Early Saturday Summaries

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

MEMPHIS, PRINCETON EARN UPSET BIDS,
POWERS PROGRESS TO SUNDAY CHAMPIONSHIPS

We continue our March Madness coverage with key stats from Saturday afternoon action. Remember that the winners you see in the Saturday semifinal boxsores will be facing off today in conference championship games.

Let's start off with the afternoon title tilts that saw upset winners get their tickets stamped...

CUSA CHAMPIONSHIP: MEMPHIS 67, UTEP 66
Shooting Percentage: Memphis 42%, UTEP 47%
Three-Pointers: Memphis 8/18, UTEP 7/18
Free Throws: Memphis 15/23, UTEP 9/16
Rebounds: Memphis 31, UTEP 32
Turnovers: Memphis 15, UTEP 12
Phantom Score: Memphis 59, UTEP 68
Vegas Line: UTEP by 5, total of 130
Notebook: An amazing win for Memphis, who trailed by 12 points with about six minutes left on UTEP's home floor...yet surged all the way back to get the victory. Oddly, the stats above give credit to free throws. Phantom Score (two point scoring plus rebounding, a 'secondary' score we use for additional insight) was a clear win for the hosts. Memphis only had one extra trey. Memphis had more turnovers. But, they were +6 on made free throws (+7 on attempts). That's not supposed to happen in a road game! Fittingly, it was late free throws that put Memphis over the top in a very tight ending. Memphis wins the automatic berth for CUSA. UTEP is on the bubble, and most reports suggest the wrong side of the bubble. Given UTEP's poor showing vs. Butler last year in the Dance, and how much energy Memphis used up this weekend snaring the trophy, we'll be looking to go against the Tigers next week. Crushing conclusion for UTEP. Games don't last 35 minutes!

IVY LEAGUE: PRINCETON 63, HARVARD 62
Shooting Percentage: Princeton 41%, Harvard 51%
Three-Pointers: Princeton 3/12, Harvard 4/9
Free Throws: Princeton 14/15, Harvard 10/16
Rebounds: Princeton 36, Harvard 21
Turnovers: Princeton 9, Harvard 7
Phantom Score: Princeton 76, Harvard 61
Vegas Line: Harvard by 3, total of 129
Notebook: Great game! Too bad the loser couldn't go Dancing. Princeton hit a short jumper at the buzzer to finish off a see-saw affair that might have split out 50/50 if they played the game 100 times. There's honestly not much drama in most of the major conference games being played this weekend. This game, and so many others in the smaller conferences provided the real drama...and the real emotions. Phantom Score celebrates Princeton's rebound edge. They didn't shoot as well as Harvard, but hustled for second chance points and scored the upset on Yale's home court. Too many ghosts in the Yale rafters wouldn't allow Harvard to win a championship on that court!

SEC SEMIFINALS

KENTUCKY 72, ALABAMA 58
Shooting Percentage: Kentucky 50%, Alabama 42%
Three-Pointers: Kentucky 9/20, Alabama 5/13
Free Throws: Kentucky 9/14, Alabama 9/13
Rebounds: Kentucky 32, Alabama 31
Turnovers: Kentucky 7, Alabama 10
Phantom Score: Kentucky 68, Alabama 65
Vegas Line: Kentucky by 6.5, total of 129
Notebook: Kentucky led comfortably the whole way. So, they weren't in position to have to win a close game at the end. Great work if you can get it. Phantom Score suggests it could have been a much closer game. Kentucky wins treys by 12 points in a game they won by 14 points. Very clean performance for the Wildcats, who only suffered seven turnovers while hitting 50% from the floor and 45% on treys. This is still a dangerous team for the Dance. Can they dodge any nailbiter bullets that hit them early in the tournament? Alabama's right on the bubble...meaning it's going to be a very close call as to whether they get in or not. Tough to deny a divisional champion from a major conference, no matter how bad that division was.

