Big East Bedlam

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

BRUTAL SCHEDULES MAKE IT HARD
FOR RANKED POWERS TO KEEP WINNING

by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

The great thing about being in the Big East is that you get to play high profile TV games almost every time you take the floor. The horrible thing about the Big East is that the brutal schedule eventually takes its toll!

#5 Connecticut lost at home to Louisville, becoming the latest Big East team to start falling backward after bubbling to the top.

#7 Villanova lost Saturday afternoon to Georgetown, failing to bounce back from a loss earlier this week to Providence.

#10 Syracuse, already in a free-fall with losses to Pittsburgh, Villanova, and Seton Hall; lost its fourth straight game Saturday afternoon at Marquette. Can a top ten team fall out of the rankings in a week's time?!

Let's crunch the numbers from those three marquee Saturday afternoon matchups, then check in with other high profile games across the college landscape. Matchups are presented in rotation order...

#20 GEORGETOWN 69, #7 VILLANOVA 66
Shooting Percentage: Georgetown 52%, Villanova 42%
Three-Pointers: Georgetown 5/11, Villanova 5/14
Free Throws: Georgetown 16/17, Villanova 17/24
Rebounds: Georgetown 27, Villanova 21
Turnovers: Georgetown 13, Villanova 9
Phantom Score: Georgetown 65, Villanova 65
Vegas Line: Villanova by 4.5, total of 145
Notebook:
Villanova looks like they ran out of gas a bit. This was their fifth ranked opponent in their last seven games. You can see that the defense was soft, while the jumpers weren't falling on offense. Throw in a rebounding deficit, and it was going to be a tough game to win. A turnover edge gave the Wildcats a shot. It's a good sign for them that Phantom Score was a dead heat (two-point scoring plus rebounding). They at least held their own inside the arc in a very tough schedule spot. One gets the sense that most of the Big East may take up the 10-20 spots in the national rankings because they keep losing to each other, but they're so good they have to be ranked!

#19 LOUISVILLE 79, #5 CONNECTICUT 78 (in overtime)
Shooting Percentage: Louisville 48%, Connecticut 38%
Three-Pointers: Louisville 8/24, Connecticut 8/30
Free Throws: Louisville 11/20, Connecticut 12/19
Rebounds: Louisville 35, Connecticut 40
Turnovers: Louisville 15, Connecticut 12
Phantom Score: Louisville 79, Connecticut 82
Vegas Line:
Connecticut by 5, total of 142
Notebook: A classic meeting between two of our favorite teams in terms of playoff style basketball. Connecticut is the prototype power team. Louisville plays much more like that than people realize, which is something we seem to mention every week. Look at poor three-point shooting performances from both teams. That means the majority of damage was done inside the arc. This one could have gone either way. Louisville scored when it mattered most in overtime. We expect good things from both of these teams in March, unless the whole Big East is in the infirmary. That happened to a degree last year, didn't it? The Big East was a power conference, but Duke snuck through...the Big 12 made headlines...a mid major almost went the distance...possibly because the Big East just didn't have anything left in the tank. Be sure you're watching that again this season.

MARQUETTE 76, #10 SYRACUSE 70
Shooting Percentage: Syracuse 57%, Marquette 52%
Three-Pointers: Syracuse 6/13, Marquette 6/13
Free Throws: Syracuse 8/14, Marquette 24/33
Rebounds: Syracuse 22, Marquette 24
Turnovers: Syracuse 14, Marquette 13
Phantom Score: Syracuse 66, Marquette 60
Vegas Line: Marquette by 2.5, total of 147
Notebook:
This isn't an upset by Vegas standards because the favorite won the game. It was another instance of the team with the better national ranking biting the dust though. And, frankly, it's not as bad a result as the final score would suggest. Syracuse came out to win. They shot 57% from the field. They won Phantom Score at a tough site. If not for a humongous disadvantage from the free throw line (losing 24-8 in makes, and 33-14 in attempts), they would have won the game...possibly handily. Teams who emphasize a zone don't normally get squashed at the free throw line like this. It's unlikely that a postseason rematch at Madison Square Garden would see officials favor Marquette to such an extreme degree.

An amazing Saturday in the sense that three Top 10 teams from the Big East fell. But, the numbers show a quality conference, and true championship abilities amongst today's losers. Our key stats will help us monitor fatigue degradation throughout February and into March if it happens.

ELSEWHERE SATURDAY AFTERNOON

#12 PURDUE 73, #18 MINNESOTA 61
Shooting Percentage: Minnesota 44%, Purdue 43%
Three-Pointers: Minnesota 3/9, Purdue 10/23
Free Throws: Minnesota 12/19, Purdue 17/22
Rebounds: Minnesota 30, Purdue 35
Turnovers: Minnesota 11, Purdue 12
Phantom Score: Minnesota 70, Purdue 61
Vegas Line: Purdue by 8, total of 135
Notebook
: Purdue was in a bounce-back spot off their very poor showing at Ohio State. It took them awhile to get rolling here, but a hot day from long range took them to the win and cover. It's worth noting though that they NEEDED those treys to win. Phantom Score was a victory for the road dog. Purdue was +21 points from behind the arc in a game they only won by 12. This is NOT a characteristic of a danger team in the Dance. It's a characteristic of a team that's hiding weaknesses. We'll need to see more inside the arc from Purdue before getting on their bandwagon. They were outclassed by Ohio State, and not as impressive here as the score suggests.

