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IT'S A FOOTBALL-FREE WEEKEND (UNLESS YOU COUNT SATURDAY'S SENIOR BOWL AND SUNDAY'S PRO BOWL) BUT WE'VE STILL GOT PLENTY TO DISCUSS INCLUDING AN EARLY "BRACKETOLOGY" BIT PLUS THREE BIG COLLEGE B-BALL TILTS...

CATCH OUR "EARLY" SUPER BOWL XLIV STRATEGY PLUS MUCH MORE!

By Jim Hurley:

Next Sunday night in Miami they'll be fighting for the right to say "We're Number One" - but Super Bowl XLIV is just gonna have to wait another week and so the "#1 talk" will have to pertain only to the College Basketball kiddies.
    
As you know, it's been a musical chairs type deal on who's been sitting atop the polls this year - Texas, Kansas and Kentucky have all taken turns at the top spot - but the $64,000 question (of course) is who's going to be national champ come the evening of April 5th.
    
We know, we know.
    
It's still super-early to be getting into "bracketology" stuff but just to fan the flames of our fun hoop discussion here, how about a best-guess scenario where we list the top 8 teams in each bracket:
    
Here goes (and note the regional sites for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games are listed below) ...

THE EAST (Syracuse, NY)
1. Kansas                    
2. Tennessee
3. Georgetown
4. Purdue
5. Ole Miss
6. Maryland
7. Georgia Tech
8. Cornell
    
Hey, how about a Kansas-Cornell rematch in second-round NCAA Tournament action or - looking ahead to the Sweet 16 - a Tennessee-Georgetown tussle that pits a run-run offense with a grab-your-throat defense? Mm-mm. Good!

THE WEST - (Salt Lake City, UT)
1. Duke
2. Texas
3. Connecticut
4. Oklahoma State
5. Pittsburgh
6. BYU
7. Arizona State
8. Florida
    
A Duke-Florida Round II tilt would be a blast as would a Duke versus Oklahoma State or Pittsburgh game in the Sweet 16 round. And don't sleep on the BYU Cougars should they make it to Salt Lake City for the second weekend of tourney action.


THE MIDWEST - (St. Louis, MO)
1. Kentucky
2. Syracuse
3. West Virginia
4. New Mexico
5. Ohio State
6. Gonzaga
7. Wake Forest
8. Temple
   
Lots of potential juicy second-round and beyond matchups here but one we'd like to see as hoop junkies is Gonzaga versus Syracuse should the Zags beat West Virginia in our mythical Round II showdown. Hey, a Midwest Final pitting Kentucky versus the 'Cuse might actually be one of those games where the winner here goes all the way.
 

THE SOUTH - (Houston, TX)
1. Michigan State
2. Villanova
3. Vanderbilt
4. Kansas State
5. Miss State
6. Wisconsin
7. Butler
8. California

As you can see, there are two heavyweights here in Michigan State and Villanova -- otherwise it's an almost dead-even field:
    
A Vanderbilt versus Wisconsin game would be a hoot and ditto for Kansas State versus Miss State but how about Butler making a major run for it this spring? Better yet, how about Butler having to possibly beat both Michigan State and Villanova to get to a Final Four?

And now hear this:
    
Jim Hurley and his Handicappers and Bloggers will release the Side & Totals Winners for Super Bowl XLIV on game-day morning and so that means for the better part of the next two weeks - and then deep into the spring too - get all the 2009-10 College Basketball Winners and the NBA too as the hoops season is in full swing.
    
Just go ahead and join Jim as he crushes the Las Vegas and the off-shore books with his Super Bowl Bankrol Extravaganza in these coming days and you can go ahead and cash in when you give us game-day calls at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else when you just log online right here.
    
Check in via the toll-free telephone # or else online on Mondays-through-Fridays anytime after 1 p.m. ET for all the NCAA Basketball and NBA games and then check with us any time after 10 a.m. ET this Saturday and Sunday for all the weekend b-ball action.


