Friday Sweet 16 Stat Previews

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

OHIO STATE-KENTUCKY HIGHLIGHTS FRIDAY SWEET 16 SHOWDOWNS

Back as promised to crunch the numbers for Friday's Sweet 16 games. Two of them are outstanding betting spots and available in our Sweet 16 Parlay by clicking here. For those of you that may want to play the other two games on your own, we'll review them all site by site, in starting time order...beginning with the doubleheader in Newark, New Jersey on the Nets home floor...

GAMES IN NEWARK

MARQUETTE (11) VS. NORTH CAROLINA (2)

Marquette: +2.4 margin average, 48% two-point defense
N. Carolina: +7.2 margin average, 44% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Marquette 4 points
Vegas Line: North Carolina by 4.5, total of 149.5
Notebook: It's certainly possible that the Big East is getting too much credit in our adjustment process. Only two of 11 league teams remain in the Dance...and Marquette is one that was supposed to be gone in the first round. So, most of the GOOD teams are already gone! That being said, the ACC may have been overrated overall too. Yes, three teams made it to the round of 16. But, Clemson didn't cover in a loss to West Virginia of the Big East. And, #1 seeds in the NIT Virginia Tech and Boston College didn't make it out of the second round despite playing at home. If we stick with four points for the Big East, that makes North Carolina a very small favorite. The math says the Heels are overpriced. Recent form shows that Carolina hasn't covered a game yet in the postseason, going 0-5 ATS in the ACC and NCAA tournaments. Carolina does have the better inside defense, and we won't lose sight of that. Marquette's 48% mark could be a real issue given how intensely Carolina attacks the basket.

ADJUSTED TEMPO
Marquette: 67.4 possessions per game
N. Carolina: 71.8 possessions per game

This is likely to be a very fast game. Average is about 66. So, Marquette is above average...and Carolina is doing a nightly Olympic sprint. This is likely to favor the Heels since their opponent won't mind running with them.

THREE-POINT RELIANCE
Marquette: 20.9% of points on treys
N. Carolina: 20.1% of points on treys

Wow, very similar and very low! This is going to be an up-and-down game with ballhandlers flying at the basket hoping to score or draw a foul...and offensive rebounders crashing the boards hoping for put-backs...and defensive rebounds leading to fast breaks because of all the offensive rebounders. Should be a lot of fun to watch.

Here's what happened with these teams last weekend.

MARQUETTE 66, SYRACUSE 62
Shooting Percentage: Marquette 41%, Syracuse 55%
Three-Pointers: Marquette 5/11, Syracuse 5/15
Free Throws: Marquette 19/23, Syracuse 5/7
Rebounds: Marquette 28, Syracuse 24
Turnovers: Marquette 14, Syracuse 18
Phantom Score: Marquette 60, Syracuse 66
Vegas Line: Syracuse by 5, total of 140
Notebook: Wow, Marquette advanced despite getting outshot by a huge margin! And, they were obviously invisible inside because Syracuse was at 55% for the game despite being just 33% on three-pointers. Marquette was able to earn a lot more trips to the free throw line with their aggressive attack...helping to counter-attack their shooting deficiencies. Frankly...it's hard to see this style blending well against North Carolina unless the Heels are very sloppy with turnovers (as Syracuse was) or they just go cold for a long stretch. Can you survive a game with North Carolina if you're THIS soft inside? For you newcomers, Phantom Score is two-point scoring plus rebounding...and is a secondary score we use for additional context. Marquette should have lost according to Phantom Score. So should have North Carolina!

NORTH CAROLINA 86, WASHINGTON 83
Shooting Percentage: Washington 46%, North Carolina 47%
Three-Pointers: Washington 10/19, North Carolina 6/12
Free Throws: Washington 7/7, North Carolina 18/23
Rebounds: Washington 38, North Carolina 33
Turnovers: Washington 13, North Carolina 9
Phantom Score: Washington 84, North Carolina 83
Vegas Line: North Carolina by 4, total of 157
Notebook: Carolina was weak on the boards...and not particularly strong defensively. So, there is some hope for Marquette. It's easy to imagine a debacle for the Warriors against the best that Carolina can be. That was several games ago. Carolina hasn't played to that level in a while.

We'll have to think about the Over given the projected tempo in a non-dome arena. If the refs blow their whistles, there will be a ton of points on free throws too. Up-and-down-and to the line. Our on site sources (our New York area sources are THE BEST) will get us a read on Marquette's mindset and Carolina's confidence.

