Georgetown-West Virginia Preview

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

GEORGETOWN, WEST VIRGINIA TRYING
TO SHAKE LABEL OF 'PRETENDERS'

by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

Not too long ago, both Georgetown and West Virginia looked to the masses like very serious threats to do damage in MARCH MADNESS.

Heading into tonight's BIG MONDAY matchup on ESPN, both are still respected in the rankings, and in the 'bracketology' stuff that projects the seedings. Part of that is by default. So few teams are playing great that losing, or winning close games doesn't hurt you much!

We have to say we're much less impressed with these teams lately. Georgetown got crushed at home this past Saturday by a Notre Dame team that was missing its dominant player. That was reminiscent of a prior bad loss at home to South Florida. Both ND and USF are far from sure things to make it to the Dance. Georgetown couldn't hang with them at home!

Yes, the win over Duke in front of the president was nice. They don't give out any trophies for that!

A week ago we talked about the possible flies in the West Virginia ointment as we previewed their BIG MONDAY game at Connecticut. You saw those flies multiply in a loss at UCONN. And...UCONN isn't playing like a vintage Jim Calhoun team this year.

If West Virginia and Georgetown can't handle the mid-level teams (in an admittedly tough Big East), how can they run roughshod over anyone who matters in the Big Dance?

These troubles have been going on for a while. Let's review some recent results with one of our pet stats 'Phantom Score.' You regulars know that's a secondary score that helps paint a better picture of the game. It's simply two-point scoring plus rebounding. If you win that stuff...you're usually the better side. If you win that stuff but lose the game, odds favor you doing better the next time around. Three's and one's are fickle...two point scoring and rebounding are better indicators for quality.

Here's what GEORGETOWN has been doing since the Duke win:

Final Score: South Florida 72, Georgetown 64
Phantom Score: South Florida 74, Georgetown 65

Final Score: Georgetown 103, Villanova 90
Phantom Score: Villanova 72, Georgetown 58
(misleading Hoya's win with 10 treys and 39 made FT's!)

Final Score: Georgetown 79, Providence 70
Phantom Score: Georgetown 80, Providence 65
(clean win vs. unimpressive team)

Final Score: Rutgers 71, Georgetown 68
Phantom Score: Georgetown 80, Rutgers 66
(misleading upset, but Rutgers is horrible!)

Final Score: Syracuse 75, Georgetown 71
Phantom Score: Georgetown 71, Syracuse 54
(Hoya's almost overcome disastrous first half, and do win our pet stat)

Final Score: Georgetown 70, Louisville 60
Phantom Score: Georgetown 61, Louisville 58
(Impressive result, though not quite as one-sided as the score made it seem)

Final Score: Notre Dame 78, Georgetown 64
Phantom Score: Notre Dame 66, Georgetown 45
(Inexplicable performance from the hosts!)

Talk about inconsistency! Georgetown looked horrible vs. South Florida and Notre Dame, and found a way to lose to a poor Rutgers squad even though they were doing well in our key areas. THAT version of the Hoyas team could drop a first round game to a directional school from a mid major at the drop of a hat (Eastern somebody, Western somebody). But...the same group of players truly impressed on that same court vs. Syracuse (and Duke), and posted a nice result at dangerous Louisville. THAT version of the Hoyas can play with anybody...as Syracuse and Duke are both projected to be top seeds.

On the whole, we're skeptical that such an inconsistent team can string together big wins in the NCAA tournament. They're certainly capable of scoring at least one or two though...if they can avoid the tendency to take seeming non-threats too lightly. All told, not as bad as it seems if you just focus on the ND and USF results.

Let's do the same thing for West Virginia. We'll go six games back to the home loss to Villanova.

Final Score: Villanova 82, West Virginia 75
Phantom Score: Villanova 85, West Virginia 73

Final Score: Pittsburgh 98, West Virginia 95 (in OT)
Phantom Score: West Virginia 96, Pittsburgh 80
(strong performance even with the heartbreaking loss in the extra period)

Final Score: West Virginia 88, Providence 74
Phantom Score: West Virginia 99, Providence 48
(Wow, an even bigger blowout than it seemed)

Final Score: West Virginia 75, Seton Hall 63
Phantom Score: West Virginia 72, Seton Hall 67
(a win but a misleading final)

Final Score: Connecticut 73, West Virginia 62
Phantom Score: Connecticut 69, West Virginia 65
(closer than it seemed, a zillion FT's for UCONN)

Final Score: West Virginia 74, Cincinnati 68
Phantom Score: West Virginia 71, Cincinnati 56

Mostly good news from the Phantom Score perspective. As skeptical as we are about the National Championship hopes for the Mountaineers (see last Monday's article in the archives), we have to admit they've been playing better than their final scores much of the time lately. The bad news is...they did have clean losses to Villanova and UCONN...and good teams are SUPPOSED to outclass opponents like Providence, Seton Hall, and Cincinnati.

West Virginia is 2-4 ATS its last six games (and lucky not to be 1-5 ATS because they vultured the Seton Hall cover). They're not really playing as bad as that would make it seem in terms of the time-proven lessons of Phantom Score.

Looks to us like both teams are in very similar boats. They can play with anybody...but they're far from a sure thing to bring their 'A' game every time out. Both are likely to get very high seeds in a season that's short of true superpowers. You should probably think of them like #4 or #5 seeds in typical seasons. That's the type that can lose a first round game to a #12 or #13 type...but can take out a #1 in the Sweet 16 round if they find consistency. West Virginia is currently projected to be a #2 seed! They're just not at the level of what a #2 usually means.

Maybe they'll change our minds tonight. Maybe West Virginia will solidify their projected seed, and knock Georgetown all the way down to the #4 or #5 that they really deserve anyway. We're certainly interested in how that BIG MONDAY game plays out. It's one of many games on the Monday card tweaking JIM HURLEY'S interest:

On ESPN:
Georgetown at West Virginia at 7 p.m. ET
Oklahoma at Texas at 9 p.m. ET

In the NBA:
Dallas at Charlotte
San Antonio at New Orleans
Atlanta at Chicago
Portland at Memphis
Denver at Phoenix

What a great slate of Monday matchups! Don't forget that Tuesday brings the first night of tournament action in a couple of mid major conferences. Today is the first day of March...meaning MARCH MADNESS IS UPON US!

Now's the perfect time to call JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK at 1-800-323-4453. We've been talking for awhile about the red hot PRIVATE LINE club. That service kept things rolling with a 6-1 week! We hope you were with us for Saturday's BOARD SWEEP on Texas A&M (pk) over Texas 74-58, and Saint Louis (-4.5) over Duquesne 69-59.

The vaunted CASHLINE is documented at 19-7-1 ATS since just after Valentine's. That's 73% the last two weeks! NETWORK has nailed outright underdog winners during that stretch on Penn State over Michigan, Duquesne over Dayton, Georgetown over Louisville, Loyola Marymount over San Diego, and Tennessee big over Kentucky this past Saturday.

We'll be back here in the NOTEBOOK Tuesday to provide SPOTLIGHT coverage for the Horizon League and Ohio Valley Conference on the opening night for their tournaments. Wednesday we'll dig deep in Duke/Maryland, one of the biggest games all year in the ACC. More conference SPOTLIGHT coverage comes Thursday and Friday as several mid majors get under way. Make sure you're with us EVERY DAY so you know what's REALLY happening in college hoops!

Championship Month is here. When championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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

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