Thursday Sweet 16 Stat Previews

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

STAR-STUDDED NIGHT AS MARQUEE TEAMS, PLAYERS TAKE THE COURT IN SWEET 16

Both Thursday and Friday Night action in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament promise thrills and excitement. Tonight features Player of the Year candidates on the floor for BYU and Connecticut, as well as the two teams who played for the National Championship last year in Butler and Duke. Friday features teams kind of dubbed "co-favorites" right now for the whole thing in Ohio State and Kansas, plus potential Cinderella breakthrough stories with Virginia Commonwealth and Richmond.

We've got top selections ready for all four games and you can get them at the bargain rate of $49 by clicking here. And as promised, we'll provide expanded previews for tonight's action right now. We'll be back early Friday to look at the last four games of the Sweet 16 round. We're looking at key indicator stats (many of which were gathered from Ken Pomeroy's great college basketball website kenpom.com) for each team as well as key boxscore stats from their most recent victory.

Games are presented by order of sites, starting with tonight's action in New Orleans. There's a lot to go over so let's jump right in...

GAMES IN NEW ORLEANS

BUTLER (8) VS. WISCONSIN (4)

Butler: +6.2 margin average, 49% two-point defense
Wisconsin: +5.6 margin average, 45% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Wisconsin 9 points
Vegas Line: Wisconsin by 4, total of 124
Notebook: Wisconsin grades out very well in the math. They had comparable margin averages, but in un-comparable conferences. The Big Ten has looked solid as a rock in the college postseason outside of Purdue's poor performance vs. VCU. The Horizon League has been a big disappointment, with Cleveland State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee not living up to expectations in the NIT...and Butler frankly pretty lucky to still be playing given two nailbiters. The numbers above would show Wisconsin by about 8 to 8.5 points on a neutral court. You have to decide if Butler's recent form is that much better than their full season form to drive the line all the way down to four.

ADJUSTED TEMPO
Butler: 64.3 possessions per game
Wisconsin: 57.6 possessions per game

Butler is seen as a slow and patient team. But, Wisconsin is a tortoise among tortoises, working VERY slowly before trying to get off the best possible shot. This creates a great efficiency, but can lead to problems if the treys aren't falling and they fall behind. And, the Badgers are known to underachieve vs. defenses who can handle being patient. Remember that Wisconsin lost its first game in the Big Ten tourney in ugly fashion to Penn State...was neck and neck with Kansas State until very late...and didn't cover last year in the Dance prior to a bad loss to Cornell. Wisconsin is much more dangerous when they take an opponent out of its comfort zone. That won't happen here.

THREE-POINT RELIANCE
Butler: 31.5% of points on treys
Wisconsin: 36.0% of points on treys

Both teams are trey-heavy. You regulars know we're not fans of teams who HAVE to make treys to keep advancing. Fate shined on Butler last year, and has again so far this year in that regard. Wisconsin is an extreme in this stat, and is likely to be derailed whenever the bombs don't fall. Maybe that will be tonight. Maybe it won't happen again until November of 2011. Whatever happens tonight, the winner of this game will be dependent on treys every time they take the floor again vs. quality opposition. And, they're only two wins through the six they need to cut down the nets.

Last Weekend's Boxscores Involving These Teams...

BUTLER 71, PITTSBURGH 70
Shooting Percentage: Butler 46%, Pittsburgh 57%
Three-Pointers: Butler 12/27, Pittsburgh 6/11
Free Throws: Butler 11/14, Pittsburgh 12/18
Rebounds: Butler 21, Pittsburgh 31
Turnovers: Butler 6, Pittsburgh 10
Phantom Score: Butler 45, Pittsburgh 71
Vegas Line: Pittsburgh by 7, total of 128
Notebook: Big game for Butler on treys. They were +18 points from long range in a game they won very late. Note that Phantom Score (two-point scoring plus rebounding) was a slaughter for Pittsburgh. That's very bad news for Butler down the road if they're able to pull off an upset here. Smart team with good ball control though. Only six turnovers vs. Pitt's defense. Butler-Wisconsin may set an all-time tourney record for fewest turnovers given how patient these teams are with the ball.