COLLEGE HOOP SATURDAY PREVIEWS

#8 DUKE (17-3) at #7 GEORGETOWN (15-4) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
    
You can always count on Duke going out of conference for some late January/early February tilts as boss-man Mike Kryzewski always likes to get a "tournament feel" for things and here the visiting Blue Devils will take on a physical and defense-minded Georgetown team that all-too-often rides the fates/fortunes of big man Greg Monroe (14.8 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game). The Hoyas would like to see a bit more passion from Monroe who, in recent weeks, has allowed junior guard Austin Freeman (16 ppg) to pass him on the scoring charts but here both Monroe and Freeman must be on target... or else.
    
Duke has rebounded neatly the past week from that recent shocking loss at N.C. State - the Blue Devils beat up host Clemson last Saturday night and then whipped Florida State 70-56 this past Wednesday night as guard Jon Scheyer's 22 points paced the ACC gang. Note that the Devils nailed eight trifectas against Florida State - and they may need double-digit treys to snag this one because points-in-the-paint will be hard to come by here.

    
#21 VANDERBILT (16-3, 5-0 SEC) at #1 KENTUCKY (19-1, 4-1 SEC) - 4 p.m. ET, ESPN
    
The aforementioned talk of "musical chairs" at the top of the poll will effect the Kentucky Wildcats who were busy chatting on speakerphone with President Obama this past Tuesday afternoon - and then went out and were bopped 68-62 at 7-point underdog South Carolina just hours later. Now, John Calipari's club is looking up at Vanderbilt in the SEC standings - how about that: still ranked #1 nationally and not even in first place in its own division!
    
Vanderbilt's been a streaking comet this conference season with Wednesday's 85-76 triumph at 6-point favorite Tennessee just the latest high note for this team from the music city. The Commodores - a team that currently sports four different double-digit scorers including lead hound Jeffery Taylor (14.1 ppg) -- posted a 54-point second half in Knoxville the other night to KO the hated Volunteer Nation as Jermaine Beal's 25 points led the way and gave Vandy its 10th consecutive win of the year.
    
Hey, coach Cal, don't be accepting any more calls from the Prez... you have your hands full here!

    
#2 KANSAS (19-1, 5-0) at #11 KANSAS STATE (17-3, 4-2) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
    
Maybe it's a good idea to put the women and children away.
    
After all, when Kansas and Kansas State square off these days it can get a little spicy - or haven't you noticed the fiery ways of K-State coach Frank Martin (he needs his own personal "bouncer" to keep him under control on the sidelines) or the way Kansas boss Bill Self has been ripping into his ultra-talented players when they have a mental miscue or two.
    
In this Sunflower State showdown on national cable TV, Self's Jayhawks begin a stretch where they are playing three of their next four games on the Big 12 road and so physical big man Cole Aldrich (12 points and 16 rebounds in last Monday's 84-65 win against Missouri) must steer clear of early foul difficulties here and freshman guard Xavier Henry (14.1 ppg) must show more signs that he is willing to "take over" a game.
    
Kansas State's fresh off an electric 76-74 win at 2 ½-point fav Baylor this past Tuesday night and one major key to victory there was the Wildcats' 11-of-21 shooting from beyond the three-point arc (while Baylor shot just 3-of-14 from tripleville) and if KSU's Jacob Pullen (6-of-7 from downtown and 25 points versus Baylor) is "feeling it" here then Kansas might take a tumble in the heartland.

 

TV TRIPLE CROWN!

The Network opened the week by coming down strong on two nationally televised games on the college scene and we got two quick winners with Syracuse (-6) over Georgetown 73-56, along with South Carolina (+7) in their monster upset of Kentucky 68-62. We've had plenty of winners since, but Saturday will mark our first big return to college hoops on national TV. And we're coming out with a vengenace, with three powerful plays that will have watching and winning all day long. We're looking at games like Louisville-West Virginia, Kansas-Kansas State, the SEC showdown between first-place Vanderbilt and Kentucky in Lexington and the marquee non-conference game between Duke and Georgetown. We're going to end the week just as we began--hitting the winners on national TV! Get our three best for $25!

