Weekend Phantom Scores



by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

When we preview the Sweet 16 games Thursday and Friday, we'll be emphasizing once again two-point defense and conference strengths. Those are our standard SPOTLIGHT indicators this season. We really like how our pet stat 'Phantom Score' is telling the story on a game-by-game basis though. So, we've gathered up all the numbers from Saturday and Sunday so you can get a better sense of what was happening on the floor,.

Let's go site by site and crunch the numbers. For you newcomers, Phantom Score is simply two-point scoring plus rebounding. It's a secondary stat that typically has better predictive value for future games than the actual scoreboard.


*Final Score: St. Mary's 75, Villanova 68
*Phantom Score: Villanova 67, St. Mary's 65

*Final Score: Tennessee 83, Ohio 68
*Phantom Score: Tennessee 97, Ohio 52

Ohio was a pretender who happened to hit a bunch of treys to upset Georgetown. Tennessee dispatched them with ease. We're skeptical of Tennessee's style in big games...but Ohio was not match for their speed and talent. Villanova will be one of many teams from the power conferences this weekend who 'won' Phantom Score but lost on the scoreboard. It's amazing they could do that given all the easy hoops they were allowing inside to St. Mary's. Phantom Score doesn't acknowledge free throws...and Villanova's tendency to put St. Mary's on the line all day ultimately cost them the game.


*Final Score: Baylor 76, Old Dominion 68
*Phantom Score: Baylor 68, Old Dominion 63

*Final Score: Kentucky 90, Wake Forest 60
*Phantom Score: Kentucky 100, Wake Forest 67

No surprises here. Baylor gradually wore down Old Dominion. Kentucky fairly IMMEDIATELY wore down a tired Wake Forest team off the Texas overtime game...and ran away and hid. John Calipari teams have a habit of obliterating opponents in the Dance when things are clicking. Tough to click six games in a row though. Not much news out of New Orleans as the favorites did what they were supposed to.


*Final Score: Kansas State 84, BYU 72
*Phantom Score: Kansas State 57, BYU 56

*Final Score: Northern Iowa 69, Kansas 67
*Phantom Score: Kansas 68, Northern Iowa 53

You see that Kansas actually won Phantom Score by even more than the Vegas spread. That's why we say this stat is often a better descriptor of the teams than the final score is. Northern Iowa was plus nine points from long range (not characteristic for them0, and also made a few more free throws. Kansas was too passive on offense, and didn't give enough priority to defending the perimeter. If they played again tomorrow...you're looking at a double digit Kansas win. They don't. So, Kansas gets to watch the Sweet 16 at home on TV with the rest of us. Kansas State will represent the Big 12 next week. They weren't as dominant inside as expected vs. BYU, but got the job done.


*Final Score: Butler 54, Murray State 52
*Phantom Score: Murray State 58, Butler 42

*Final Score: Washington 82, New Mexico 64
*Phantom Score: Washington 85, New Mexico 76

Butler could be in trouble as they step up in class the rest of the way. They were beaten badly inside by Murray State, and managed to eke out a win because of a 6-16 turnover advantage. That probably won't happen again, while weakness inside vs. quality is going to be an issue. Many of the mid-majors still alive knocked out a power conference opponent to advance. Butler is here because of wins over UTEP and Murray State. Keep that in mind. Great weekend for Washington, who was fortunate to draw teams with poor inside defenses in both rounds. They attacked the basket and earned their rewards vs. Marquette and New Mexico.


*Final Score: Syracuse 87, Gonzaga 65
*Phantom Score: Syracuse 70, Gonzaga 70

*Final Score: West Virginia 68, Missouri 59
*Phantom Score: West Virginia 64, Missouri 58

The Syracuse Phantom Score is a little misleading because Syracuse relaxed with a big lead. They were more dominant in that stat when the game was on the line than they were after garbage time mucked everything up. Still, they weren't quite as great as the scoreboard was making it look thanks to a hot day from long range. You know how skeptical we are about teams who happened to hit their bombs. Tough to keep that going. Syracuse may not have dodged the Big East bullet completely. West Virginia won by what they were supposed to, with a few late FT's putting air up on the scoreboard.



