What A Wild Day!

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

FIRST REALLY BIG DAY OF TOURNEY ACTION
IS ONE FOR THE AGES!

It's true that tournament action has been going on all week. But, Thursday afternoon was the first really BIG session in terms of game volume, and the number of top programs hitting the floor.

AND IT WAS BEDLAM!

Right off the bat...

*Big East #1 seed and probable #1 seed in the Big Dance Pittsburgh lost its first game to Connecticut. Pittsburgh was fresh. UCONN was playing its third game in three days. But it was the Huskies pulling off the stunner.

*Big 12 #1 seed and probable #1 seed in the Big Dance Kansas trailed almost the entire way vs. 14-point underdog Oklahoma before barely surviving in the final seconds.

*CUSA #1 seed Alabama-Birmingham was eliminated by #8 seed East Carolina. That puts UAB squarely on the bubble because it was thought that only one CUSA team would go Dancing this year. The regular season champ may not make it.

*In the ACC, Virginia blew a 10-point lead in the final minute (!!) against Miami before losing in overtime.

And, that was just the beginning! As the afternoon continued...

*Mountain West #1 seed BYU looked awful as a 16-point favorite over lowly TCU, nursing a tight lead most of the way before prevailing 64-58

*Akron jumped out to a 26-10 halftime lead on Miami of Ohio, then found themselves in overtime. Then double overtime! Akron eventually won it 82-75 after 50 minutes of action.

*St. John's and Syracuse went at it hammer and tong in the Big East, before the Red Storm failed once again to garner any home court advantage at Madison Square Garden in a 79-73 loss.

Publication deadlines prevent us from running the numbers from ALL college basketball tournament games played around the clock on Thursday. We'll focus on the day games, providing expanded notes on quarterfinal action in the Big East and Big 12 tourneys (where a few national powers took the floor for the first time). We'll take a look at Phantom Scores (a special 'secondary' score we developed that's exclusive to JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK) and other key stats from the rest of the day slate.

Games are presented in rotation order..

BIG EAST QUARTERFINALS

CONNECTICUT 76, PITTSBURGH 74
Shooting Percentage: Connecticut 45%, Pittsburgh 55%
Three-Pointers: Connecticut 3/12, Pittsburgh 8/11
Free Throws: Connecticut 21/25, Pittsburgh 12/14
Rebounds: Connecticut 27, Pittsburgh 24
Turnovers: Connecticut 6, Pittsburgh 11
Phantom Score: Connecticut 73, Pittsburgh 62
Vegas Line: Pittsburgh by 5, total of 131
Notebook: The Big East has so many good teams, that few results in games matching the top 11 are really shockers. But, the Huskies were really behind the eight-ball here playing their third game in three days. And, they allowed 55% shooting to a number one seed. How tid they win! You can see above they attacked the basket more (earning a +9 edge in FT makes), and they only turned the ball over six times against a stingy defense. They certainly earned the victory based on Phantom Score (note that Phantom Score is simply two-point scoring plus rebounding, a 'secondary' score that often has good predictive value for future rounds in a tournament). Pittsburgh could well benefit from playing just one game this week as they prepare for the Dance. That will give them time to recover from a bruising regular season. And, the loss reminds the players that getting a top seed doesn't mean squat if you don't go out and force some turnovers! Connecticut will play its fourth in four days Friday afternoon vs. Syracuse. Brutal!

SYRACUSE 79, ST. JOHN'S 73
Shooting Percentage: St. John's 47%, Syracuse 44%
Three-Pointers: St. John's 4/14, Syracuse 7/19
Free Throws: St. John's 15/24, Syracuse 20/29
Rebounds: St. John's 34, Syracuse 34
Turnovers: St. John's 19, Syracuse 15
Phantom Score: St. John's 80, Syracuse 72
Vegas Line: Syracuse by 3, total of 135
Notebook: Classic Big East battle. St. John's wins Phantom Score, but loses the turnover, free throw, and three-point categories in a way that completely erased their inside edge. Maybe the fates were punishing the Red Storm for the final 1.7 seconds of the Rutgers game that were never played. Two games in this event is probably the right amount if you're dreaming big dreams about the Dance. Syracuse will play its second game vs. UCONN, hoping the Huskies wear out and escort the Orange directly into the finals. It's not an exaggeration to say that the Big East quarterfinals would qualify as champion-type games in most other conferences.

BIG 12 QUARTERFINALS

KANSAS 63, OKLAHOMA STATE 62
Shooting Percentage: Oklahoma State 40%, Kansas 36%
Three-Pointers: Oklahoma State 4/13, Kansas 5/25
Free Throws: Oklahoma State 18/21, Kansas 12/21
Rebounds: Oklahoma State 35, Kansas 39
Turnovers: Oklahoma State 10, Kansas 7
Phantom Score: Oklahoma State 67, Kansas 75
Vegas Line: Kansas by 14, total of 143
Notebook: Kansas got their wake up call moments before the game ended, which allowed them to advance to the semifinals. It's amazing how often the Jayhawks have horrible outings like this. They're the best team in the country four games in five...and the ninth best in their league in that other game. The 5-25 mark on three-pointers was atrocious. Even Phantom Score only got Kansas to about half the Vegas pointspread. Their path to the finals got easier when an archrival was derailed in the next game.

