Friday NCAA Stat Previews

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

MORE FUN AHEAD IN THE DANCE...
THE WINNING IS JUST BEGINNING

The first huge day of NCAA Tournament action is in the books. Day two starts in minutes. Here are our stat capsules for today's 16 games in the Big Dance.

As we did yesterday, we'll go arena by arena, presenting games in the order they tip off at each site.

GAMES IN CHARLOTTE

Tennessee (9): +2.3 margin average, 46% two-point defense
Michigan (8): -1.9 margin average, 49% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Michigan 4 points
Vegas Line: Tennessee by 1.5, total of 127.5
Notebook:
Tough call here because Michigan is a borderline team from a conference you can't always trust in the Big Dance...while Tennessee is now questioning the future of its head coach Bruce Pearl. That kind of gossip can lead to an early exit for demoralized players, or a huge tournament that wins a popular coach his job for next year. We've talked very closely with our on site sources to get the right read. That, and Michigan's 49% defense on two-pointers will weigh heavily on any side or total we pick in this one.

Hampton (16): +4.4 margin average, 41% two-point defense
Duke (1): +10.7 margin average, 43% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Duke 18 points
Vegas Line: Duke by 22.5, total of 134.5
Notebook:
Duke was already one of the best teams in the country, and the potential return of dynamic freshman Kyrie Irving may allow them to kick things up a notch. The math suggests that the Vegas line may be a little low. These kinds of games are often decided by backups in the last five minutes. Do YOU know anything about Hampton's backups? Sign up with the only handicapping entity with a team handicapping approach that gathers ALL the information needed to win.

Long Island (15): +10.2 margin average, 50% two-point defense
North Carolina (2): +7.2 margin average, 45% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: North Carolina 14 points
Vegas Line: North Carolina by 17, total of 158
Notebook
: It's bad enough that Duke and North Carolina have been getting so many breaks in this sport for years. This year they both get to open in Greensboro. It's like Cinderella's step mothers have already locked her in a closet! That's going to matter more Sunday than today because Hampton and Long Island aren't real upset threats. Long Island had a great margin average in its conference. Normally, we'd give them a lot of credit for that. But, the 50% two-point defense is a red flag. North Carolina attacks the basket, making many tough defenses look soft. How is a soft defense going to look?

Georgia (10): +3.4 margin average, 43% two-point defense
Washington (7): +8.0 margin average, 43% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Even
Vegas Line: Washington by 5.5, total of 139.5
Notebook:
Both of these teams are capable of anything. Each has a better defense than they're given credit for. Each is truly capable of beating a #1 seed, or losing to a #14 seed had they drawn one. They draw each other, with the winner facing the Tar Heels. The conferences are even. The defenses are even. Margin average gets you close to the number. We'll use what we learned yesterday from SEC teams to get a read on Georgia. This is certainly a spot where a defensive dog might make some sense. Washington has a knack for either winning big or losing. Tough to blow out a 43% opposing defense.

GAMES IN CLEVELAND

UTSA (16): +0.9 margin average, 48% two-point defense
Ohio State (1): +10.4 margin average, 47% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Ohio State 18 points
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 23.5, total of 138
Notebook:
UTSA had a fantastic start against Alabama State on Wednesday Night. Ohio State was caught sleepwalking by Northwestern last week in an early game. Could the same thing happen here? Maybe for a few minutes. Maybe even for a half. But, the margin averages and conference adjustments suggest it should be easy for the Buckeyes. If UTSA allows 48% shooting on two-pointers vs. a soft schedule, they may look like matators against OSU. We do think OSU's two-point defense will be their downfall at some point in this event. They drew a killer regional despite being the overall #1 seed. That term is MEANINGLESS if North Carolina, Syracuse, Kentucky, West Virginia, Xavier, and George Mason are all top 8 seeds in your quarter. Awful job in many respects by the committee this year.

Villanova (9): +1.0 margin average, 45% two-point defense
G. Mason (8): +13.7 margin average, 45% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Villanova 10 points
Vegas Line: Pick-em, total of 135.5
Notebook:
If the Villanova team that played the past few weeks shows up, this game is already over. George Mason is playing A LOT better than that version of the Wildcats. Villanova has had a lot of time to rest and get ready though. They lost their opener in the Big East tourney to South Florida. That gave them plenty of time to review game tape and deal with some issues. We'll be trusting our Big East sources here. If they see a bounce back, then a play on Villanova can be justified. If not, well, George Mason is superior to South Florida by a good bit.

Marquette (11): +2.4 margin average, 48% two-point defense
Xavier (6): +14.3 margin average, 44% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Marquette 9 points
Vegas Line: Xavier by 2, total of 140.5
Notebook:
Xavier always deserves a look in the Dance because of their knack for reaching the Sweet 16. This is a coaching staff that knows what to do in big games. It's a collection of talent that can rise to the occasion when needed. Marquette did manage to put themselves on the right side of the bubble just in time. Some questions need to be answered before we'd back them against somebody like Xavier. We'll be talking with our sources, and making adjustments based on Thursday results for the Big East. You regulars know it takes a lot for us to release a team with a 48% two-point defense in a game near pick-em.

Indiana State (14): +3.2 margin average, 44% two-point defense
Syracuse (3): +5.7 margin average, 45% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Syracuse 11 points
Vegas Line: Syracuse by 12, total of 129
Notebook:
The Missouri Valley has a nice Dance pedigree. But, this wasn't a big year for the conference by any means. Indiana State was a great cover team all year though. They can certainly make this one very interesting if Syracuse comes in overconfident and complacent. Night games on Friday aren't ideal for Cinderella stories because earlier upsets usually got the favorite's attention. We'll give Indiana State some thought as a defensive dog at this price. We won't be selling the Orange short in terms of a deep tournament run though. They're tough to deal with if you don't have much preparation time.