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SUPER BOWL XLIV NEWS/NOTES & STRATEGIES

What do you think have been the biggest lessons learned for both the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints en route to their date in Super Bowl XLIV next Sunday night?
    
Well, the Colts would probably tell you that having patience is the key as Jim Caldwell's club scored just one field goal in the first quarter of that 20-3 win against Baltimore in the AFC Divisional Playoffs and no points at all in the opening quarter of last weekend's 30-17 triumph over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game. In short, Colts QB Peyton Manning has needed a couple (or even a few) series to map out opposing defensive schemes and then he has pounced in a big way.
    
If this New Orleans defense is smart, it will mix up coverages, blitz Manning from different angles and - last but not least - make Manning and his pass-catchers pay for everything they get much in the manner the Saints defense brutalized Minnesota QB Brett Favre last Sunday inside the Superdome. The guy's still counting his bruises!
    
On the flip side, the biggest lesson the Saints likely have learned in this post-season is this:
    
Don't take your foot off the pedal. The Saints scored a touchdown in each of the four quarters of last week's 31-28 overtime win against Minnesota but beyond the first two drives, QB Drew Brees and Company accomplished very little and - come to think of it - the Saints also showed this show-mercy tendency in other regular-season games as well in the second half of the season.
    
The mind-set for New Orleans must be: Get points on all or most of your second-half possessions or risk having the Colts come around to win after a potentially slow start.

 
RECENT SUPER BOWL HISTORY, 2000-PRESENT

Let's do a quickie review here and show you the Super Bowl history during this decade of the 2000s.
    
As you see in our accompanying chart, Super Bowl Betting Favorites are only 3-6 against the odds dating back to the 200 campaign.
    
Also, take note that Betting Favorites of 5-or-more points are a collective 1-5 spreadwise during this time - the lone exception was the '06 Colts who drummed the Chicago Bears in rainy Miami.

SEASON

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

 

 

 

 

 

2008

Pittsburgh

- 7

Arizona

27-23

2007

New York Giants

+ 12

New England

17-14

2006

Indianapolis

- 6½

Chicago

29-17

2005

Pittsburgh

- 4

Seattle

21-10

2004

New England

- 7

Philadelphia

24-21

2003

New England

- 7

Carolina

32-29

2002

Tampa Bay

+ 4

Oakland

48-21

2001

New England

+ 14

St. Louis

20-17

2000

Baltimore

- 3

New York Giants

34-7

* Team That Covered is in Bold

Overall, note that Super Bowl Betting Favorites enter this year's game at 21-19-3 against the spread (ATS) for a winning rate of .525  As we pointed out above,  Super Bowl Betting Favorites are just 3-6 versus the vig this decade with Baltimore (2000), Pittsburgh (2005) and Indianapolis (2006) the chalk sides that won/covered while New England (2001), Tampa Bay (2002) and the New York Giants (2007) were underdog sides that won Super Bowl games in outright fashion.
    
Note that there have been three Super Bowl underdogs that covered the Las Vegas pointspread but didn't win the "whole game" and they include the 2003 Carolina Panthers, the 2004 Philadelphia Eagles and the 2008 Arizona Cardinals.
    
So, the next time somebody tells us that the pointspread "doesn't matter" at Super Bowl time, you let him/her know that three of the last seven Super Bowl straightup losers actually did cover the price.
    
One more thing: The NFC is 22-18-3 vig-wise in the previous 43 Super Bowl games - that's a decent .550 winning percentage - and note that the NFC has covered five of the last seven Super Bowl tilts.

**************************

SUNDAY COLLEGE B-BALL PREVIEWS
PLUS THERE'S LOTS OF NFL 2010 QUARTERBACK TALK TOO

We feel your pain -- but here's hoping that Sunday night's NFL Pro Bowl (ESPN, 7:20 ET) will satisfy your Football appetite this winter weekend.