With the NCAA Tournament off tonight, the pros have a good card of action in play, with marquee teams, solid matchups and most importantly, POINT SPREAD EDGES ready to be sawed off. There's two in particular that grade out strongly, and our handicapping team evaluated them all. We looked at the big showdown at West between the Celtics and Jazz to see if Boston still had the stamina to win or cover. Our basketball people evaluated the 76ers to see if they could hang with Orlando. Our Vegas pipeline let us know what sharp syndicate players think of Oklahoma City's emergence and how they'll fare against San Antonio. And our on-scene sources gave us information regarding the Atlanta-Milwaukee game that may be a prelude to the playoffs. Best of all, at the top of our food chain is Jim Hurley himself, a 24-year veteran of the handicapping wars, who took this package of bettable games and isolated the two that were STANDOUTS! Those are the ones we're betting big and parlaying and you can be in on it!

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*Final Score: Cornell 87, Wisconsin 69
*Phantom Score: Cornell 76, Wisconsin 52

*Final Score: Duke 68, California 53
*Phantom Score: Duke 82, California 61

Possibly the biggest surprise of the day to us is that Cornell crushed Wisconsin in Phantom Score. This wasn't the case of a feisty little team making a bunch of treys or catching somebody napping. Cornell kept working for good shots, finding them surprisingly easily, and making them. Very soft showing for Wisconsin, and a good sign for Cornell fans dreaming the dream. Duke was more dominant that the final scoreboard made it seem. They usually don't go something awful like 3 of 17 on treys. Pencil in a normal day on treys, and Duke's final margin lifts up to what Phantom Score says it should have been all along.


*Final Score: Ohio State 75, Georgia Tech 66
*Phantom Score: Georgia Tech 71, Ohio State 62

*Final Score: Xavier 71, Pittsburgh 68
*Phantom Score: Pittsburgh 71, Xavier 61

Hey, let's pay attention here! Two reversals of fortune...as Ohio State and Xavier won on the scoreboard by similar scores, but lost Phantom Score by nearly identical scores. What happened?

*Ohio State had an 8-4 edge in three-pointers, resulting in a 12 point edge in a game they only won by nine points. They really didn't have much going for them besides that. So, even though they were a #2 seed, and a popular choice in many office brackets you have looked at, they're not playing as well as many of the other power teams.

*Xavier chipped away at Pitt with a slight edge in treys (8-7) free throws (15-11), and turnovers (7-8). Two-point performance and rebounding are more consistent, which means Xavier enters the second week on the gust of a fortunate breeze. Phantom Score suggests a clear loss in most meetings between Xavier and Pitt.


*Final Score: Michigan State 85, Maryland 83
*Phantom Score: Michigan State 79, Maryland 61

*Final Score: Purdue 63, Texas A&M (in OT)
*Phantom Score: Texas A&M 76, Purdue 70

Michigan State seemed to be in control most of the game. They fell apart with turnovers in the final minutes...thanks to having key players on the sidelines with injury. They hit a shot at the buzzer to pull the game out. If not for an 18-6 turnover loss, they would have advanced comfortably based on the Phantom Score assessment. Purdue was lucky to get by Texas A&M given our data. Though, it was tight down the stretch and it was going to take a break or two either way for somebody to win it.

We hope the weekend treated you well. Thanks to all of you who signed up for JIM HURLEY'S basketball program. The bankroll is growing, and we still have two weekends of action left in the Big Dance...plus a lot more in the other tournaments!

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That wraps up our Monday edition of the NOTEBOOK. Our next look at the Dance will be on Thursday when we provide stat previews looking at two-point defense and schedule strengths (just like we presented for you last weekend in the tourney). We'll have other hoop notes of interest between now and then. Be sure you're with us EVERY DAY so you know what's really going on in the world of sports!

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