Thursday & Friday's Sweet-16 Previews

THE SWEET 16 IS HERE!
WE BREAK DOWN THURSDAY'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES IN BOTH D.C. & L.A.

PLUS IT'S OUR ANNUAL NCAA TOURNEY CONFERENCE-BY-CONFERENCE POINTSPREAD BREAKDOWN CHART

By Jim Hurley:

If you listen to all the gobbly-gook from the TV talking heads during this year's NCAA Tournament, than you would think there's been a plethora of major upsets in this year's "Big Dance" through the first 52 games played but here's the reality:

There have been only six games in which an underdog of 5-or-more points won and they include the following:

Ole Miss (+ 6.5) over Wisconsin, LaSalle (+ 6) over Kansas State, Harvard (+ 10.5) over New Mexico and (of course) Florida Gulf Coast (+ 13.5) over Georgetown in second-round games along with Wichita State (+ 6.5) over Gonzaga and Florida Gulf Coast (+ 7.5) over San Diego State in the Round of 32 tilts.

Sure, there's a king-sized Cinderella still standing in this Sweet 16 field as the gang from Fort Myers- of, sorry, "Dunk City" -- has taken this tourney by storm but consider for a moment the fact that 11 of the teams still in action were either #1, #2, #3 or #4 seeds (that's nearly 69 percent of the Sweet 16 group, mind you) and save for the wacky West Region where #2, #6, #9 and #13 seeds still remain the rest of the Sweet 16 brackets went pretty much as forecast ... now wouldn't you agree?

Now, just in case you haven't seen the conference representation here in the Sweet 16, take note:

Big 10 (4)- Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan
Big East (3) - Louisville, Marquette and Syracuse
ACC (2) - Duke and Miami
Pac-12 (2) - Arizona and Oregon
Atlantic 10 (1)- LaSalle
Atlantic Sun (1)- Florida Gulf Coast
Big 12 (1) - Kansas
Missouri Valley (1)- Wichita State
SEC (1)- Florida

Remember there hasn't been a Big 10 team that's won the national championship since those Mateen Cleaves-led Michigan State Spartans back in 2000 but now we have the possibility- however slim you may think the odds are- that we could be headed to an all-Big 10 Final Four in Atlanta next weekend ... just sayin'!

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We'll get to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Thursday Game Previews in just a moment but first a look at our annual NCAA Tournament Pointspread Chart through last Sunday's games:

NCAA TOURNAMENT CONFERENCE-BY-CONFERENCE
POINTSPREAD BREAKDOWN CHART

CONF/LG WON LOST PUSH PCT
Atlantic Sun 2 0 0 1.000
Colonial Athletic 2 0 0 1.000
America East 1 0 0 1.000
Big South 1 0 0 1.000
Southern 1 0 0 1.000
SWAC 1 0 0 1.000
Missouri Valley 3 1 0 .750
Pac-12 6 2 0 .750
Atlantic-10 8 3 0 .727
Big 10 8 5 0 .615
SEC 3 2 0 .600
Conference USA 1 1 0 .500
Ivy League 1 1 0 .500
Sun Belt 1 1 0 .500
ACC 3 4 0 .429
Big 12 3 4 0 .429
Big East 4 7 0 .363
Mountain West 2 5 0 .286
West Coast 1 3 0 .250
Big Sky 0 1 0 .000
Big West 0 1 0 .000
Horizon League 0 1 0 .000
MAAC 0 1 0 .000
Mid-American 0 1 0 .000
Northeast 0 1 0 .000
Ohio Valley 0 1 0 .000
Patriot League 0 1 0 .000
Southland 0 1 0 .000
Summit League 0 1 0 .000
WAC 0 1 0 .000
MEAC 0 2 0 .000

Editor's Note: The six so-called power conferences- the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC- exited last Sunday's action a composite 27-24 for a respectable-at-best .529 winning rate but how about a round of applause for the gritty Atlantic 10 that covered 8-of-11 games in the first week of NCAA Tournament play and 3-and-oh LaSalle is still standing in the Sweet 16 field.

The biggest disappointment? It's gotta be the Mountain West Conference that placed five teams in the original 68-team NCAA Tourney field and managed just a pair of pointspread covers (see Colorado State over Missouri and San Diego State over Oklahoma) in some seven pointspread attempts. Overrated!

