Championship March



Time for our annual march through the championships, as we crunch the key numbers from Sunday and late Saturday conference championship games to give you a sense of what to expect in the NCAA Tournament that starts later this week.

Our Dance coverage in the NOTEBOOK will kick off Tuesday with previews of play-in games. We'll focus on our key indicator stats of margin average and two-point defense for all the first round games. We'll also provide strength of schedule"adjustments" you have to make because every first round matchup will be a non-conference game.

Before opening our book on the Dance, let's close the book on Championship Week!



Shooting Percentage: Duke 50%, North Carolina 34%
Three-Pointers: Duke 9/20, North Carolina 2/8
Free Throws: Duke 8/15, North Carolina 14/21
Rebounds: Duke 32, North Carolina 39
Turnovers: Duke 12, North Carolina 16
Phantom Score: Duke 72, North Carolina 77
Vegas Line: Duke by 4, total of 142.5

Notebook: Very strong performance for Duke in the revenge spot. Phantom Score (two-point scoring plus rebounding) will generally favor North Carolina in this particular matchup because the Heels fly at the basket while Duke likes trying to crush your soul from behind the arc. A Phantom win of 5 by North Carolina is actually LOW in context. Duke did a great job on both sides of the ball. Rebounding was a concern (as it often is for Duke in big games). Forcing 16 turnovers sure made up for that. Duke played at a championship level this weekend, dominating a league in the tourney that they failed to win in the regular season. North Carolina was lucky to beat Miami, and lucky to beat Clemson. They were facing a team today that wasn't going to let them off the hook.


Shooting Percentage: Kentucky 42%, Florida 39%
Three-Pointers: Kentucky 6/14, Florida 7/20
Free Throws: Kentucky 24/29, Florida 3/8
Rebounds: Kentucky 31, Florida 29
Turnovers: Kentucky 6, Florida 14
Phantom Score: Kentucky 59, Florida 59
Vegas Line: Florida by 1, total of 137

Notebook: Interesting that Kentucky could win so easily while shooting so poorly. They were only 42% on the day. But, they kept attacking the basket and earning trips to the free throw line where they shot very well. And, as we keep pointing out, their defense is fantastic. Florida could never get anything in gear. Phantom Score is a tie because it doesn't count free throws. That shows you some vulnerability for Kentucky in the Dance in any games where they're not getting calls, or refs are putting both teams on the line. For the weekend, the Wildcats figured out how to avoid their close game issues. Don't play any! Funny how neither Duke nor Kentucky won their conferences in the regular season, but both look to be the best teams from their conferences heading into the NCAA Tournament.


Shooting Percentage: Dayton 38%, Richmond 42%
Three-Pointers: Dayton 3/14, Richmond 10/21
Free Throws: Dayton 9/12, Richmond 19/27
Rebounds: Dayton 27, Richmond 31
Turnovers: Dayton 11, Richmond 11
Phantom Score: Dayton 63, Richmond 49
Vegas Line: Richmond by 4.5, total of 123

Notebook: An off the radar game because it wasn't on a major network. It was basically a clone for Kentucky-Florida...with Richmond playing the role of Kentucky in a blowout win that saw poor shooting...and Dayton being the Florida team who never got going. Though, we also had Duke's three-point edge here for Richmond too. Dayton won Phantom Score big...but that's not going to get you anywhere when you're outscored by 31 points on one's and three's. We expect at least one Atlantic 10 team to dethrone a major conference team and go deeper than seeded.


Shooting Percentage: Penn State 39%, Ohio State 51%
Three-Pointers: Penn State 7/18, Ohio State 7/16
Free Throws: Penn State 9/9, Ohio State 12/20
Rebounds: Penn State 25, Ohio State 27
Turnovers: Penn State 8, Ohio State 7
Phantom Score: Penn State 55, Ohio State 65
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 10, total of 127

Notebook: Unfortunately, a Sunday of boredom continued and ended with another blowout. Penn State rallied late to get close to the Vegas spread. But, the game was never in doubt. Phantom Score confirms the advantage. Great weekend for Ohio State, though they managed to avoid Purdue and Wisconsin who fell apart in the other half of the bracket.

From LATE SATURDAY action...

(in overtime)
Shooting Percentage: Washington 46%, Arizona 43%
Three-Pointers: Washington 9/25, Arizona 7/21
Free Throws: Washington 8/14, Arizona 20/30
Rebounds: Washington 37, Arizona 27
Turnovers: Washington 12, Arizona 8
Phantom Score: Washington 79, Arizona 61
Vegas Line: Washington by 3, total of 152

Notebook: Great game, featuring teams who look to be potential disappointments in the Dance. Arizona's defense is still soft. Arizona still has a way of losing focus when they can least afford to. They were evenly matched on this day though. Washington's aggressive attack inside led to a Phantom Score blowout. Some friendly officiating helped Arizona stay right with them (+12 on makes and +16 on attempts). Washington impressed last year in the Dance. Maybe they have that in them again. It's been awhile since Arizona mattered. They're seeded to matter this year.


