BYU Sends a Message
JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK
BYU STUNS SAN DIEGO STATE, ST. JOHN'S STILL SURGING
Brigham Young finished off a series sweep of San Diego State for the second year in a row Saturday afternoon with a nationally televised 80-67 victory. The win locked up a very high seed for the Cougars (probably a #2), and added more to the college legacy of Jimmer Fredette.
In another early start, St. John's continued it's amazing blitzkrieg through the Big East with a double digit road win at Villanova. We said it last week, and nothing's changed since. St. John's has been playing like one of the top five teams in the country for weeks now. The blowout of Duke was the ring announcement that brought them to the squared circle. They've been throwing behemoths over the top rope in a battle royal ever since.
Let's take a look at the key numbers in those games, and other marquee matchups in Saturday afternoon action. These are the teams you'll be trying to handicap in tournament play next month. Learn what you can now!
#7 BYU 80, #4 SAN DIEGO STATE 67
Shooting Percentage: BYU 47%, San Diego State 40%
Three-Pointers: BYU 14/24, San Diego State 6/17
Free Throws: BYU 12/14, San Diego State 11/16
Rebounds: BYU 32, San Diego State 36
Turnovers: BYU 12, San Diego State 11
Phantom Score: BYU 58, San Diego State 74
Vegas Line: San Diego State by 4.5, total of 139.5
Notebook: The post game wire service stories, and all the highlight shows made it sound once again like Jimmer Fredette was Paul Bunyan, Paul Bunyan's axe, and Paul Bunyan's ox all rolled into one. If you watched the game, hopefully you noticed that he WASN'T playing all that well, and the rest of the team bailed him out.
- Fredette was just 8 of 23 from the floor, as he struggled to get off good shots against a defense that was geared entirely around topping him.
- Guys NOT named Jimmer were 10 of 16 on three-point shots. That's tremendous production from an unheralded group, and was the true key to victory.
You can see that San Diego State won Phantom Score by a big margin. That's a secondary score we use that's simply two-point scoring plus rebounding. It often lines up with the final score. When it doesn't, it's Phantom Score that usually has more predictive value. What it's saying here is that BYU probably won't see it's supporting cast go 10 of 16 on treys very often! San Diego State has the better inside game. But, they weren't able to do enough to counteract all the bombs that were falling. Or, put another way, BYU won three-point scoring by 24 points, in a game they only won by 13 points. What's going to happen against a top opponent when the bombs aren't falling?
That will be something to worry about down the road. It's not a year with wall to wall greatness across the sport. BYU certainly has the smarts and brains to make a run similar to what Butler did last year. In past seasons, they would have been a #5 seed or so. Maybe worse. This year, they'll be thought of in the same class as Duke, Kansas, Pittsburgh, and Ohio State...until they have to play one or two of them!
San Diego State takes a hit in the rankings and the brackets. You're not supposed to lose your home games, particularly your biggest home game ever. Winning the Mountain West if they do it again won't make up for this disappointment. This was their biggest test of the season, and they flunked it. Can you blame an 11 a.m. local time start? Games start at weird body times in the Big Dance. Champions deal with inconveniences. BYU virtually wraps up the Mountain West championship with a one-game lead over SDSU and the tie-breaker edge.
#25 ST. JOHN'S 81, #14 VILLANOVA 68
Shooting Percentage: St. John's 45%, Villanova 40%
Three-Pointers: St. John's 10/22, Villanova 9/28
Free Throws: St. John's 23/33, Villanova 15/23
Rebounds: St. John's 37, Villanova 23
Turnovers: St. John's 10, Villanova 12
Phantom Score: St. John's 65, Villanova 49
Vegas Line: Villanova by 6.5, total of 134.5
Notebook: Another scalp for the former Redmen. The Red Storm have now defeated Duke, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Notre Dame, and Georgetown at home; and Marquette, Villanova, and Cincinnati on the road. They were only ranked 25th in the polls because voters have to consider the full season when casting their votes. Smart power ratings had them higher. But, the game time spread of Villanova by 6.5 shows that far too few people have noticed what's going on. How could oddsmakers make St. John's that big of an underdog? Villanova hasn't exactly been on fire lately. Hope you've been taking advantage of this St. John's surge that we alerted you to aways back.