Forget, for a moment, the fact that five of the six quarterbacks chosen to play in this game will not be playing -- only Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers will participate among the originally-named slingers -- or that many of the game's stars won't be a part of it simply'cause they're members of the Super Bowl-bound Indianapolis Colts and/or New Orleans Saints.

Just say to yourself that at least it's Football and we're only a week-plus away from what should be a rollicking Super Bowl XLIV. Or haven't you heard the by now famous comments made by Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams?

So, in this weekend edition of Jim Sez we'll start you off with some Sunday College Basketball Previews -- including a closer look at a key SEC game (that's Florida at Tennessee) -- and then still get you plenty of Football including an overview of NFL Quarterbacks for the 2010 season.

No doubt about it, there will be lots of NFL teams starting new/different signal-callers next season beginning in Arizona after the announced retirement this past Friday of Kurt Warner.

And now hear this:

Jim Hurley and his Handicappers and Bloggers will release the Side & Totals Winners for Super Bowl XLIV on game-day morning and so that means for the better part of the next week-plus -- and then deep into the spring too -- get all the 2009-10 College Basketball Winners and the NBA too as the hoops season is in full swing.

Just go ahead and join Jim as he crushes the Las Vegas and the off-shore books in these coming days/weeks and you can go ahead and cash in when you give us game-day calls at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else when you just log online right here.
Check in via the toll-free telephone # or else online on Mondays-through-Fridays anytime after 1 p.m. ET for all the NCAA Basketball and NBA games and then check with us any time after 10 a.m. ET this Saturday and Sunday for all the weekend b-ball action.

COLLEGE HOOP SUNDAY PREVIEWS

FLORIDA (15-5, 4-2 SEC) at #14 TENNESSEE (15-4, 3-2 SEC) -- 1 p.m. ET, CBS
It's not often that the Florida Gators are unranked at this stage of the season but Billy Donovan's guys are making their move:

The Gainesville gang enters this matinee tilt in Rocky Top country on a four-game winning streak that includes this past Wednesday's ultra-dominant 79-63 win against 9-point pup Georgia. The Gators won despite the fact Georgia connected on 28-of-47 field-goal tries (that's nearly 60 percent) but the Florida press forced 19 Dawg turnovers and forward Alex Tyus (23 points on 10-of-14 FG shooting) led the way and gave UF major momentum while heading into this clash.

Meanwhile, Tennessee comes into this high-profile game looking to avoid a season-high three-game losing streak -- the Volunteers were mashed 78-63 at 6 1/2-point underdog Georgia back on Jan. 23rd and then were plunked 85-76 this past Wednesday night by 6-point road dog Vanderbilt.

The Volunteers had an array of stat-sheet stuffers in that one including guard J.P. Prince with 22 points and forward Wayne Chism with 16 rebounds but the bottom line is nobody played a lick of defense as Vandy shot 51 percent from the floor and scored 54 second-half points. P.S., Tennessee also flunked at the foul line where Bruce Pearl's guys drained just 14-of-24 free throws.

If Florida decides to press the cat-quick Vols here, we could be having one of those wild ones where the first team to 90 points wins.

CALIFORNIA (14-6, 6-2 Pac-10) at ARIZONA (11-9, 5-3 Pac-10) -- 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Network
Get the feeling that the Pac-10 has been a 'forgotten' conference so far in this 2009-10 hoops season?

There's no Pac-10 team in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll -- and when is the last time you remember that being the case? -- and with annual super-power UCLA very much in a rebuilding mode this year the fact is this left coast league has been given back-of-the-hand treatment by much of the mass media.

Now, the two teams that lead the league -- Cal's on top of the Pac-10 standings entering weekend play and Arizona is in second place while all other Pac-10 teams were busy playing .500-or-worse ball following Thursday's games -- will tangle in the desert and so maybe someone will take notice.

