Big East Basketball Check-Up

THE COLLEGE BASKETS ARE IN FULL SWINGAND WE PRESENT OUR WEEKEND NEWS & NOTES EDITION --

AND ASK WHETHER OR NOT THE BIG EAST CAN GET MULTIPLE TEAMS INTO THIS SEASON'S FINAL FOUR ...


IT'S THE FINAL JIM SEZ HEISMAN TROPHY WATCH (GEE, GUESS WHO'S THE WINNER ON SATURDAY NIGHT!)

PLUS WE LOOK AHEAD TO THE POTENTIAL 2011 HEISMAN WINNER ...

COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S REGULAR SEASON WRAPS UP WITH OUR ARMY-NAVY PREVIEW

By Jim Hurley:

Is everyone out there too young to remember the 1984-85 College Basketball campaign?

Okay, that was a quarter-century ago but we're reminded of that special season because -- as you older folks will recall -- three teams from the then-fledgling Big East Conference made it all the way to the Final Four with Villanova copping a Cinderella-like championship game win against mighty Georgetown. Remember that St. John's also made it to the Final Four that year in Lexington with the lone non-Big East team back than hailing from Memphis.Now, we flash forward 25 years and -- dare we say -- there's visions of multiple Big East teams getting back into this year's Final Four with the 2011 NCAA Tournament to wrap up inside cavernous Reliant Stadium in Houston come April 2nd and 4th. Is it too early to project such things?

Not really -- and not when four of the Associated Press' top nine teams in the land come from the Big East: There's #3 Pittsburgh, #6 Connecticut, #8 Syracuse and #9 Georgetown and exiting last night's action -- when the Georgetown Hoyas fell 68-65 at Temple -- those clubs had combined for a 35-and-1 SU (straightup) mark.Hey, even ESPN's Dick Vitale almost fell off his courtside chair the other night while watching Syracuse's rock-solid 72-58 win against 4-point favorite Michigan State as Dickie V shouted loud (what else is new?) that the Big East still had six unbeaten teams at that stage of the season (note Cincinnati and Louisville are each 7-0 SU). You might want to know that no other power conference has more than two unbeatens at this time (although the Mountain West Conference has three teams still without a loss in BYU, San Diego State and UNLV as all of 'em are 9-0).

Very shortly, we'll drop some knowledge on you regarding these unbeaten Big East teams but first this important message:Note that Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to roll on with more NFL Week 14 action on Sunday/Monday plus remember to get Saturday's Army-Navy showdown of the service academies and all the College Football Bowl action, plus the NBA and NCAA Basketball too when you call us daily at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else when you log online right here online. And here's an important Note: The check-in times are after 1 p.m. ET Monday-thru-Friday for all the Football/Basketball weeknight games and then anytime after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays. Keep on piling up all the Football & Basketball Winners right through the end of the calendar year!

Saturday we have found our strongest college basketball game to date and releasing our COLLGE BASKETBALL GAME OF THE MONTH.

And don't forget that Jim Hurley's exclusive Cashline is chock full of Hoop Winners this holiday season and so make sure to ask how to get all the Cashline plays when you call us at 1-800-323-4453. Do it today! The Cashline comes off a sizzling 19-7-1 record in College Basketball and NBA selections and so make sure you're 'Dunking for Dollars' with America's #1 Handicapper.

CHECKIN' IN ON THE BIG EAST'S BEST

#3 PITTSBURGH (10-0) -- The Panthers never have snagged a Final Four berth but plenty of in-the-know folks believe head coach Jamie Dixon has his best all-around squad in years with guards Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker combining for 30 points a game while C Gary McGhee continues to leap tall buildings in a single bound. If Pittsburgh can handle #11 Tennessee (6-0) in Saturday's showdown clash at the Consol Energy Center (where the NHL's Penguins play their home games) than the nation's third-ranked team will raise a few more eyebrows. P.S., word is this is -- by far -- the deepest Pitt team in the Ben Howland-turned-Dixon Era and that's really saying something.

#6 CONNECTICUT (8-0) -- No doubt that star guard Kemba Walker (28.1 ppg) has been a highlight reel staple every time the 2010-11 Huskies step onto the court but how about some 'love' for F/C Alex Oriakhi (11.4 ppg, 10.4 rebounds-per-game and 22 blocks) who might be the best 'second fiddle in the land'. UConn's Hall of Fame head coach Jim Calhoun never smiles but folks on the inside claim he's absolutely beaming when it comes to this team that plays unselfishly and -- dare we say -- smarter than recent Husky edition.Maybe Calhoun nails down his third national championship this year and then finally says bye-bye. Meanwhile, UConn is not back in action till a Dec. 20th tilt against visiting Coppin State.

