A Look At Thursday's Sweet-16 Showdowns

Jim's Totals Play Parlay Wins with
Rhode Island/Va. Tech Over 143 (79/72)
Princeton/St Louis Over 106 (59/69)
Jim also goes 2-0 in the NBA
Celtics (-4) over Nuggets 113-99
Lakers (+1 over Spurs 92-83

Jim Hits at Santa Anita and Gulstream Park on Wednesday
Gulfstream R2: Bear Heart $18.80
 
Santa Anita R7: Bolinas/Devil on the Roof $23 Exacta

THE NCAA TOURNAMENT SWINGS BACK INTO ACTION - IT'S THURSDAY'S SWEET 16 SHOWDOWNS FROM SYRACUSE & SALT LAKE CITY AND WE HAVE THE GAME PREVIEWS AND MUCH MORE!

By Jim Hurley:

Okay, so we won't ask you how your brackets are looking these days - we know that paper shredders 'round the land really got a workout following the first two rounds of play in this year's NCAA Tournament but now that begs the question of whether or not the "chalk" will now rule the rest of the way?

Keep in mind that half of the Sweet 16 field is comprised of teams that were #1-thru-#4 seeds when this whole "Big Dance" thing started and so #1's Syracuse, Kentucky and Duke are still standing as are #2's Kansas State, Ohio State and West Virginia, #3 Baylor and #4 Purdue.

Still, it's rather mind-boggling to realize that there's a #10 seed (Saint Mary's), an #11 seed (Washington) and a #12 seed (Cornell) remaining in the tourney field and wouldn't that be a kick if  a couple of them made it all the way to the Final Four in Indianapolis - that would be like George Mason times two!

We'll get to Thursday's NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Game Previews in just a moment but first a couple of loose ends to tie up here:

Much is being made about the fact that Cornell will be playing its regional semifinal tilt against Kentucky some 200 miles from the Big Red's campus in Ithaca but all we have to say here is there will be more "Blue" in the Carrier Dome on Thursday night than any other color - Wildcat Nation can't get enough of this freshmen-oriented club and the Kentucky fans could represent half (or more) of the large dome crowd for this Sweet 16 tilt.

Next is the fact that Baylor's got a "home-state advantage" for Friday's Sweet 16 game against Saint Mary's - but when you consider how the Gaels just won two games on the East Coast (triumphs over Richmond and Villanova in Providence) it's not likely that this well-steeled team will be rattled by playing the Bears in the Lone Star State. Heck, if anything it could well be a case of Saint Mary's using the venue to its advantage as the West Coast Conference crew could adopt an "us-against-the-world" mentality...so there!

And now hear this: Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have all the NCAA Tournament, NIT, CBI and Collegeinsider.com Tournament winners along with the NBA when you check in with us every day right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - remember that check-in times are after 1:30 p.m. ET for weeknight games and after 9:30 a.m. on Saturday/Sunday. And so don't miss out on all the fun-and-profits as "March Madness" rolls on and remember that the 2010 Major-League Baseball Season is right around the corner (Opening Night is Sunday, April 4th!).

 

NCAA TOURNAMENT CONFERENCE POINTSPREAD BREAKDOWN CHART

Our NCAA Tournament Conference Pointspread Breakdown Chart here reveals only the surviving leagues/conferences at Sweet 16 times. Then it's onto the regional semifinal Game Previews (with regional seeds and overall records included below in the mix):

CONFERENCE

W

L

T

PCT.

Ivy League

2

0

0

1.000

Missouri Valley

2

0

0

1.000

Pac-10

3

1

0

.750

West Coast

3

1

0

.750

ACC

5

5

0

.500

Big 10

4

4

1

.500

SEC

3

3

0

.500

Atlantic-10

2

2

0

.500

Horizon

1

1

0

.500

Big East

5

7

0

.417

Big 12

5

7

0

.417

As you can see there are 11 different conferences/leagues still alive in this year's NCAA Tournament and the breakdown is rather stunning thus far: The still-alive mid-majors are a collective 10-4 ATS (against the spread) for a sizzling .714 winning rate while the so-called power conferences are 25-27-1 ATS for a sub-par .481 winning rate.