Note that Phantom Score was also a blowout. This wasn't BYU hitting a bunch of treys to vulture a road win. This was a physical team playing great defense (40% shooting) and owning the boards (+14 in differential). For now, St. John's is as for real as real gets. Maybe they've peaked too soon. Maybe they'll wear down the way so many other Big East teams have right before the tournaments. Right now, they're a team that's undervalued and underrated.
In other early Saturday action...
#20 SYRACUSE 58, #11 GEORGETOWN 51
Shooting Percentage: Syracuse 41%, Georgetown 36%
Three-Pointers: Syracuse 6/20, Georgetown 7/25
Free Throws: Syracuse 8/13, Georgetown 8/12
Rebounds: Syracuse 27, Georgetown 35
Turnovers: Syracuse 9, Georgetown 16
Phantom Score: Syracuse 59, Georgetown 57
Vegas Line: Pick-em, total of 133
Notebook: Speaking of Big East teams who may have peaked too early, or who may be fading from fatigue, Georgetown has now dropped three of their last four games. And, the win wasn't all that great against lowly South Florida. The Hoyas fell at home to Cincinnati as a favorite back on Wednesday. Instead of bouncing back strong, they fell on the same floor to revenge-minded Syracuse. Phantom Score shows a virtual coin flip. The Orange counteracted a rebound deficit with more inside baskets. Syracuse moves to 11-6 in Big East play while Georgetown falls to 10-7. Given the tired bodies we're seeing in many Big East games, we're concerned that a replay of last year is in order. Somebody will break through and make headlines in the Dance, but there will be more disappointments than success stories. Asking your best teams to run a gauntlet before the games that matter most are played just isn't a recipe for tournament success. Instead of giving the top four teams byes to the quarterfinals...they should give them byes out of the tournament so they can rest!
KANSAS STATE 80, #21 MISSOURI 70
Shooting Percentage: Missouri 41%, Kansas State 52%
Three-Pointers: Missouri 8/19, Kansas State 7/13
Free Throws: Missouri 18/24, Kansas State 17/24
Rebounds: Missouri 21, Kansas State 34
Turnovers: Missouri 11, Kansas State 17
Phantom Score: Missouri 49, Kansas State 76
Vegas Line: Kansas State by 4.5, total of 149
Notebook: Odd to see a ranked team getting this many points. But, home teams rule in the Big 12 this year. And, Kansas State is as good as anybody when they wanted to be. They've started getting things in gear recently, particularly at home. That gives them some hope next month because they won't be as worn down as many of the other threats. Their season playing like THIS is only a few weeks old! Note how Phantom Score is a slaughter for the host. This is Kansas State basketball. Or, was last year. Frankly, it's also Missouri basketball. They're dangerous at home. And, they can get hot in a neutral court game against a name team. But, they're too soft to count on. Remember that Nebraska beat them by 15 in the first round of the Big 12 tourney last year. In the Dance, Missouri left in the second round with a 9-point loss to West Virginia (the rare Big East team who went deep in the last Dance).
MISSOURI STATE 69, WICHITA STATE 64
Shooting Percentage: Wichita State 42%, Missouri State 44%
Three-Pointers: Wichita State 8/23, Missouri State 7/20
Free Throws: Wichita State 12/13, Missouri State 16/30
Rebounds: Wichita State 30, Missouri State 35
Turnovers: Wichita State 12, Missouri State 13
Phantom Score: Wichita State 58, Missouri State 67
Vegas Line: Missouri State by 1.5, total of 133
Notebook: We're including this one because it's the two best teams in an important mid major. Neither Missouri State nor Wichita State were ranked coming into the weekend (or deserved to be). But, the MVC does have a decent history as giant killers in the Dance. The league didn't impress us in the Bracket Busters last weekend top to bottom. We wouldn't be surprised to see one of these teams jump up and bite somebody next month the way Northern Iowa of the MWC beat Kansas last year. Missouri State looked better in our key numbers here, winning Phantom Score by more than the actual score.
