Sunday NCAA Stat Previews

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

LACK OF FRIDAY UPSETS CREATES
SUPER SUNDAY SCHEDULE

You know if a chalk player like President Barack Obama went 15-1 in his brackets, it had to be a day lacking in upsets.

That's what happened Friday in the Big Dance, which means Sunday's games will be featuring several big name programs going head to head for a shot at the Sweet 16. Let's run through the games site by site, using key boxscore stats from Friday to provide context.

GAMES IN CHARLOTTE

DUKE (1) vs. MICHIGAN (8)
Vegas Line: Duke by 11, total of 136

Duke's become very expensive to back...but that's because they keep blowing people out! The Blue Devils looked great in the ACC tournament, and have even more talent on the floor now than they did last weekend. Michigan will have to play GREAT to pull off the upset. Can they play good enough to cover?

MICHIGAN 75, TENNESSEE 45
Shooting Percentage: Tennessee 35%, Michigan 52%
Three-Pointers: Tennessee 3/18, Michigan 9/26
Free Throws: Tennessee 12/16, Michigan 0/1
Rebounds: Tennessee 24, Michigan 35
Turnovers: Tennessee 18, Michigan 10
Phantom Score: Tennessee 48, Michigan 83
Vegas Line: Tennessee by 2, total of 127
Notebook: When the Tennessee administration didn't give Bruce Pearl a vote of confidence, the writing was on the wall. The Volunteers players barely showed up, getting badly outclassed in all facets of play. Now, even if the SEC is the most overrated conference ever, Tennessee still isn't THIS much worse than Michigan! How lacking was the intensity? Tennessee sent Michigan to the line for ONE free throw. That means they literally never contested a shot beyond sticking their hands in the air. Good result for Michigan, but be careful reading too much into that. The Tennessee players got the message that things were about to start over from scratch. Very odd to see that in March Madness. But, it can happen to a midlevel team from a major conference. Phantom Score was an even bigger blowout (two-point scoring plus rebounds)! Proof of non-effort from Tennessee.

DUKE 87, HAMPTON 45
Shooting Percentage: Hampton 35%, Duke 53%
Three-Pointers: Hampton 4/14, Duke 9/19
Free Throws: Hampton 3/7, Duke 14/16
Rebounds: Hampton 25, Duke 36
Turnovers: Hampton 18, Duke 9
Phantom Score: Hampton 55, Duke 82
Vegas Line: Duke by 23, total of 134
Notebook: We won't devote much space to the obvious blowouts. A non-event here. Well, an IMPRESSIVE non-event given that the 1-16 games usually aren't this one-sided.

The return of Kyrie Irving for Duke is a wildcard that could be enough to put them over the top down the road. Wouldn't Ohio State or Kansas like to add in a player of that caliber at the last second?! Be sure you tweak your power ratings some with his addition. Duke obviously blew past Vegas expectations by a mile in his first game back. Michigan did that too...but that was more of a laydown from a disinterested opponent. Michigan impressed us a few times during the regular season. And, the Big Ten has looked fairly legit so far in the tourney. Penn State and Michigan State lost close ones. Others have impressed. Michigan could definitely make this interesting. But, Duke is in terrific form since the loss at Chapel Hill. JIM HURLEY has made big money with major conference dogs getting too many points in this round in the past. Will Michigan (+) be on today's slate? You'll have to sign up to find out!

NORTH CAROLINA (2) vs. WASHINGTON (7)
Vegas Line: North Carolina by 4, total of 157

It's amazing how courses have changed since North Carolina beat Duke two Saturdays ago to win the ACC. Carolina hasn't covered since, and didn't impress in any of their three ACC tourney games. They were lucky to win in the quarters and semi's. Duke's annihilating people! These teams are VERY similar stylistically...which will have us looking at the Over. When BOTH teams LOVE to run, the winner has a good shot to get to the 90's.

