 will mark the first Sunday of the last 21 without NFL football, as everyone looks forward to Super Bowl XL in Detroit on February 5. The Steelers are 3 1/2 or four point favorites with totals hovering around 47 or 47 1/2. Look for a week-long countdown to the Super Bowl starting Monday.

At college hoops last night, No. 2 Duke had little trouble with Va Tech for the second time (no last-second 40-foot shot needed this time), winning 80-67 (the game wasn’t as close as the score). No. 3 Memphis ended UAB’s 10-game winning streak by winning at home, 73-66.

In some late Pac-10 action, No. 10 Washington lost at Cal 71-69 and No. 17 UCLA won at Oregon, 56-49. Washington will travel to Maples Pavilion on Sunday, where the Huskies have lost 12 straight games to the Cardinal.

There’s a light schedule of six games at the college hoops on Friday, but plenty of action on Saturday. ESPN and ESPN2 will combine to televise eight games on Saturday, beginning with Cincinnati at Georgetown (ESPN2) and Kansas at Iowa State (ESPN) at noon ET. Saturday’s coverage ends with Texas at Oklahoma on ESPN2 at 9:00 ET.

CBS presents Arizona in North Carolina at 1:00 ET on Saturday and regional coverage at 1:00 ET on Sunday (either Arkansas in Kentucky or Indiana in Minnesota).

Southern Illinois owns the country’s longest current home winning streak (33 straight), but the Salukis play Illinois State on Saturday. However, both Gonzaga and Illinois (each with 32 straight home wins) play home games on Saturday, with Gonzaga hosting Portland (8-12) and Illinois hosting Purdue (7-11).

NBA weekend kicks off with a busy schedule of 12 games on Friday nights.

The Pacers finally got rid of Ron Artest, but yesterday they announced that Jermaine O’Neal will be out for at least eight weeks with a torn groin (Yikes). Peja, acquired from the Kings for Artest, is not expected to play tonight. Indiana just lost at Cleveland last Tuesday (96-66) and is currently a four-point home dog (and climbing!) for the Cavs with a total of 181 1/2.

The Nuggets put their seven-game winning streak on the line tonight when the Clippers come to town (the teams play again Saturday night in Los Angeles). Denver, after a disappointing 14-17 start (remember the Nuggets closed last year on a 25-4 run!), has gone 11-2 in January. Camby could be back in the lineup tonight and Denver is currently a six-point option with a total of 196.

Other games to watch out for on Friday night are Memphis at Detroit (Pistons are an eight-point option at 175 1/2 total), Sacramento at Boston (Celtics are four-point favorites at 200 total) and Golden State at the LA Lakers (Lakers are a seven-point option at 207 1/2 total).

The Pistons are off to a 35-5 start, tying for the fourth-best start through 40 games in NBA history. Memphis is the best defensive team in the league and beat the Psitons twice last year before losing in double overtime earlier this year.

Artest will make his debut as King in Boston tonight (he’s been out since Dec. 6) and if history is any indicator, it could be a winning debut. The Kings have beaten the Celtics four times in a row and in 10 of their last 11 meetings.

At the Stalpes Center, Kobe returns to the court for the first time since his 81-point effort last Sunday against the Raptors, when the Lakers host the Warriors.

Ness Notes will be available at 7:00 ET on Saturdays and Sundays.