Jim Sez for Thursday, March 5 …

THE COLLEGE ROUND-BALL REPORT:
WHY THESE TEAMS SHOULDN’T FEEL SAFE JUST YET
WHEN IT COMES TO THE NCAA TOURNAMENT …
PLUS WE CONNECT THE TEAMS/SITES
COME NCAA TOURNEY TIME …
AND MORE MINI-TOURNEY ACTION
AS WE TRACK THE VALLEY AND THE MAAC
AS THEY TIP IT OFF THURSDAY …
THE NBA NOTEBOOK: “TANK JOBS” AND SPREAD STATS

Move over, “Bracket Boy” Joe Lunardi of ESPN fame – you don’t have all the answers, pal!
In fact, we’re here to tell you that there are a few Division I teams that likely feel pretty darn good about getting into this month’s NCAA Tournament but here it’s time to toss some cold water on their hopes.

Here’s three teams that might have major reason to worry even if lots of the “experts” are telling ‘em they are in:

SAINT MARY’S (21-8, 13-5 WCC) – The Gaels clinched second place in the West Coast Conference last week even prior to the 71-70 loss at 7-point home underdog Santa Clara but consider Randy Bennett’s bunch has lost two of its last three games, is just 6-5 SU (straight-up) in its last 11 games and anything short of getting into the WCC Championship Game next week likely keeps Saint Mary’s on the outside lookin’ in.

The team’s RPI – 60 – isn’t great (note WCC rival BYU is at 37 and the Cougars come off the monstrous upset of Gonzaga last Saturday night) and dig a little deeper and you’ll see Saint Mary’s really does not own any “signature wins” while losing three-of-four overall to Gonzaga/BYU.

INDIANA (19-11, 9-8 Big 10) – Kudos to ESPN broadcasting team Mike Tirico and Dan Dakich for “calling out” the Hoosiers following Tuesday’s ugly 77-63 home loss to 3-point underdog Iowa. The ESPN voices laid it out there that Tom Crean’s club better not be sitting there resting on their laurels with a winning record in Big 10 play because Indiana’s not exactly peaking these days with seven losses in its last 11 games while dating back to January 25th.

When you consider the Hoosiers have a so-so RPI of 54 and their biggest wins are at home (versus Maryland and Ohio State) you get the sense Indiana better beat visiting Michigan State this Saturday – and may need to win a Big 10 Tournament game too just to feel okay about this whole NCAA Tournament thing.

STANFORD (18-10, 9-7 Pac-12) – Let us ask you something: Does recent past performance in the NCAA Tournament help you out at all in this 2014-15 tourney bid? We wonder because last year Stanford beat New Mexico and then shocked Kansas en route to a berth in the Sweet 16 (eventually losing to Dayton) but this year’s team could find itself smack-dab at .500 in conference play should the Cardinal lose Thursday/Saturday games at Arizona State and at Arizona, respectively.

If Johnny Dawkins’ club winds up regular-season play at 18-12 and 9-9 inside the Pac-12 (and note Stanford’s current RPI is just 56) then the Palo Alto team could need at least one win and maybe even two “W’s” in next week’s Pac-12 Tourney in Las Vegas.
So, when you check out the “they’re in” category of NCAA Tournament teams, better hold off on this Bay Area bunch till further notice!

Take note …
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will keep steamrolling their way through the month of March with loads of College Basketball winners right here online at www.jimhurley.com or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 – plus don’t forget we’re banging out lots of NBA Winners too these days and so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month.

Remember the conference tournaments or so-called mini-tournies are swinging into high gear these days and there’s gonna be day-time action all throughout the month – we’ll keep you posted for all the important conference tourney news and notes!

NCAA TOURNEY NOTES
Hope you’re not naïve enough to think that the  NCAA Tournament committee folks just send teams willy-nilly to places ‘round the country – there’s seats to fill and geography plays a key role in this upcoming “Big Dance” party …
Now here’s some of what we see straight ahead as we list the eight Thursday/Saturday and Friday/Sunday game sites:

On Thursday, March 19 & Sunday March 21 …
JACKSONVILLE – Expect at least two SEC teams to play their games here in northern Florida and don’t be surprised if #1 Kentucky is a headliner here. Hey, if Georgia (19-10, 10-7) gets slotted into this site there will be some screaming from an opening-round foe should it be seeded higher than the Dawgs. And we’ve seen that happen ‘round the tournament before!

PITTSBURGH – The most Eastern site among this year’s NCAA Tournament first-weekend games should include a heavy dose of East-area teams with Villanova and at least one other Big East team getting shipped here plus you could see the Atlantic-10 Tournament winner land up in the Steel City too.

LOUISVILLE – Gut feeling is the committee folks won’t send Kentucky here to the ‘Ville but there’s a strong chance that the ACC runner-up (let’s say the Duke vs. Virginia loser if they play in the ACC Tournament) will get slotted here and could see a couple of cool stories such as Murray State and the Missouri Valley Conference Tourney winner getting transported here.