NORTH CAROLINA 102, LONG ISLAND 87
Shooting Percentage: Long Island 37%, N. Carolina 51%
Three-Pointers: Long Island 8/31, N. Carolina 3/17
Free Throws: Long Island 17/25, N. Carolina 31/42
Rebounds: Long Island 36, N. Carolina 52
Turnovers: Long Island 14, N. Carolina 18
Phantom Score: Long Island 82, N. Carolina 114
Vegas Line: North Carolina by 17.5, total of 158
Notebook: Carolina won Phantom Score the way you'd expect. A horrible night from three-point land kept them from maximizing their production. Scary to think about when they scored 102 points anyway! North Carolina will love facing Washington. It's important to keep in mind that Washington is better than Miami of Florida and Clemson, teams Carolina went to the buzzer with.

WASHINGTON 68, GEORGIA 65
Shooting Percentage: Georgia 46%, Washington 43%
Three-Pointers: Georgia 5/12, Washington 4/18
Free Throws: Georgia 14/19, Washington 12/14
Rebounds: Georgia 32, Washington 26
Turnovers: Georgia 14, Washington 5
Phantom Score: Georgia 68, Washington 70
Vegas Line: Washington by 5, total of 141
Notebook: Washington led by more than this for most of the second half. But, they're not the smartest team in tool shed so they couldn't protect the lead. It's hard to see how with only five turnovers and 12 of 14 on free throws. They relaxed a bit early on defense, then had poor shot selection when trying to play it safe. Phantom Score was very close to the margin, and closer to the Vegas total. Poor shooting kept the teams from putting more up on the board. It's important to note here that Georgia slowed things down because they had no interest at all in running with the Huskies.

We're looking forward to watching North Carolina-Washington. And, our statheads have been combing the database to see what's happened when these teams faced others who loved to run this year and last. What we learn from those numbers will determine our pick here.

GAMES IN CLEVELAND

OHIO STATE (1) vs. GEORGE MASON (8)
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 11, total of 135

George Mason is used to having a Cinderella crowd behind them. In Cleveland, most of the arena will be wearing bright red. Mason does have an inside presence that could at least impact Jared Sullinger. He would have eaten Villanova alive. Does the slipper still fit?

GEORGE MASON 61, VILLANOVA 57
Shooting Percentage: Villanova 37%, George Mason 41%
Three-Pointers: Villanova 7/22, George Mason 4/14
Free Throws: Villanova 12/17, George Mason 15/24
Rebounds: Villanova 32, George Mason 30
Turnovers: Villanova 8, George Mason 9
Phantom Score: Villanova 56, George Mason 64
Vegas Line: Villanova by 1, total of 135
Notebook: Classic hardfought defensive battle. Skeptics would find something to complain with each team. Villanova had been playing poorly coming in...found themselves with a 10-point lead...then choked it all away in a horrible finish. George Mason was trailing a slumper all day, then hit a surprising trey with 20 seconds left to go ahead. If you're looking for upsets...Mason does have the kind of style that can keep them within striking distance. They show up well here defensively, and in Phantom Score.

OHIO STATE 75, TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO 46
Shooting Percentage: UTSA 34%, Ohio State 57%
Three-Pointers: UTSA 4/17, Ohio State 12/24
Free Throws: UTSA 6/7, Ohio State 5/8
Rebounds: UTSA 24, Ohio State 33
Turnovers: UTSA 13, Ohio State 14
Phantom Score: UTSA 52, Ohio State 67
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 23.5, total of 138
Notebook: Another rout that deserves little comment. Worth noting perhaps that Phantom Score wasn't all that big for this kind of matchup. Ohio State was sharp from long range. Nobody beats them when they're sharp from long range. An opponent like this has no shot to stay close.

It's tempting to say that George Mason-Ohio State will come down to Ohio State's treys. That may be a bit of an exaggeration. But, if Ohio State is shooting well from behind the arc, Mason will have little chance to hang with them. If not? Well, we know what this George Mason coach can do when big name programs have trouble getting early distance on the scoreboard. We'll talk about the home crowd influence with our sources before making a final decision here. Ohio State has a tendency to get pulled into grinders by slow teams. Mason will do its best to exploit that fault. This is a HUGE line for a slow game. Can the dog make it a slow game?