FLORIDA 77, VANDERBILT 66
Shooting Percentage: Vanderbilt 37%, Florida 48%
Three-Pointers: Vanderbilt 6/33, Florida 11/21
Free Throws: Vanderbilt 14/19, Florida 10/14
Rebounds: Vanderbilt 30, Florida 38
Turnovers: Vanderbilt 6, Florida 11
Phantom Score: Vanderbilt 64, Florida 72
Vegas Line: Florida by 3, total of 140
Notebook: It's tempting to call this a trey win for Florida because they had such a big advantage in that department. But, they won Phantom Score by eight...and didn't panic when they fell behind early. And, Vandy's 6 of 33 mark just screams of panic. They didn't think they could compete inside, so they pursued their inner Jimmer and hoped for the best. Florida and Kentucky were clearly the best two teams in the SEC this year. They'll play for the SEC trophy Sunday afternoon. Both will have respected seeds in the Big Dance. Vandy will be there too...but the Commodores will need to shoot well to make up for weaknesses that were exposed today.

ATLANTIC 10 SEMIFINALS

DAYTON 64, ST. JOSEPH'S 61
Shooting Percentage: St. Joseph's 41%, Dayton 41%
Three-Pointers: St. Joseph's 9/25, Dayton 6/17
Free Throws: St. Joseph's 10/17, Dayton 14/22
Rebounds: St. Joseph's 26, Dayton 33
Turnovers: St. Joseph's 8, Dayton 8
Phantom Score: St. Joseph's 50, Dayton 65
Vegas Line: Dayton by 6, total of 128
Notebook: Dayton kept building comfortable leads, then frittering them away. If they had played five more minutes, Dayton would have gone up by 13 again. Ten more minutes, and it would have been close again. Phantom Score shows a double digit win for the Flyers. St. Joe's made enough treys to hang around. Both defenses guarded the basket well. Neither forced many turnovers. Dayton moves to the final with a shot to vulture a Dance bid. That's going to make the selection committee angry. They only want sure things playing on Sunday. Alabama's fate may be determined by what Dayton does in the A10 finals.

RICHMOND 58, TEMPLE 54
Shooting Percentage: Richmond 39%, Temple 35%
Three-Pointers: Richmond 4/11, Temple 7/25
Free Throws: Richmond 12/20, Temple 7/12
Rebounds: Richmond 36, Temple 35
Turnovers: Richmond 8, Temple 6
Phantom Score: Richmond 70, Temple 61
Vegas Line: Temple by 3, total of 128
Notebook: Defensive struggle that was much like Friday Night's Penn State/Wisconsin game but at a faster pace. Neither team shot well. Both treasured their possessions in a way that cut down on turnovers but led to a lot of poor shots when there weren't quality options. Richmond wins Phantom Score by nine, suggesting the underdog truly was the better team on this day. Temple is sad now, but may find that extra day of rest really helps in their Dance opener. Temple just isn't a team you want to run into at tourney time. Richmond plays Dayton tomorrow to see who cuts down the nets.

ACC SEMIFINALS

NORTH CAROLINA 92, CLEMSON 87 (in overtime)
Shooting Percentage: Clemson 50%, North Carolina 48%
Three-Pointers: Clemson 12/24, North Carolina 8/16
Free Throws: Clemson 9/16, North Carolina 24/34
Rebounds: Clemson 31, North Carolina 32
Turnovers: Clemson 15, North Carolina 15
Phantom Score: Clemson 73, North Carolina 76
Vegas Line: North Carolina by 5, total of 133
Notebook: For the second straight day, North Carolina trailed for almost the entire game before pulling a victory out of the fire. They had to go five extra minutes to get the job done today. That's not exactly what you want to see from a league champion. But, beating Duke creates double the letdown that normal victories cause...particularly if you're looking ahead to another possible meeting with Duke! Clemson fans will gripe about the free throw differential. North Carolina was +15 in makes, and +18 in attempts. Remember though that Carolina really does do a great job of attacking the basket. They tend to earn their edges at the charity stripe. They'll need to play better defense than this to make a statement in the Dance though.