#8 SYRACUSE (9-0) -- Anyone that eyeballed the Orange's aforementioned twin-figure win against #7 Michigan State the other night at Madison Square Garden knows that Jim Boeheim has one of the longest/leanest/most athletic teams in the land and now toss into the mix the fact veteran F Rick Jackson 13.6 ppg and 12.8 rpg) doesn't defer to anyone on the court. Jackson's might inside is key but against 'Sparty' he showed that he's quite capable of turning around the fortunes of a hoops game in the mere matter of minutes.If G Scoop Jardine (13.2 ppg and 6.4 assists-per-game) keeps making heady choices, than the sky's the limit for the Orange who know all about how to navigate its way to Final Fours. P.S., the next four non-league games for the Orange all will take place inside the cozy Carrier Dome as Colgate visits Saturday and than it's Iona, Morgan State and Drexel. Now that's a win-win-win-win situation!

#9 GEORGETOWN (8-1) -- The Hoyas have pounced on their opponents this year while beating the 'name' likes of N.C. State and Missouri already but now John Thompson III's team must bounce back from that loss last night at Temple (a better shot late would have helped!) and with a slight respite in the schedule (see home games against Appalachian State and Loyola-Md.) before a Dec. 23rd showdown at Memphis.The Hoyas still could use some consistent perimeter shooting but the defense is sound and G Chris Wright can be counted on to play better than he did against the Owls when he scored 110 points (on 2-of-7 FGs) with just 5 assists.

THE FINAL HEISMAN TROPHY WATCH

It's time to unveil the 2010 winner of the Heisman Trophy winner and let's just say nobody should be holding their breath for this announcement. Get ready for the coronation of Auburn QB Cam Newton who has done more for his team this year than any of the last 10 Heisman Trophies found on our lost below. Agree?This year's Heisman Trophy runner-ups include the following:

KELLEN MOORE, QB, BOISE STATE -- Hats off to this lefty slinger who was part of our Jim Sez Heisman Trophy Watch all year long. This Bronco busted up defenses to the tune of 3,506 passing yards with 33 TDs and 5 INTs while completing 245-of-345 passes (that's a 71 percent accuracy rate) and his reward here is a solid fourth-place finish.

ANDREW LUCK, QB, STANFORD -- This classic pocket passer actually made his biggest highlight splashes on runs against Wake Forest and California but it's those aerial numbers that keyed his run to what we believe will be a third-place Heisman Trophy finish: Luck completed 245-of-349 passes (yes, almost identical to Mr. Moore) and he threw for 3,051 yards with 28 TDs and 7 INTs while adding 438 rushing yards and 3 ground scores. Luck's the numero uno reason that the Cardinal finished 11-1 and is heading to an Orange Bowl date with Virginia Tech.

LaMICHAEL JAMES, RB, OREGON -- This sophomore star battled some nagging ankle/leg woes this year and still persevered to the tune of 1,682 yards rushing (a 6.0 yards-per-carry average) with 21 TDs and don't forget he's the guy who scored the really big TDs in late-season key wins against Arizona and Oregon State. Folks, anyone who doesn't have James as #1, #2 or #3 on their Heisman Trophy ballots better get a clue!For what it's worth, we have James nosing out Luck for second place -- and it'll be fairly close -- but all of the above are way/way back of the winner.And the winner is ...

CAM NEWTON, QB, AUBURN -- It's been slam-dunk city for quite a while when it comes to this Tigers mega-star and his rightful place among the Heisman Trophy winners past but just in case anyone had any questions late in the year the back-to-back national TV wins against Alabama and South Carolina proved to be thee 'cherry on top' Newton will enter the BCS National Championship Game with the following eye-popping stats: 2,589 yards passing with 28 TDs and 6 INTs to go along with 1,409 yards rushing and 20 ground scores. Speech!

PAST 10 HEISMAN TROPHY WINNERS

Here's a listing of the last 10 Heisman Trophy winners with year, position and school:2009 -- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
2008 -- Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
2007 -- Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
2006 -- Troy Smith, QB, Ohio State
2005 -- Reggie Bush, RB, USC (since vacated)
2004 -- Matt Leinart, QB USC
2003 -- Jason White, QB, Oklahoma
2002 -- Carson Palmer, QB, USC
2001 -- Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska
2000 -- Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State

WHO WINS THE 2011 HEISMAN TROPHY?

