Buckeyes Still Unbeaten

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

OHIO STATE, VILLANOVA MAKE SATURDAY STATEMENTS

They're not exactly running roughshod over the Big Ten given the number of close games they've been playing recently. But, the Ohio State Buckeyes are still undefeated at 20-0, and are still #1 in the country ever since Duke dropped a game at Florida State.

Ohio State knew they'd be in for a stiff challenge early Saturday at Illinois. They rallied from a second half deficit to get the victory. Let's crunch the key numbers from that one, and other games of national interest on the Saturday schedule.

(If you're a football fan...our STAT PREVIEWS for Sunday's CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES ran in the Friday edition of the NOTEBOOK. Please check the archives if you missed that report. JIM HURLEY'S championship parlay can be purchased here at the website with your credit card, or by calling 1-800-323-4453).

#1 OHIO STATE 73, #22 ILLINOIS 68
Shooting Percentage: Ohio State 40%, Illinois 43%
Three-Pointers: Ohio State 7/15, Illinois 4/17
Free Throws: Ohio State 24/27, Illinois 8/10
Rebounds: Ohio State 29, Illinois 32
Turnovers: Ohio State 7, Illinois 9
Phantom Score: Ohio State 58, Illinois 80
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 3, total of 139
Notebook:
For you newcomers, Phantom Score is a secondary score we use for added context. It's simply two-point scoring plus rebounding. It's interesting that Ohio State got waxed in that stat, because that's abnormal for a strong inside team. The key here is that the Buckeyes kept marching to the free throw line. This team makes their free throws! Jared Sullinger was 13-15 all by himself, and the team drained everything while protecting a late lead. That will suit them well in close games. But, if you only play close games vs. other contenders, you're eventually going to run into some bad luck come tournament time! It's tough to string together 4-5 tight victories in the Dance. So, we can't argue with anyone suggesting Ohio State is a top seed or a national power. But, they're going to be a vulnerable one in March because they're having trouble getting distance on the scoreboard unless the refs are blowing their whistles. Ohio State is 7-0 in the Big 10, and 20-0 overall. Illinois is 4-3 and 14-6.

#7 VILLANOVA 83, #3 SYRACUSE 72
Shooting Percentage: Villanova 50%, Syracuse 44%
Three-Pointers: Villanova 11/24, Syracuse 10/26
Free Throws: Villanova 22/24, Syracuse 8/12
Rebounds: Villanova 54, Syracuse 66
Turnovers: Villanova 10, Syracuse 15
Phantom Score: Villanova 54, Syracuse 66
Vegas Line: Syracuse by 6, total of 143
Notebook:
Villanova isn't afraid of the Syracuse zone, which allows them to win in the Carrierdome with very impressive consistency. In fact, no other Big East team has won more games at this site. You can see above that the Wildcats won three-pointers and free throws. That inside-outside mix is lethal against a zone. Rebounds continue to be a concern for this program though. That hurts them in the Dance when the shots aren't falling or when the whistles aren't blowing (remember the lackluster showing last year as a highly regarded seed?). Today, they did exactly what they needed to do. Villanova is now 17-2 for the year, and 5-1 in the Big East. They'll likely move past Syracuse in the rankings. The second TV loss this week dropped the Orangemen to 18-2 on the season, and 5-2 in the Big East. Both of these teams will get quality seeds in the Dance.

#8 CONNECTICUT 72, TENNESSEE 61
Shooting Percentage: Tennessee 43%, Connecticut 48%
Three-Pointers: Tennessee 6/20, Connecticut 9/19
Free Throws: Tennessee 7/10, Connecticut 9/13
Rebounds: Tennessee 28, Connecticut 31
Turnovers: Tennessee 12, Connecticut 12
Phantom Score: Tennessee 64, Connecticut 67
Vegas Line: Connecticut by 6, total of 140
Notebook:
You never know what you're going to get with Tennessee. They can beat anybody (as Pittsburgh will attest). They can lose to anybody (the list of non-entities is embarrassing). Here the Vols lost every stat top to bottom, but did enough in Phantom Score to at least suggest they won't be bullied. Normally UCONN is killing opponents inside to make up for issues elsewhere. Here, the Huskies won treys by nine in a game they only won by 12. Connecticut continues the Big East honor roll with a 16-2 record. Tennessee falls to 12-7, and could provide quite a migraine for the selection committee in March given their very odd resume.

