MVC and Colonial Conference Notes

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

KEY INDICATOR STATS IN MISSOURI VALLEY & COLONIAL CONFERENCES

We've reached the point in the college basketball season where we can start digging in deeper with the board conferences to study indicator stats and results to this point in the season. We have two conferences who have now reached at least six games in league play (the Colonial with six, and the Missouri Valley with seven), so conference margin averages will start to serve as virtual power ratings that show you the point difference between teams.

We'll study those numbers in those two leagues today, in addition to two-point defense for the full season, our single favorite boxscore stat for painting a picture of each college team.

Let's start with the always dangerous Missouri Valley Conference, where they're already seven games into their league campaign as of publication deadlines early Tuesday evening (four teams will have made it to eight games by the time you read this, as two games involving the bottom half of the league were on the Tuesday schedule)

MISSOURI VALLEY MARGIN AVERAGES (and W-L records thru Monday)
Wichita State +15.4 (6-1)
Missouri State +9.4 (7-0)
Indiana State +8.9 (6-1)
Northern Iowa +1.7 (4-3)
Creighton +1.4 (4-3)
Southern Illinois -5.6 (3-4)
Evansville -6.1 (3-4)
Drake -7.1 (2-5)
Illinois State -8.9 (0-7)
Bradley -9.6 (0-7)

We have some clear splits here...

*Wichita State, Missouri State, and Indiana State are way above the field in won-lost margin averages and won lost record. Note that Wichita's loss was to Missouri State. So, those teams only have won loss outside the top three to this point. Wichita wins margin average thanks partly to a 34-point win over Evansville. But, ALL of their victories have been by double digits this year...so that's a team that likes to run up the score. Make sure you handicap with that in mind.

*Northern Iowa and Creighton are on the right side of zero, have clearly established themselves in the numbers to be better than Southern Illinois and Evansville...even if they only have a one-game lead in the standings. That's why you can't just look at the standings and figure you've done enough research!

*Drake, Illinois State, and Bradley are well off the pace as the bottom three. Sometimes this is a league of parity. In the 2010-11 campaign, there are some extreme have's and have not's. You generally want to take dogs in the parity leagues, but focus on value favorites when there's this big a split. It's vital that you handicap THIS year rather than what you remember from past seasons across the board in college basketball. That's particularly true in the mid majors where one high impact player can rule the floor, until he graduates or leaves early for the pro's.

Let's run the same list now, but with two-point defense in parenthesis instead of won-lost records in the league. This will help you see how defense influences performance, and might isolate an outlier you can take advantage of down the road.

Wichita State +15.4 (43%)
Missouri State +9.4 (47%)
Indiana State +8.9 (45%)
Northern Iowa +1.7 (46%)
Creighton +1.4 (45%)
Southern Illinois -5.6 (46%)
Evansville -6.1 (53%)
Drake -7.1 (49%)
Illinois State -8.9 (47%)
Bradley -9.6 (50%)

That's why Wichita State can run up the score, they have the best two-point defense in the conference by a good bit! Not surprisingly, the good teams grade out better than the bad teams. Note that Evansville has to shoot lights out to cover spreads because their internal defense is so bad. Though Missouri State is currently undefeated in Missouri Valley playl, Wichita State may be the most dangerous team in postseason terms because they're already playing playoff style defense. 

Tonight's Missouri Valley schedule:
Missouri State at Indiana State (big game!)
Northern Iowa at Wichita State (two of the top four)
Bradley at Creighton

We wanted to run the conference numbers on the day with the games of the most import. Feel free to tweak the averages you see for Illinois State, Drake, Evansville, and Southern Miss based on the games they played Tuesday Night.

Moving now to the Colonial, where everyone's played six games...

COLONIAL MARGIN AVERAGES (and W-L records thru Monday)
George Mason +10.8 (4-2)
James Madison +10.3 (5-1)
VCU +7.2 (5-1)
Hofstra +7.2 (5-1)
Old Dominion +3.3 (4-2)
Drexel -0.2 (3-3)
Georgia State -0.2 (3-3)
Delaware -3.7 (3-3)
William & Mary -4.7 (1-5)
NC Wilmington -5.0 (3-3)
Northeastern -11.7 (0-6)
Towson -12.0 (0-6)

George Mason is in fourth place in the standings, but leads margin averages because they will bully lesser teams. They have wins of 26 and 28 points over Northeastern and NC Wilmington already.

We also have a clear split here, with four good teams at the top, a group that doesn't really matter beneath them, then blowout fodder at the bottom. One of the keys for handicappers in this league is recognizing who takes it easy on patsies, and who likes to pad their stats.

Let's look at two-point defenses...
George Mason +10.8 (48%)
James Madison +10.3 (44%)
VCU +7.2 (48%)
Hofstra +7.2 (49%)
Old Dominion +3.3 (43%)
Drexel -0.2 (47%)
Georgia State -0.2 (46%)
Delaware -3.7 (3-3)
William & Mary -4.7 (46%)
NC Wilmington -5.0 (48%)
Northeastern -11.7 (52%)
Towson -12.0 (50%)

You can see why George Mason is only 4-2 despite their big margin average. They're soft on defense, which is the tie-breaker when they play somebody good. James Madison is probably the "real" favorite to win the conference because of that superior defense. But, strength of schedule can be an issue even through six games in a conference this big. We'll have to see what happens when the top four gets more games against each other. Right now, Hofstra has a win over George mason in the only game matching the upper quadrant.

Will we get some help in that regard tonight?

Wednesday Colonial Schedule
William & Mary at Towson
James Madison at Old Dominion
NC Wilmington at Hofstra
Northeastern at Delaware
Georgia State at VCU
Drexel at George Mason

No! The best are still sprinkled among the lesser lights for the time being.

We hope you find margin averages and two-point defense helpful in your personal handicapping throughout the season. We'll look at more conferences in the coming days as they reach meaningful thresholds in games played. Thursday's report will look at the Horizon League and Sun Belt Conference to get you ready for tomorrow night's card. Saturday will look at the Big Ten (on the day Ohio State visits Illinois) and a couple of other conferences. Big Monday will fittingly bring the Big East and Big 12 as we hopscotch through NFL playoff coverage.

Many of you are just now getting into college basketball because football is winding down. Tonight's WILD WEDNESDAY schedule is the perfect time to try out JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK! We've already talked about two conferences on the card. Among games of interest for us tonight in other leagues:

Cincinnati at Notre Dame on ESPN2
Duke at NC State on ESPN
New Mexico at Utah
Texas A&M at Texas on ESPN2
Florida State at Miami of Florida

Oh, we can't forget about the NBA! We hope you studied yesterday's report closely for edges in pro hoops. There's a 13-game schedule this evening. These games may show up on the release ledger for clients as well:

Philadelphia at Orlando
New York at Houston
LA Lakers at Dallas on ESPN (after Duke-NC State)
Oklahoma City at Denver

The fun continues Thursday with more in the colleges, and Blake Griffin of the LA Clippers getting a rare TV appearance on TNT in Portland. You can go day-by-day with us online, or sign up for longer term packages to enjoy discounted rates. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

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23
Aug

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