West Coast/Horizon Notes

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

WEST COAST PREVIEW AND HORIZON LEAGUE UPDATE

The Horizon League and Missouri Valley Conference tournaments are already under way. If you're reading this Friday afternoon, then the Colonial Conference tournament just started. There's excitement in the air!

The West Coast Conference featuring St. Mary's and Gonzaga gets underway tonight in Las Vegas. The two top seeds have a bye until Sunday, and are probably locks for the Big Dance no matter what happens this weekend. That may diminish the drama on the floor. But, it doesn't take away profit potential for handicappers. In fact, overconfident favorites can provide great fade value. You've seen that with St. Mary's for a couple of weeks now.

Before running our key indicator stats that will help you make smart decisions in every game in the brackets, let's outline the schedule...

TONIGHT
Portland (5) vs. Loyola Marymount (8)
Pepperdine (6) vs. San Francisco (7)

SATURDAY
Santa Clara (4) vs. 5-8 winner
San Francisco (3) vs. 6-7 winner

SUNDAY
St. Mary's (1) vs. 4-5-8 winner
Gonzaga (2) vs. 3-6-7 winner

MONDAY
Championship Game

The Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas is hosting the event this year. Our Vegas sources will certainly be feeding us everything we need to know on a daily basis. In past years, we haven't necessarily been very aggressive in this tournament. Now that it's in Vegas, some of our most trusted guys will be attending the games and providing reports. We may have something VERY special in the next few days as a result.

Here's how everyone ranks in our key indicator stats...

WEST COAST MARGIN AVERAGES
Gonzaga: +11.0
St. Mary's: +9.1
Portland: +1.6
San Francisco: +0.5
Santa Clara: +0.4
Pepperdine: -4.6
Loyola Marymount: -6.9
San Diego: -10.6

It's a two-team league for the post part. Gonzaga has been playing better basketball lately, and has surged to the top of this stat. They're still just the #2 seed overall though. It's going to be tough for anyone beneath the big two to score an upset because Gonzaga and St. Mary's will be rested after their byes. Though, if you watched San Diego upset St. Mary's on a recent late-night TV game, you know ANYTHING can happen in this league!

WEST COAST TWO-POINT DEFENSE
Gonzaga: 42%
St. Mary's: 47%
San Francisco: 47%
Loyola Marymount: 47%
Portland: 48%
Santa Clara: 49%
Pepperdine: 51%
San Diego: 51%

Gonzaga is off the charts great in this regard. That's the mark of a well-coached team. St. Mary's saw much of its inside presence graduate after last year. A mark of 47% inside really isn't very good when you've played such a soft schedule. This is as the heart of the teams recent slump, and their struggles when stepping up in class this year. They lost badly at Vanderbilt. They were outclassed at home by Utah State. We'll be looking to fade St. Mary's this weekend and afterward if the lines don't catch up.

WEST COAST ADJUSTED PACE FACTORS (slowest to fastest)
Portland: 64.5
San Diego: 64.6
St. Mary's: 66.8
Pepperdine: 67.4
San Francisco: 67.5
Gonzaga: 67.9
Loyola Marymount: 68.1
Santa Clara: 68.3

We present this stat because tournament games have a way of slowing down because of the pressure. This isn't a slow conference by any means. In that context, St. Mary's is better suited to playoff style than Gonzaga. We'll see if that matters. Portland may have a puncher's chance at an upset since they're used to playing slowly.

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS FROM TREYS (from low to high)
St. Mary's: 33%
Portland: 32%
San Francisco: 29%
Santa Clara: 28%
San Diego: 26%
Loyola Marymount: 25%
Pepperdine: 23%
Gonzaga: 22%

You regulars know we consider a high mark here a negative in terms of stringing together tournament wins. Live by the three, die by the three. You can score an upset by getting hot from long range (which gives Portland another shot to make things interesting). Nobody can count on always being hot from long range. Gonzaga's very low number here tells you how much they emphasize the inside game. That puts the percentages in their favor in terms of an event like this. Inside scoring (and the free throws that often come with it) is more consistent in big time basketball.

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP POTENTIAL

  • Gonzaga would have to get the nod based on these indicators. They have the strongest inside game on both sides of the floor by a mile. They won margin average. They have a coach who's been involved in a few postseason games in his life.
  • St. Mary's isn't playing their best ball of the year lately, but they're the obvious second choice by default in a weak conference.

It's VERY hard to see anybody else cutting down the nets. Maybe somebody gets hot and pulls off one surprise. The brackets are stacked in favor of the powers...and this is a conference where the powers have a big head start on everyone else talent-wise anyway.

We have room to update the brackets in the Horizon League after their Tuesday Night openers. Let's squeeze that in before calling it a day...

HORIZON LEAGUE UPDATE

Tuesday Night's first round trimmed out the worst four teams in the league, as home favorites swept the board straight up. Friday brings the quarterfinals. We've structured the data below to match the brackets. The first two teams listed will play each other tonight in the quarterfinals for the right to face the third team listed Saturday in the semi's. The stats represent regular season performances in conference margin average, and full season two-point defense. Feel free to jot these down in your schedule so you can monitor the matchups all the way through the Finals. The other categories discussed today were presented in full back in Tuesday's edition of the NOTEBOOK. Please check the archives if you missed that report. This will be our last mention of the Horizon until we're talking about whoever made it to the Big Dance two weeks from now!

TOP HALF:
Cleveland State (3): +6.7 margin, 47% two-point defense
Wright State (6): +0.9 margin, 54% two-point defense
Butler (2): +6.2 margin, 49% two-point defense

So, Cleveland State plays Wright State tonight, and the winner faces Butler tomorrow. Butler will have a significant rest advantage, but they grade out worse than Cleveland State in our numbers. It will be interesting to see if Cleveland State can put together an "us against the world" weekend after taking the worst of it in the three-way tiebreaker at the top of the league. Remember that all games in this half of the bracket are neutral since the games are in Milwaukee.

BOTTOM HALF
Detroit (5): -0.5 margin, 49% two-point defense
Valparaiso (4): +3.4 margin, 47% two-point defense
Wisc-Milwaukee (1): +1.8 margin, 49% two-point defense

Host Milwaukee gets to watch Detroit and Valpo go at it tomorrow. The numbers above say they should be rooting for Detroit! Valpo holds edges over Milwaukee in both league margin average and two-point defense. Home court is usually worth 3 to 3.5 points in a tournament setting...but fatigue AND home court can be worth more.

Our tournament previews continue Saturday with the 12-team Sun Belt. Sunday's are reserved for boxscore summaries of key Saturday games...and there's a lot to talk about in that regard this weekend. Back to conference previews Monday. Heck, let's just run the preview schedule again.

SATURDAY: Sun Belt Preview
MONDAY: Big East Preview (plus an A10 quickie)
TUESDAY: Big 12 Preview (plus MAC, and CUSA quickies)
WEDNESDAY: ACC and Pac 10 Previews (plus WAC and MW quickies)
THURSDAY: SEC and Big 10 Previews (plus a Big West quickie)

It's OBVIOUSLY vital that you sign up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK right now to maximize your profits through March Madness. There are day games today in the Colonial and Missouri Valley, so take care of business early! Game day releases go up a few hours before first tip. Seasonal packages offer the most bang for your buck. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Note that there's also a big schedule in the NBA tonight, highlighted by Chicago at Orlando and Miami at San Antonio on ESPN.

It's HARDWOOD HEAVEN given the chase for the championships in the colleges and the race for the playoffs in the pro's. Don't make a move today until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say!

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