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Sports Betting Notebook : 3/10/2011
JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK
OUR FINAL STAT PREVIEW REPORT AS SEC, BIG 10, BIG WEST TAKE THE FLOOR
Well, it's taken you a long time to read through all of these. And, it took us much longer to write them! But, we hope you're already seeing dividends in early tournament actions as the traditional fundamentals continue to flaunt their importance in playoff style basketball.
We finish off this week's college basketball conference tournament previews with the final events to take place. We'll look at the SEC and Big 10 with out expanded coverage of major conferences. We'll wrap up the mid-majors with a quick look at the Big West.
First stop, the Georgia Dome!
THURSDAY (all games in Georgia Dome in Atlanta)
Things continue in standard bracket order through the semifinals and finals Saturday and Sunday.
Kentucky and Florida are expected to eventually meet in the finals. But, you know how meaningless expectations can be in conference tournaments. The SEC in particular is known for having surprise teams scoot through into the finals, and even into the Big Dance when they weren't expected to get a bid at all.
Remember as you look through the numbers in the SEC that the East was MUCH stronger than the West this year. Typically strength of schedule is so even once a conference slate is in the books that you can just trust the numbers. This year in the SEC, the SEC East teams are likely to be a shade better than their data would suggest. With all four first round games involving East-West matchups, that's worth remembering.
SEC MARGIN AVERAGES
You can see what we mean about the East. They take five of the first six spots even though they played tougher schedules! The East mostly CRUSHED the West during the regular season. Alabama is probably more like fifth best rather than third best once you adjust for that. Ole Miss and Mississippi State are more negative than those numbers would indicate. That's not to say that surprises can't happen in the tourney. Dominance can lead to arrogance at the worst possible time.
SEC TWO-POINT DEFENSE
These are full season numbers, so they're loss likely to be polluted by the East/West split. As always, we get the bulk of stats from Ken Pomeroy's amazing college basketball website (kenpom.com). John Calipari once again taught a bunch of newcomers how to play great defense right off the bat. Florida grades out very poorly in this stat, which looms as a large strike against them in terms of March expectations. You HAVE to shoot great to overcome a soft inside defense like that. It's very difficult to shoot great every game out in March.
Let's also note that Vandy and Tennessee show some vulnerabilities that may matter very soon. The lower the better obviously in terms of percentage. 46% or worse is a good cut-off for relative pretenders in this sport, though there are occasional exceptions.
SEC ADJUSTED PACE FACTORS (slowest to fastest)
You know by now that we prefer slower teams in the conference tournaments because of the back-to-back nature of the schedule. Who can run and gun for 120 minutes in a row and not feel the effects on their jumpers or their defense? Alabama's putting together a nice composite thus far, meaning they might be better than expected for a Western squad. Florida is at least use to playing slow, close games. We're not fans of their internal defense. But, they're obviously not afraid of playoff style basketball.
Tennessee and Kentucky should have the athletic depth required to deal with their projected paces. That speed works a bit better in the Dance when there's more recovery time between games.
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS FROM TREYS
Live by the three, die by the three. So, we're typically looking for teams who emphasize two-pointers when handicapping the tournaments. That means you have to be careful with the teams at the top of this list (hello Vandy and Florida), and the teams at the bottom may be less likely to slump because their shots are coming from closer in. Can Florida or Vandy string together three wins (Vandy needs four actually) when a third of their offense is coming from bombs?
BEST CHAMPIONSHIP POTENTIAL
Florida, Vandy, and Tennessee are obviously threats to make headlines too. There are a lot of "pretty good" teams in the SEC right now. Maybe the ultimate winner will hint at greatness down the road.
The final "big six" conference to discuss is the Big 10...
Big 10 Schedule
THURSDAY (all games played at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis)
The format continues in standard fashion through the semifinals and finals Saturday and Sunday.
ESPN'S Bracketology currently has six teams from this conference getting Dance Bids. But, both Michigan and Michigan State are barely on the right side of the bubble. Each may need to win a game to be certain. If we were doing the brackets, we would have punished Michigan State for their sustained poor play much more than Joe Lunardi has!
BIG 10 MARGIN AVERAGES
Here's what we're talking about. Michigan State is a 7th seed, is getting the 6th bid in Bracketology, but ranks 8th in an indicator stat that should carry a lot of weight. Our numbers have then behind Minnesota and Penn State, who won't be Dancing.
This was a very tight three-way race until Ohio State obliterated Wisconsin in the season finale. They probably won't shoot lights out from three-point land like that again any time soon. So, you might want to think of this league as being three +8's rather than a 10-8-5 split at the top.
The drop-off after the big three is bigger than it looks. Illinois has been very shaky vs. quality, especially lately. Anybody in the 4-8 range is capable of playing a great game...or of catching somebody napping. None have recently shown the ability to string together big performances.
BIG 10 TWO-POINT DEFENSE
Not a great year defensively for the Big Ten. Nobody relevant jumps out as great. Ohio State is an extreme disappointment at 48%. They will once again be vulnerable to an early upset in the Dance as a result. You just can't put that much pressure on your offense to deliver the goods every time out.
Purdue and Wisconsin will have extra motivation here, given OSU's already pocketed the regular season crown. Those 45% marks on defense basically suggest a two-team race for the title unless Ohio State can maintain peak focus.
BIG 10 ADJUSTED PACE FACTORS (slowest to fastest)
There's some SLOW basketball in this conference. Wisconsin loves a playoff style pace. Purdue is actually the second fastest Big 10 team, though they wouldn't be second fastest in any other major conference. We don't think pace is going to be a big deal here because the teams are so used to playing each other. Wisconsin is best suited to avoid fatigue during a three-day stretch given their patience.
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS FROM TREYS
Some extremes in this group. Can you imagine a team that gets almost 40% of its scoring from treys? That's Northwestern this year, with Michigan and Wisconsin not far behind. To us, this is a strike against Wisconsin in the big picture. They're vulnerable to ANYONE (even an Ivy League team) if the bombs aren't falling. Ohio State's more three-heavy than many realize, coming close to 30% in this stat. Purdue's just a few decimal points behind them. Give Michigan State this. Tom Izzo has never fallen in love with the three the way some of his conference cohorts have. That's served him well in recent Dances.
BEST CHAMPIONSHIP POTENTIAL
Is it almost over yet? Only one more conference left!
Big West Schedule (all games played in neutral Anaheim)
Semifinals and finals will follow the standard bracket order through the weekend.
BIG WEST MARGIN AVERAGES
Long Beach is head and shoulders above the field in margin average. This is a very condensed league though, meaning there could be a few seeding surprises elsewhere. And, if Long Beach has an off night, they're not immune against anyone in the brackets.
BIG WEST TWO-POINT DEFENSE
Ouch, 50% for Long Beach! This makes them even more vulnerable. If they get nervous with their shot making, but continue to allow opponents to hit near 50% on treys, we could have a surprise winner. Tough to like Long Beach in the Dance because that soft inside defense will likely be abused by whoever they face.
That wraps up our week of previews. Back tomorrow with stat notes from Thursday afternoon action as a way of previewing Friday afternoon action. Be sure you're with us EVERY DAY so you know what's REALLY happening in the tournaments!
And, be sure to link up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK for BIG JUICY TOURNAMENT WINNERS in the day and night sessions. Our March Madness package is available here online. Sign up for the full season and enjoy big savings. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.
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