Tuesday's NIT Previews
JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK
NIT PREVIEWS: UNC/UAB, TEXAS TECH/OLE MISS
Tonight's winners will be heading to the NIT's Final Four at Madison Square Garden in New York City. That means it's time to step in with some expanded previews. We'll do the same thing tomorrow here in the NOTEBOOK for the other set of quarterfinals.
The Big Dance may be off until Thursday...but JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK will have something special for you every night in college hoops!
Let's start with the game everyone's focused on...North Carolina at UAB. Wouldn't it be something if Carolina finally figured out how to play NOW, and made an exciting run through the NIT? They won outright on the road at Mississippi State over the weekend to qualify for the quarters. Let's take a closer look at potential keys tonight.
For you newcomers, we'll be focusing on two-point defense...because we think that's the single best indicator stat in college basketball. We also make adjustments for conference strengths in the postseason. Two-point defense means even more when you can adjust for strength of competition. We'll also spend some time tonight looking at how the conferences involved fared in the Big Dance. Some clear strengths and weaknesses have become clear in recent days that were far from obvious when the postseason started.
Here we go...Texas Tech at Ole Miss will follow this one...
NORTH CAROLINA AT ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM
North Carolina 45%
Conference Edge: North Carolina by 8
Vegas Line: UAB by 4, total of 136
We'd have to rule that Carolina has the better two-point defense once you adjust for schedule. They played in the tougher ACC, and would likely grade out better than 45% if they played in the weaker CUSA. Remember that these AREN'T neutral site games. Alabama-Birmingham is the host, and is getting at least four points in the line for home court advantage. Our initial glance here would suggest potential value on the Tar Heels given their superior adjusted defense mark.
NIT Results So Far:
North Carolina (-9) beat William & Mary 80-72
North Carolina (+7) beat Mississippi State 76-74
UAB (-10) beat Coastal Carolina 65-49
UAB (-5) beat NC State 72-52
It's very important to note that blowout win for UAB against NC State. State and Carolina were playing similar ball late in the season. Carolina finished 10th in the ACC, State 11th...but NC State had some nice results in the ACC tourney while Carolina exited in the first round. If you had started falling in love with the dog here, that final score is a sobering reminder of what can happen when a lower division ACC team isn't prepared for a big road game. We have to say we were impressed with North Carolina's win in Starkville. That's a tough place to get to, and a tougher place to play. That experience should help the Heels prepare for tonight's challenge.
These Conferences in the Dance: Conference USA was a DISASTER in the Big Dance. Regular season champion UTEP got squashed by Butler in the first round...getting steamrollered in the second half. Tournament champion Houston was no match for Maryland. Now, Houston was lucky to get into the Dance in the first place, so that may be unfair. Let's note though that Memphis was considered about even with UAB entering the NIT. The Tigers needed a buzzer shot to beat St. John's in the first round, then lost to Ole Miss in the second round. UAB is left to carry the banner for CUSA after a 0-4 ATS stretch from those other teams listed.
The ACC only has one team in the Sweet 16 of the Big Dance (champion Duke), but just missed getting two in when Maryland lost at the buzzer to Michigan State. A mixed bag otherwise, with some highlights and lowlights. We can't find any reason to adjust our regular season assessment that the ACC was about eight points better than CUSA top to bottom.
What's it all mean? There are numbers pointing to the road dog...but that 72-52 rout for UAB over NC State can't be ignored. We'll be working very closely with our on site sources to pin down a play here. By the time you read this, that information will have been gathered...and a big play posted if justified.
TEXAS TECH AT MISSISSIPPI
Texas Tech 48%
Ole Miss 45%
Conference Edge: Texas Tech by 3
Vegas Line: Ole Miss by 9, total of 157
Ole Miss has a clear defensive edge, and benefits from a strong home floor historically. Should they be THAT big a favorite though given the difference in conferences? Didn't Texas Tech just win outright at Seton Hall at that size spread? You'll see in a moment they did. But, that was also a Seton Hall team from an overrated Big East...and one that was dealing with inner turmoil that didn't go public until the head coach was fired the next day. Ole Miss isn't going to lay down with a trip to the Final Four of the NIT on the line. They'll show up the way Jacksonville did in Lubbock...and Tech had trouble putting that one away. Let's review the scores.
NIT Results So Far:
Texas Tech (+9) beat Seton Hall 87-69
Texas Tech (-9) beat Jacksonville 69-64
Ole Miss (-13) beat Troy 84-65
Ole Miss (-4) beat Memphis 90-81
Tech had to rally from way down at the half just to pull out a victory at home against unheralded Jacksonville. As strong as that first win was...the second victory looked fairly weak. Ole Miss has been solid so far through two challenges, putting up a lot of points in the process. If you're thinking about the dog here, be aware that Ole Miss is averaging 87 points per game in the NIT...and Tech allowed a very poor 48% on two-pointers this year (poor by postseason tournament standards anyway).
These Conferences in the Dance: The Big 12 is shocked that Kansas went out so soon, but they're happy that Baylor and Kansas State are still around. Texas A&M just missed tagging along too, blowing a double digit second half lead before losing in overtime to Purdue. The Big 12 may be a bit below expectations when you measure from top to bottom. It's still a strong conference.
The SEC still has Tennessee alive...but a fortunate schedule had the Vols playing mid majors San Diego State and Ohio rather than any big time powers. Vanderbilt was dropped in the first round by Murray State. Florida lost to BYU. Did we forget about Kentucky? No. We just don't think the rest of the SEC should be judged on Kentucky. They were way behind the Wildcats for the bulk of the season.
We probably won't adjust the regular season conference strength assessment. If we do, it would just be down a shade.
We'll talk with our sources before making a final call. Be aware that the top play tonight could easily end up being a total just as well as a side. Vegas has a weak history with totals in the NIT because they don't make the proper adjustments to "playoff style" basketball when it's being played on home courts.
You can get tonight's plays by calling 1-800-323-4453. If you sign up for the rest of the NCAA Tournament, all remaining NIT selections (plus the other tourneys) will be included at no additional charge (along with the NBA!). Game day releases and packages are always available here at the website for credit card purchase as well.
Don't take tonight off because you're waiting for the Sweet 16 on Thursday. That's leaving money on the table. WINNERS GET THE MONEY SEVEN DAYS A WEEK!
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