THE COUNTDOWN IS OFFICIALLY ON AS SUPER BOWL WEEK HAS ARRIVED

Blue Ribbon Goes 2-0 On Monday!
Grizzlies (+1.5) Lakers 95-93 WON
Louisville (-6.5) UConn 82-69 WON


Private Line Club wins 4th Straight!

Mon: Jazz (-4) Mavericks 104-92 WON
Sun: Miami (-2.5) Virginia Tech 82-75 WON
Sat: Georgetown (+2) Duke 89-77 WON
Fri: Blazers/Rockets (Over 195.5) 104-100 WON


EXTRA, EXTRA: THE COUNTDOWN IS OFFICIALLY ON AS SUPER BOWL WEEK HAS ARRIVED -CATCH ALL THE KEY NEWS & NOTES PLUS GET OUR COLLEGE HOOP WEEKEND IN REVIEW REPORT

By Jim Hurley:

Hey, what do you know?

We haven't even reached "Media Day" and already there's some major fresh storylines for Super Bowl XLIV between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints this Sunday in Miami:

Yesterday's bombshell was that Indianapolis pass-rushing defensive end Dwight Freeney is being termed "questionable" for the upcoming game because of a torn ligament in his right ankle. The Colts -for their part -are calling it a "high ankle sprain" but semantics aside the fact of the matter is if Freeney can't play or is well below 100 percent for this game against the pass-happy Saints than SB 44 takes on a whole new feel to it.

Freeney finished the 2009 NFL season with 13 ½ sacks (that was the sixth time in eight seasons he registered 10-or-more quarterback sacks) and he's arguably the Colts' most important player on that side of the ball.

Then you have that other story that may be a few days old now but it's not losing any of its "shelf life" and that's New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams basically stating that his defense will land more than a few blows to Colts' QB Peyton Manning. Williams called 'em "remember-me" shots and he says his unit won't stop blitzing and won't stop applying pressure to the four-time league MVP here but it was interesting to hear the reactions of two New Orleans defensive stars in last night's 41-34 AFC win over the NFC squad in the Pro Bowl Game.

Both New Orleans star safety Darren Sharper and standout linebacker Jonathan Vilma dodged the questions posed by ESPN's Michelle Tafoya -heck, you could practically see Vilma wincing when the question first was asked -and so you get the idea that Saints players want the Williams comments made on a radio talk show last week to go away ASAP but they may come back to haunt the NFC champs.

Finally, there's more and more talk about who is gonna have a case of "stage fright" for this game:

Everyone concedes it won't be Manning who's gunning for his second Super Bowl title in four years but it could his young wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie -both of whom caught in excess of 120 yards in passes in that 30-17 AFC Championship Game win against the New York Jets two Sundays ago -show their nerves on the biggest stage in football or might the Saints get rattled after hearing all this talk of how this team is emotionally "rescuing" a still-tattered city.

Might all that be too much for QB Drew Brees and Company?

It's all part of the Super Bowl XLIV landscape as the week gets underway and keep in mind one long-range story: The weather.

It rained during parts of last night's hard-to-watch Pro Bowl and it rained all throughout that Super Bowl game played here three years ago and you do have to pose the question:

What team (if either) has any advantages should it rain for part or all of Sunday's title tilt?


Now, some more Super Bowl-related goodies:

Super Bowl Betting Favorites enter this year's game with an overall pointspread mark of 21-19-3 against the spread (ATS) for a winning percentage of .525 with the latest edition of the game seeing the Pittsburgh Steelers a 7-point fav in last year's non-cover win against the Arizona Cardinals.

Note that in the last 10 years, Super Bowl Betting Favorites are 3-6-1 spreadwise with Baltimore (2000), Pittsburgh (2005) and Indianapolis (2006) the Betting Favorites that covered the Las Vegas price tag while New England (2001), Tampa Bay (2002) and the New York Giants (2007) were underdog sides that won in outright fashion.

The three Super Bowl dogs that covered the Las Vegas pointspreads but didn't win the "whole game" were the 2003 Carolina Panthers, the 2004 Philadelphia Eagles and last year's Cardinals while the 1999 Super Bowl game produced a spread push with St. Louis besting 7-point pup Tennessee 23-16.

Note that the NFC is 22-18-3 vig-wise overall in the prior 43 Super Bowl games -that's a .550 winning rate -and the NFC has covered five of the last seven Super Bowl tilts as we duly note in our accompanying chart. Folks, this will mark the eighth consecutive year that an AFC team was favored over an NFC club in the Super Bowl -the last time an NFC team was favored was St. Loo's 20-17 last-second loss to New England in 2001 when the Rams were a two-touchdown choice.

One other item here:

The Colts are 3-1 spreadwise in games against the NFC this year and a collective 11-5 ATS versus non-conference foes the past four years and that includes a 41-10 prime-time beat-down of 5 ½-point underdog New Orleans that opened the 2007 season ... you remember, don't you?

Meanwhile, the Saints swept their four games both straightup and versus the vig this year against AFC foes and go back the past three years and you'll discover New Orleans is a collective 9-3 ATS in its last dozen non-conference affairs.

