Sunday NCAA Previews

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

BIG DAY FOR THE BIG TEN,
WITH FOUR TEAMS IN ACTION

by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

CBS has to be happy with THIS schedule! The lack of upsets on Friday set up some marquee showdowns today in round two of the Big Dance. The Big Ten is very well represented, with teams appearing in HALF the games!

Powerful media league the Big East has its top three teams on the floor (Syracuse, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh). Longtime TV darling the ACC has its top two teams (Duke and Maryland). California and Gonzaga won regular season championships out West. You know, everyone was calling Thursday 'the best opening day ever.' Today's action might shape up as the best TV schedule ever. The ratings are going to be through the roof!

Let's run through all eight matchups, with a focus on what 'Phantom Score' is telling us from Friday's first round action. You regulars know that's simply two-point scoring plus rebounding, which serves as a 'secondary score' that often tells you more about a game than the actual final score does. There there are discrepancies, we've found over the years that 'Phantom Score' has the better predictive value.

Here we go, in rotation order...

BUFFALO

(2) WEST VIRGINIA VS. (10) MISSOURI
Vegas Line: West Virginia by 6, total of 137

*Friday's Scores:
West Virginia 77, Morgan State 50
Missouri 86, Clemson 78

* Friday's Phantom Scores:
West Virginia 82, Morgan State 64
Missouri 75, Clemson 69

Notebook: Nothing of surprise in the Phantom Scores. Both teams won clean, with stats in the right areas that confirmed their superiority. Handicappers now have to deal with the rating of the respective conferences. Winning the Big East tournament doesn't look as great now as it did last week. The Big 12 had sluggishness issues of its own in the first round. We've been on a great run through the postseason because of our reads on these two teams. We might have something special in store at the current price. Of course, our Buffalo sources will influence the discussion if they uncover some news. Our guys in the Northeast are great at that!

(1) SYRACUSE VS. (8) GONZAGA
Vegas Line: Syracuse by 7.5, total of 150

*Friday's Scores:
Syracuse 79, Vermont 56
Gonzaga 67, Florida State 60

* Friday's Phantom Scores:
Syracuse 74, Vermont 63
Gonzaga 77, Florida State 56

Notebook: Gonzaga and St. Mary's have entered the Dance like true warriors. That's a big change from the recent past, where both seemed soft under the spotlight. Syracuse is better than the Villanova team that fell to St. Mary's yesterday. But Gonzaga went 2-1 this year against St. Mary's. This one could get just as interesting, particularly with Syracuse having to deal with injury issues. You have to be very careful with dogs over the weekend in this event because the cream is known to rise to the top after the first round. We're very open to the possibility that Gonzaga is cream this year, while the Big East powers aren't as good as we expected. This will be a great litmus test for what remains of the Big East. Note in Phantom Score that Syracuse wasn't as impressive in its win over Vermont as the score made it look, and Gonzaga was actually much more dominant than it seemed. Remember, they had a big lead that shrunk a bit when they relaxed too soon.

JACKSONVILLE

(4) WISCONSIN VS. (12) CORNELL
Vegas Line: Wisconsin by 4, total of 121

*Friday's Scores:
Wisconsin 53, Wofford 49
Cornell 78, Temple 65

* Friday's Phantom Scores:
Wisconsin 68, Wofford 68
Temple 63, Cornell 61

Notebook: This one should be another slow possession-by-possession battle. Wisconsin played to a net tie with Wofford in our key stat. But, Cornell was actually worse than Temple in their upset. Cornell won three-pointers 9-5, which represented the bulk of their victory margin. Cornell will have to hit treys again to win here. You can probably say that's the key to the whole day. Wisconsin is inconsistent from long range (just 1 of 8 in the first round). We'll be thinking about the Under because of the projected tempo, and the likelihood that Cornell will cool off from long range in the letdown spot. Oh, one theme for today will be that the Big Ten is all over the schedule...and they had lousy Phantom Scores in their first round victories!

(1) DUKE VS. (8) CALIFORNIA
Vegas Line: Duke by 6, total of 143

*Friday's Scores:
Duke 73, Arkansas Pine Bluff 44
California 77, Louisville 62

* Friday's Phantom Scores:
Duke 74, Arkansas Pine Bluff 48
Louisville 73, California 61

Notebook: Cal jumped way ahead of Louisville early in the game the other night, which may have polluted this stat just a bit. It's easy to relax in the hustle stats with a big lead. We're very interested to see how this one plays out. Duke is smart, but not particularly athletic this year. Cal is athletic, but has played a lot of dumb games away from their home floor. We typically go against Duke after the first round in this event. They've been struggling for several years now. We would have preferred that a more physical team than Cal would have lined up against them. A lot of volatility here. We wouldn't be surprised if the final score missed the spread by 10 points in either direction. That just might be a hint about a very big release from us today! The computer simulations have been showing some surprising outcomes by the way.