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to roar with the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 this week/weekend and so get all the post-season action with the NCAA Tournament, NIT, CBI and CIT winners plus there's plenty of NBA Winners on tap too when you sign up today and be sure to check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the winning selections. Note that the special check-in times are anytime after 1 p.m. ET for all the Monday-through-Friday tourney night action. Also, the winning selections are available after 10 a.m. ET this Saturday and Sunday as we win big this weekend with all the Elite-8 games in the NCAAs. Sign up now for the remainder of all the College Basketball and NBA campaigns.

NCAA TOURNAMENT- THE SWEET 16

EAST REGIONAL SEMIFINALS - At Verizon Center -- Washington, D.C.

#3 MARQUETTE (25-8) vs. #2 MIAMI (29-6)- 7:15 p.m. ET
Now that the Miami 'Canes will be without C Reggie Johnson (knee) the question is who picks up the slack on the boards where the bulky Johnson averages seven boards a game- true, he went scoreless in 18 minutes of game action in last Sunday's 63-59 non-cover win against Illinois but he's a critical component to this ACC team that really looked out of sync for much of that Round of 32 game.

Keep in mind the duo of G Durand Scott (2-of-9 made FGs for 8 points) and G Trey McKinney Jones combined for a mere 11 points against the Illini as Dion Brown rescued the Hurricanes with his 21-point off the pine. If Jim Larranaga's team doesn't get an All-America performance here from star PG Shane Larkin, than gritty Marquette- a 5 .5-point dog at press time- could swipe this one late.

No doubt the Golden Eagles have been living on the edge this NCAA Tournament with a one-point win against Davidson and a 2-point triumph over Butler and G Vander Blue remains a Mr. Clutch-type who never shies away from taking the big shot.

Play it again, here, Buzz?

#4 SYRACUSE (28-9) vs. #1 INDIANA (29-6)- approximately 9:45 p.m. ET
The late/great Al McGuire always said that if you were gonna win a national championship, than you had to win at least one "white knuckler" along the way and the Indiana Hoosiers hope that "white knuckler" was last Sunday's 58-52 triumph over Temple. Okay, so do-it-all G Victor Oladipo drained the ultra-important top-of-the-key triple in that tilt as he finished with 16 big points but- we ask- can Tom Crean's club continue to survive-and-advance while making only four trifectas in a game?

The well-documented Syracuse zone defense will pay special attention to the aforementioned Oladipo but count us among the folks who believe that getting in the grill of three-point gunner Jordan Hulls will be a top priority. If Indiana can get this to be a track meet game- and that means a score in the 80s- than an oft-sloppy 'Cuse crew could be in major danger.

Still, Orange PG Michael Carter-Williams is capable of big things even though his stat line in the Round of 32 win against Cal included just 3 assists. Ugh!



 

AFTER 5-1 IN THE NCAA ROUND OF 32...

MY NCAA SWEET-16 BRACKET BUSTERS
ARE LOOKING FOR THE THURSDAY SWEEP

SWEET-16 SHOCKER KEYS THE NIGHT!
There have been plenty of shake-ups so far in the Big Dance like my wins with Wichita State ousting Gonzaga, and Iowa State's cover in their almost-win vs. Ohio Stare. Thursday's Shocker will be just another easy cover for us, but an absolute stunner for the betting public. Tonight's Sweet-16 matchups feature two #1's and a #2 seed, and one of them makes an unexpected exit from the tourney tonight! Which one? I know! This game highlights a Sweet-16 sweep for just $25

WEST REGIONAL SEMIFINALS- At Staples Center- Los Angeles, CA

#6 ARIZONA (27-7) vs. #2 OHIO STATE (28-7)- 7:45 p.m. ET
Much is being made of the fact that 'Zona boss-man Sean Miller is a protege of Ohio State's Thad Matta from their days together at Xavier- but what's not getting enough pre-game attention here is the fact is Miller's Pac-12 team is playing as well or better than anyone in this tourney so far and it's defense that's leading the way.

Perhaps you noticed that the Wildcats held Harvard to 16-of-58 shooting in that Round of 32 affair in Salt Lake City last weekend (some of it was Harvard nerves but most of it was Arizona's length/strength that bothered the Ivy Leaguers).

So, the $64,000 question is will Arizona's ball-hawks keep a lid on either/both Buckeyes' PG Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas- both Big 10 mega-stars can beat you down with their respective games but odds are if underdog Arizona keeps one of 'em truly silent than it could be "Miller Time" in this tournament ... again.

Want an X-factor to watch in this Sweet 16 tilt?

Let's see how Matta's guys defend the triple as Arizona shot an efficient 9-of-15 from beyond the arc against Harvard with G Mark Lyons (27 points) part of the shot-happy gang from Tucson.

