Wednesday Tourney Previews

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

MORE NCAA AND NIT PREVIEWS
AS THE EXCITEMENT BUILDS

We're back with nutshell previews of Wednesday Night's tournament action in the Big Dance and the NIT. We'll follow the same format as last night, looking at conference margin averages, adjustments for conference strengths, and two-point defense.

This, we hope, will whet your appetite for the big NCAA Tournament schedules all day and night on Thursday and Friday. We'll use the same format to outline the 16 games played each day. Don't forget that JIM HURLEY will be releasing BIG JUICY WINNERS in tourney action every day this week. Be sure you take care of business early on Thursday and Friday because of those morning tips.

Today's data is presented in rotation order, starting with the two play-in games in the Big Dance at Dayton. Those are obviously neutral site games. In the NIT, the bottom team listed is at home, and should get 3-4 points for home court advantage in your consideration.

NCAA TOURNAMENT

Texas-San Antonio: +9.9 margin average, 48% two-point defense
Alabama State: +3.7 margin average, 44% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: UTSA 8 points
Vegas Line: UTSA by 4, total of 128.5
Notebook:
The math is in love with Texas-San Antonio, as they had a better margin average in a much tougher conference. Let's remember though that it's very hard to get a true read on teams from the very bad conferences. You just never know. And, they're so erratic that anything can happen in one game anyway. NETWORK is aware of the math edge, and will be working with on site sources in Dayton to get a read on each team's preparation. Also worth noting that both teams played weak schedules relatively speaking. That means those defenses aren't as good as they look. The dog probably has a better defense based on the data. But, something like +3.7 in a horrible conference just isn't impressive at all for a margin average.

USC: +2.1 margin average, 45% two-point defense
VCU: +3.4 margin average, 49% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: USC 5 points
Vegas Line: USC by 4.5, total of 127
Notebook:
VCU gets a chance to prove that they belong in the tourney. But, they have to do that with a 49% defense on two-pointers against a team that isn't afraid to work the ball inside. The conference margin math is fairly close to Vegas expectations. USC was a little worse in margin, but came from a conference that was about 4.5 points better overall. The Trojans are one of those teams who are capable of anything. You saw that in the Pac 10 tournament again. Remember that they beat Texas this year, and just missed beating Kansas in Lawrence. USC at its best wins and covers easily. USC at its worse goes home early. NETWORK is working with its on-site sources to see if VCU has developed a chip on their shoulder about all the negative coverage. They could just run Jay Bilas on a continuous loop if they wanted chalkboard material.

NIT

Texas Southern: +5.3 margin average, 46% two-point defense
Colorado: -0.4 margin average, 48% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Colorado 22 points
Vegas Line: Colorado by 22.5, total of 142
Notebook:
The conference adjustment by itself suggests that Big 12 teams should be about 22-point favorites over anyone from Texas Southern's conference. The margin averages favor Texas Southern at this spread in that light. But, Colorado closed the season stronger than those numbers would suggest. And, the game is being played at altitude...while Texas Southern comes from bayou level in Houston. The Buffs will have a larger than normal home court advantage in other words. If they're fired up about getting snubbed, they could coast past this number easily. If they're down in the dumps, this could get interesting. Motivation is always such a key in NIT handicapping.

Nebraska: -1.2 margin average, 42% two-point defense
Wichita St.: +10.9 margin average, 44% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Nebraska 9 points
Vegas Line: Wichita State by 4, total of 123
Notebook:
Is the Big 12 really 9 points better than the Missouri Valley Conference? That's what many computer projections are suggesting this year because the MVC has really weakened. Indiana State won the automatic Dance bid and was only seeded 14th. Missouri State and Wichita State, the class of the league, are both in the NIT. We have a lot of respect for both schools. We have to admit that Wichita State was disappointing in big games this year. They're gaudy margin average came from a knack of running up the score vs. patsies. They're not playing a patsy here. They're playing a team with a 42% two-point defense that came from a superior conference. Not a bad place to pick up an upset if you're confident that Nebraska is going to show up with some fire.

