In Monday’s NBA, the 76ers went more than 15 minutes without an FG (0-for-19) in the second half and lost to Houston, 87-81. The Rockets are now 13-6 with both Ming and McGrady in the lineup and could make the playoffs by the end of the season. New Jersey won its 11th straight home game (8-3 ATS) by beating the Hornets 99-91 and the Bobcats reeled off two straight wins (after 13 straight losses!), in a 119-106 win over the Sonics. . Golden State defeated Denver 122-114, giving the Warriors their sixth straight win on points difference and handing the Nuggets their eighth straight ATS loss!

My free game is in college hoops, Virginia vs. Maryland at 7:00 ET. In Tuesday’s NBA, I look to follow my Eastern Conference GOW winner last night in Washington (94-82), with my Western Conference GOW winner. In college hoops, it’s one of my signature Las Vegas Insider games, already off to a 2-0 start in February. Get them BOTH, right now!

Tuesday’s action is highlighted by Detroit seeking its 40th win of the season in a game at Atlanta (7:05 ET). The Pistons lost their last game and have yet to lose back-to-back games this season. Atlanta is just 14-32 this year, but the team won just 13 games all of last year. Detroit is favored by 10 points with a total of 191.

The Clippers will try to get 12 games over .500 for the first time since the club has been in California, when they visit the New York Knicks (7:35 ET). The Clipps have won eight of nine and outscored their opponents by 11.9 PPG, while the Knicks have lost five straight and 11 of 12. LA is favored by seven points on 197 1/2 total.

Dallas attempts its 12th straight win tonight against the Lakers (8:35 ET), which would be an NBA season high (Detroit also won 11 straight this season). The team has held its 11 opponents to less than 100 points on their winning streak (allowing an average of just 87.5 PPG), a franchise record.

After going 9-6 in January with Kobe averaging 43.4 PPG, LA is 0-2 in February and has opened its seven-game road trip 1-4 SU and 2-3 ATS (0-3 SU and ATS the last three ). Odom and Mihm will most likely miss again tonight, leaving the already thin Lakers even thinner. However, the Lakers have beaten the Mavericks in both meetings this year. The Mavs (9-2 ATS during their winning streak) are favored by 10 1/2 points on 199 total.

Gonzaga outscored St Mary’s last night 62-61, giving the Bulldogs a school-record 35th straight home win. It is also the longest current home winning streak in the nation and the team’s 10 consecutive win totals tie them with George Washington and Memphis for the longest current winning streak in the nation. Gonzaga’s win gave them a 9-0 record in the WCC, leaving them as just one of SEVEN schools remaining undefeated in the conference.

Monday was a good night for ‘underdogs’ as both James Madison (CAA) and Idaho (WAC) won their first conference games of the year last night. The Dukes won at home over Delaware (74-64) and the Vandals also won at home, 72-61 over Fresno State. That leaves just FIVE winless schools in conference play, one of which (The Citadel), is played tonight.

The biggest games on Tuesday are the ESPN doubleheader, which opens with No. 11 Tennessee at Kentucky (7:00 ET), followed by No. 2 Duke at No. 23 North Carolina (9:00 ET). On ESPN2 at 7:30 ET, No. 4 Villanova plays St Joseph’s at The Palestra (in a Big Five battle). No. 25 Northern Iowa remained ranked this week (the first time in the school’s 106-year history!), despite losing last week to Creighton.

The Panthers host Wichita State tonight (9:00 ET) and the 19-5 Shockers (looking for their third straight 20-win season!) are tied three-way for first with the Panthers and Blue Jays. (Creighton) in the MVC at 10-3. No. Iowa is favored by six points on a total of 124 1/2.

Tennessee/Kentucky is the second most played rivalry in SEC history, with the Wildcats leading the series all-time, 137-62. However, while the Vols have lost six straight in Lexington, they are the ranked team this year (16-3), while the Wildcats are just 15-7, having lost FOUR games at Rupp Arena this year. However, Kentucky is the favorite by 2 1/2 points (total is 152). No. 4 Villanova (17-2) and 10-9 St Joe’s are 3-0 this year over fellow Big Five members La Salle, Penn and Temple, but these teams are hardly the same as the Wildcats enter the this game favored by 7 1/2 points with a total of 133 1/2.