Now, here's the last 10 Super Bowl games with Favorites, Spreads, Dogs and Results all listed below:

SEASON

FAV

SPREAD

DOG

RESULT

2008

Pittsburgh

- 7

Arizona

Pittsburgh 27-23

2007

New England

- 12

NY Giants

NY Giants 17-14

2006

Indianapolis

- 6½

Chicago

Indianapolis 29-17

2005

Pittsburgh

- 4

Seattle

Pittsburgh 21-10

2004

New England

- 7

Philadelphia

New England 24-21

2003

New England

- 7

Carolina

New England 32-29

2002

Oakland

- 4

Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay 48-21

2001

St. Louis

- 14

New England

New England 20-17

2000

Baltimore

- 3

NY Giants

Baltimore 34-7

1999

St. Louis

- 7

Tennessee

St. Louis 23-16

Naturally, there will be lots more Super Bowl News/Notes in the days ahead here at Jim Sez including our Super Bowl XLIV Preview later in the week -don't miss out!

And now hear this:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will have the Side & Totals Winners of Super Bowl XLIV on game-day morning plus make sure to get all this week's College Basketball and NBA Winners too when you check in on game days anytime after 10 a.m. ET on weekends and after 1 p.m. ET on Monday-thru-Friday and get 'em all either right here online or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453.

Jim's Hoop Selections have been on fire lately: CASHLINE went 3-0 on Sunday and is now on a 10-1 streak, and 16-5-1 over the last 10 days!

 Th

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In case you didn't know, Jim's Private Line Club exited last week having won 24 of its last 30 hoop plays (including 5-of-6 winners last week) and there's lots more winners here -- just check in each and every day after 1 p.m. ET Monday-through-Friday and after 10 a.m. ET on weekends either at the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or here online and pile up your personal profits.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL WEEKEND IN REVIEW

Lots of important College Basketball action to catch up with from this past weekend and here's some of what caught our eye:

On Saturday ...

The Texas Longhorns (18-3, 4-2 Big 12) continued to bottom after getting to #1 in the polls just two weeks ago. The 'Horns were 80-77 losers as 9-point home favorites against an underrated and highly athletic Baylor team but the quirky thing here is that Texas overcame a 14-point second-half deficit to take a late-game lead in regulation play but then blew it in the extra session.

Heck, it's not a good sign when Texas star swingman Damion James goes for 20 points and snags a career-high 19 rebounds and his team still loses but that's what happened as Baylor scored a total of 27 points off 18 Texas turnovers.

The 'Horns don't get any time to feel sorry for themselves as tonight Rick Barnes' club invades Oklahoma State where road teams have been known to melt ...

The Big East has a number of teams battling for high seeds in next month's NCAA Tournament but one team just fighting for its life these days is Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish wound up 74-73 losers as 8-point road favorites against Rutgers this past weekend as star F/C Luke Harangody shot a dreadful 8-of-26 from the field and twice his shots were rejected in the final minute of play.

Mike Brey's team dropped to 15-7 overall and 4-5 in Big East play while Rutgers snapped a nine-game losing skid. If the Irish wind up not getting into this year's NCAA Tourney than this loss in late January could be a major reason -and he might well signal to the South Bend school that Brey's time may indeed be up. Harangody (19 points versus Rutgers) may be Player-of-the-Year material in the talent-packed Big East but this loss raised eyebrows all around even on a weekend in which UConn fell at home to Marquette ...

On Sunday ...

Can we officially now call this a "rebuilding year" in Chapel Hill?

The youthful North Carolina Tar Heels dropped to 13-8 overall and 2-4 in Atlantic Coast Conference play with the 75-60 home loss versus 8-point pup Virginia and take your pick as to what was the game's biggest culprit for Roy Williams' crew:

The Heels -who had won 63 of their last 68 home games against Virginia -shot 20-of-56 from the floor (that's less than 36 percent) and canned just half of the team's 22 free-throw attempts -ugh!

Throw in the fact that guard Larry Drew -who must be a bigger offensive force for this 2009-10 team -nailed just 5-of-13 field-goal tries en route to a sour 15-point game while the Wahoos held UNC without a made field goal for some eight straight minutes at one point.

P.S., gut feeling is things are gonna get worse before they get better for this Carolina club ...

Finally, it may have slipped underneath the radar screen but Butler (18-4) beat host Wisconsin-Milwaukee 73-66 as swingman Gordon Hayward scored 25 points (he drained 13-of-16 free throws) and so now the Bulldogs have won 10 in a row and now they're a perfect 11-and-oh in the Horizon League. Butler isn't big -it was bested on the boards here 40-to-33 -but this club remains very scrappy and potentially very dangerous come March.

Consider that Butler's non-league schedule this year has included games against Minnesota, UCLA, Clemson, Georgetown and Ohio State and you could say that Brad Stevens' team has boned up for "March Madness" early.

You have been forewarned.

NOTE: Get more Super Bowl XLIV News/Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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