Big Monday Is Back!



by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

The end of Monday Night football means one thing to hoop fans...THE START OF BIG MONDAYS ON ESPN!

As always, we'll devote a lot of energy to the Big East and Big 12 this year because we know how important it is for YOU to win in those conferences. They're showcased every week on a very important legal wagering night. And, they're all over the TV schedule the rest of the week as well.

It's not much of an exaggeration to say that winning in these conferences will virtually guarantee a winning season for you...and losing in these conferences will do the same on the other side of the ledger. WE WANT YOU TO WIN!

Just like last year, we'll be emphasizing TWO-POINT DEFENSE this season in our conference rundowns. We believe that's the single best indicator for success, and the single best indicator for the true character of a team. The best teams (playing for the best coaches) do a great job of guarding the basket inside the arc. The most overrated teams (playing for the most overrated coaches) can get away with making a bunch of three's and enjoying friendly home officiating. Eventually, they get spanked in games that matter because they can't guard the basket.

It's still a bit early in the season to place to much weight on performance to date. A lot of teams scheduled creampuffs through November and December. League play is just getting rolling. Once we're at least 4-6 games into the conference slates for everyone, we'll focus very intently on this stat for you. Today, since we knew we'd be pushing back the deadlines to crunch the boxscore stats from Villanova-Louisville and Oklahoma State-Oklahoma, we grabbed the numbers for the Big East and Big 12.

Let's start with the Big East. Here are the two-point shooting percentages ALLOWED (remember, we're talking about two-point DEFENSE) through Sunday's games. We'll follow up the listing with the key stats from last night's Villanova-Louisville game...then follow that format if you scroll down for the Big 12.

BIG EAST: 2-POINT DEFENSE (record thru Sun)
Connecticut: 40% (11-4)
Georgetown: 41% (12-2)
Cincinnati: 42% (11-5)
Syracuse: 43% (15-1)
Villanova: 43% (14-1)
Pittsburgh: 43% (13-2)
Seton Hall: 43% (10-5)
St. John's: 43% (10-5)
South Florida: 44% (10-5)
Rutgers: 44% (9-6)
DePaul: 45% (7-8)
Louisville: 46% (12-4)
Notre Dame: 47% (14-3)
West Virginia: 48% (12-2)
Providence: 48% (10-6)
Marquette: 48% (10-6)

Though league play is just starting, there aren't too many surprises here for avid followers of the game. Coaches tend to maintain their styles from year to year. DePaul just fired their coach yesterday (a 7-8 start vs. a soft schedule signaled a disaster once Big East action began). We'll see if the new regime can improve them in this stat.

The warning sign would be with the Louisville-Notre Dame-West Virginia sequence near the bottom. Notre Dame always seems to be overrated because this coach just won't teach his kids to guard the basket! Louisville has had some very disappointing results thus far. Rick Pitino needs to re-emphasize defense to get things moving in the right direction. West Virginia always seems to surprise us with unimpressive showings in this stat. Tough to be a power in this league when you're soft inside.

The usual suspects are at the top. We'll be talking about those national contenders the deeper we get into the season.

Let's see what happened Monday Night when Villanova visited Louisville in the first official Big Monday game of the 2010 season...

Shooting Percentage: Villanova 50%, Louisville 31%
Three-Pointers: Villanova 9/13, Louisville 7/34
Free Throws: Villanova 35/49, Louisville 39/45
Rebounds: Villanova 29, Louisville 41
Turnovers: Villanova 22, Louisville 21
'Phantom Score': Villanova 59, Louisville 65
Vegas Line: Louisville by 3.5, total of 156
Comments: For you newcomers, Phantom Score is two-point scoring plus rebounding. It's a secondary score that often mirrors the final score. When it doesn't, the team with the edge in Phantom Score will turn out to be the superior side in future games. Tonight's game is a little misleading because Louisville kept rebounding their own misses and putting up new shots they'd also miss! The Cards had 23 offensive rebounds. Since we're emphasizing two-point defense in the conference rundown we should note that both defenses allowed 43% on two-pointers here. You can see that treys were the difference, with Villanova shooting a great percentage with relatively few attempts...Louisville shooting horribly ALL NIGHT, but then chasing down many of those misses. This was a tough one to watch for fans of the game. You can see the refs were more excited about the Big Monday cameras than anyone else. The two teams combined to shoot 94 free throws! The two teams combined for 43 turnovers even though the refs were calling everything. Hopefully this isn't an omen for the rest of the season. Defense wins championships, ugly basketball doesn't! Villanova will hold onto its national ranking with this win. They went deep in the Big Dance last year. They'll have to work on turnovers and defensive rebounds if they want to go deeper in 2010.