SYRACUSE (3) vs. MARQUETTE (11)
Vegas Line: Syracuse by 5, total of 140

The second all-Big East matchup of this round, coming on the heels of UCONN-Cincinnati Saturday. Funny how so many Big East teams disappointed, yet the ones who survived banged into each other so quickly. Stat handicappers will have plenty to look at here in terms of a prior matchup and plenty of common opponents.

MARQUETTE 66, XAVIER 55
Shooting Percentage: Marquette 53%, Xavier 41%
Three-Pointers: Marquette 5/12, Xavier 2/13
Free Throws: Marquette 13/19, Xavier 11/15
Rebounds: Marquette 24, Xavier 26
Turnovers: Marquette 15, Xavier 15
Phantom Score: Marquette 62, Xavier 64
Vegas Line: Xavier by 2.5, total of 140
Notebook: Phantom score was right on the Vegas line. Looks like Xavier's 2 of 13 performance on treys was the key difference-maker. Marquette did a great job of grabbing the game by the throat early. Xavier couldn't answer because they're not a trey-happy team, and they couldn't make any open looks when they got them. Marquette has closed the season well after being right on the bubble very late. Have they climbed their mountain? Familiarity with the Syracuse zone might help the dog. That's an ace that won't be up the Syracuse sleeve in this particular meeting.

SYRACUSE 77, INDIANA STATE 60
Shooting Percentage: Indiana State 40%, Syracuse 52%
Three-Pointers: Indiana State 7/21, Syracuse 7/16
Free Throws: Indiana State 9/14, Syracuse 24/31
Rebounds: Indiana State 22, Syracuse 33
Turnovers: Indiana State 14, Syracuse 15
Phantom Score: Indiana State 52, Syracuse 65
Vegas Line: Syracuse by 12, total of 129
Notebook: It took awhile for the Orange to shake this dog off their leg. They pulled away late thanks to an ability to get to the free throw line and rebounding dominance. Phantom Score was very close to the number. The extra free throws helped push the scoreboard margin higher. Good showing for a team that isn't afraid of the spotlight by any means.

Our on site sources, and Big East sources will provide great insights here. And, as mentioned above, there's so much to look at in the full season stats too. You don't often get something on the Dance card with THIS much to sink your teeth into.

GAMES IN CHICAGO

NOTRE DAME (2) vs. FLORIDA STATE (10)
Vegas Line: Notre Dame by 5, total of 134

Many have wondered if Notre Dame is really good enough to be a #2 seed. They had a lot of close wins. And, it's been so long since they've mattered in the NCAA Tournament that it's hard for some to take them seriously as a true threat. The challenge the Irish face against this Florida State defense will tell us a lot about the true championship potential (or lack of one) for this team.

NOTRE DAME 69, AKRON 56
Shooting Percentage: Akron 36%, Notre Dame 45%
Three-Pointers: Akron 7/20, Notre Dame 7/17
Free Throws: Akron 3/6, Notre Dame 20/26
Rebounds: Akron 27, Notre Dame 35
Turnovers: Akron 8, Notre Dame 14
Phantom Score: Akron 59, Notre Dame 63
Vegas Line: Notre Dame by 14, total of 135
Notebook: Workman like job for the Irish. They kind of split the difference between what Connecticut and Pittsburgh did Thursday...and what Louisville and St. John's did. Phantom Score wasn't very impressive. But, Notre Dame did attack the basket well, leading to a +17 mark in made free throws that wasn't home cooking. (Well, maybe a little home cooking in Chicago!). Shooting 45% and making 14 turnovers vs. Akron has to be a concern though when a very strong defense awaits.