Note that the power conference teams that are 2-and-oh spreadwise in this tourney include Duke, Kansas State, Kentucky, Syracuse, Washington and West Virginia - and it's also worth noting that this Sweet 16 field sports an overall NCAA Tournament pointspread mark of 27-4-1 (an utterly ridiculous .871 winning percentage) with only Baylor, Butler, Michigan State and Tennessee having failed to cover a tourney game apiece while Ohio State earned a pointspread "push" in its opener against UC-Santa Barbara.

P.S., the teams in Thursday's East Regional Semifinals (that's Cornell, Kentucky, Washington and West Virginia) are a collective 8-and-oh versus the vig while the teams comprising Thursday's West Regional Semis (that's Butler, Syracuse, Xavier and Kansas State) are a collective 7-1 spreadwise...not bad!

 

NCAA TOURNAMENT - EAST REGIONAL SEMIFINALS
Carrier Dome - Syracuse, NY

#11 WASHINGTON (26-9) vs. #2 WEST VIRGINIA (29-6) - 7:25 p.m. ET
Now that WVU Mountaineers boss-man Bob Huggins has lectured the media for not "believing" in the Big East, the Morgantown men can get back down to business. It seems that Huggins didn't like the line of questioning that followed his club's 68-59 win/cover against 6-point pup Missouri last Sunday afternoon as writers/broadcasters asked "Huggy Bear" if maybe the Big East was overrated after six of its eight teams were kayoed on or before Round II.

Here, Huggins better worry about the task at hand which is controlling the tempo of this affair against a still-underrated and still-underappreciated UW Huskies crew: Why doesn't Lorenzo Romar's club get any "props" after it bested Marquette and New Mexico in the first two rounds of this tourney?

The Huskies completely handcuffed #3 seed New Mexico 82-64 last Saturday in San Jose as the Pac-10 team canned 8-of-17 triples (but missed half of its 20 free throws) and once again senior F Quincy Pondexter was a major factor with 18 points and some sterling defense. If Washington wants to pull the upset here, than Pondexter must draw some in-the-paint fouls on West Virginia's "bigs" and the Dawgs better hit those charity stripe tosses...or else.

West Virginia forward Da'Sean Butler (28 points versus Missouri) remains the go-to guy for this Big East bunch but gotta feeling the likes of Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks are going to have to score 35-or-so points between 'em here while battening down the hatches. Watch for WVU to go zone on "D" late in the half and in the game to throw off Washington - and now we'll see if that strategy works here as it has in earlier tourney games.

Current Las Vegas Line: West Virginia (- 5) over Washington

 

#12 CORNELL (29-4) vs. #1 KENTUCKY (34-2) - approximately 9:55 p.m. ET
Let's face it: This is the Sweet 16 game that everyone's talking about as comparisons with Hoosiers abounds but the $64,000 question here is does experience/togetherness/toughness triumph over a team with future NBA stars?

No doubt that John Calipari's ultra-talented Kentucky Wildcats have plenty of grit to go along with immense talent - we've seen this year's club squeeze out an SEC Tournament championship when it didn't seem possible late against Mississippi State -- plus the 'Cats have exhibited no signs of complacency in this tourney while bashing the likes of East Tennessee State and Wake Forest by a combined 59 points.

In last Saturday's 90-60 blowout over the WF Demon Deacons, not only did big man DeMarcus Cousins drill 9-of-10 FG attempts en route to a 19-point game but fellow frosh point guard John Wall kicked in 14 points and 7 assists and "relative unknown" soph Darius Miller was the real sparkplug with a game-high 20 points - is there no end to all the great hoopsters on this top-seeded team?

On the flip side, Cornell's been just a pleasure to watch this year and in this year's tourney: The Big Red flattened Penn and Wisconsin - note the Ivy Leaguers were 4- and 4 ½-point underdogs in those affairs - in its first two tournament games and this unit has that special look.

Cornell players and head coach Steve Donahue have remarked about how playing with one another for the past two, three and even four years has been the key and it's uncanny how every guy seems to know exactly what his role is and where he should be on the court.

As noted in an earlier-week Jim Sez column, no question that sharpshooter guard Ryan Wittman (24 points including three triples against Wisky) has been getting much of the love from the CBS folks but it's senior point guard Louis Dale (26 points against the Badgers) who really makes this club tick and then 7-footer Jeff Foote (12 points and 7 boards in Round II's win) always seems to be grabbing a big offensive rebound and then sticking the follow or else dishing off to an open teammate from three-land.

