Jim Sez for Wednesday, March 4 …


Let the record state that we’re now just 11 days away from Selection Sunday – no-doubt-about-it one of the most fun evenings in sport each year.

If you had to put a number on it right now, we’d say that there are approximately 30 teams in the NCAA Tournament field of 68 that are safely on board no matter what happens this next week-plus but there’s heavy-duty sweating for a number of potential at-large teams and we will concentrate on the most important games on this Wednesday night docket plus later we’ll zoom through some of the minor-conference mini-tournaments that also tip off on this first Wednesday night in March, so here goes:

MIAMI (18-11, 8-8 ACC) at PITTSBURGH (19-11, 8-8 ACC) – 8 p.m. ET
Okay, so just how many squads from the 15-team Atlantic Coast Conference will be getting an invite to this year’s NCAA Tournament?
No doubt the self-imposed penalty that fast-fading Syracuse (18-12) slapped on its program weeks ago may indeed have opened up a spot for someone else but does the ACC get six, seven or maybe even eight teams into this year’s Big Dance?

Folks, don’t be surprised if only the teams with better-than-.500 marks get in and so that means this Hurricanes vs. Panthers bout is humongous.

Pitt sports a 50 RPI; Miami’s RPI is 71.
But consider that the Panthers’ biggest wins this year are all at home (including versus Notre Dame and North Carolina) while the ‘Canes did smash host Duke by 16 points in mid-January and matched Pittsburgh with a win at Syracuse and so it’s an edge to Miami here.

If the ‘Canes can win here and then win at lowly Virginia Tech this weekend and then snag a “W” in the ACC Tournament, they’re in but can Jim Larranaga’s gang show up on the glass after getting out-rebounded 42-28 last weekend in a humbling 73-64 loss versus North Carolina?
If Pitt wins here and then knocks off host Florida State this Saturday, that would lock up a spot for Jamie Dixon’s team that’s just 6-6 SU (straight-up) in its last dozen affairs.

Hate to say a team could “afford” a loss, but gotta believe a 21-win Pittsburgh club could lose in its first game in the ACC Tournament without getting harmed (although that scenario could knock Pitt into the “First Four” round with a #11-type seed).
Spread Notes – Pittsburgh is a rotten 8-18-1 ATS (against the spread) this year.

USC (11-18, 3-14 Pac-12) at UCLA (18-12, 10-7 Pac-12) – 9 p.m. ET, espn2
For all the Tinseltown folks that believe the UCLA Bruins are “in” when it comes to the NCAA Tournament … not so fast, my friends!
A week ago we advised Jim Sez readers that Steve Alford’s crew needed to run the table with season-ending home games against Washington, Washington State and USC and the Bruins are two-thirds the way there but there can be no let-up in this mid-week tilt against USC – a team the Uclans beat 83-66 back on January 14th when G Norman Powell’s 22 points powered the way for a team that shot a blistering 35-of-62 from the floor (56.5 percent).

Now, Powell comes off a career-best 28 points in last Sunday night’s 72-67 non-cover win against 15-point pup Washington State (a Jim Hurley winner!) but can he weave more magic tonight – consider the Bruins are a big favorite for this intra-city game and still have the pressure of a “must win” on their shoulders.

The Bruins’ RPI (52) isn’t all that great for a team that plays in one the power conferences and so don’t get swayed by the double-digit win amount in conference play – UCLA still has more work to do and it begins here against the lowly Troy Boys.
Spread Notes – UCLA has notched spread wins in seven of its last eight home games.

TCU (17-12, 4-12 Big 12) at OKLAHOMA STATE (17-11, 7-9 Big 12) – 9 p.m. ET, ESPNU
If the Big 12 is considered the best league in the land – we may quibble on that statement but most “experts” feel that way! – then why not go seven-deep and include the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the upcoming NCAA Tournament?

Sure, Travis Ford’s team has dropped its last four consecutive games and the most meaningful wins for the 2014-15 Pokes are a pair of triumphs over Baylor and wins at Texas and at Tulsa but we believe 20 wins is the magic mark for the Cowboys that conclude their regular-season this Saturday at West Virginia … but first things first:

Okie State has revenge on its minds here as TCU battered the ‘Boys 70-55 back on Valentine’s Day when the Horned Frogs went on a pair of 10-0 second-half runs while OSU went scoreless for three-plus minutes late.
Oklahoma State owns an RPI of 43 – good but not great – and must find a way to win three games and so a loss here means at least two wins in next week’s mini-tourney in Kansas City.

Now that would be awfully dicey against the competition!
Spread Notes – The O-State Cowboys have covered 13 of their last 18 home games.

And now hear this …
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers keep rockin’-n-rollin’ through March with this College Basketball and NBA season as there are gonna be loads of winners right here online at www.jimhurley.com or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 – so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month and remember the conference tournaments or so-called mini-tournies heat up this week and next with day-time action all throughout the month – we’ll keep you posted for all the important conference tourney news and notes!

The heavy-hitter conference don’t begin their so-called mini-tournies till next week but there’s plenty of good stuff on this week’s agenda including four leagues that get Conference Tournament action started on Wednesday:

OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE – This is a one-bid league in which Murray State (26-4, 16-0) figures to rule the roost with a sizzling 24-game winning streak as the Racers roll into mini-tourney action.

Murray State leads the OVC in scoring (78.8 ppg) and G Cameron Payne (20.2 ppg) and Jarvis Williams (15.4 ppg) are the real one-two punch here on a team that’s highly proficient from beyond the arc.
The Favorite: Murray State
The Dark Horse: UT-Martin

AMERICA EAST – This top-heavy conference sports powers Albany, Stony Brook, Vermont and New Hampshire with each team sporting 11-of-more league wins and we’ll be quite surprised if these are not the final four teams left standing in this mini-tourney that’s played at home sites.
Albany (15-1 in league play) is the numero uno seed behind the nation’s 25th-ranked defense (allowing 60.4 ppg) with the three-headed scoring troika of Sam Rowley, Peter Hooley and Evan Singletary averaging 41 points among ‘em but Stony Brook has double-double machine Jameel Warney (Division 1-leading 20 double-doubles this year) and the Seawolves did win on Albany’s home floor back on Feb.

The Favorite: Albany
The Dark Horse: New Hampshire

BIG SOUTH – Pretty wide open field here in this mini-tourney with five different teams sporting 12-6 (or better) league records but note High Point (22-8, 13-5) is the only Big South team with a decent RPI (82) although it just lost a triple-OT game to co-champ Charleston Southern last weekend.
The Favorite – High Point
The Dark Horse – Winthrop

NORTHEAST CONFERENCE – Regular-season champ St. Francis (NY) is one of only five Division 1 teams never to make it to the NCAA Tournament since 1948 but the Terriers (21-10, 15-3) have some real studs including scoring whiz Jalen Cannon (16.5 ppg). Now, if only St. Francis can get past opening-round foe/archrival LIU – it won’t be easy!
The Favorite: St. Francis (NY
The Dark Horse: Bryant

NOTE: There’s more College Basketball News/Notes/Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez and remember the various conference tournaments continue to roll on his week as we’ll check in on the Missouri Valley Conference, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and the Colonial Athletic Conference later this week with tons of previews next week on all the power conferences.




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