FLORIDA STATE 57, TEXAS A&M 50
Shooting Percentage: Florida State 47%, Texas A&M 31%
Three-Pointers: Florida State 4/15, Texas A&M 9/25
Free Throws: Florida State 13/20, Texas A&M 9/19
Rebounds: Florida State 30, Texas A&M 29
Turnovers: Florida State 12, Texas A&M 11
Phantom Score: Florida State 62, Texas A&M 43
Vegas Line: Texas A&M by 1, total of 121.5
Notebook: Another ugly grinder. No surprise here given the great defenses on the floor, and the fact that even lesser defenses were playing ugly grinders! Florida State worked for more good shots inside, and took advantage of horrible free throw shooting from the Aggies. Phantom Score was a blowout. Texas A&M joins Missouri on the sidelines for the Big 12...losing badly in games many thought they'd win. It hasn't been a disaster for the Big 12. Meeting expectations has been a challenge.

Florida State provides an interesting challenge for Notre Dame. Even though the Irish are battle tested in the Big East...they haven't faced a defense quite this good. If they can make some treys and get some distance on the scoreboard, Florida State can't play their preferred grinder game. But, if FSU pulls Notre Dame into the muck, we could definitely see an upset.

PURDUE (3) vs. VCU (11)
Vegas Line: Purdue by 9, total of 135

One of the few Cinderella's playing on Sunday, VCU certainly channeled their hatred of Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale into some productive performances. But, now they run into a team from a conference that's having a great run so far. Southern Cal has been inconsistent all year. Georgetown slumped down the stretch. PURDUE is a big step up from what VCU has been seeing so far.

PURDUE 65, ST. PETER'S 43
Shooting Percentage: St. Peter's 30%, Purdue 43%
Three-Pointers: St. Peter's 5/21, Purdue 5/15
Free Throws: St. Peter's 4/6, Purdue 14/17
Rebounds: St. Peter's 27, Purdue 43
Turnovers: St. Peter's 15, Purdue 17
Phantom Score: St. Peter's 51, Purdue 79
Vegas Line: Purdue by 14.5, total of 120
Notebook: Can a win and a cover be a disappointment? Purdue's defense was STIFLING, so they were able to win big even with sluggish offensive numbers. They really didn't do anything well offensively, turning 79 “Phantom” points into 65 real points because of 17 turnovers and poor long range shooting. A lot of great stuff from the Big Ten on Friday.

VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 74, GEORGETOWN 56
Shooting Percentage: VCU 41%, Georgetown 39%
Three-Pointers: VCU 12/25, Georgetown 5/26
Free Throws: VCU 26/39, Georgetown 11/13
Rebounds: VCU 23, Georgetown 33
Turnovers: VCU 6, Georgetown 17
Phantom Score: VCU 35, Georgetown 63
Vegas Line: Georgetown by 5.5, total of 133
Notebook: Be sure you take note of Phantom Score. VCU won this game from the three-point line. They only made six two-point baskets all day! And, they got killed on the boards. Sorry Cinderella, history doesn't favor something like that continuing. This is reminiscent of Ohio's big win over Georgetown in the Dance last year. Ohio led by 12 at the half, and was 13 of 23 on treys. VCU led by 11 at the half and was 12 of 25 on treys. The next time Ohio took the floor, they lost to Tennessee 83-68. This Purdue team is better than that Tennessee team was.

Purdue is laying a big number, so VCU can cool off from long range and still cover. Just be careful with this one. It's very tough to string together great games from long range...on neutral courts...vs. tournament caliber opposition.

GAMES IN TULSA

TEXAS (4) vs. ARIZONA (5)
Vegas Line: Texas by 5, total of 138

This is a game many circled when the brackets were first announced. Texas and Arizona had to sweat dangerous opponents, which is often the case for teams seeded in that range. Now they get each other in a classic Southwestern battle of national powers. Have your chips and queso ready!

TEXAS 84, OAKLAND 80
Shooting Percentage: Oakland 44%, Texas 48%
Three-Pointers: Oakland 7/29, Texas 4/9
Free Throws: Oakland 8/11, Texas 21/26
Rebounds: Oakland 34, Texas 35
Turnovers: Oakland 7, Texas 10
Phantom Score: Oakland 86, Texas 87
Vegas Line: Texas by 10, total of 154
Notebook: Texas had a bigger lead than this most of the day. But, they just couldn't shake feisty Oakland. It was a double digit game much of the second half, and an eight-point game in the final minute. Oakland wanted to make sure backers got the money! Oakland's offense was mostly launching treys and hoping to get a put back off a rebound. That worked so well they put 80 up on the board. Texas needs to refocus on defense and boxing out, or they won't recapture that great form of midseason.