Simply put, if you push aside all the emotions here the keys are as follows:

Foote must command a few offensive boards here and then make the 'Cats pay with either put-back baskets, sweet assists or by drawing fouls on Cousins while the quicker/stronger Wildcats must get this game ratcheted up to 78 rpm and make Cornell pay by burning the Big Red on fast-break buckets. If Wall gets UK in a frenzied state early with end-to-end drives (or dishes) then Cornell could get its bell rung big-time in upstate New York.

Current Las Vegas Line: Kentucky (- 9) over Cornell


JIM HURLEY LEADS HIS FIVE-PRONG HANDICAPPING TEAM TO
ALL THE MONEY
THE REST OF MARCH MADNESS

The Madness of March is in full swing and the Jim Hurley Network is rolling to the profits, just as we have in our 24 years of handicapping. Our Tournament Package started for in earnest on March 8, two weeks ago, as conference tournaments got underway. And in those last two weeks, we are 34-18-1! That's a win percentage of 65% and made springtime all the more lucrative for both ourselves and our clients. We win because we're a five-man team, and these past four days of the NCAA Tournament gave all facets of our team a chance to shine. Here's an example of how each area helped make us money..

OUR STAT HANDICAPPERS--The guys who crunch every nuance of data that has predictive value. Every stat you can think of and a few you can't. Trend analysis showed Maryland (-9.5) as a play with an 84 percent chance of covering the number against Houston, and they did, 89-77.

OUR COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS--they take the data and run it through state-of-the-art simulation systems. They picked up that Washington-Marquette kept turning into a high scoring game. We took the Over 143 and got the money with ease in a 80-78 final.

OUR BASKETBALL EXPERTS--Within each game are personnel matchups that overall performance profiles won't pick up. Our experts study tape and find exactly where these are. Such as pointing out that Florida' s backcourt of Ervin Walker and Kenny Boynton didn' t move well enough defensively to cover BYU's Jimmer Fredette. The Cougar guard poured in 37 and his team (+5) beat the Gators 99-92.

OUR ON-SCENE SOURCES--The crown jewel of the Hurley Network, the ones who phone, fax, e-mail and text the latest information from close to the action, the intangible information even the linesmakers don't have. Our sources told us Wisconsin was sleepwalking. The rest of the country found it out against Cornell, but we knew it in the first round when Wofford (+10) easily covered the number against the Badgers, 49=53 and would've won outright if they'd have hit their free throws.

OUR VEGAS PIPELINE--When there's line movement, we know whether it's sharp money or square money. We knew Kansas at +11.5 was overpriced, as the public wanted to bet the favorite. We won't tell you we were expecting Northern Iowa to win outright, but we did have the dog and got the money in the tournament's biggest shocker thus far.

Now it doesn't always work this smoothly. Our stat guys are seething over Michigan State's last-second buzzer-beater that cost them a second straight win with Maryland. Our basketball experts didn't see Jacob Pullen's big night for Kansas State coming and the general public--rather than our pipeline to Vegas--was right about Duke over Cal. But look at the overall record--34-18-1 since the Madness kicked in. That tells you who's right more often than not and that tells you who can make your Final 16 as sweet as possible.

HERE'S WHAT WE'RE OFFERING

  • SWEET SIXTEEN 2-3 top plays Thursday, Mar 25; 2-3 top plays Friday, Mar 2
  • ELITE EIGHT 1-2 top plays Saturday, Mar 27; 1-2 top plays Sunday, Mar 2
  • FINAL FOUR 2 top plays Saturday Apr
  • CHAMPIONSHIP The Championship Game Monday, April 5.

WHEN YOU KNOW BASKETS, THE LATE ROUNDS ARE EVEN JUICIER – because subtle knowledge comes into play – factors you can only anticipate through experience – like which team is better prepared mentally, which coach has a history of making good adjustments, who’s got the deeper bench, which players have the talent to be difference makers.

Along with all my other best bets, you’ll be getting my Sweet Sixteen Game of the Year, my Elite Eight Eliminator that netted us 25 units when Villanova (+2) stunned Pittsburgh 78-76 last year. And you’re going to get all the money with my Final Four Shocker that won last year with Michigan State (+4½) over Connecticut, 82-73.