Shooting Percentage: Texas 41%, Kansas 57%
Three-Pointers: Texas 7/20, Kansas 7/17
Free Throws: Texas 12/15, Kansas 12/18
Rebounds: Texas 30, Kansas 38
Turnovers: Texas 7, Kansas 10
Phantom Score: Texas 70, Kansas 90
Vegas Line: Kansas by 4.5, total of 140

Notebook: Powerhouses with revenge have a way of getting the job done. Kansas took the game by the throat early and never let up. The Jayhawks are still a team that can lay an egg when you least expect it. Can they go six games in the Dance without laying an egg? Texas impressed vs. Oklahoma and Texas A&M, but showed enough issues here that would raise doubt about a history making run in the coming days. Note that Phantom Score shows a blowout for the Jayhawks too. The Big 12 solved the Texas defense a few weeks ago. Those game tapes will be making the rounds this week.

(in overtime)
Shooting Percentage: Akron 41%, Kent State 33%
Three-Pointers: Akron 8/19, Kent State 7/19
Free Throws: Akron 8/17, Kent State 12/23
Rebounds: Akron 42, Kent State 44
Turnovers: Akron 12, Kent State 7
Phantom Score: Akron 79, Kent State 76
Vegas Line: Kent State by 1.5, total of 136

Notebook: A thriller with the MAC's only bid on the line. Phantom Score shows a nailbiter too, with intense pressure from what was at stake serving to deflate shooting percentages and scoring totals. Not really a meaningful event in the big picture, but a fun weekend in Cleveland. Several great finals this year in the lesser leagues where everything was on the line NOW in terms of a Dance invitation.


Shooting Percentage: San Diego State 45%, BYU 32%
Three-Pointers: San Diego State 5/15, BYU 6/24
Free Throws: San Diego State 11/14, BYU 10/13
Rebounds: San Diego State 37, BYU 32
Turnovers: San Diego State 6, BYU 9
Phantom Score: San Diego State 83, BYU 58
Vegas Line: San Diego State by 2.5, total of 140

Notebook: Another revenge spot for a top team. Though, this one was obviously influenced by Jimmer Fredette running out of gas a bit after shooting the ball a million times in the semifinals. If you're a one-man team, the LAST thing you want to see on the schedule is three games in three days against teams who'd love to take you down. A Phantom blowout too, as SDSU emphasizes the inside game. In a normal year, these teams would be seeded in the 8-9 range and we'd be talking about how dangerous they are. This season, with inflated won-lost records and a lot of weakness out West...both teams are arguably overseeded. You can be among the best in the West this year, or in the national rankings, while still being only the equivalent of 8-10th best in the Big East. We wish these programs the best. We're going to pretend they're better than they are...unless they string together impressive wins the next two weeks.


Shooting Percentage: UCSB 50%, Long Beach 29%
Three-Pointers: UCSB 6/12, Long Beach 4/17
Free Throws: UCSB 6/14, Long Beach 14/25
Rebounds: UCSB 36, Long Beach 42
Turnovers: UCSB 10, Long Beach 7
Phantom Score: UCSB 76, Long Beach 72
Vegas Line: Long Beach State by 3, total of 135

Notebook: A shocker here, as Long Beach was best in the league all year...but won't get to go Dancing. What a horrible shooting performance from Long Beach! They only managed 29% in the biggest game of their lives. Great defense from Santa Barbara, and probably a choke element from the favorite. Long Beach was just 14 of 25 on free throws too. Ugly. This was not a conference we were expecting much from in the Dance. We now expect even less!


Shooting Percentage: Connecticut 42%, Louisville 45%
Three-Pointers: Connecticut 3/11, Louisville 7/25
Free Throws: Connecticut 20/23, Louisville 7/10
Rebounds: Connecticut 31, Louisville 30
Turnovers: Connecticut 14, Louisville 16
Phantom Score: Connecticut 71, Louisville 68
Vegas Line: Louisville by 2.5, total of 134

Notebook: Amazing. We wouldn't have thought it possible that a team could win five games in five days in this tournament unless they got VERY lucky in terms of upsets in other parts of the bracket. Connecticut didn't get very lucky. They had to face #1 Pittsburgh, #3 Louisville, and #4 Syracuse. This is truly an accomplishment for the ages. Unfortunately, the team could be completely drained for the Dance now. There's only so much gas in the tank...even if the tank was much deeper than everyone realized at the beginning of the journey.


Shooting Percentage: Boise State 40%, Utah State 53%
Three-Pointers: Boise State 6/26, Utah State 3/8
Free Throws: Boise State 17/21, Utah State 22/26
Rebounds: Boise State 21, Utah State 33
Turnovers: Boise State 12, Utah State 17
Phantom Score: Boise State 55, Utah State 79
Vegas Line: Utah State by 6, total of 128

Notebook: Utah State looks to be in their standard role of DOMINANT in their conference but not as good as everyone thinks. They had a lot to be happy about here. But, 17 turnovers and only 3 made treys showed some vulnerability. They turned a Phantom Score blowout into a game they had to sweat because of all the miscues. Maybe the West will surprise us this season. Can an entire hunk of geography be overrated? Get to work Pac 10, Mountain West, WAC, et al. We're waiting to be impressed!

Back Tuesday to look at the play-in games. Don't forget that Monday's schedule is very attractive in the NBA, with San Antonio-Miami and Orlando-Los Angeles Lakers in an ESPN doubleheader. It's a busy nine-game ticket in all in the pro's. And JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK may get involved in bonus college action too.

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The NCAA, NIT, College Insider, and CBI Tournaments are about to start. That means THE WINNING IS JUST BEGINNING!


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