ESPN’s cup of the night doubleheader features Duke in North Carolina. Carolina is back in the top 25 after a two-week absence, but has already lost three times at home this year to Illinois, Miami-Fla and Boston College. Duke is out of two “close calls,” beating BC 83-81 on the road and Florida State 97-96 in OT at home.

Duke is led by Americans JJ Redick (28.2 PPG) and Shelden Williams (18.4-9.9), while Carolina, after losing four players from last year’s national championship team to the NBA draft lottery (and an incredible 81.4 PPG!), is led by four freshmen. The 6-9 Tyler Hansbrough (17.8-7.6) is the best of the bunch. Duke is favored by five points with a total of 155.

Super Bowl Recap Part 1 (The Teams)

Pittsburgh finally earned its “one for the thumb.” The Pittsburgh Steelers (5-1) joined the San Francisco 49ers (5-0) and Dallas Cowboys (5-3) as the only five-time winners in Super Bowl history, with their victory over the Seahawks in the Super Bowl XL. Pittsburgh had won FOUR Super Bowl rings in a six-year span (from Super Bowls IX to XIV) and the 26-year gap between Super Bowl wins is the second-longest behind Green Bay’s 29-year span between wins is Super II and Super Bowl XXXI.

Of course, everyone knows that the Steelers became the fifth wild card team to win (including the 1969 KC Chiefs as a wild card team) and the first No. 6 seed to win (the NFL began its 12-team playoff format in 1990). However, what I find even more impressive is that Pittsburgh won a Super Bowl title the year AFTER it finished with the best record in the league.

The Steelers were the NFL’s best 15-1 in 2004, but lost to New England in last year’s AFC Championship Game. Knowing that teams that lose in the Super Bowl have struggled next season of late (more on that later), I went back to 1990 and checked how the teams that finished with the best regular season record but didn’t win the Super Bowl that same year, did he do it in the following season?

The results show the 2005 Steelers join only the 1997 Denver Broncos as teams that have won the Super Bowl, the year AFTER finishing with the best record in the league (or tied for best) and NOT winning the qualification. The Broncos finished the 1996 season with a 13-3 record, tied with Green Bay for the best record in the NFL that season, but while the Packers won the Super Bowl that year, the Broncos were upset in their first playoff game. 1996 (at home to the Jaguars who were underdogs by 14 points), 30-27.

However, the Broncos came back to go 12-4 in 1997 and as the AFC’s wild card and No. 4 seed, they captured their first Super Bowl, beating the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, 31-24. In total, 13 teams (since 1990) finished a season with the best regular season record in the league (or tied) and did NOT win the Super Bowl that year. Only the 1996 Denver Broncos and 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers have won the Super Bowl in subsequent seasons. Denver in 1997 and Pittsburgh in 2005!

That brings me to the losers of Sunday’s Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks. Of the league’s 32 current franchises, 17 have won Super Bowl titles. Four pre-1980 franchises didn’t even make it to the Super Bowl, the Arizona Cardinals, the Cleveland Browns, the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints. The Jacksonville Jaguars (1995) and Houston Texans (2002) have also never made it to the “definitive” game.

Seattle, making its first Super Bowl appearance in its 30-year history, now joins EIGHT other franchises that have made the ‘trip’ but not won. Sure, the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings ‘top’ this list with FOUR Super Bowl appearances each, but ZERO wins!

Will Seattle now be put to the test in 2006, by the ‘curse’ suffered by recent Super Bowl losers? Tennessee lost in Super Bowl XXXIV in St Louis, but came back in the 2000 season to finish with an NFL-best 13-3 record. The Titans lost their first playoff game that year, but they are also the last Super Bowl losers to post a winning record the following season!

The last FIVE Super Bowl losers have gone a combined 31-49 in subsequent seasons, for a .388 winning percentage. The teams’ combined ATS records have been even worse, standing at 27-50-3, or a winning percentage of just .351!

My Super Bowl Part 2 recap covers Coaches Cowher and Holmgren, tomorrow.

Ness Notes is available Monday through Friday at 1:00 ET and at 9:00 ET on Saturday and Sunday.

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