#13 LA SALLE (24-9) vs. #9 WICHITA STATE (28-8)- approximately 10:15 p.m. ET
Betcha the kids from Wichita State never thought they'd be wearing the "home whites" in this NCAA Tournament!

Gregg Marshalll's guys upset both 4 .5-point fav Pittsburgh and 6 .5-point chalkie Gonzaga last week in the "Big Dance" but now the roles have switched and it's the Shockers who are "expected" to win here against a LaSalle squad that- despite the often up-tempo style of play- has held tourney foes Boise State, Kansas State and Ole Miss to a modest 68.7 points a game.

LaSalle needs its three- and four-guard offense to stay on the attack at all times although even head coach Dr. John Giannini can't expect another 27-of-55 type FG performance as was the case against Ole Miss last Sunday evening.

If G Ramon Galloway (game-high 24 points against the Rebels) gets that set-shot three-ball to go down early, Wichita State will be forced to come way out on the perimeter and thus play into the Explorers' hands.

Could this be cheesesteak heaven for the Philly kids again?


THERE'S MORE SWEET 16 ACTION ON TAP HERE IN TODAY'S JIM SEZ!
WE ANALYZE/DISSECT FRIDAY'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES BOTH IN INDY & ARLINGTON

By Jim Hurley:

Just how stacked with national championship trophies is tonight's NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 field?

Well, if you add up the four national titles won by Duke's Mike Krzyzewski to the pair of crowns copped by Florida's Billy Donovan and than chuck in the single championships won by Louisville's Rick Pitino (while at Kentucky), Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Kansas' Bill Self than you come away with nine shiny trophies in all - as compared to the one-and-only national championship won by Thursday's participating Sweet 16 teams (see Syracuse's Jim Boeheim).

Whether you wish to call the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Regional Semifinals the "legends bracket" as some folks at ESPN have referred to this foursome in Indianapolis or maybe you like to call this South Regional Semis "three monsters and Cinderella (see #1 Kansas, #3 Florida, #4 Michigan and, of course, #15 Florida Gulf Coast) there's plenty of excellent storylines to go around and keep in mind both Oregon and Florida Gulf Coast are double-digit dogs here and so there's a shot we get another "shining moment" or two from these long-shots.

NCAA SWEET-16 PARLAY OF THE YEAR
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Swept this Sweet-16 Parlay 2 of the last 3 years!

2012:    Ohio U (+10) North Carolina         WON 65-73
            NC State (+8) Kansas                 WON 57-60

2011:    Kentucky (+6) Ohio State            WON 62-60

            Marquette (+4.5) North Carolina    Lost 63-81

2010:    Tennessee (+4.5) Ohio State       WON 76-73

            Duke (-8.5) Purdue                      WON 70-57

Tonight's action features Oregon-Louisville, Michigan-Kansas, Michigan State-Duke, and Fla Gulf Coast-Florida.

 

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Okay, let's get the ball rollin' first with another look at our annual Jim Sez NCAA Tournament Conference-by-Conference Pointspread Breakdown Chart but notice here we're including only the conferences/leagues that are still alive in Sweet 16 action while heading into Thursday's tilts:

NCAA TOURNAMENT CONFERENCE-BY-CONFERENCE POINTSPREAD BREAKDOWN CHART

CONF/LG W L P PCT
Atlantic Sun 2 0 0 1.000
Missouri Valley 3 1 0 .750
Pac-12 6 2 0 .750
Atlantic-10 8 3 0 .727
Big 10 8 5 0 .615
SEC 3 2 0 .600
ACC 3 4 0 .429
Big 12 3 4 0 .429
Big East 4 7 0 .363

NCAA TOURNAMENT - FRIDAY'S SWEET 16 GAMES

MIDWEST REGIONAL SEMIFINALS - At Lucas Oil Stadium - Indianapolis, IN

#12 OREGON (28-8) vs. #1 LOUISVILLE (31-5) -- 7:15 p.m. ET
Lost amidst all the hoopla surrounding the NCAA Tournament favorites to "win it all" is the fact the Louisville Cardinals enter this affair on a 12-game winning streak and haven't lost a game since that five-OT tilt at Notre Dame way back on February 9th.

In other words, the Redbirds are playing - and by far - their best ball of the year and did you happen to notice that the 'Ville has yielded a per-game average of only 52.2 points a game in these dozen consecutive wins?

Now, that strangulating press-and-trap defense starring guards Russ Smith (27 points in last Saturday's rollicking 82-56 win against Colorado State) and PG Peyton Siva likely will have to deal with a Ducks team that opts for two point guards on the floor at the same time - but does that necessarily mean Dominic Artis and Johnathan Loyd will be able to handle things and set up teammates for easy scores? Stay tuned.