Okay, so who are some of the players to watch for the 2011 Heisman Trophy?Well, if any/all/some of the above-mentioned players in the room in New York City decide turn down the pro dollars (for now) than Luck, James and/or Newton immediately jump to the head of the Heisman class but here's a half-dozen names to watch (in no particular order):

Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State -- The Cowboys' brilliant wide-out was in this year's Heisman Trophy discussion for the majority of the season and he's already said he's coming back to Stillwater for another season. In 2010, Blackmon caught 102 passes and registered an eye-popping 19 TDs (that's 18 receiving and one rushing).

Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina -- The game-busting Gamecocks star back charged onto the scene with 1,198 yards rushing through 13 games while scoring 17 TDs. Will 1980 winner George Rogers soon have Heisman company in Columbia?

Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State -- No doubt the Buckeyes' signal-caller entered this 2010 season with lots of Heisman momentum but he never really seized the moment despite some slick stats (see 2,551 yards passing with 25 TDs).

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia -- The Dawgs' super-talented slinger built a foundation for this bronze statue with a splashy freshman year that included 2,851 yards passing with 24 TDs and 6 TDs. If Georgia is a 9- or 10-win team next year than Murray might be snapping up the Heisman.

Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan -- The first-half-of-this-season frontrunner for the Heisman surely fell off the map in a hurry but who says he can't/won't make a run for it next year? Robinson's regular-season (and, at times, injury-abbreviated) stats included 2,316 yards passing with 16 TDs along with 1,643 yards passing and 14 TDs. Now if only the 2011 maize-and-blue can be a national factor again ...

Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska -- Count us among the folks who believe this Big Red was catapulted onto the 2010 Heisman Trophy scene prematurely but he's surely a 'player to watch' next year after accounting for 1,578 yards passing and 9 TDs and another dozen rushing scores.


ARMY-NAVY PREVIEW

Hats off to College Football's service academy teams as Air Force, Army and Navy all will be heading to post-season bowl games later this month -- Air Force will face off with Georgia Tech in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 27th; Army will play SMU in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 30th and Navy will play at San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23rd -- and did you know that these three teams have combined for 30 straightup wins (and it will be 31 after this game)? Three cheers!

ARMY (6-5) vs. NAVY (8-3) -- 2:30 p.m. ET, CBS (at Philadelphia)
The Navy winning streak in this series is eight in a row -- and the Midshipmen have buried the Cadets to the tune of 297-to-74 during this period -- and now Ken Niumatalolo's team has been installed as a 7 1/2-to-8-point favorite here in the 111th edition of these special service academies.Look for Navy QB Ricky Dobbs (1,194 yards passing and 806 yards rushing and a combined 23 TDs) to spark the Middies' 24 seniors here while Army tries to defuse Dobbs with an eight-men-in-the-box move that could come back to bite 'em if the classy veteran finds some one-on-one downfield targets. Navy wide receiver Greg Jones (28 catches and averaging nearly 20 yards a reception) could have a field day if the weather conditions cooperate.

Spread Notes -- Navy is a dead-even but vig-losing 6-6 ATS (against the spread) this year but overall the Midshipmen are 28-16 versus the Vegas prices away since the start of the 2005 campaign. On the flip side, Army is 5-6 ATS overall this season and that includes four-of-seven spread covers when placed in the underdog role. Note that the Cadets are just 18-23-1 ATS as pups the past four years. Click Here to get this game and bonus basketball plays on Saturday.

NOTE: Catch all our NFL Week 14 Sunday Key Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez.

THE NFL WEEK 14 SUNDAY KEY PREVIEWS ARE HERE - PATS VS. BEARS GETS TOP BILLING BUT WE'RE CHECKIN' IN ON DOLPHINS-JETS
AND EAGLES-COWBOYS (PLUS MORE!) ...

THE NFL POINTSPREAD STANDINGS: WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE RESULTS AT THE "THREE-QUARTER POLE"

By Jim Hurley:

Let us pose a question (or two) for you as we head into the final quarter of this 2010 NFL season:

Have we seen enough separation between "men" and "boys" to this point ... or are some teams really gonna surprise us in the final four weeks of regular-season play?

No doubt that the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons - the league's only two 10-win teams at this stage - have proven their might and there's no question the likes of the New York Jets (despite last Monday's outing in Foxboro), the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints are "for real" as all of the above sport nine wins at this stage of the season and all of the above (save for the J-E-T-S) really have flexed their muscles in recent weeks.

Folks are left to wonder if the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) and the St. Louis (6-6 but leading the weakling NFC West) have enough to get to the finish line and beyond this year and you may want to know that KayCee follows up this week's showdown in San Diego with a road game in St. Looie before finishing the year with back-to-back home games at Arrowhead Stadium versus Tennessee and Oakland.