MISSISSIPPI STATE 71, #23 FLORIDA 64
Shooting Percentage: Florida 40%, Mississippi State 41%
Three-Pointers: Florida 5/21, Mississippi State 8/23
Free Throws: Florida 9/19, Mississippi State 19/23
Rebounds: Florida 42, Mississippi State 34
Turnovers: Florida 8, Mississippi State 8
Phantom Score: Florida 82, Mississippi State 62
Vegas Line: Florida by 6, total of 138
Notebook:
It's been a very disappointing year for Mississippi State. We talked about the East/West differences when we ran the SEC numbers back on Tuesday. Maybe this big win will get things turned around. State is just 3-3 in SEC play after the victory, and only 11-9 overall. They'll need to win the SEC tournament to get in. You can see above that they needed a big day from treys and on free throws to spring the upset. Florida won Phantom Score by a whopping 20 points, coming off an overtime TV game with Georgia a few nights ago. So, nice win for the home dog, but evidence that the vanquished road favorite still has a lot going for them. Equalize treys, and Florida still wins even with the free throw deficit.

VALPARAISO 85, BUTLER 79 (in overtime)
Shooting Percentage: Butler 43%, Valparaiso 52%
Three-Pointers: Butler 13/28, Valparaiso 10/22
Free Throws: Butler 14/23, Valparaiso 21/32
Rebounds: Butler 35, Valparaiso 28
Turnovers: Butler 17, Valparaiso 13
Phantom Score: Butler 61, Valparaiso 62
Vegas Line: Butler by 2, total of 137
Notebook:
We probably won't be running many numbers for Butler the rest of the way. So, we decided to pop them in one more time. The defending national runners-up have now lost FOUR times in Horizon League play...a conference where they're usually a threat to run the table every year. They have eight losses for the season, and would have to close the season very impressively to get any consideration for an at-large bid. An amazing fall from grace for a team that still had talent back from last year, and who was being led by a hot young coach. The fortunes of fate are fickle. You can't catch the breaks every year. You can't stay off the radar every year. You can't avoid overconfidence and complacency every year. We'll try to include some important mid major games in our reviews through the season. Stunning that Butler has played itself out of consideration.

NEBRASKA 57, #11 TEXAS A&M 48
Shooting Percentage: Texas A&M 41%, Nebraska 44%
Three-Pointers: Texas A&M 6/18, Nebraska 3/15
Free Throws: Texas A&M 6/14, Nebraska 12/17
Rebounds: Texas A&M 29, Nebraska 24
Turnovers: Texas A&M 14, Nebraska 7
Phantom Score: Texas A&M 53, Nebraska 60
Vegas Line: Nebraska by 1.5, total of 122
Notebook:
We've talked about the incredibly friendly officiating that Texas A&M has been getting in home games the past few Saturdays. That didn't happen on the road at Texas. And, it obviously didn't happen here either. This is a very bad sign for March, because the Aggies obviously won't be hosting the Big 12 tournament, or any games in the Big Dance. You have to win clean in the postseason. Our Phantom Score shows this was a clean win for Nebraska rather than A&M. The Aggies haven't fallen to the degree that Kansas State and Baylor have this year. But, you wonder how it would look if not for the home free throw discrepancies in their favor. Nebraska can usually be counted on for at least one rankings upset each year (they were a small favorite here, so it wasn't a market upset). They had a near miss vs. Kansas, but broke through here against the #11 team in the nation.

PENN STATE 56, #15 WISCONSIN 52
Shooting Percentage: Wisconsin 42%, Penn State 48%
Three-Pointers: Wisconsin 6/20, Penn State 6/17
Free Throws: Wisconsin 2/3, Penn State 12/20
Rebounds: Wisconsin 23, Penn State 29
Turnovers: Wisconsin 7, Penn State 10
Phantom Score: Wisconsin 55, Penn State 55
Vegas Line: Wisconsin by 3.5, total of 120
Notebook:
Penn State continues to post impressive results from just off the radar in the Big Ten. Here they take out ranked Wisconsin despite trailing much of the game. Free throws were definitely a big boost. But, Wisconsin sometimes gets passive and throws the ball around the arc rather than attacking the basket. That looks to be at least part of what happened here. Phantom Score was a dead heat, suggesting a coin flip game that happened to go to the Nittany Lions. The Big 10 isn't as strong or deep as the Big East in our view. But, it is competitive enough this year that teams may wear down from the high number of true battles they have to deal with.

NEW MEXICO 86, #9 BYU 77
Shooting Percentage: BYU 42%, New Mexico 51%
Three-Pointers: BYU 8/20, New Mexico 51%
Free Throws: BYU 13/20, New Mexico 16/19
Rebounds: BYU 33, New Mexico 33
Turnovers: BYU 10, New Mexico 11
Phantom Score: BYU 73, New Mexico 79
Vegas Line: BYU by 2, total of 152
Notebook:
Are you still hoping to get Jimmer Fredette and BYU in your office pool come March? Yes, he's fun to watch. Great shooters usually are. Defense wins championships. Defense and consistency wins playoff games. BYU didn't impress in the postseason last year, and followed up a nice win over San Diego State a few nights ago with a pretty bad collapse second half collapse here. The Mountain West has upgraded in recent years to be sure. But, the bottom of the league is still weak. And, if you annually stuck its best team into the ACC or SEC you'd be surprised by how mortal they looked (as New Mexico looked last year in the Dance even vs. other western squads).

That wraps up our look at Saturday action. Back tomorrow to run the numbers from the NBA doubleheader featuring Miami/Oklahoma City and Boston/LA Lakers...along with more college hoops. Sunday winners can be purchased here at the website with your credit card. Be sure you check in EARLY before the games get started. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

The Super Bowl is still a week away. Check in daily for JIM HURLEY'S BASKETBALL BONANZA!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by VegasSportsMasters.com and JimHurley.com. For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.

19
Nov

Today’s Hot Plays