by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

ACC Action Special Goes 2-1!
Va Tech (-3.5) Miami 81-66 WON
Virginia (-2) Georgia Tech 82-75 WON
Boston College (+17) Duke 59-79 lost

Wednesday' Night's TV doubleheader featuring Duke and North Carolina gives us a great chance to get caught up in with the ACC, as we continue this week's series of conference analysis in college hoops.

We'll crunch the numbers from those games. And, we'll talk some about tonight's Pac 10 slate. Thursday's are famous for Pac 10 basketball in handicapping circles. It seems like the whole world plays on Wednesday Nights. The Pac 10 has had a Thursday-Saturday rotation for years to minimize travel hotel expenses for teams travelling up and down the coast. It also helps that Pac 10 teams have played 3-4 league games already...meaning we have a better sense of how everyone matches up head to head.

Let's go in chronologic order and start with the ACC. As we've done all week, we begin our coverage with a run down of 2-point defensive performances this year. We consider that the single best indicator stat when you're trying to evaluate a team. You understand their style, their priorities, and their ability to play basketball the right way simply by knowing their performance in that stat.

Here's how the ACC stacked up heading into last night's action.

ACC: 2-POINT DEFENSE (record thru Tue)
Florida State: 37% (13-4)
Duke: 41% (13-2)
Maryland: 41% (10-5)
Miami: 42% (15-1)
Wake Forest: 42% (12-3)
Georgia Tech: 42% (12-3)
Virginia Tech: 43% (12-2)
NC State: 44% (12-5)
Clemson: 45% (13-3)
North Carolina: 45% (12-4)
Virginia: 45% (9-4)
Boston College: 46% (10-6)

It's still a bit early to judge because league play has been limited. A few teams had great numbers at this time last year...then many faded toward a very disappointing postseason. North Carolina wasn't a disappointment, as they ultimately won the title. Duke got annihilated by Villanova in the Sweet 16. Wake Forest and Clemson went from popular darkhorses in January to big time disappointments. The same thing could happen this year with some of the teams showing well above.

Let's note who jumps out at the bottom. Boston College was pulling up the rear heading into last night's TV trip to Duke. It's not surprising they got waxed! North Carolina is tied for next-to-last. This explains why the team has struggled early to live up to past standards. There are a lot of new players in the lineup. They're super-talented...but not yet rotating properly on the defensive end of the floor. Some teams can get away with "outscoring" what they're allowing inside with three-point shooting, free throws, and a turnover edge. Eventually, they run into quality opposition and it doesn't happen any more. If you've been following college hoops this year, you know that Carolina has been inconsistent against quality.

Good marks early for everyone at 42% or better. We're pleased that Duke is emphasizing this stat more the past two seasons than they had in prior seasons. They weren't able to maintain that through the full slate last year though. If we see slippage again this year, we'll be quick to put Duke on your "don't bet" list come March. That's where they usually are anyway!

You longtime readers know that we tend to favor the defensive style of the Big East over the lack of defense here in the ACC. When you start talking about depth of quality, it becomes an important issue. For now, the ACC is holding up. Let's see what the numbers look like when we check back in a few weeks.

Here are the key stats from the TV games last night...

Shooting Percentage: Boston College 44%, Duke 47%
Three-Pointers: Boston College 1/10, Duke 1/12
Free Throws: Boston College 16/26, Duke 22/27
Rebounds: Boston College 25, Duke 40
Turnovers: Boston College 13, Duke 10
"Phantom Score": Boston College 65, Duke 94
Vegas Line: Duke by 16, total of 144

Comments: Boston College trailed by only three at the half. Duke started the second half on fire, and quickly put the game out of reach. The last few minutes were pure garbage time. Our Phantom Score (two-point scoring plus rebounding) shows an even bigger rout for Duke. This is what we mean about Duke playing the right way. We had several years there (the J.J. Redick years) where the team would consistently get squashed in Phantom Score. They wouldn't defend well, they wouldn't rebound well. They'd beat people with treys and free throws...then lose big games away from home because they couldn't make as many treys and wouldn't get favorable officiating. For much of last year, and when we've checked in on them this year, they've been posting great numbers in our pet stat. How can we blast Coach K if he's ruling Phantom Score! Duke moves to 14-2 on the season. Boston College falls to 10-7. Duke does have a conference loss, falling to Georgia Tech over the weekend.

Later on ESPN...

Shooting Percentage: North Carolina 44%, Clemson 48%
Three-Pointers: North Carolina 3/12, Clemson 7/26
Free Throws: North Carolina 7/10, Clemson 18/20
Rebounds: North Carolina 34, Clemson 28
Turnovers: North Carolina 25, Clemson 14
"Phantom Score": North Carolina 82, Clemson 72
Vegas Line: Clemson by 4, total of 153

Clemson jumped out to a huge early lead, and coasted home because North Carolina doesn't know how to shoot treys. It's not part of what Roy Williams emphasizes offensively. With a superstar team, that's a good thing. They just run roughshod over people. With a bunch of newcomers, it's a problem. They fall behind and don't have a way to get back in the game quickly. The Phantom Score favors Carolina, which is a tribute to Williams emphasizing rebounding. There were still significant fundamental errors though. Carolina has those 25 turnovers you see listed. That just shouldn't happen with a big time team. It happened here on the road to a team that isn't big time right now. Carolina also allowed 63% shooting inside the arc. We showed you their full season mark a few moments ago. They were a disaster tonight. That's an astounding the ball away 25 times AND allowing a very high percentage inside. North Carolina is WAY behind last year's pace by a margin few in the media have really internalized. They may be 12-5 for the year...they're not anything special no matter how high the polls keep ranking them. Clemson had a nice game. We still don't trust the coach or the program. Remember how great they looked last year after annihilating Duke in a TV game? They were 19-2 after that early February win, with the only losses to eventual champion North Carolina, and a Wake Forest team that was ranked near the top of the nation. Clemson would finish the year 4-7 straight up and ATS, losing in the first round of the ACC tourney and the Big Dance as favorites. Don't get excited about tonight's win. Last year's team was more impressive at this stage, and ended with a whimper. Clemson is 14-3 right now. Clemson's records are typically hollow. 