DUKE 77, VIRGINIA TECH 63
Shooting Percentage: Virginia Tech 37%, Duke 47%
Three-Pointers: Virginia Tech 2/16, Duke 5/18
Free Throws: Virginia Tech 19/24, Duke 22/26
Rebounds: Virginia Tech 30, Duke 29
Turnovers: Virginia Tech 12, Duke 15
Phantom Score: Virginia Tech 68, Duke 69
Vegas Line: Duke by 7, total of 133
Notebook: A chippy game that gave Duke a taste of what other teams will be trying to give them next week and beyond. They were tough enough to deal with the challenges last year, and may well be again this season. They're obviously much better prepared for the ACC tournament than North Carolina was! They'll get a chance to make up for losing the regular season crown in a Sunday showdown. Note that Phantom Score was a toss-up. Had Virginia Tech been able to do anything from long range, this could have been a ballgame. In the Dance, SOMEBODY is going to make some treys...and Duke better be ready to deal with that consequence.

BIG TEN SEMIFINALS

OHIO STATE 68, MICHIGAN 61
Shooting Percentage: Michigan 37%, Ohio State 46%
Three-Pointers: Michigan 9/29, Ohio State 5/14
Free Throws: Michigan 8/10, Ohio State 13/23
Rebounds: Michigan 27, Ohio State 34
Turnovers: Michigan 9, Ohio State 9
Phantom Score: Michigan 53, Ohio State 74
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 10, total of 128
Notebook: The game was a bit more one-sided than the final score makes it sound. Ohio State played great defensively and on the boards. They lost the battle of three's because Michigan was attempting to many more shots from long range. Poor free throw shooting for Ohio State is a concern. They just can't get the distance they need to on opponents unless treys are falling. Michigan looks to be safely in the Dance now. Bracketology at ESPN had them as a 10th seed Saturday afternoon. Ohio State will be looking to earn the #1 seed overall with a victory in the Big 10 championship game on Sunday.

PENN STATE 61, MICHIGAN STATE 48
Shooting Percentage: Michigan State 32%, Penn State 42%
Three-Pointers: Michigan State 8/23, Penn State 9/22
Free Throws: Michigan State 6/12, Penn State 10/16
Rebounds: Michigan State 28, Penn State 36
Turnovers: Michigan State 10, Penn State 6
Phantom Score: Michigan State 46, Penn State 60
Vegas Line: Michigan State by 3, total of 122
Notebook: Phantom Score is almost right on the money here. That's been a bit less common this weekend than we had hoped. Three-point fluctuations can be a big deal in this sport. Both teams were almost identical in that stat, which meant the fundamentals ruled the day. Who would have thought that meant a loss for Michigan State?! Penn State has really slowed things down this weekend, and managed to get by both Wisconsin and Sparty on their way to a surprising Sunday showdown with top seed Ohio State. As we write this, Penn State has moved to the right side of the bubble as one of the last few teams in. A victory over Ohio State would seal the deal. We don't think the Big Ten really deserves seven bids though. As we've said before, Penn State is more deserving than Michigan State (a bogus 9th seed in recent projections). There shouldn't be any doubt now that Penn State is the better team. They had a better Big Ten record, a better margin average, and now own a double digit neutral court win over the Spartans.

That wraps up our look at the Saturday semifinals and the Conference USA championship. Monday morning we'll post our annual rundown of all the championship games, which includes the four played Sunday and all the evening title tilts from Saturday. Tuesday and Wednesday we'll preview the play-in games for the Big Dance, and set the stage for our NCAA Tournament coverage. Make sure you're with us EVERY DAY so you know what's going on in the most exciting legal betting festival in all of sports!

JIM HURLEY'S annual CHAMPIONSHIP PARLAY is up right now, featuring his top plays from the ACC, SEC, Atlantic 10, and Big 10 showdowns. You can purchase those online, or in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Sign up for the rest of the season, and kick off your coverage with the games you'll be watching on TV today.

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