Big factor for Oregon here is just how many triples can Dana Altman's guys drain here?

Note that Oregon shot a highly efficient 8-of-11 from beyond the arc in last Saturday's 74-57 upset win against Saint Louis with G Damyean Dotson nailing 5-of-6 trifectas in all - now let's see how many "clean looks" Dotson gets here from beyond the arc.


#2 DUKE (29-5) vs. #3 MICHIGAN STATE (27-8) - approximately 9:45 p.m. ET
Two of college basketball's true heavyweights bang heads here and there are two legitimate questions that must be posed:

Is Michigan State point guard Keith Appling close to being 100 percent after suffering a right shoulder injury in last weekend's 70-48 runaway win against Memphis and can Duke's tandem of Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly steer clear of foul trouble - or does aforementioned Coach K have to "spoon-feed" them their minutes here as was the case in last Sunday night's rough-and-tumble 66-50 over Creighton?

No doubt you noticed that Plumlee was dislodged from his low-post spot time after time by Creighton's goggled Gregory Echenique and this physical M-State front wall will do its best to root Plumlee out of his comfort zone here and so odds are the Dookies will need their perimeter people - namely guards Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon (a combined 38 points versus the Creighton Bluejays) -- to get hot here plus Izzo's guys surely need to shoot it better than those Creighton kids who netted just 16-of-53 field-goal attempts.

One X-factor here: Michigan State could put a bigger/physical body on Curry and try to wear him down by game's end. If the strategy works, Duke may be looking elsewhere for someone to deliver the crunch-time baskets.

SOUTH REGIONAL SEMIFINALS - At Cowboys Stadium - Arlington, TX

#4 MICHIGAN (28-7) vs. #1 KANSAS (31-5) - 7:35 p.m. ET
Both the Kansas Jayhawks and Michigan Wolverines spent brief moments as the nation's #1-ranked team this year and no doubt both squads exhibited super-power strengths in last weekend's Round of 32 games.

Heck, the 49-28 second-half that Kansas posted on North Carolina was a thing of beauty in that 70-58 win as the Big 12 champs really got out and ran with C Jeff Withey (16 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocked shots) often igniting a devastating fast break.

Note that KU easily won the board battle 47-to-30 in that third-round game but will Self's guys own the boards here or will Michigan's Mitch McGary (21 points and a whopping 14 rebounds in that stellar 78-53 win against VCU) and mates make life tough on Withey and friends here when it comes to "cleaning the glass"?

Michigan's savvy head coach John Beilein would love yet another well-balanced scoring deal here after four maize-and-blue guys scored 14-or-more points against the VCU Rams but keep a particularly close eye on Glenn Robinson III who shot 8-of-9 from the floor in a 71-56 win/cover against South Dakota State in a second-round NCAA Tourney game and than followed that up with a efficient 7-of-10 FG game against VCU. If Robinson gets 7 or 8 open shots here - and it could happen if/when the Jayhawks "double" PG Trey Burke - than small dog Michigan could be the one movin' on.

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#15 FLORIDA GULF COAST (26-10) vs. #3 FLORIDA (28-7)
- approximately 10:05 p.m. ET
Are the darlings of this year's NCAA Tournament gonna have life right into Easter Sunday ... or is this where the road ends for the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles who've wowed everyone in the nation with a dunk-a-thon pair of wins against favorites Georgetown and San Diego State?

Well, one thing for sure is FGCU head coach Andy Enfield swears his guys will continue to play "loose" with PG Brett Comer inferring he has some payback in mind after Florida head coach Donovan failed to recruit him a few years back - now Comer is hoping to dazzle the country with some lob passes to the hoop here but the Gators' game plan is to have defensive whiz G Scottie Wilbekin (12 points and 6 assists in last Sunday's 78-64 win/cover against Minnesota) stay up-close and personal with Comer and see who wins that mano-to-mano deal.

No question that Florida - the largest Sweet 16 betting favorite at minus 13 points - is best when working the ball inside-out and letting both F Erik Murphy (15 points in 24 foul-plagued minutes against Minny) and G Mike Rosario (team-high 25 points against the Gophers) get equal touches but if you're looking for a sleeper player here it's reserve F Will Yeguete who posted modest enough stats against Minnesota but made his presence felt with defense/hustle plays that could make the difference here.

NOTE: Catch our continuing NCAA Tournament coverage with looks at Saturday's Elite 8 tilts - plus more! - in the next edition of Jim Sez!

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