#10 TEXAS A&M 64, #24 KANSAS STATE 56
Shooting Percentage: Kansas State 40%, Texas A&M 37%
Three-Pointers: Kansas State 5/20, Texas A&M 5/10
Free Throws: Kansas State 11/19, Texas A&M 27/37
Rebounds: Kansas State 27, Texas A&M 31
Turnovers: Kansas State 16, Texas A&M 17
Phantom Score: Kansas State 57, Texas A&M 53
Vegas Line: Texas A&M by 5.5, total of 134
Notebook
: Kansas State will plummet out of the rankings with this loss. The surprise team of last year is now an ugly 1-4 in Big 12 play. Maybe that 'yelling at my players like I'm about to strangle them' coaching approach can only succeed so long with the same group of athletes. K-State is definitely one of the biggest disappointments of the season. Texas A&M once again got friendly officiating in a home game against a team from the North. We talked about that last Saturday, and during the football season when Nebraska came to visit. The refs weren't there to help them in Austin the other night, and they got killed by Texas. Let's say that the Aggies are very good at attacking the basket, AND they're getting some help at home lately. They're probably not as good as that top ten national ranking (which will take a hit after the Texas loss). They deserve respect though with a 17-2 mark (4-1 in the Big 12).

VANDERBILT 89, #21 ST. MARY'S 70
Shooting Percentage: St. Mary's 42%, Vanderbilt 52%
Three-Pointers: St. Mary's 6/23, Vanderbilt 11/22
Free Throws: St. Mary's 12/15, Vanderbilt 26/32
Rebounds: St. Mary's 19, Vanderbilt 37
Turnovers: St. Mary's 13, Vanderbilt 23
Phantom Score: St. Mary's 59, Vanderbilt 67
Vegas Line: Vanderbilt by 7, total of 144
Notebook:
Remember what a great story Omar Samhan was for St. Mary's last year in the Big Dance? He's not there any more. So, you get results like this when St. Mary's has to play a real team! All of our past criticisms of Gonzaga will have to transfer over to St. Mary's now. The West Coast conference doesn't step up in class very well when they have expectations. They catch people by surprise on the way up, then stay overrated for while afterward. Note the tremendous rebounding edge for Vandy. If not for a bad turnover game, this would have been a 30-point win for the hosts. Vandy is 14-4 on the year. Wonder how many SEC teams will get bids this year? St. Mary's is 17-3 even with the loss, and has such an easy schedule the rest of the way that a bid is a sure thing. Cinderella may be flirting with other beau's come March though.

#11 TEXAS 74, #2 KANSAS 63
Shooting Percentage: Texas 46%, Kansas 36%
Three-Pointers: Texas 5/11, Kansas 6/19
Free Throws: Texas 25/31, Kansas 11/18
Rebounds: Texas 40, Kansas 33
Turnovers: Texas 15, Kansas 12
Phantom Score: Texas 74, Kansas 67
Vegas Line: Kansas by 7, total of 144
Notebook:
Several things were a bit overdue. Texas hadn't ever won at this site. Kansas had a very long home winning streak that had way too many nailbiter wins. And, this year's #2 team had too many games where they didn't even look like a top five team (lucky to beat UCLA, lucky to beat USC, lucky to beat Michigan survive last weekend). Surging Texas used a 40-16 run at one point in the game to erase a 12-point deficit and build a 12-point lead. You can see big edges inside up in the stat box. Do you know how hard it is to get respect from the refs at this site? Texas earned their free throw trips, and made the ones that mattered down the stretch. Kansas was reduced to launching bombs over the final few minutes. Few landed. Phantom Score was almost right on the scoreboard. Texas moves to 16-3 with the win, and is 4-0 in the Big 12. Kansas falls to 18-1, 3-1 in league play.

That wraps up our rundown of marquee Saturday action. Back Monday with in-depth conference looks at the Big East and Big 12 to get you ready for the Big Monday doubleheader on ESPN. If you're reading this Sunday morning, you still have time to purchase JIM HURLEY'S CHAMPIONSHIP PARLAY in the NFL playoffs. Make a few clicks with your mouse and take care of business.

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