Meanwhile, the Rams follow this Sunday's game in New Orleans (see preview below) with home games against Kansas City and San Francisco and then close things out with a Week 17 game in Seattle.

In case there's "experts" out there that don't believe either of these teams from the "Show Me State" can hack it if/when they get to the post-season, just keep in mind the 2009 Arizona Cardinals who were called by some folks the "worst NFL playoff team ever" and all those Redbirds did was come within moments of winning Super Bowl 43 in Tampa.

THE NFL WEEK 14 SUNDAY GAME PREVIEWS

NEW ENGLAND (10-2) at CHICAGO (9-3) - 4:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Okay, so what can the NE Patriots now do for an "encore"? The 45-3 beating that Bill Belichick's gang laid on the hated New York in MNF action really stoked talk that the Patriots are a legit contender for Super Bowl 45 (we don't know why there were any doubts in the first place!) and here apparent league MVP quarterback Tom Brady (3,029 yards passing with 27 TDs and just 4 INTs) will try to uncover some flaws in a Bears defense that has allowed a mere 78 points since their post-Week 8 bye (that's less than 16 ppg) - if Brady wants kid TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to be factors here than they have to find room "over the top" against MLB Brian Urlacher who could get caught in a proverbial pickle while trying to stuff RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (699 yards rushing and 11 TDs).

Spread Notes - New England is a sturdy 5-2-1 against the Las Vegas price tags since a Week 5 bye and overall the Patriots are 14-6-1 vig-wise when playing non-divisional opponents since very late in the 2008 season. Meanwhile, Chicago's gone 3-1-1 ATS (against the spread) since their Week 8 bye and overall the Bears are 5-1 versus the vig when in the underdog role after going a combined 4-11-1 against the odds as pups the previous two years.

MIAMI (6-6) at NEW YORK JETS (9-3) - 4:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Now that J-E-T-S head coach Rex Ryan symbolically "buried the ball" from last Monday's aforementioned lopsided loss in Foxboro, this co-tenant of the New Meadowlands Stadium believes all will be okay here but can someone tell us when/if second-year QB Mark Sanchez is gonna get out of his funk?

Forgive us for saying but Sanchez almost appeared "medicated" in that MNF loss to the Pats as the deer-in-the-headlights look never went away en route to that shabby showing that included a couple of picks. Note, however, that Sanchez must get credit for helping the Jets gain 402 offensive yards in an earlier-season 31-23 prime-time win in Miami that included three TD passes and 256 aerial yards.

On the flip side, the Dolphins are coming off - what else - another home loss as the Fish are now 1-5 SU (straightup) in their own backyard in this 2010 season and that last-minute INT by QB Chad Henne that set up the game-winning FG in Cleveland's 13-10 win might have head coach Tony Sparano and offensive coordinator Dan Henning tempted to run it here 80 percent of the time and, yes, that will include some reverses run from star WR Davone Bess.

Spread Notes - The NY Jets are just 3-3-1 spreadwise in head-to-head battles with the Dolphins the past three-plus seasons but keep in mind "gang green" was 11-2-1 versus the vig against these divisional rivals from 2000-through-2006. On the other hand, Miami is a tasty 5-1 versus the vig away this year and did you know that since the start of the 2008 the Fish are 16-6 vig-wise when packing their bags (that's a shiny .727 winning rate).

KANSAS CITY (8-4) at SAN DIEGO (6-6) - 4:15 p.m. ET, CBS
It's not as if this year's KC Chiefs are some sort of AFC playoff impersonator but - let's face it - right now it feels as if Todd Haley's club will win this division "by default" as both San Diego and Denver have greatly underachieved and who knows when the Oakland Raiders are gonna start looking like the 2003-through-2009 Oakland Raiders, if you know what we mean.

The Chiefs here will feed RB Jamaal Charles for at least 25 rushes but the real key in this divisional duel is how QB Brodie Croyle handles the starting role now that #1 guy Matt Cassel is recovering from his earlier-in-the-week appendectomy. Note that the Bolts' defense - one that's now allowed 21-or-more points on seven different occasions - missed more than a few tackles in last weekend's 28-13 setback against Oakland as S Eric Weddle was even "high-hurdled" on one highlight reel play.

Spread Notes - Kansas City has failed to cover three-of-four AFC West games so far this season and the Chiefs are a mortifying 3-7 ATS in divisional duels dating back to the start of last season. On the other hand, San Diego is 15-20-1 against the odds as betting favorites since the start of 2008.

