PAC 10 Basketball

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

WASHINGTON THE TEAM TO BEAT IN PAC 10 PARADE

We continue out coverage of college basketball this week with a look at the Pac 10. There are four games set for action this evening in this conference, then five more over the weekend.

We hope you were with us yesterday for the Big East. Please check the archives for that report. We'll do our very best to keep you updated on all the major board conferences between now and March Madness. You regulars know we'll be emphasizing two-point defense because that's our favorite indicator stat for meaningful quality in this sport.

We're also dusting off margin averages in conference play to use this year, because they can serve as virtual power ratings in a contained environment. Everybody plays everybody in a conference, so strength of schedule is about even.

Because the Pac 10 plays a complete home-and-home round robin (12 and 16-team leagues can't do that), it's the ideal league for this margin average approach. Starting next week we'll delve into conferences that have played enough games to get a trustworthy sample size. The Pac 10 is close to that with most teams having played four games. We figured we can give you a taste of this method TODAY to get you ready for this weekend's games.

PAC 10 MARGIN AVERAGES

Washington +16.5
Arizona +7.5
Stanford +6.0
Washington State +3.8
USC +3.0
California -4.0
UCLA -4.3
Oregon State -5.5
Arizona State -8.8
Oregon -14.0

Things will condense a bit over time. Washington has a 31-point win over Oregon State that will have less impact on the averages once more games are played. Oregon's drawn a tough early schedule with both Washington and Arizona in the mix. But, what you see is actually a decent reflection of how the teams are likely to stack up. The cream rises quickly in most conferences, particularly because good coaches want to set a tone right away. Rocks sink.

We're going to pay particular attention to USC this year amongst those in the middle. They had great showings vs. Texas (a surprisingly easy home win) and at Kansas (almost pulling off an outright upset). But, consistency has been a problem. The team currently stands 2-1 in the Pac 10, with the only loss coming in overtime at home against league leader Washington.

Two-point defensive performance has become such an important part of our coverage that we feel like we're flying blind if we don't run the numbers. Here's how things look so far for the full season in the Pac 10. Note that we don't have access to season long running "conference only" numbers in this stat. That's why it's good to run conference only margin averages to make sure as many bases are covered as possible.

TWO-POINT DEFENSE

Washington 43%
USC 43%
Stanford 44%
Washington State 44%
California 45%
Arizona State 45%
Arizona 46%
UCLA 47%
Oregon 48%
Oregon State 52%

Washington is generally billed by the media as a run-and-gun team that tries to outscore people. Note that they do a very good job defending against two point baskets. It's tough to win a conference with tempo by itself. That can lead to sloppy fundamentals in close games...and has a tendency to wear down your own defense over a season. To WIN with a fast pace, you have to guard the basket with a passion. Washington is doing that the best of anybody so far in the Pac 10. It's a hidden secret to their success.

You can see why USC hung with Kansas and knocked off Texas. They're tied with Washington atop the ladder in this category. This program may be on the rebound. We're interested to see how they handle the challenge of this weekend's road trip to Oregon. Can they beat manageable opposition? Or, do they just get fired up for certain games?

Let's run the whole schedule to see what's on tap:

THURSDAY
UCLA at Oregon State
Washington at Stanford
USC at Oregon
Washington State at California

SATURDAY
Arizona State at Arizona
UCLA at Oregon
Washington State at Stanford
USC at Oregon State

SUNDAY
Washington at California

That will give you a sense of what our standard conference rundown will be in the coming weeks. We'll look at margin averages as a quasi-power rating you can use to see the actual point differences between teams in a closed environment (our actual Power Ratings and Computer Ratings are proprietary!). We'll run the seasonal numbers on two-point defense so you can see which teams have an eye on the fundamentals, and are well-poised to succeed in the postseason when defense matters even more in halfcourt games.

We'll have to step away from college hoops conference analysis for a few days here in the NOTEBOOK...

FRIDAY will be devoted to catching up in the NBA since there's a big pro hoop schedule (including Dallas/San Antonio on ESPN) and hardly any college games.

SATURDAY will feature our four NFL PLAYOFF stat previews for Saturday and Sunday action. This is one of the most anticipated playoff weekends we can ever recall, with the majority of remaining teams all having legitimate championship hopes. Throw out Seattle. Would it be a shocker if any of the other 11 teams went the distance? Maybe Chicago would be a big surprise, but they do have a bye week and are playing their best ball lately.  Everyone else was on the short list of possible champions before the season started.

SUNDAY we'll crunch some numbers from key Saturday action. That will include some college basketball, but the lead will be the NFL results to see if Saturday developments on the field will provide clues as to what might happen in Sunday's games.

MONDAY will be much like Sunday, with the two football stat summaries and a few basketball notes to get you in a winning mindset for the huge MLK Day card. .

TUESDAY will be a look back at that MLK card that features most of the NBA in action along with some rare daytime holiday basketball from the Big Monday teams. Boxscore stats from games like Villanova/Connecticut and Syracuse/Pittsburgh will tell us a lot about those teams.

That means Wednesday will allow for the next conference review. We'll have a few leagues where everyone's played 5-6 games by that time. You'll find our approach is particularly valuable for handicapping the mid majors. We can assure you that oddsmakers don't look at two-point defense in those lesser conferences, and barely do the legwork it takes to REALLY know the differences between teams in the bottom half of all the leagues.

So, make sure you're with us EVERY DAY so you know what's REALLY happening in the world of sports!

And, make sure you sign up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK for the best plays on the board every night. We have something special planned for you this evening (possibly one of the Pac 10 teams we discussed today!). That will help build your bankroll for the MONSTER weekend ahead. We're currently set for a GAME OF THE YEAR caliber release in the NFL playoffs...and at least one GAME OF THE YEAR conference release in college hoops.

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Pac 10...Big 10...Big East...Big Payoffs...Big Playoffs! We've got it all covered at JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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