WISCONSIN 70, KANSAS STATE 65
Shooting Percentage: Kansas State 46%, Wisconsin 42%
Three-Pointers: Kansas State 6/12, Wisconsin 9/20
Free Throws: Kansas State 15/22, Wisconsin 19/23
Rebounds: Kansas State 30, Wisconsin 27
Turnovers: Kansas State 8, Wisconsin 5
Phantom Score: Kansas State 62, Wisconsin 51
Vegas Line: Wisconsin by 3.5, total of 125
Notebook: Wisconsin shot 45% on treys, and was plus nine points in a game they only win by five. They were outclassed in Phantom Score as well. Wiscy and Butler catch a break in drawing themselves...and may catch another break in the next round if BYU is able to get past Florida. This isn't exactly the "power game" regional. The Southeast had a soft draw, then #1 Pittsburgh was knocked out.

We've been working with our on site sources to get a sense of the shooting backdrop at the Super Dome. We may look at the Under if the teams didn't shoot well in their practices from long range. Recent tournament history for these teams is out of line with our stathead math stuff...so there will be quite a debate about any team side selection.

BYU (3) VS. FLORIDA (2)

BYU: +12.4 margin average, 45% two-point defense
Florida: +7.7 margin average, 47% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Even
Vegas Line: Florida by 2.5, total of 149
Notebook: BYU has a tremendous edge in the math because those results reflect their full season. They haven't sparkled so much since suspending a key player for violating the school's honor code. Was that one guy worth seven points? It's actually possible given their results since then. Well, if Jimmer is red hot from long range, it doesn't much matter. If Jimmer isn't, then the team will play well below what that +12.4 would suggest.

ADJUSTED TEMPO
BYU: 71.2 possessions per game
Florida: 64.1 possessions per game

BYU loves to run, which has gone underreported by the media. They tend to think of  most college three-point shooting teams to be in the mold of Wisconsin or Butler. BYU is more like the Phoenix or New York Knick model of the NBA. Tempo and trey attempts. Florida looks like it has the athletes to deal with pace if the game moves fast. BYU may not have the depth to deal with a halfcourt game that has a lot of fouls called. Officiating will play a huge role in this game. Fredette knows the importance of that element, which is why he starts appealing to the officials from the start of every game.

THREE-POINT RELIANCE
BYU: 30.6% of points on treys
Florida: 26.1% of points on treys

History shows that 26.1% is more in line with what works at this stage of the Big Dance and beyond. That's a point in favor of the Gators. Did BYU already use up its red-hot shooting game to get here? Look at what happened vs. Gonzaga.

BYU 89, GONZAGA 67
Shooting Percentage: Gonzaga 42%, BYU 53%
Three-Pointers: Gonzaga 2/9, BYU 14/29
Free Throws: Gonzaga 17/21, BYU 13/15
Rebounds: Gonzaga 34, BYU 23
Turnovers: Gonzaga 14, BYU 8
Phantom Score: Gonzaga 78, BYU 57
Vegas Line: Gonzaga by 1, total of 149
Notebook: An amazing 14 of 29 on treys, which is just a shade under 50% at a very high volume. Phantom Score was a blowout for Gonzaga...which isn't a surprise at all. BYU was +36 points on treys in a game they won by 22. If you focus on the victory margin, BYU seems almost unbeatable. If you focus on the unlikelihood of having another game THAT huge from long range, you can see that they'll have their hands full vs. Florida.