PORTLAND – Gotta believe that either Arizona or Utah will be sent here with the other guy heading to Seattle for Friday/Sunday action but it’s always interesting to see what East Coast time zone teams get shipped three zones away and may we the first to nominate the Ivy League champ, at least one Big East team (we’ll say Providence) and an ACC power (perhaps Notre Dame)? But not Gonzaga (stay tuned)!

 On Friday, March 20 & Sunday, March 22 …
CHARLOTTE – You can write it in already … the ACC Tournament champion if it’s Duke or Virginia will get to “stay home” with a pair of games in the early rounds of this year’s NCAA Tournament and you’ll see at least one (and maybe even two) more ACC teams playing on the floor here with Louisville likely ‘cause they’ll be playing on a different day than when its city is serving as a host plus odds are the Big South champ and Colonial Conference champ will play here.

COLUMBUS – Well, we know host Ohio State won’t get to play here but a couple of other state-of-Ohio teams could well help fill the seats and so expect the likes of Cincinnati and Xavier (should the Musketeers make the cut) to get handed short-distance travel plans. Maybe a Dayton vs. Cincinnati second-round tilt would have Nationwide Arena jumping like mad!

OMAHA – Could see some controversy here if the Big 12 sends three teams to this site as the mini-tourney champ and maybe a Kansas/Iowa State/Oklahoma runner-up gets shipped here but what happens if a lower-seeded Big 12 (say Oklahoma State or Texas) has the home-flavor feel over a #6 type seed … someone’s gonna be moaning!

SEATTLE – Okay, so if Gonzaga (29-2, 17-1) hangs on and gets a #2 NCAA Tournament seed, then we say the Zags will be rewarded with a berth in the Emerald City but if Mark Few’s gang gets kayoed in the West Coast Conference Tournament, then it gets moved out of the region and the Pac-12’s Arizona or Utah entry fills the bill here as the top draw. Want a fun potential matchup here in Seattle: How about #7 San Diego State against #10 UCLA … the whole southern Cal hoops population would just have to zip up the road for a day!

MORE MINI-TOURNEY PREVIEWS
Here’s what we’ll all be tracking as of Friday …
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE – This figures to be a heavyweight fight staged Sunday afternoon between #8 Wichita State and #11 Northern Iowa … and if there are any different combatants come the MVC Championship Game we’ll be absolutely shocked!

The Shockers and Panthers have split their two regular-season meetings with Northern Iowa snagging a 70-54 mild upset home win as 1 1/2-point dogs back on January 31st and with W-State answering back with a 74-60 win/cover last weekend as 6 ½-point home favorites and note both of teams team sport top 15 RPIs right now (Wichita State’s at 11; Northern Iowa is 15).
The Favorite: Wichita State
The Dark Horse: Illinois State

METRO ATLANTIC ATHLETIC CONFERENCE – The past two years have witnessed championship game duels between Iona and Manhattan with each winning once but this is more than a two-team scrum as both Rider and Monmouth (28 combined conference wins) could grab the automatic berth with a hot run here but it’s Iona’s mini-tourney to lose as the Gaels (24-7, 17-3) sport a 53 RPI (nobody else in the MAAC is better than Rider’s 134) and the league’s best offensive team will lean heavily on stars David Laury (20.1 ppg) and A.J. English (19.5 ppg).
The Favorite: Iona
The Dark Horse: Canisius

THE NBA NOTEBOOK
Hey, Commissioner Adam Silver, think you’ve got enough teams “tanking” … or what!
Okay, so the NBA has not exactly come up with a solution for teams intentionally losing but gotta say this has taken on ridiculous proportions with New York (12-47), Philadelphia (13-47), Minnesota (13-46) and the Los Angeles Lakers (16-43) among the real dregs of this league as everyone hopes for more ping-pong balls in an attempt to land the likes of Duke freshman C Jahlil Okafor and Kentucky’s frosh C Karl-Anthony Towns.

Still, maybe it’s high time that Silver steps up and makers some major changes to the system – maybe you have to simply put the five worst teams into a hat at year’s end and merely select who drafts #1-thru-#5 or maybe you really make competition the key and penalize a team for finishing with a sub-.300 winning rate by limiting what they can spend in free agency the following summer.'

Hey, something’s got to be done because the above-mentioned teams are not even putting out semi-representative teams these days and that’s terrible considering what ticket prices are, right?

Now, here’s some NBA pointsrpread notes with all figures below ATS (against the spread) with games through March 3 …
Chicago is 28-33 overall this season
Cleveland is 17-6 overall in its last 23 games
Houston is 35-25 overall this season
Los Angeles Lakers are 3-8-1 in their last dozen road games
Miami is 6-15-3 in its last 24 home games
Oklahoma City has covered nine of its last 10 overall games
Phoenix is 2-7-1 ATS in its last 10 road games
San Antonio is 4-11-1 in last 16 games

NOTE: Lots more NCAA Basketball coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez.

 

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