ST. LOUIS (6-6) at NEW ORLEANS (9-3) - 4:05 p.m. ET, Fox
The good news for the 2010 New Orleans Saints is that they have been getting healthy bodies back into their lineup in recent weeks and thus the club's current five-game SU winning streak is no real mystery but might head coach Sean Payton be deeming this a "must-win" considering road games at Baltimore and then at Atlanta are immediately on deck?

Here the Saints must do - at least -- two things well and that's bottle up born-again Rams RB Stephen Jackson (see 102 hard-charging ground yards in last week's 19-6 win at Arizona) and make sure their RBs/TEs stay to help out against St. Loo's off-the-corner blitzes. If Saints QB Drews Brees (3,634 yards passing with 25 TDs) has that extra second to pick out a receiver here, than the road-weary Rams (playing their third consecutive road game) could get roasted plenty.

Spread Notes - New Orleans has failed to cover six of its last seven games when favored by a touchdown or more but the Saints are a steady 18-11-2 ATS when playing non-NFC South foes since the start of the 2008 season. Meanwhile, St. Louis is 7-3 vig-wise as underdogs this year -- and the Rams have won four of these games in outright upset fashion. Since the start of the Steve Spagnuolo Era in 2009, the Rams are 12-6 ATS when playing non-NFC West teams.
 
On Sunday Nite, it's ...
PHILADELPHIA (8-4) at DALLAS (4-8) - 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Okay, so the NFL schedule-maker had a little fun here with this NFC East rivalry: Not only are we getting our first 2010 "taste" of Eagles-Cowboys but these guys will be bucking helmets again come Week 17 when Dallas really could become a major spoiler in this year's NFC playoff picture.

No doubt that Philly - extra-fresh following last Thursday's 34-24 win/cover against 8-point underdog Houston - has those extra prep days and you may want to know the Eagles won but didn't cover their post-bye game this year (see 26-24 triumph over the 3-point underdog Indianapolis Colts) but Andy Reid's gang generally has a great "rep" for showing up strong when allowed extra practice/film time.

One note on the Cowboys here: Dallas rushed for a season-high 217 yards in last week's 38-35 OT win in Indianapolis and no one should be surprised if/when RB Tashard Choice (19 carries for 100 yards against the Colts) gets his mitts on the ball 25 times-or-more here ... we're warning you!

Spread Notes - Philadelphia is a sub-par 11-12 against the odds when playing fellow NFC East rivals the past three-plus seasons but the Birds are a rock-solid 15-9 ATS as betting favorites while dating back to late in the 2008 season. Dallas rides a four-game spread winning streak into this prime-time tilt and note the last time the'Boys covered five straight was back in 2003 in the Bill Parcells Era.

THE 2010 NFL POINTSPREAD STANDINGS

TEAM WON LOSS TIE PCT.
St. Louis 9 3 0 .750
Detroit 8 3 1 .727
Atlanta 8 4 0 .667
Jacksonville 8 4 0 .667
New England 7 4 1 .636
Tampa Bay 7 4 1 .636
Green Bay 7 5 0 .583
Kansas City 7 5 0 .583
Miami 7 5 0 .583
NY Jets 7 5 0 .583
Pittsburgh 7 5 0 .583
Chicago 6 5 1 .545
NY Giants 6 6 0 .500
Oakland 6 6 0 .500
Philadelphia 6 6 0 .500
San Diego 6 6 0 .500
Seattle 6 6 0 .500
Indianapolis 6 6 1 .500
Buffalo 5 5 2 .500
Washington 5 5 2 .500
Tennessee 6 7 0 .461
Baltimore 5 6 1 .454
Cleveland 5 6 1 .454
Dallas 5 7 0 .417
San Francisco 5 7 0 .417
Houston 4 7 1 .364
Minnesota 4 7 1 .364
New Orleans 4 7 1 .354
Cincinnati 4 8 0 .333
Denver 4 8 0 .333
Arizona 3 9 0 .250
Carolina 3 9 0 .250

It's interesting to note that last year's Super Bowl teams - champion New Orleans and runner-up Indianapolis - are a combined 10-12-2 ATS while long-time pushovers St. Louis and Detroit are a combined 17-6-1 spreadwise. Call it a typical NFL season, right?

NOTE: Catch all our NFL Week 14 Roundup Notes plus get the Monday Night Football Preview - that's Baltimore at Houston - in the next edition of Jim Sez. And stay tuned in the coming days for all the College Football Bowl Games as we'll preview/analyze/dissect all 35 Bowl Matchups!

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