DON‘T OVERLOOK THE NIT.
THE MONEY’S JUST AS GOOD AND THE LINES ARE EVEN WORSE!
(Now to April 1st) The NIT is only a notch below NCAA play. More important, because there’s less action on the NIT, Las Vegas doesn’t finestroke the lines, making the games even easier to beat!

 

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I hope YOU are as excited as I am. Think of it: whether college or NBA, we are about to witness greatness – and because wehave our handicapping tools in order – we’re going to WIN as we WATCH! What’s better than that?

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NCAA TOURNAMENT - WEST REGIONAL SEMIFINALS
Energy Solutions Arena - Salt Lake City, UT

#5 BUTLER (30-4) vs. #1 SYRACUSE (30-4) - 7:05 p.m. ET
Now that the 'Cuse has mashed Vermont and Gonzaga by a combined 45 points in this year's NCAA Tournament, the Big East crew will try to dispatch yet another non-power conference club - but this one plays at its own pace/tempo and could create some issue with Jim Boeheim's team.

Consider that Butler has allowed just 59 points to UTEP and 52 points to Murray State in the Bulldogs' first games of this tourney and it's worth noting that both of those foes like to step on the gas and play fast - they didn't get "mission accomplished" against Brad Stevens' crew in those games and now it's Butler's goal to milk the shot clock and force the Orange to do the same...whether they want to or not!

Don't expect Syracuse big man Arinze Onuaku (quad) to play here although his status could be updated at or near game time and one key here again is for the Orange to steer clear of foul woes along the back line. Now, burly 6-foot-9 forward/center Rick Jackson was unable to accomplish that in the rollover 87-65 win against the Zags in Round II and yet the 'Cuse actually played better without 'em as the 2-3 zone became more active and limited baseline touches.

If Butler can find those "weak spots" along the baseline here - mostly look for forward Matt Howard (only 3 points in last Saturday's 54-52 non-cover triumph over Murray State) to try and sneak in behind Jackson and mates - than the Dawgs might get some cheap points and be able to keep the Orange on upset alert.

No question that Syracuse really has its mojo working from beyond the three-point arc as the Orange blistered the nets for 12-of-25 triples in that win against Gonzaga and guard Andy Rautins (5-of-9 from trey-land last weekend) is sizzling-hot but it doesn't take a scientist to realize that if Butler doesn't stifle All-America F Wesley Johnson here, then it's lights-out time.

Johnson's 31-point, 14-rebound performance against the 'Zags was one of the top three individual showings so far in this year's tourney and - while media know-it-alls keep showing the love to Ohio State's Evan Turner and Kentucky's John Wall, it could be Johnson who steals the show this tournament if he keeps this up!

Current Las Vegas Line: Syracuse (- 6 ½) over Butler
 

#6 XAVIER (26-8) vs. #2 KANSAS STATE (28-7) - approximately 9:35 p.m. ET
If guard play is, indeed, the key come NCAA Tournament time than either one of these clubs could make a serious case for winning it all in Indy next month.

Folks, Kansas State's backcourt tandem of senior Denis Clemente and junior Jacob Pullen have been absolutely dazzling in early-round wins against North Texas and BYU - or hadn't you noticed that Pullen poured in 34 points in that 84-72 win against the BYU Coogs last Saturday night or that Clemente chipped in there with 19 points and 3 assists?

Still, before anyone declares the K-State combo as the "best in the land" take a gander at Xavier's guard play as Sunday's hang-on-for-dear-life 71-68 victory against Pittsburgh featured the dynamic guard duo of Jordan Crawford (27 points) and fellow sophomore Terrell Holloway (13 points and 3 assists) and some stifling defense by the two of 'em helped the X-men get into a third consecutive Sweet 16.

If you call the guard play here a "wash" - and it very well could be - than the biggest key to this showdown in the Beehive State is who boards it better?

Kansas State sported a healthy 39-to-29 rebound advantage against a hefty BYU bunch last weekend while the Muskeeters lost the glass battle to Pitt 40-to-31 and our Jim Sez crystal ball claims whoever owns the rebound advantage wins here...case closed!

Current Las Vegas Line: Kansas State (- 5) over Xavier

NOTE: Get more NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Previews in the next Jim Sez.

18
Nov

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