COLORADO 87, KANSAS STATE 75
Shooting Percentage: Colorado 58%, Kansas State 42%
Three-Pointers: Colorado 6/9, Kansas State 7/23
Free Throws: Colorado 23/27, Kansas State 12/16
Rebounds: Colorado 33, Kansas State 27
Turnovers: Colorado 16, Kansas State 11
Phantom Score: Colorado 79, Kansas State 69
Vegas Line: Kansas State by 7.5, total of 148
Notebook: This was very tight until the end when a free throw parade padded the lead. Kansas State was swept 0-3 by the Buffaloes this year. Colorado's better than people realize. But, K-State was on such a good run of late that this qualifies as a shocker. You can't take anyone lightly in March. Note the great shooting for Colorado, or the lousy defense from K-State (take your pick). Phantom Score says it's a clean win. Once you get past the basics of Kansas and Texas being good, most experts have been scratching their heads all year in the Big 12.

Quick Notes from a very busy Thursday Afternoon schedule:

ACC FIRST ROUND
Final Score: Miami 69, Virginia 62 (in OT)
Phantom Score: Virginia 71, Miami 69
Vegas Line: Miami by 3, total of 120
Key Stat: As we mentioned at the top, Virginia led by 10 points in the final minute but choked the game away with missed free throws and multiple turnovers. The key stat was probably the 4 late turnovers. But, frankly, it was an awful game. Neither team could even reach 50% on free throws, and those are uncontested shots. It was an 8-9 matchup in a conference without depth...to determine who would get to lose to North Carolina in the quarterfinals (though, top seeds are far from a sure thing to this point!). Let's call it a tribute to how bad things have gotten in the ACC once you move past Duke and North Carolina.

Final Score: Boston College 81, Wake Forest 67
Phantom Score: Wake Forest 71, Boston College 69
Vegas Line: Boston College by 13, total of 143
Key Stat: Boston College won three-pointers 10-5, which accounts for a little more than their final scoreboard margin. Phantom Score is a wash. You're not playing well if you're washing with Wake Forest! BC gets Clemson in the next round as they try to impress the selection committee.

MAC QUARTERFINALS
Final Score: Western Michigan 67, Bowling Green 56
Phantom Score: Bowling Green 76, Western Michigan 63
Vegas Line: Western Michigan by 5, total of 137
Key Stat: Wow, big reversal from the Phantom Score. What happened? BG was 1 of 12 on three-pointers, and was outshot at the FT line 19-9 (15-7 on makes). It was a win and a cover for Western Michigan, but they really didn't play as well as the final score made it look. Hoping your opponents miss their treys isn't much of a strategy.

Final Score: Akron 82, Miami of Ohio 75 (in double overtime)
Phantom Score: Akron 87, Miami of Ohio 71
Vegas Line: Akron by 3.5, total of 132
Key Stat: Phantom Score overstates the Akron edge a bit. They had a nice edge in offensive rebounding, but kept missing their putbacks! Tired Akron will play its third game of the week Friday against Western Michigan. Will they have the legs to compete?

SEC FIRST ROUND
Final Score: Georgia 69, Auburn 51
Phantom Score: Georgia 68, Auburn 56
Vegas Line: Georgia by 11, total of 122
Key Stat: No surprise here. Auburn is awful, and Georgia coasted in a 5-12 game in the brackets while tuning up for Friday's showdown with Alabama. You know the Georgia Dome will be pulling for a seeding upset there.

Final Score: Mississippi 66, South Carolina 55
Phantom Score: Mississippi 73, South Carolina 64
Vegas Line: Mississippi by 4, total of 140
Key Stat: South Carolina shot only 30% for the game on 20 of 67% from the floor. One of the few games where Phantom Score is in the neighborhood of the scoring margin because treys were a non-issue.

CUSA QUARTERFINALS
Final Score: East Carolina 75, UAB 70 (in overtime)
Phantom Score: UAB 73, East Carolina 61
Vegas Line: UAB by 7, total of 125
Key Stat: The #1 seed did what they were supposed to inside. But, a dismal 6 of 28 game from long range put them in danger of losing. Then, a 48-34 free throw discrepancy sealed the deal. Normally the top seed gets the benefit of the doubt at the line. They were playing from behind much of the game though, and had to foul in spots. We told you coming in this was a very competitive conference. We didn't expect to see the top seed gone so quickly though.

Final Score: Memphis 66, Southern Miss 63
Phantom Score: Southern Miss 70, Memphis 61
Vegas Line: Southern Miss by 3, total of 135
Key Stat: Memphis was +9 from the free throw line, which helped them turn a possible loss into a win. Memphis was a relative rarity, a bye team as an underdog. Phantom Score says they should have been the dog. The upper half of the bracket's opened up for them though with #1 UAB falling earlier in the day.