UCLA 71, #10 ARIZONA 49
Shooting Percentage: Arizona 32%, UCLA 53%
Three-Pointers: Arizona 4/19, UCLA 2/11
Free Throws: Arizona 11/17, UCLA 13/17
Rebounds: Arizona 23, UCLA 38
Turnovers: Arizona 6, UCLA 8
Phantom Score: Arizona 49, UCLA 90
Vegas Line: UCLA by 3, total of 140.5
Notebook: Another ranked team is an underdog...and gets squashed! UCLA was a big play for JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK on Saturday. And, this one wasn't in doubt from about the 10-minute mark on. Arizona must have read the national press clippings suggesting they were a dangerous darkhorse for the Dance. Stop reading and start playing! A bad loss to USC was followed up by an emasculating rout at the hands of improving UCLA. Look at Phantom Score! The Bruins won big on the scoreboard despite doing hardly anything from long range...and without getting any help from the referees. They just kept working for good shots and making them. Awful week for an Arizona team that rested on its laurels too soon after beating Washington last weekend (in a game they didn't cover). Arizona was never one of the ten best teams in the country to begin with. But, pollsters are desperate to put Pac 10 teams up high because of past history.
#20 KENTUCKY 76, #13 FLORIDA 68
Shooting Percentage: Florida 45%, Kentucky 52%
Three-Pointers: Florida 8/19, Kentucky 7/14
Free Throws: Florida 10/13, Kentucky 9/15
Rebounds: Florida 29, Kentucky 32
Turnovers: Florida 10, Kentucky 6
Phantom Score: Florida 63, Kentucky 78
Vegas Line: Kentucky by 8, total of 137
Notebook: Phantom Score was close to the actual score here, as the Wildcats get revenge for a tough road loss a few weeks ago. The Wildcats still haven't figured out how to win on the road. Time is running out if they want to get the hang of that! It's not like any postseason games will be played in Lexington (like in the days of Joe B. Hall or Adolph Rupp). No gripes about the performance here though. Very strong shooting from the Wildcats, and only six turnovers. Last year's team went into the Big Dance overconfident. Maybe this year's team will get hot at the right time and make it further than expected.
COLORADO 91, #5 TEXAS 89
Shooting Percentage: Texas 43%, Colorado 53%
Three-Pointers: Texas 11/23, Colorado 8/21
Free Throws: Texas 20/34, Colorado 19/32
Rebounds: Texas 36, Colorado 40
Turnovers: Texas 6, Colorado 10
Phantom Score: Texas 72, Colorado 88
Vegas Line: Texas by 6
Notebook: Texas was up 48-33 at the half, and we took this game off the list of write-ups. NOT SO FAST yelled out Colorado! The Buffs won the second half by 17 points to pull off the stunner. This is the second straight Saturday road debacle for the Horns. Those are the only two Big 12 losses for them this year. Did Texas peak a month too early once again? Funny how the two teams leaving the Big 12 managed home wins over the financial power of the Big 12. Horns should have seen that coming. Great job inside for Colorado, who took it to the Texas strength and overpowered them. Phantom Score shows a dominant win rather than just a clean win. Good ballhandling for Texas, but poor free throw shooting.
That wraps up our look at Saturday afternoon basketball. BIG JUICY WINNERS for Sunday's college and NBA slates are available right now here at the website. NETWORK clients won a FORTUNE Saturday with a SHOCKER OF THE YEAR on Mississippi State (+11) over Tennessee 70-69, and bonus plays on Loyola-Chicago (+11) over Butler in a 7-point loss, and UCLA in that blowout we reviewed up above.
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February may be winding to a close...but THE WINNING IS JUST BEGINNING!
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