Oddball Matchups Highlight Surprising Saturday Card

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

ODDBALL MATCHUPS HIGHLIGHT SURPRISING SATURDAY CARD

Admit it...you hadn't anticipated trying to handicap games like Ohio/Tennessee, Washington/New Mexico, or Murray State/Butler today.

MAYBE some of you had ONE of those games in your brackets. All of them? Plus Old Dominion/Baylor, and St. Mary's/Villanova...that was almost Old Dominion/Sam Houston and St. Mary's/Robert Morris? It feels like a bracket buster Saturday!

To help you understand what REALLY happened on Thursday, we've compiled the Phantom Scores from all 16 games. You regulars know that's our "secondary stat" that throws out the randomness of treys and free throws...and focuses on the most consistent elements of college basketball play. The stat is simply two-point scoring plus rebounding, and it has a VERY strong history of separating the contenders from the pretenders over the years in the Big Dance.

That's extremely important TODAY, because you're about to see that the majority of Thursday winners advanced because they shot over their heads on treys...or because of some helpful officiating (that's YOU Villanova!). We're serious about this. Don't draw any conclusions about today's action until after you've read Thursday's Phantom Scores. Today's report is going to be an eye opener.

We'd also like to quickly thank all of you who signed up for that Thursday BONANZA that saw JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK go 6-0! We won with San Diego State, Sam Houston State, Wake Forest, the Over in Marquette/Washington, and the combination of BYU and Over vs. Florida. What a way to begin the dance!

Let's take the matchups by site, working away across the map from East to West...

 

PROVIDENCE

(2) VILLANOVA vs. (7) ST. MARY'S
Vegas Line: Villanova by 4.5, total of 153

*Thursday's Scores:
Villanova 73, Robert Morris 70 in overtime
St. Mary's 80, Richmond 71

*Thursday's Phantom Scores:
Robert Morris 60, Villanova 50
St. Mary's 76, Richmond 46

Notebook: Villanova was very lucky to get by Robert Morris. They needed a 31-21 edge in made free throws just to barely sneak by. If you watched the game, you know that RM got the short end of the stick from the officials. Amazingly, in terms of athletes, focus, and execution, Villanova was the lesser of the two teams that day. Even TV pundits were surprised that Villanova didn't seem to have any sort of physical advantage.

St. Mary's on the other hand, from a conference known for its soft play, actually squashed Richmond inside. Their bigs owned the boards with a huge 40-16 rebounding edge. They were clearly the superior side. Certainly some extra rest had something to do with that. Richmond was drained from a deep run in the A10 tournament. St. Mary's wrapped up its bid several days before that.

We're not going to call for an upset here. We know Villanova is better than they showed, and they can make St. Mary's very uncomfortable with a breakneck tempo (something Robert Morris prevented). Just be aware that Villanova is not playing well now, or over the last few weeks. They have "lesson learning" turmoil behind the scenes with key players. And, they come from a Big East conference that may have been extremely overrated by all of us this year. JIM HURLEY is very interested to hear what his Providence sources will be saying about Villanova's preparation for this game.

(6) TENNESSEE vs. (14) OHIO
Vegas Line: Tennessee by 8.5, total of 140.5

*Thursday's Scores:
Tennessee 62, San Diego State 59
Ohio 97, Georgetown 83

*Thursday's Phantom Scores:
San Diego State 64, Tennessee 53
Georgetown 77, Ohio 62

Notebook: Both scoreboard winners lost Phantom Score by double digits! Ohio shot lights out from long range, hitting an incredible 13 of 23 three-pointers. Can they do that again? Very unlikely. But, they're running into a Tennessee team that was also +15 on three-pointers in their victory. We've been telling you for years that Bruce Pearl teams have to win three's to have any chance to advance because they have so many other weaknesses. In terms of power basketball, BOTH of these teams are pretenders. One wil make it to the Sweet 16. Georgetown is another team that may have been worn down from a deep run in their conference tournament. That was just a killer this year, particularly for teams that LOST in the finals.

 

NEW ORLEANS

(3) BAYLOR VS. (11) OLD DOMINION
Vegas Line: Baylor by 4, total of 128.5

*Thursday's Scores:
Baylor 68, Sam Houston State 59
Old Dominion 51, Notre Dame 50

*Thursday's Phantom Scores:
Baylor 87, Sam Houston State 68
Notre Dame 65, Old Dominion 64

Notebook: Baylor's power edges showed up in Phantom Score, even if generally uninspired play kept them from pulling away on the scoreboard until very late. History has taught us to respect the power teams in the Dance because they can win even when the treys aren't falling. Baylor was a poor 5 of 20 from long range Thursday, yet still won by nine. You can see why they're so dangerous when they shoot better! Old Dominion won a toss-up with Notre Dame in a game that was dead even however you slice it. Right now, it's not exactly a compliment to be dead even with a mid-level Big East team!

We expect a good one here. And we'll be thinking about the winner in the next round too.

  1. KENTUCKY VS. (9) WAKE FOREST

Vegas Line: Kentucky by 9.5, total of 142.5

*Thursday's Scores:
Kentucky 100, East Tennessee State 71
Wake Forest 81, Texas 80 in overtime

*Thursday's Phantom Scores:
East Tennessee State 74, Kentucky 59
Wake Forest 104, Texas 68

Notebook: Very surprising Phantom Scores there. Kentucky hit a lot of treys and just coasted to a win. It's great to go 15 of 33 from long range and spent the night high fiving each other. It's not going to happen again, so the Wildcats better pick up their intensity in the areas of defense and rebounding. Kentucky was +33 on treys in a game they won by 29. You can see how that creates a thriller vs. anybody on the day the bombs don't fall.