The Cal Golden Bears come off Thursday's electric 78-70 win at 4-point fav Arizona State and so Mike Montgomery's gang goes for the clean sweep of the Cactus State teams here -- but can the Berkeley boys get another game in which three different players scored 20-plus points?
Forward Jamal Boykin -- who poured in a career-high 25 points -- was joined by guards Jerome Randle (also with 25 points) and Patrick Christopher (21 points) in whacking a'Zona State team that shot a putrid 41.8 percent from the field (that's 28-of-67).

Here, Arizona -- fresh off Thursday's 76-68 win/cover against 6-point dog Stanford -- looks to freshman forward Derrick Williams (team-high 23 points versus the Cardinal) to get some crunch-time hoops while guard Nic Wise must pick up the beat after shooting just 2-of-9 from the floor in 36 minutes of action.

MARYLAND (14-5, 4-1 ACC) at CLEMSON (15-6, 3-4 ACC) -- 5:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Network
Don't pencil in the Maryland Terrapins as the top seed in the ACC Tournament just yet.

True, Gary Williams' club is the only ACC team to enter weekend play with just one league loss but the schedule is just now about to get really harsh with road games here at Clemson and then at Florida State, Duke and N.C. State all part of the slate between now and February 17th.
Still, the Terps have been a monumental hit so far with a road win at Boston College and a 24-point home win against the aforementioned N.C. State Wolfpack just part of the big story and now Maryland zooms into this clash fresh off Tuesday's 81-59 whipping of 8 1/2-point dog Miami.
The Terps rode the 16-point efforts of both forward Landon Milbourne and guard Greivis Vasquez to the winner's circle in that tilt and the 6-foot-7 Milbourne remains a major force with now nine consecutive double-digit scoring games.

If Clemson can't handle Milboune (shooting 57.4 percent over his last nine games) here or if the Tigers can't get their act together -- they've now lost three in a row -- than Oliver Purnell's club may soon be hearing chants of N-I-T.

 Th

PRIME-TIME POWER


When you've had the kind of profit-filled football season the Hurley Network's had, including a 2-0 sweep of the conference championships, it's understandable that people would think we might be unhappy over a football-less weekend. But that's because they've never met the most powerful starting five in basketball! It's not with Kentucky, Kansas or Syracuse, and it's not in the NBA either. It's the five-pronged handicapping team of my Network! I have stat handicappers crunching all the numbers, computer geeks feeding it all through sophisticated simulations. I have experts who study tape and find personnel mismatches within each game that won't be reflected in the line. There's my on-scene sources that tip me off to the vital intangibles and finally my Vegas connections who make sure I know why a line is moving and what the sharpest syndicates on the Strip are thinking.

On this football-less Sunday, I want to take two night games and show how big the money can be in hoops. I have Maryland-Clemson to start it off and followed by Virginia-North Carolina. First place in the ACC is on the line. I'm winning at 64 percent, and these two will break the bank! They're on FSN TV too, so you can still watch and win on Sunday night, even without football!

Click here to sign up online!
$15

               
 

NFL QUARTERBACK TALK:
OUR CRYSTAL BALL LOOKS AT WHO
WILL BE PLAYING WHERE IN 2010-01-29

Folks, by our count there could be as many as nine NFL teams with new/different starting quarterbacks for the 2010 campaign ... let's do roll call here:

ARIZONA -- Now that future Hall-of-Famer Warner has hung up his spikes, the Cardinals will be counting on lefty Matt Leinart to be the orchestra leader of this high-octane offense even though he's started only 17 games in his pro career (and only one start in the past two seasons).
Naturally, there will be plenty of speculation that the Redbirds will bring in a veteran hand here who could challenge Leinart for the starting berth and Tennessee's Kerry Collins might be one such challenger. Still, look for this NFC West crew to go with Leinart to start off the 2010 season -- next year the Cards will either sink or swim with their one-time first-round draft choice.