The Network's team approach to handicapping paid off last night. With this being such a big night in the ACC, our sources on Tobacco Road worked overtime in putting together a package of plays that would ensure our clients got in the money. And we went 2-1, winning with Virginia Tech and Virginia, and just missing the cover on Boston College.

Moving now to the Pac 10 to help get you ready for tonight...

PAC 10: 2-POINT DEFENSE (record thru Tue)
USC: 40% (10-6)
Arizona State: 41% (12-5)
California: 47% (10-5)
Oregon: 48% (10-5)
Washington: 48% (10-5)
Oregon State: 48% (7-8)
UCLA: 48% (7-9)
Washington State: 49% (12-4)
Arizona: 50% (8-8)
Stanford: 53% (8-5)

This league has been a disappointment this year on a national scale. You can see why in the numbers above. You already down to 47% just three spots down on the list! Are you kidding?! Only two teams know how to play defense, and even they aren't particularly great. Arizona State is getting some respect from pundits with that 12-5 record. That may be by default just because the media is used to bragging about somebody in this league. They'd rather brag about a Pac 10 team than somebody in the Missouri Valley, Horizon, or Mountain West Conference.

Arizona at 50%? Is that even possible? Remember when Stanford was a national contender with the Lopez twins? The won-lost records don't tell the story very well because everyone schedules soft in November and December. If the Pac 10 played a "challenge" series against any other major conference, they might lose at every single ladder position...well certainly in the upper division.

Teams have now played 3-4 games in the Pac 10 already, giving us a chance to see how the standings are shaping up. Let's run the schedule for the weekend, posting the Pac 10 records in parenthesis...

Tonight's games:
Arizona State (2-2) at Oregon (2-1)
Arizona (2-2) at Oregon State (1-2)
California (2-1) at Washington State (2-2)
Stanford (2-1) at Washington (1-3)

Saturday, those will reverse, with each Arizona school playing the other Oregon school, and each No-Cal school playing the other Washington school. Also on Saturday:

USC (2-2) at UCLA (2-2)

Where does that leave us? Nobody's at 3-0 or 4-0...nobody's at 0-3 or 0-4. Competitive mediocrity! At least fans are in store for a very exciting race. We do expect one or two teams to blend together well with experience, and to create some distance from the pack eventually. That's the nature of college hoops these days with so many newcomers to the lineup every year. Be on the lookout for teams heading in either good or bad directions. Media attention is going to drift away from the Pac 10 over time...meaning oddsmaker attention will as well.

We're definitely looking to go against the Pac 10 come tourney time given those defensive stats. You regulars know we have more "go against" leagues than "take" leagues in most seasons. It's good to have a skeptical nature when handicapping. More teams are disappointments every year than are good surprises.

We'll be watching tonight's Pac 10 games closely. Thursday's TV schedule has some other interesting matchups. Games we're paying attention to:


  • Chicago at Boston on TNT
  • Cleveland at Utah on TNT


    The Jim Hurley Network is on a winning roll in our TV package, with an 8-3-1 record and we won Monday night's NBA-TV game on the Hawks (+3.5) in their 102-96 outright upset of the Celtics in the Fleet Center. Our basketball experts assured us that the injury-laden Celts couldn't match up with Atlanta, and our Vegas connections advised us that the betting public was still betting the Boston brand and attributing too much to the power of homecourt advantage. Those same sources are ready to get us two strong plays on Thursday night. The Celts are back in action against the Bulls. But is the public going to now overreact in the other direction? And Cleveland visits Utah. No doubt the Cavs are the better side, but good enough to cover the number in a high-altitude spot that's murder on visiting teams. Those are questions, and we've got answers! Get with us for a night of watching and winning!

    or call the office at 1-800-323-4453


  • Seton Hall at Georgetown on ESPN
  • Arkansas at Mississippi State on ESPNU
  • Indiana at Michigan on ESPN
  • Gonzaga at St. Mary's on ESPN2

That Gonzaga/St. Mary's game is huge...probably matching the two best teams in the West Coast conference unless Portland gets its act together soon. It doesn't involve a major conference, but that could be the best game to watch tonight!

We wanted to sprinkle some NBA into the mix there because we'll be focusing on pro hoops right here tomorrow in our Friday edition of the NOTEBOOK. There's a lucky 13-game schedule on Friday...and we'll get a chance to update some key numbers we like to look at in the pro's. On Saturday, we'll post our weekly NFL stat previews, outlining the widely anticipated playoff games this weekend. Be sure you're with us each and every day so you don't miss a thing.

Great rates are available on all of our packages right now. Call 1-800-323-4453 for details on our CASHLINE, BLUE RIBBON, and NFL PLAYOFF offers. Be sure to ask about combo discounts if you're interested n both sports. Game day releases and packages can also be purchased here at the website with your credit card.

It's a big week in the colleges...a big week in the NBA...and a big week in the NFL playoffs with bye teams Indianapolis, San Diego, New Orleans, and Minnesota finally taking the field. Is there a better time to be a sports fan?! You're going to be parked in front of the TV the next several days (and WEEKS!). Why not WIN WHILE YOU WATCH thanks to JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!


Today’s Hot Plays