Wake Forest has athletes, but they shouldn't KILL Texas in inside play to that degree. Credit a very intense offensive rebounding effort for keeping Wake Forest in that game, then allowing them to steal it at the buzzer. We'll have learned more about the ACC by the time you read this. That information plus what we hear from our sources will influence our final decision. A final score that's a dozen points away from the spread in either direction wouldn't surprise us given the volatility of these teams.

 

OKLAHOMA CITY

  1. KANSAS STATE VS. (7) BYU

Vegas Line: Kansas State by 4.5, total of 154.5

*Thursday's Scores:
Kansas State 82, North Texas 62
BYU 99, Florida 92 in overtime

*Thursday's Phantom Scores:
Kansas State 87, North Texas 56
Florida 86, BYU 74

Notebook: A rare game where the projected winners based on seeding advanced. Our first one so far today in this report. You can see that BYU was lucky to get by Florida. They won free throws 25-14 in a double overtime thriller. They also shot well from long range (10 of 23 on treys). If you're catching breaks in those areas, but it still takes double overtime to beat a borderline bubble team from a week conference...you may be in some trouble!

Kansas State was one of the few Thursday favorites to play to expectations on the scoreboard and inside. They're surely battle tested given all the Big 12 wars this year. Are they ready for a guy named "Jimmer?" This isn't a battle of big media markets, but it could turn out to be one of the most compelling games of the day.

(1) KANSAS VS. (9) NORTHERN IOWA
Vegas Line: Kansas by 11.5, total of 126.5

*Thursday's Scores:
Kansas 90, Lehigh 74
Northern Iowa 69, UNLV 66

*Thursday's Phantom Scores:
Kansas 98, Lehigh 65
UNLV 58, Northern Iowa 53

Notebook: Do you think the Kansas and Kansas State fans will be rooting for each other in New Orleans? Time for an "us against them" mentality don't you think? Tough to forget about the blood battles...but two Kansas teams in the Sweet 16 would be sweet.

We were very disappointed with the Kansas effort vs. Lehigh. At least Phantom Score shows a blowout. Somehow Kansas was outscored 17-5 from the free throw line by little Lehigh. Northern Iowa needed a 20-7 edge in free throws to barely sneak by UNLV. Obviously...if free throws revert to norms, Kansas will be in position to win very comfortably. But, if the Big 12 is about to join the Big East on the overrated list (possible given the non-covers from Kansas, Baylor, and Texas on Thursday), then this one could get very interesting. Northern isn't afraid of anybody. Kansas could probably use a little fear to get them jumpstarted back into championship form.

 

SAN JOSE

(5) BUTLER VS. (13) MURRAY STATE
Vegas Line: Butler by 4.5, total of 128

*Thursday's Scores:
Butler 77, UTEP 59
Murray State 66, Vanderbilt 65

*Thursday's Phantom Scores:
UTEP 68, Butler 47
Murray State 70, Vanderbilt 64

Notebook: Butler joins the list of teams who advanced because they make a bunch of treys. They were 13 of 31 for the game, and strung together a bunch during their second half explosion. As you've seen over the years in the Dance, that's fool's gold. We used to say that that two out of every three perimeter teams would lose each round...and that the one that hit their shots would look better than they really were. West Virginia had a hot Dance several years ago by being that "one" team a few rounds in a row! Maybe Butler's going to be that type of team this year. The laws of math nail these teams eventually.

Solid win for Murray State, though Vandy was way overseeded as a #4. Murray brings intensity whenever they take the floor. They will give Butler a real battle if the favorite finds the rims less friendly on the long range shots.

  1. NEW MEXICO VS. (11) WASHINGTON

Vegas Line: Washington by 1.5, total of 150.5

*Thursday's Scores:
New Mexico 62, Montana 57
Washington 80, Marquette 78

*Thursday's Phantom Scores:
New Mexico 63, Montana 62
Washington 68, Marquette 51

Notebook: We've been warning you all year about Marquette's soft inside game. That jumped up and bit them vs. Washington...with their season fittingly ending on a barely contested short shot in the final seconds. Washington does come from a soft conference, but they're playing their best ball of the year right now. Could you imagine a #11 seed being favored over a #3?!

Who can argue? New Mexico has a soft defense themselves, hasn't impressed anyone in a few weeks, and limped by Montana in the first round. Phantom Score shows them in a dead heat with Montana. Steve Alford got a ton of positive press this year. He's still the same Steve Alford who couldn't win at Iowa. The Lobos need to lift their games substantially if they want to play in the second week.

You regulars know we can't post our official selections here in the NOTEBOOK. That information is for paying customers. We did want to present these Phantom Scores for you because they were so out of line with the scoreboard on Thursday. You've read enough of our NOTEBOOK reports over the years to appreciate the predictive value of this stat.

If you'd like some help making your final decisions, call JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK right now at 1-800-323-4453 to sign up for service. Game day releases can also be purchased here at the website with your credit card.

Back tomorrow to run the same numbers for Sunday's games off Friday's results. Only one round is in the rearview mirror of this monthlong tourney. That means THE WINNING IS JUST BEGINNING!

 

18
Nov

Today’s Hot Plays