Florida Atlantic: +4.4 margin average, 46% two-point defense
Miami-Florida: -1.8 margin average, 45% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Miami 13 points
Vegas Line: Miami of Florida by 12.5, total of 131
Notebook:
Miami couldn't post a positive differential in a disappointing ACC this year. Then, they choked a big lead vs. North Carolina this past weekend when they really could have made some headlines. Though, they were lucky to even be in that game after trailing Virginia by 10 points with less than a minute left a day earlier! It's tough to trust Miami at this high a spread. We're not big fans of the Sun Belt this year, but we'll at least give the underdog some thought. One of the easiest road trips for any NIT first round visitor.

Wisc-Milwaukee: +1.8 margin average, 49% two-point defense
Northwestern: -5.9 margin average, 52% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Northwestern 10 points
Vegas Line: Northwestern by 9.5, total of 138
Notebook:
Northwestern isn't accustomed to laying this many points. And, with a 52% defense, there's an obvious reason for that! Milwaukee was tri-champion of the Horizon along with Butler and Cleveland State, and earned the #1 seed in the tie-breaker. Tough to justify this spread from any direction unless UWM is really down in the dumps emotionally or unable to deal with personnel challenges. Northwestern may have earned some respect by hanging so tough with Ohio State. Will they be as fired up here?

Bethune Cookman: +3.5 margin average, 52% two-point defense
Virginia Tech: +4.2 margin average, 47% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Virginia Tech 18 points
Vegas Line: Virginia Tech by 22, total of 126
Notebook
: Not much is known about Bethune Cookman in the marketplace. The math actually gets us very close to the Vegas line once you factor in home court advantage. Virginia Tech was very distressed to miss the Big Dance again. They're just going to have to play an actual schedule in November and December from now on! They've been gifted a soft first round opponent in the NIT. The winner of Nebraska-Wichita State will provide a much tougher challenge in a few days.

Mississippi: -0.1 margin average, 46% two-point defense
California: +1.1 margin average, 48% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Even
Vegas Line: California by 4.5, total of 145.5
Notebook:
The SEC and Pac 10 were very similar this year, so no adjustment is needed from the margin averages. You can almost assume a 22-team league, with California grading out one point better than Ole Miss. Give Cal 3-4 points for home court advantage, and we're right on the Vegas number. The winner will have to go to Colorado in the next round most likely. Note the quarter of the bracket you want to be in because the top seed has such a big home court edge.

Long Beach State: +9.2 margin average, 50% two-point defense
Washington State: +0.4 margin average, 45% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Washington State 11 points
Vegas Line
: Washington State by 9.5, total of 145.5
Notebook: Long Beach was really dominant during the regular season in the Big West, but fizzled in the tournament. The math here would suggest a closer game because of those dominant conference efforts. The 'strength of conference' adjustment cancels out Long Beach's margin edge. But, home court isn't worth so much that WSU should be laying that much. That's what the math says. Reality may be saying that a 50% two-point defense will have trouble being competitive on the road ANYWHERE against any team that knows what it's doing! Washington State isn't very far behind Washington in terms of recent form (and may actually be ahead). That means we're dealing with a team that's more like a 7th seed in the Dance than a 2nd seed in the NIT. Look out Boston College, someone's coming after you.

JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK will have at least one major release tonight from either the NCAA, NIT, CBI, or COLLEGE INSIDER tournament. You can purchase our full Wednesday slate here at the website with your credit card. Build your bankroll for the fantastic weekend ahead with some WEDNESDAY WINNERS!

We do have college postseason and complete NBA packages available too. Call the office at 1-800-323-4453 if you have any questions.

Back tomorrow to run through all 16 Thursday games in the Big Dance. We know the butterflies are in your stomach. We know excitement is in the air. Don't you dare make move in the NCAA Tournament until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by VegasSportsMasters.com and JimHurley.com. For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.

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