BUFFALO -- The Bills' brand-new head coach Chan Gailey might not be able to turn journeyman Trent Edwards into a star signal-caller and so look for this AFC East club to sniff out the best-possible deals for a new gunslinger with Cleveland's Derek Anderson and/or Dallas back-up QB Jon Kitna on the club's radar screen.

Also, Buffalo (6-10 in 2009) might be able to land a solid quarterback with its #9 pick in the draft -- some reports claim Gailey is hot for Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen and it's possible that Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford could drop to this spot too.

CLEVELAND -- Okay, so every year the Browns find themselves on this list of NFL teams that could be making changes at the quarterback spot but odds are Brady Quinn will continue to be #1 on this team's depth chart though Brett Ratliff (acquired from the New York Jets in that Brett Favre deal two summers ago) could be making serious inroads here.

However, if the Browns could package Quinn and move up in the draft (they're scheduled to pick at #7) then maybe making Bradford their 'quarterback of the future' would be more than just a pipe dream.

JACKSONVILLE -- Expect incumbent QB David Garrard to stay put with the Jaguars but those rumors persist that this AFC South crew could be making Florida QB Tim Tebow their choice with the #11 pick in this year's NFL Draft.

True, Tebow's workouts at this week's Senior Bowl were panned (for the most part) but there's some talk that Jacksonville feels the two-time national champ and one-time Heisman Trophy winner could be a Wildcat QB for a year or two and then eventually take over the reigns on a full-time basis. Stay tuned.

MINNESOTA -- The $64,000 question in/around the Twin Cities is will he stay or will he go ... of course we're talking about Mr. Favre.
The Vikings have zero confidence in backups Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels and so any retirement announcement by Favre will have head coach Brad Childress and Company scurrying for a 'Plan B'.

Note that the Vikings don't pick until #30 in Round I of the next NFL Draft but might Minny be able to package that pick plus a couple of bodies and move into the top 10 of this year's draft and thus land either Bradford or perhaps ND's Clausen? Hmmm.

OAKLAND -- Nobody really ever knows what is exactly gonna happen in Raiders Nation whether you're talking coach or quarterback.
Still, it's hard to believe the Raiders will go beyond 2010 with perennial underachiever JaMarcus Russell and thus the urge to snap up Clausen with that #8 pick in the draft could be a no-brainer providing nobody else jumps ahead of the silver-and-black for this talented slinger.

ST. LOUIS -- The Rams could well snap up whatever quarterback gets sent to the junk pile by another NFL team whether if be Washington's Jason Campbell or Cleveland's Quinn or perhaps Jackson or Rosenfels from Minnesota.
No doubt that this NFC West team won't take a quarterback with that #1 overall pick in the draft (hello, DT/NT Ndamukong Suh!) and so it's either one of these potential rejects or another year of Kyle Boller and/or Marc Bulger.

SEATTLE -- Now that Pete Carroll is the 'new sheriff in town' you can look for him to trot out a quarterback not named Matt Hasselbeck this year.

The Seahawks weren't happy with the veteran's productivity or his work ethic last year en route to that 5-11 season and we know Seneca Wallace wasn't/isn't the answer either.

Some off-the-radar names to check into here include the New York Giants' David Carr and Carolina's Jake Delhomme.

WASHINGTON -- Odds are that new Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan will allow incumbent Campbell every opportunity to prove he belongs here but don't necessarily expect a whole lot of patience.

The'Skins don't have anyone else on their current roster that wows Shanahan (that means Todd Collins and Colt Brennan should probably look elsewhere for work) but wouldn't it be something if Chicago's Jay Cutler became the apple of Shanahan's eye again this spring.

Nope, the Bears don't figure on trading the interception-prone (and oft-unhappy) Cutler after just one year in the Windy City but one never does know in the world of NFL quarterbacks ... right?
.

NOTE: Be with us as we crank up Super Bowl XLIV Week with our next edition of Jim Sez.

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