2nd Round Two-Teamer!

There's eight second round games on the Sunday card and the Jim Hurley Network is locked in on two plays that grade out strongly, thanks to som key information from our on-scene sources. We've been told that fatigue is going to play a bigger factor than the Vegas linesmaker anticipates. Furthermore, our sources are convinced that a key player in both games is playing with a mild injury that's been kept from the media, and is thereby not stopping the public from betting this team. At a point when the tournament when only the deepest of handicapping teams can still find significant gaps in the line, our sources are a hidden gold mine, and they've pointed the way to a two-team parlay on Sunday!

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MILWAUKEE

(3) PITTSBURGH VS. (6) XAVIER
Vegas Line: Pittsburgh by 1, total of 136

*Friday's Scores:
Pittsburgh 89, Oakland 66
Xavier 65, Minnesota 54

* Friday's Phantom Scores:
Pittsburgh 88, Oakland 59
Xavier 71, Minnesota 61

Notebook: Clean wins for both teams, with the Phantom margins largely confirming what the scoreboard showed in both. Each of these teams have a nice history this decade in the postseason. The coaches know what they're doing. The players don't back down (the coaches recruit players who don't back down!). We'll think about the Under because of the potential for a real wrestling match. Officiating could loom large when it's all said and done.

(2) OHIO STATE VS. (10) GEORGIA TECH
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 6.5, total of 133

*Friday's Scores:
Ohio State 68, Cal Santa Barbara 51
Georgia Tech 64, Oklahoma State 59

* Friday's Phantom Scores:
Ohio State 59, Cal Santa Barbara 58
Georgia Tech 62, Oklahoma State 49

Notebook: Note that Ohio State only beat USCB by a point in Phantom Score. Why is that? The Buckeyes won three-pointers 10-6, and free throws 16-5. That's plus 12 points, and plus 11 points, in a game they only won by 17. We'll concede that Ohio State is capable of earning trips to the line. Will they reach double digits in made treys again? Be very careful assuming Ohio State is safe because they posted the best results of a Big Ten team on Friday. Phantom Score says they were as slow an ugly as everyone else (slower!). Georgia Tech could shut us up about the ACC with an upset here. We have to admit the league is exceeding our expectations by a good bit in the early stages of this event. Don't forget that Georgia Tech hung tough with Duke in the ACC title tilt a week ago today.

SPOKANE

(4) PURDUE VS. TEXAS A&M (5)
Vegas Line: Texas A&M by 1, total of 125

*Friday's Scores:
Purdue 72, Siena 64
Texas A&M 69, Utah State 53

* Friday's Phantom Scores:
Purdue 81, Siena 80
Utah State 67, Texas A&M 65

Notebook: Yes, Purdue finally had a good result without Robbie Hummel. No, Phantom Score doesn't confirm the success. Six of the eight points in the final victory margin came from three-pointers (Siena was a poor 3 of 12 from long range). Purdue was a little better than Siena, but they don't give many prizes for being a little better than a 13th seed who hadn't beaten anybody good all year. Though, given what happened with Michigan State and Wisconsin, this feels like a good result! Let's not overlook that Texas A&M lost Phantom Score to Utah State. The Big 12 hasn't quite been living up to their bruising reputation coming in. They were plus nine points on treys, and won made free throws 11-0. Think Purdue will go 0 for the day from the line? Nice matchup here in the 4-5 slot. How much will the absence of Hummel be worth against a top 25 caliber team on a neutral floor? Answer that properly, and you probably have the winner here.

(4) MARYLAND VS. (5) MICHIGAN STATE
Vegas Line: Maryland by 1, total of 142

*Friday's Scores:
Maryland 89, Houston 77
Michigan State 70, New Mexico State 67

* Friday's Phantom Scores:
Maryland 103, Houston 63
Michigan State 64, New Mexico State 62

Notebook: Nice doubleheader in Spokane, with a pair of potential nailbiters involving quality teams. Maryland crushed Houston in Phantom Score, but Houston was one of the worst inside teams in the tournament. Still, we have to respect what the ACC is doing this week. You may not have noticed that North Carolina won on the road at Mississippi State Saturday in the NIT. ACC teams are topping expectations across the spectrum in early action. The Big Ten largely isn't, though they can sure turn that around with their Grand Slam of games today. Phantom Score is often a meaningful early warning sign for overrated conferences. It's up to the Big Ten to kick things up a notch this afternoon.

That wraps up our look at Sunday action. You can sign up for today's official releases, and the rest of our postseason package by calling 1-800-323-4453. Or, make a few clicks and take care of business here at the website. BIG JUICY WINNERS ARE ALWAYS JUST A FEW CLICKS AWAY!

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23
Nov

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