The Jim Hurley Network has is on an 8-3-1 streak in our TV Club and we've got our sights set on the Big Ten-SEC doubleheader on ESPN Tuesday night. Our sources in these two conferences have been good to us during that streak. They told us Purdue was the real deal and we gladly laid the four when the Boilermakers played West Virginia and coasted to a 77-62 win. And we went to the other side of the line just last week in taking Arkansas (+14) over Texas, thanks to sources who told us the Hogs were underrated. Sure enough, they covered the number in a 96-85 game.

Now it's Ohio State-Purdue to start off the night. We still love the Boilermakers, but how many points is too many? Our stat handicappers have the answer. And our sources in Columbus have offered critical insight into the health of Evan Turner who returns from injury. And our connection in Vegas have supplied with us information on Kentucky-Florida in the nightcap, letting us know how the sharpest syndicates in town are reacting to the early dominance of the Wildcats and the slump of the Gators. We've got it all put together into a dynamite TV parlay on Tuesday night!

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Villanova-Louisville was followed on the ESPN card by Oklahoma-Oklahoma State. Let's run through the Big East defensive stats quickly...then crunch the numbers from that game...

BIG 12: 2-POINT DEFENSE (record thru Sun)
Baylor: 37% (13-1)
Kansas: 38% (14-1)
Texas: 39% (15-0)
Oklahoma State: 42% (13-2)
Iowa State: 43% (11-4)
Kansas State: 44% (13-2)
Missouri: 44% (13-3)
Texas A&M: 44% (12-3)
Texas Tech: 46% (12-3)
Nebraska: 46% (12-4)
Oklahoma: 49% (11-6)
Colorado: 50% (9-6)

You can see why Kansas and Texas have ranked so high this year. They have tons of talent AND they play killer defense. They were 1-2 in the nation until Kansas stubbed its toe Sunday afternoon at Tennessee. The Horns are currently #1, but will surely be tested soon in league play.

Baylor is obviously a team to watch. They're not thought of as a defensive juggernaut. To this point (against an admittedly weak schedule), they're certainly showing an understanding of how games are won and lost. We're very impressed with this coach, and how quickly he had players drinking the kool-aid.

Oklahoma's a bit of a shocker. They've struggled this year, and were embarrassed over the weekend. You can see they're not guarding people. Everyone's used to Colorado playing badly on defense. How did Oklahoma fall down that far?! Keep an eye on the Sooners this year.

Texas Tech is also a team we like to watch closely. They offered clear 'go-against' value when Bob Knight first handed off to his son. Some early season results this year were cause for optimism. That 46% mark on inside defense is NOT! Many of you learned this last year...focusing on two-point defense really teaches you who's playing the right way and who isn't.

Here's what happened in the Bedlam battle last night...

OKLAHOMA 62, OKLAHOMA STATE 57 (in overtime)
Shooting Percentage: Oklahoma State 28%, Oklahoma 38%
Three-Pointers: Oklahoma State 5/25, Oklahoma 6/22
Free Throws: Oklahoma State 14/23, Oklahoma 12/23
Rebounds: Oklahoma State 41, Oklahoma 42
Turnovers: Oklahoma State 12, Oklahoma 15
'Phantom Score': Oklahoma State 69, Oklahoma 74
Vegas Line: Oklahoma by 1.5, total of 146
Comments: It was bedlam in terms of missed shots and poor play. Neither team could throw the ball in the ocean! The Vegas total was only 27 points too high. Don't blame the odddsmakers. Three-point shots went 11 of 47 combined. That's 20 missed free throws in only 46 attempts. Game one of the doubleheader was ugly in terms foul calls. This one sounded ugly with all the clanks. It's been a disappointing season for Oklahoma thus far. And, frankly, they only won here because Okie State shot 28% from the field. We'll be looking to go against the Sooners in their coming games because the issues are still there. They can't count on lousy shooting from their opponents every time out. We'll give them some credit for defense here. You can't hold somebody to 28% on purpose, or the best teams would do that all the time.

That wraps up our look at Monday Night hoops, and the showcase conferences. We'll be back tomorrow to talk more college hoops. Don't forget that it's a busy basketball slate tonight on cable. JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK has these games on the radar:

*Texas A&M at Kansas State on ESPN2
*Ohio State at Purdue on ESPN
*VCU at Hofstra on ESPNU
*Penn State at Illinois on the Big 10 Network
*Bradley at Northern Iowa on ESPNU
*Kentucky at Florida on ESPN

You can call 1-800-323-4453 to sign up for our BLUE RIBBON, or CASHLINE basketball service. Game day releases and big plays are also available for credit card purchase here at the website. BIG JUICY WINNERS ARE ALWAYS JUST A FEW CLICKS AWAY!

We'll be focused on hoops this week here in the NOTEBOOK, then we'll get back to NFL playoff action over the weekend (our stat previews for all four matchups will be available Saturday morning). Be sure you're with us EVERY DAY of the week here in the NOTEBOOK so you know what's really happening in the world of sports!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by and For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.


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