The Super Bowl Countdown Plus Wednesday College Hoops
Like it or not, the NFC and AFC Championship Games have been put in the proverbial rear-view mirror - the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs are "yesterday's news" and they'll have their shots at getting to Super Bowl LIV a year from now.
Now, it's all about legacies and dynasties when it comes to the New England Patriots: Three Super Bowl appearances in a row, four in the last five years, five in the last eight years and - incredibly - nine in the last 18 NFL seasons. Folks, count us among the people that never/ever thought a team could get to half the Super Bowls in an 18-year span, salary cap or not!
On the other hand, there's the young gun Los Angeles Rams - sure, they were a solid 10-to-1 choice to win it all this year (the Pats were 6-to-1 at season's start, the betting favorite, we might add) but you do get the sense that these Rams are here "before their time" and that's very much what we all felt with these Patriots way back in 2001 when they dealt the then-St. Louis Rams a death blow in Super Bowl 36 ... remember?
In terms of numbers, get a load of this: The Patriots - who opened as 1.5-point underdogs for Super Bowl LIII and have now vaulted to be a 2.5-point betting favorite - are now 35-17-2 ATS (against the spread) as betting favorites since the start of the 2016 season (that's a sizzling .673 winning rate) but note that as Super Bowl favorites they've failed to cover three of their last Super Bowl appearances dating back to the 2007 season with the lone chalk spread win in a SB game occurring two years ago when the Patriots (- 3) needed overtime to beat Atlanta 34-28 in a wild come-from-behind win. Note that we've listed New England's 28-24 win against Seattle in Super Bowl 49 as a Pick 'Em game although some folks had the Pats as 1-point favs and some had the Seahawks as 1- or 1.5-point favorites.
The bottom line with the Rams is that they'll enter Super Bowl 53 on Sunday, February 3rd rockin' a season-long four-game spread winning streak - LA opened the year with a three-game spread streak before a Week 4 "push" in a 38-31 win against 7-point pup Minnesota - and do take note that under second-year head coach Sean McVay these Rams are a collective 18-15-2 versus the vig (a .545 winning percentage) and that includes a dead-even but vig-losing 3-3 ATS mark as point-grabbers.
One final number look here as we steer towards SB 53: The Rams are 5-2-1 spreadwise when playing AFC opponents the past two years under the aforementioned McVay while the Patriots have covered 10 of their last 14 games against NFC foes while dating back to the start of the 2016 season ... wow!
THE COLLEGE HOOPS REPORT
Here's some quick-hitter comments on some key Wednesday night tilts on the college hardwood ...
#1 TENNESSEE (16-1, 5-0) at VANDERBILT (9-8, 0-5) - 7 p.m. ET, espn2
Well, look at this! The Tennessee Volunteers - for just the second time in the school's hoops history - are #1 in the Associated Press poll after a rather tumultuous week in the sport and now trek to Nashville as heavy-duty betting favorites against a Vandy bunch yet to win an SEC game this year. The Vols average 86.1 ppg - ninth-best in the country - and all eyes here will be on do-it-all F Grant Williams (18.9 ppg / 7.5 rpg) and G Admiral Schofield (17.4 ppg / 6.5 rpg). Don't expect head coach Rick Barnes' club to rest on its laurels - the Vols have won eight of their last nine games by twin-figure margins.
COLORADO STATE (7-11, 2-3) at #7 NEVADA (18-1, 5-1) - 11 p.m. CBS Sports Network
Save for that shocking 85-58 loss at New Mexico back on Jan. 5th, this Nevada Wolfpack gang has been splendid (and don't forget they beat Pac-12 teams USC and Arizona State in non-conference play last month). The 'Pack are reading all the clippings and most in-the-know folks have 'em as a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament but a run-the-table nature from here to Selection Sunday could elevate this Mountain West Conference crew even higher ... The Martin Brothers (Caleb and Cody) should own the glass here while G Jordan Caroline (18.3 ppg / 9.8 rpg) should pile up more votes for conference Player of the Year.
DEPAUL (11-6, 3-3) at #12 MARQUETTE (16-3, 5-1) - 8:30 p.m. ET, FS1
Don't look now but the Big East Conference could wind up with just two or three teams in this year's NCAA Tournament - heck, overrated St. John's and not-ready-for-prime-time Seton Hall have been fading fast in January - and right now Marquette's a lock to join defending national champ Villanova. How about DePaul? Well, the long-time conference doormats have beaten both aforementioned St. John's and Seton Hall - the latter a wild 97-93 road win last Saturday in New Jersey - and so don't sleep on the Blue Demons here who could spring a surprise providing guards Max Strus and Eli Cain (a combined 32 ppg) get hot at crunch time.
Now, here's a look at how we see the top four seeds - right now -- in each of the regions in the NCAA Tournament ...
EAST - Duke, Kentucky, Texas Tech and Villanova
MIDWEST - Michigan, North Carolina, Auburn and Buffalo
SOUTH - Tennessee, Michigan State, Kansas and Virginia Tech
WEST - Virginia, Gonzaga, Nevada and Marquette