BIG TEN FIRST ROUND
Final Score: Northwestern 75, Minnesota 65
Phantom Score: Minnesota 72, Northwestern 60
Vegas Line: Northwestern by 1, total of 132
Key Stat: Northwestern was 15 of 26 on two-point shots, which helped make up for a shaky day from long range. NW usually looks bad in Phantom Score because they emphasize the trey so much. Minnesota was too soft inside to turn around their startling late season slump. The Gophers stopped believing in themselves a couple of weeks ago, and just never got their chins back up.

Final Score: Michigan State 66, Iowa 61
Phantom Score: Michigan State 73, Iowa 65
Vegas Line: Michigan State by 7, total of 130
Key Stat: Michigan State stays alive in its quest for an undeserved berth. Normally a win (and non-cover) over Iowa wouldn't impress anybody. ESPN's Bracketology seems to be bending over backwards to get the Spartans in. They'd better impress vs. Purdue on Friday.

PAC 10 QUARTERFINALS
Final Score: USC 70, California 56
Phantom Score: California 71, USC 67
Vegas Line: USC by 3.5, total of 133
Key Stat: A sloppy game marked by poor shooting and turnovers. USC won treys 8-2, which accounts for a little more than their final victory margin. Don't give the Trojans too much credit for the big victory margin. Future opponents probably won't be as dead as 2 of 7 on three-pointers. A lot of games today where the loser just didn't do much of anything from behind the arc in a way that determined who won and who covered.

Final Score: Arizona 78, Oregon State 69
Phantom Score: Arizona 70, Oregon State 70
Vegas Line: Arizona by 11, total of 141
Key Stat: Dead heat in Phantom Score. Arizona wins treys 11-7, and that +12 scoring differential is more than they won by. They were soft on defense again, and committed 16 turnovers vs. what should have been tired, bad team dealing with two games in less than 24 hours. Needless to say, we're still not high on Arizona's chances to impress in the Dance.

MOUNTAIN WEST QUARTERFINALS
Final Score: BYU 64, TCU 58
Phantom Score: BYU 63, TCU 46
Vegas Line: BYU by 16, total of 148
Key Stat: Jimmer Fredette was just 7 of 21 from the field, as he continues to feel the pressure to carry this shorthanded team. BYU was ahead most of the second half after playing a very lame first half. But, TCU trimmed the margin to three very late before the #1 seed held on. The so-called Player of the Year needs to find his second wind soon. Hard to believe that the nation's media has fallen in love with another ball hog who doesn't play defense. Well, actually, it's not that hard to believe.

Final Score: New Mexico 67, Colorado State 61
Phantom Score: New Mexico 65, Colorado State 64
Vegas Line: New Mexico by 3.5, total of 133
Key Stat: A rare game that's in the neighborhood of Phantom Score today! New Mexico wins made free throws 17-8 to help get some distance on the scoreboard. A couple of weeks ago we saw CSU as a Dance-caliber team. They sure didn't impress down the stretch though, did they?

WAC QUARTERFINALS
Final Score: San Jose State 74, Idaho 68
Phantom Score: Idaho 64, San Jose State 54
Vegas Line: Idaho by 2.5, total of 135
Key Stat: Once again three-pointers rule the day. That's the randomizer that helps turn this sport into roulette for Vegas betting purposes. The lesser team was a sparkling 13 of 23 behind the arc. The favorite was just 7 of 21. That's 18 points you're not going to get back no mater what you do! San Jose will need all the good fortune they can get in the next found vs. top seed Utah State.

Final Score: New Mexico State 66, Nevada 60
Phantom Score: New Mexico State 61, Nevada 52
Vegas Line: New Mexico State by 1, total of 144
Key Stat: Nevada won treys 7-2, but New Mexico State won made free throws 28-15 to counteract it. As a result, the game landed fairly close to Phantom Score. New Mexico State gets rested Boise State in the semifinals, which is a lot better then having top lay rested Utah State!

BIG WEST FIRST ROUND
Final Score: Long Beach State 79, Cal Irvine 72
Phantom Score: Cal Irvine 66, Long Beach State 59
Vegas Line: Long Beach State by 9, total of 150
Key Stat: Another #1 seed had to sweat a game. Phantom Score has them losing. Biggest stat was free throws, where Long Beach had an edge in attempts 33-19, and makes 25-17. That's your scoreboard difference right there. Top seeds sure hate playing in the early game don't they?

Final Score: Cal Santa Barbara 79, Pacific 67
Phantom Score: UCSB 59, Pacific 53
Vegas Line: Pick-em, total of 121
Key Stat: Big game for Santa Barbara from long range. They won treys 11-6, which accounts for more than their final victory margin. Shooting over 60% from long range is great when it happens. It's also fool's gold if you're not careful. Nobody can do that on purpose over a series of games.

Back early Saturday with a look at Friday afternoon summaries featuring some of the biggest programs in the nation. Be sure you're reading all the boxscores from games that happen after publication deadlines! If you'd like some help picking BIG JUICY WINNERS, sign up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK online. Game day releases can be purchased individually. Or, get the rest of the season at a great rate. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

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