FLORIDA 73, UCLA 65
Shooting Percentage: UCLA 42%, Florida 50%
Three-Pointers: UCLA 3/13, Florida 6/14
Free Throws: UCLA 16/25, Florida 13/17
Rebounds: UCLA 30, Florida 30
Turnovers: UCLA 8, Florida 8
Phantom Score: UCLA 70, Florida 72
Vegas Line: Florida by 6, total 132
Notebook: Tight game until the last five minutes, when Florida showed its superior class. It's worth noting that UCLA played BYU this year, and was one of the few teams to beat them. Good sharpness numbers for the Gators with 50% from the floor and only 8 turnovers against a challenging opponent.

Basically, it's going to come down to officiating and Jimmer in terms of both the side and the total. If the refs go whistle crazy, the game will fly over on free throws and Jimmer will get a lot of open looks. If the refs swallow their whistles, BYU can keep its starters on the floor...but they lack the diversified weaponry of the Gators. Our sources are working hard to find out what they can in that area. And, we have a backup plan for what happens if the refs just call the game straight. Once the ducks are in a row, this could be a very big release for us.

 

GAMES IN ANAHEIM

CONNECTICUT (3) VS. SAN DIEGO STATE (2)

UCONN: +0.5 margin average, 43% two-point defense
SDSU: +10.9 margin average, 43% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Connecticut by 5
Vegas Line: Pick-em, total of 130
Notebook: The math here would show San Diego State by about 5.5 points on a neutral court. Connecticut has caught fire recently though, and is playing A LOT better than the +0.5 would suggest. They won five games in five days to earn the Big East title. Then, they crushed Bucknell and outclassed Cincinnati in the first two games of the Dance. San Diego State on the other hand seems to have shrunk in the postseason. They did win the Mountain West tourney, but barely survived UNLV in the semifinals. They had to go double overtime to survive Temple in the last round. We won't be using the math here. Connecticut clicked late in the season, and it's better to see them as a team that's clicked.

ADJUSTED TEMPO
UCONN: 65.9 possessions per game
SDSU: 63.6 possessions per game

Another reminder that SDSU plays very slow basketball. They sure looked timid late in the Temple game. Can you afford to be timid vs. Connecticut? Maybe the fear will be gone now that SDSU survived the first weekend.

THREE-POINT RELIANCE
UCONN: 24.2% of points on treys
SDSU: 24.9% of points on treys

These are our kind of teams! Funny how some of the two-point teams, and some of the three-point teams lined up against each other in the brackets. Both UCONN and SDSU will attack the basket aggressively. Whoever scores in the paint, and defends better is going to advance. With a line of pick-em, this is a true handicapping challenge. You have to know REAL basketball to pick a game like this!

CONNECTICUT 69, CINCINNATI 58
Shooting Percentage: Cincinnati 40%, Connecticut 43%
Three-Pointers: Cincinnati 4/14, Connecticut 6/16
Free Throws: Cincinnati 10/14, Connecticut 25/30
Rebounds: Cincinnati 22, Connecticut 34
Turnovers: Cincinnati 7, Connecticut 8
Phantom Score: Cincinnati 58, Connecticut 60
Vegas Line: Connecticut by 3.5, total of 130
Notebook: We want to focus your attention on free throws in this set of boxscores. UCONN forces trips to the line with their aggression. They were +15 points here from the charity stripe in a game they won by 11. They also won rebounding handily. This is definitely a championship model for postseason play, but you have to catch other breaks along the way to win a championship. Focusing on the inside takes the ups and downs of hoping treys fall out of the mix. If the treys fall, great. If you're 6 of 16, you can still win by double digits by making your free throws and getting off high percentage shots inside.

SAN DIEGO STATE 71, TEMPLE 64 (in double overtime)
Shooting Percentage: Temple 38%, SDSU 43%
Three-Pointers: Temple 6/14, SDSU 6/11
Free Throws: Temple 8/11, SDSU 9/9
Rebounds: Temple 30, SDSU 40
Turnovers: Temple 11, SDSU 13
Phantom Score: Temple 68, SDSU 84
Vegas Line: San Diego State by 5.5, total of 125
Notebook: San Diego State only shot 9 free throws in a double overtime game! That's not attacking the basket. That's dribbling around and hoping something opens up for you. At least in these two games, UCONN made something happen, while San Diego State played not to lose. If that happens again, the Huskies will advance. State absolutely has to be more aggressive, and less timid in their approach.

