Jim Sez for Friday, Feb. 6 …


Are you ready for the first no-football weekend since August?
Good, ‘cause Super Bowl XLIX and all its post-game analyses are officially in the proverbial rear view mirror and we’re all now gearing up for the merry month of March when College Basketball commands center stage.

Still, this remains a very important month of February for a slew of college hoop teams out there – we know the Atlantic Coast Conference is gonna jam a whole bunch of elite/high-seeded teams into this year’s NCAA Tournament field but what about some of the other so-called power conferences?

Will the Pac-12 “go deep” and get a half-dozen teams into this year’s “Big Dance” field … and what about the Big East and the Big 12?
In yesterday’s Jim Sez column we pointed out how #1 Kentucky is seemingly feasting off a bunch of sub-standard Southeastern Conference teams but might you not have the same idea about some other power conferences?

If you pinned us down right here and right now at this very moment, we’d say this would be a projected NCAA Tournament field from the power leagues:

It goes something like this …
American Athletic -- (4) Tulsa, SMU, Temple and Cincinnati
The ACC – (8) Virginia, Notre Dame, Louisville, North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Pittsburgh and Miami
Big East – (5) Villanova, Butler, Georgetown, Providence and Seton Hall
Big 10 (6) – Wisconsin, Maryland, Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State and Indiana
Big 12 – (6) Kansas, West Virginia, Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State
Pac-12 – (4) Arizona, Utah, Stanford and Oregon
SEC – (6) Kentucky, Arkansas, Ole Miss, LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia

Okay, so what we consider to be the seven power conferences in the land will net ‘em some 39 overall NCAA Tournament bids (or approximately 57 percent of the entire tourney field) in all and so that lets you know the likes of middling Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley Conference and West Coast Conference teams better have a good, long run in ‘em come the conference tournaments or they’re getting edged out for the final at-large bids by the “big boys”.

Are you listening, George Washington University, Illinois State and BYU?

And now hear this …
Jim Hurley and his expert Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to pile up the profits all this week/month with loads of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online at www.jimhurley.com or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 – so go ahead and pound the books today!

#9 LOUISVILLE (19-3, 7-2 ACC) at #3 VIRGINIA (20-1, 8-1 ACC) – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Another Saturday night, another monster matchup in Charlottesville although the host Virginia Wahoos sure hope this one comes out better than last weekend’s 69-63 loss to 5-point underdog Duke.

In fact, Tony Bennett’s squad – outscored 16-5 to end that game – shot a measly 26-of-63 for 41.3 percent in that clash but the Cavaliers turned the shooting touch on in Monday night’s 75-64 pick ‘em win at North Carolina when Malcolm Brogdon (17 points) and Justin Anderson combined for 33 points as UVa shot a blistering 29-of-56 from the floor (that’s 51.8 percent).

Virginia knows that the ‘Ville wants to speed things up here and so Bennett’s gonna have to get some help from his bench where F Anthony Gill (6-of-8 shooting for 13 points against the UNC Tar Heels) is more than your conventional X-factor.

#10 NOTRE DAME (21-3, 9-2 ACC) at #4 DUKE (19-3, 6-3 ACC) – 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Not often that the Duke Blue Devils have same-season revenge in ACC-land but Mike Krzyzewski’s squad has some playback planned for that 77-73 loss at 1 ½-point home dog Notre Dame last week when the Dookies shot an inexplicable 10-of-20 from the foul line – true, freshman C Jahlil Okafor was a major stat-sheet stuffer in that tilt with 22 points and 17 boards but that wasn’t enough as Notre Dame G Jerian Grant played “Superman” for his side with a scintillating 23-point, 12-assist performance.

One key to watch here will be the offensive glass as Duke sported a 12-to-6 advantage on the offensive boards in that late January tilt (five O-boards by the aforementioned Okafor) – if the smaller Irish can’t keep Coach K’s guys from getting second-chance opportunities than Duke surely will “get even” here in this ACC matinee bash.

#24 GEORGETOWN (15-7, 7-4 Big East) at #7 VILLANOVA (20-2, 7-2 Big East) -- 2 p.m. ET, Fox
The fact is the Villanova Wildcats enter this Big East game sitting in first place in the league standings (but one of four teams with seven conference wins at the moment) and with the conference’s second-best offense and top-ranked league defense – but while Jay Wright’s crew has won seven of its last eight games that sole loss since January 6th was an ugly 78-58 setback at 4-point home underdog Georgetown.

In case you ‘Nova fans had forgotten, the Wildcats shot 14-of-41 from the floor with the team’s reserves hitting on just 4-of-16 FG attempts – no doubt that Villanova’s bench must get in gear here against a Hoyas team that suffered its own heartbreak while blowing a double-digit second-half lead in Wednesday’s 74-71 loss to 6 ½-point dog Providence – tough for John Thompson III’s to swallow that one as G-town hit just one FG in the game’s final 7:41 and G D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera couldn’t sink his last-second triple try.
Keep this in mind:

If Villanova goes on to win the Big East but happened to get swept in the regular-season series by a rather up-and-down Georgetown team, than that might be enough to keep the ‘Cats off the #1 and even off the #2 seed line – so this one’s important for more than merely revenge for the Philly gang.

#19 BAYLOR (17-5, 5-4 Big 12) at #15 WEST VIRGINIA (18-4, 6-3 Big 12) – 12 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Here’s a news flash …

Despite last Tuesday’s 71-52 loss at 5 ½-point favorite Oklahoma, the West Virginia Mountaineers enter the weekend in second place in the Big 12 – and how many of you none-Mountaineer fans would’ve known that?

Okay, so Bob Huggins’ crew had its three-game SU (straight-up) winning streak snapped in that loss to the OU Sooners as WVU shot a crummy 21-of-61 from the field but this is a ‘Neer team that ranks second in the league in offense (averaging 75.9 ppg) and gottas believe Huggins’ crew wants to keep the pedal to the floor here against a Baylor bunch that is fresh off Wednesday’s rollicking 77-67 win against 8-point pup TCU when the Bears’ Rico Gathers registered 14 points and 17 rebounds.

Note that Baylor’s won four of its last five games and all four of those “W’s” were by double-digit margins including the 20-point triumph over TCU, a 23-point win against Texas, an 11-point win against Oklahoma and a 20-point win against non-league opponent Houston Tillotson.

Note: Lots more key College Basketball News & Notes in the next column of Jim Sez.




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