ARIZONA 77, MEMPHIS 75
Shooting Percentage: Memphis 49%, Arizona 46%
Three-Pointers: Memphis 6/15, Arizona 5/19
Free Throws: Memphis 17/24, Arizona 26/31
Rebounds: Memphis 28, Arizona 28
Turnovers: Memphis 14, Arizona 14
Phantom Score: Memphis 68, Arizona 64
Vegas Line: Arizona by 5.5, total of 139.5
Notebook: Arizona made up for some sloppy ball handling and poor three-point shooting with a strong day at the free throw line. Arizona attacks the basket, which gives them a fighting chance whenever they take the floor. But, they shouldn't be losing Phantom Score to a team like Memphis from Conference USA. Regular season champ UAB was drilled by Clemson. Regular season and tourney runner-up UTEP didn't impress in their NIT loss. This is the Pac 10 champion!

Texas and Arizona have both been inconsistent enough lately that it's tough to be certain who's going to show up in their best form. If both do that, this could be a thriller. If only Texas does that, they can win by double digits. If only Arizona does that, the Longhorns will have a lot of explaining to do about their alarming number of tourney flameouts in the Rick Barnes era. We'll work closely with our sources here. If we sense a high energy game, we may look at the Over.

KANSAS (1) vs. ILLINOIS (9)
Vegas Line: Kansas by 8.5, total of 143

Most of the teams who slumped late in the season continued right on slumping in the Dance. Illinois didn't. They snapped out of their slide and looked very impressive against UNLV. Kansas is ALWAYS a team that can get derailed early or go the distance. They showed that again vs. Boston with a very soft early performance but a strong finish. As is typical for a Kansas game in the tourney, they can beat Illinois by 15 or more, or lose outright. Which one is it going to be?!

KANSAS 72, BOSTON 53
Shooting Percentage: Boston 35%, Kansas 51%
Three-Pointers: Boston 9/25, Kansas 9/20
Free Throws: Boston 8/12, Kansas 5/8
Rebounds: Boston 23, Kansas 38
Turnovers: Boston 12, Kansas 14
Phantom Score: Boston 41, Kansas 78
Vegas Line: Kansas by 22.5, total of 136.5
Notebook: This game was interesting a lot longer than many expected. But, you can see that Phantom Score shows your standard 1-16 rout. Boston did a good job of getting some long range baskets, and didn't get hack happy against the Kansas offense. Odd to see so few free throws for a power team in a game like this. So, Boston earned respect in that sense...but things were a bit more one-sided in the fundamentals than the final score makes it seem.

ILLINOIS 73, UNLV 62
Shooting Percentage: Illinois 60%, UNLV 39%
Three-Pointers: Illinois 7/13, UNLV 7/24
Free Throws: Illinois 10/14, UNLV 13/19
Rebounds: Illinois 30, UNLV 21
Turnovers: Illinois 14, UNLV 9
Phantom Score: Illinois 72, UNLV 49
Vegas Line: UNLV by 2.5, total of 132
Notebook: Wow. Nobody should hit 60% from the field against UNLV. Illinois was better than 50/50 from long range...but this was in no way a cheap win. You can see the Phantom rout. Illinois played very well, proving with some finality that the Big Ten was a top quality conference this year. Fate may not smile in future coin flip games within a strong subset of contenders. Illinois took fate out of the equation in a game that was supposed to be pick-em by just dominating a popular Wise Guy choice.

That wraps up our lengthy stat previews for Sunday action. Don't forget that JIM HURLEY had BIG JUICY WINNERS for you here at the website backed by our exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING APPROACH. If you prefer talking with humans to doing business online, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

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21
Aug

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