We've been working with our on-site sources to get a read on San Diego State's mindset. What we learned from those discussions could lead to one of the biggest plays in the tournament in this game. When you only have to pick the winner, winning information gets the job done.


ARIZONA (5) VS. DUKE (1)

Arizona: +3.9 margin average, 51% two-point defense
Duke: +10.7 margin average, 43% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Duke 1 point
Vegas Line: Duke by 9, total of 144
Notebook: The math is actually on the number here. Duke was clearly the better side during the regular season. They have to remember to play 40 minutes tonight instead of the 35 they played vs. Michigan. Arizona is lucky to be alive after winning the final moments against Texas. That two-point defense data should jump right out at you. Arizona can't play like matadors on this evening or they'll have no chance. Well, they'll have no chance at the upset. They might be able to cover a big line like +9 if they can hit some shots.

ADJUSTED TEMPO
Arizona: 66.4 possessions per game
Duke: 69.2 possessions per game

Arizona is about average this year in tempo. Duke likes to run with this lineup. And, the addition of an anxious freshman superstar sure isn't going to slow down their energy. This is likely to be a fast game most of the way.

THREE-POINT RELIANCE
Arizona: 30.9% of points on treys
Duke: 29.4% of points on treys

Really not much separating the teams in the big picture. Arizona HAD to hit treys because their internal defense was so soft. Duke had a good internal defense, so an ability to score from long range turned them into a #1 seed  and favorite in the West regional.

DUKE 73, MICHIGAN 71
Shooting Percentage: Michigan 51%, Duke 51%
Three-Pointers: Michigan 7/21, Duke 5/20
Free Throws: Michigan 10/11, Duke 18/25
Rebounds: Michigan 18, Duke 31
Turnovers: Michigan 7, Duke 10
Phantom Score: Michigan 58, Duke 71
Vegas Line: Duke by 11.5, total of 136
Notebook: You can see that Phantom Score was decisive for Duke, close to the Vegas number. They were inexplicably dead from long range at just 5 for 20. Two-point defense was also a weakness (common for Coach K teams in a playoff atmosphere). Michigan was at 51% overall while just 33% on treys. Attacking the basket will work against Duke eventually in this tournament. Well, we kept saying that last year and nobody ever quite managed. Connecticut will attack if UCONN and Duke are able to advance.

ARIZONA 70, TEXAS 69
Shooting Percentage: Arizona 44%, Texas 45%
Three-Pointers: Arizona 8/14, Texas 3/11
Free Throws: Arizona 14/22, Texas 18/22
Rebounds: Arizona 29, Texas 29
Turnovers: Arizona 12, Texas 13
Phantom Score: Arizona 61, Texas 71
Vegas Line: Texas by 5.5, total of 138
Notebook: A 10-point loss in Phantom Score was counteracted by +15 points in the three-point category. Texas struggled from long range. Arizona shot over 50%. Can they do that again? Tough to ask for. But, as we said earlier, they probably won't have to do that to cover a +9. It's tough to make a case for an Arizona upset given the math and how they played over their heads the last time out. A case for an underdog cover? That's another story entirely.

To find out who JIM HURLEY likes tonight, you'll have to purchase the official NETWORK slate here at the website. Make a few clicks and have your credit card handy. Be sure to check on seasonal rates too. A surprisingly low price will take you all the way through the NBA playoffs. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back tomorrow to cover Friday's games. Link up with JIM HURLEY NOW! Making money Thursday and Friday is going to be SWEET!

18
Nov

Today’s Hot Plays