GAMES IN CHICAGO

Akron (15): +4.1 margin average, 46% two-point defense
Notre Dame (2): +4.8 margin average, 44% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Notre Dame 15 points
Vegas Line: Notre Dame by 13.5, total of 136
Notebook:
Notre Dame had a very small margin average for placing so high in the Big East standings. Part of that is the talent and depth in the conference. Part of that is a knack for winning close games. You don't really want a close game here if you're an Irish fan! The conference adjustment is close to the Vegas number, and the margin averages were very similar. We won't get involved here unless we hear something special from our sources. We could easily be on Notre Dame in later rounds though. They're in a relatively friendly section of the brackets.

Florida State (10): +3.0 margin average, 40% two-point defense
Texas A&M (7): +1.1 margin average, 46% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Texas A&M 1 point
Vegas Line: Pick-em, total of 121.5
Notebook:
We'll have to look Under here because Florida State plays great defense, and Texas A&M doesn't mind halfcourt grinders under this head coach. This could be one of the ugliest first round games in terms of style, but these evenly matched teams could go right down to the wire. We'll use evidence from conference cohorts on Thursday to help us make a final decision. The early run-through suggest the final decision will be a pass on the team side, with a possible play on the total going Under.

St. Peter's (14): +4.6 margin average, 41% two-point defense
Purdue (3): +8.2 margin average, 45% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Purdue 13 points
Vegas Line: Purdue by 14, total of 120
Notebook:
Don't fall asleep on St. Peter's! Fairfield learned that last week. That Fairfield team won a road opener in the NIT. Purdue can be very inconsistent when the pressure's on. If you ask too much of them, they'll break your heart. If you complete write them off...they'll play lights out basketball before breaking your heart in the next round! We've learned a lot about St. Peter's from our New York sources. We could end up getting involved here.

VCU (11): +3.4 margin average, 49% two-point defense
Georgetown (6): -0.3 margin average, 46% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Georgetown 11 points
Vegas Line: Georgetown by 5, total of 134
Notebook:
Georgetown slumped down the stretch, and may not be as good as -0.3 in a killer conference makes it look. VCU was a surprise entrant in the Dance, but did impress Wednesday against USC (possibly the first strike against the Pac 10?). We believe VCU will determine the result here. If they're fired up and not too tired, they can certainly spring this upset Colonial Conference teams have been doing that for years in this event...particularly against overrated slumpers from major conferences! But, if VCU is out of gas, or showing signs of an emotional letdown after making their point emphatically, this game could get away from them quickly. Our sources will mean everything here. If they find something good, this could be a VERY big play for us.

GAMES IN TULSA

Oakland (13): +14.2 margin average, 48% two-point defense
Texas (4): +12.7 margin average, 42% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Texas 12 points
Vegas Line: Texas by 10, total of 153
Notebook:
Texas has the shorter trip to Tulsa, but it's not like the Longhorns are particularly popular in the state of Oklahoma! The math puts us right on the Vegas number. Oakland was dominant in the always interesting Summit Conference. And, they really scheduled tough in pre-conference action. They have a win at Tennessee, and a near miss against Michigan State in Auburn Hills. But, they also have some ugly results vs. tourney caliber teams. The key will be the Texas defense. If that 42% unit shows up, then Oakland will have trouble getting much on the board. The Texas defense that was less impressive down the stretch could keep Oakland hanging around though. Late in a close game, anything could happen. Definitely some very interesting potential here.

Memphis (12): -0.7 margin average, 45% two-point defense
Arizona (5): +3.9 margin average, 51% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Arizona 3 points
Vegas Line: Arizona by 6, total of 138
Notebook
: The math is right on the number here too. You regulars know we hate Arizona's inside defense! They've managed to get away with that in the Pac 10. Maybe that's a big indictment of the Pac 10. We'll know more about that by the end of the weekend. Memphis is a soft draw at #12. They weren't as good as UAB this year in Conference USA...and you watched UAB get throttled by Clemson Tuesday Night. They weren't as good as UTEP, and UTEP lost its NIT opener. This may be more like a 7-14 matchup rather than a 5-12. Tough to truly trust either side at this number. Our on site sources may change our minds about that.

Boston U. (16): +5.3 margin average, 44% two-point defense
Kansas (1): +12.1 margin average, 45% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Kansas 16 points
Vegas Line: Kansas by 22.5, total of 136
Notebook:
Right on the number again with the margin averages and conference adjustments. The scary times for Kansas usually come in later rounds (though not always!). They will be challenged by the UNLV-Illinois winner, and then possibly Louisville and a Notre Dame-Purdue winner down the road. No sure things this year for the top seeds. We probably won't be involved in any top seed openers unless some very special information hits the office.

Illinois (9): +3.0 margin average, 45% two-point defense
UNLV (8): +5.1 margin average, 44% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Illinois 4 points
Vegas Line: UNLV by 2, total of 132
Notebook:
Very interesting game here. Illinois closed the season very poorly. UNLV has a coach who generally gets the best of his players in tournament action. They almost beat SDSU last week in the Mountain West tournament. Illinois is much like Villanova. If they fixed what ails them, they can win and advance...and conceivably even make later headlines in this event. If they didn't, then they're likely to get embarrassed in their openers. Great to have Wise Guy connections in Las Vegas whenever UNLV is in a big game!

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Back tomorrow as the next round begins. Now...link up with JIM HURLEY!

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