KENTUCKY (4) VS. OHIO STATE (1)

Kentucky: +7.8 margin average, 42% two-point defense
Ohio State: +10.4 margin average, 47% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Ohio State 4 points
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 5.5, total of 140
Notebook: Really the only Friday game everyone was "hoping to see" in terms of the seedings. Upsets put double digit seeds in all the other games. This is the #1 seed overall facing a truly dangerous opponent in just their third game. The math makes it about 7.5 for Ohio State. You get the sense that the math won't matter here. If Ohio State keeps hitting their treys, nobody can touch them. Think about the slaughter of impressive Wisconsin and the obliteration of George Mason last week. But, when the three's don't fall, half the Big 10 (or more) could take OSU right down to the wire. Kentucky is better than that composite. You can see from Kentucky's two-point defense that the Buckeyes will have to make their treys. You can see from OSU's soft inside defense that Kentucky will have a way to take control of the game if those treys aren't falling.

ADJUSTED TEMPO
Kentucky: 66.3 possessions per game
Ohio State: 65.4 possessions per game

Should be your typical average game. Mostly halfcourt, only running on the obvious opportunities.

THREE-POINT RELIANCE
Kentucky: 28.7% of points on treys
Ohio State: 30.0% of points on treys

It's tough to reach the Final Four at 30%. Nobody's won a championship recently with a number that high. Ohio State may be good enough to test the limits. Kentucky is in the sweet spot for making headlines in terms of offensive balance and great two-point defense. Maybe the game is evolving away from that because teams are getting better on treys. This game could be fascinating in many respects.

KENTUCKY 71, WEST VIRGINIA 63
Shooting Percentage: West Virginia 42%, Kentucky 48%
Three-Pointers: West Virginia 7/19, Kentucky 6/18
Free Throws: West Virginia 12/16, Kentucky 17/24
Rebounds: West Virginia 29, Kentucky 34
Turnovers: West Virginia 11, Kentucky 10
Phantom Score: West Virginia 59, Kentucky 70
Vegas Line: Kentucky by 4, total of 134
Notebook: Kentucky got revenge from their Elite Eight loss last year. Solid performance across the board (except on three-pointers, which would be a huge problem tonight if Ohio State is making theirs). A double digit win in Phantom Score. This isn't a vintage Kentucky team in teams of current superstars on the floor. Maybe that's good news. Last year's group got overconfident at the worst possible time. This year's team knows it has to bear down.

OHIO STATE 98, GEORGE MASON 66
Shooting Percentage: George Mason 43%, Ohio State 61%
Three-Pointers: George Mason 44%, Ohio State 16/26
Free Throws: George Mason 6/7, Ohio State 10/18
Rebounds: George Mason 28, Ohio State 31
Turnovers: George Mason 17, Ohio State 9
Phantom Score: George Mason 64, Ohio State 71
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 11, total of 135
Notebook: That 16 of 26 mark on treys was amazing to watch. Well, until you switched to another game because this one was out of reach. That was still in the first half! Can the Buckeyes do anything like that again? This team at its best is untouchable. They lose focus, and they're going overtime with somebody like Northwestern. So much volatility...but obviously the good has outweighed the bad to an extreme degree with the Buckeyes this season.

We're doing our best to pin down Ohio State's best expectations on long range shooting given all the indicators. Our answer will determine who we play, and how many units.

 

GAMES IN SAN ANTONIO

VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH (11) VS. FLORIDA STATE (10)

VCU: +3.4 margin average, 49% two-point defense
Fla. St.: +3.0 margin average, 40% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Florida State 6 points
Vegas Line: Florida State by 3.5, total of 131
Notebook:
Both teams are playing better than their conference margins would have suggested. That makes it tough to evaluate the math because of the question marks. We're showing Florida State by 6.5 with a much better defense. Who's playing furthest over their heads so far in the Dance? How do you even answer a question like that? We pay very close attention to two-point defense in dome games because it can be hard for trey-heavy teams to thrive with the weird backdrops. That might give Florida State a meaningful edge here.

ADJUSTED TEMPO
VCU: 66.1 possessions per game
Fla. St.: 68.5 possessions per game

Florida State's faster than you realize. They play lower scoring games because of their great defense...but they do push tempo. VCU is right around the national average.

THREE-POINT RELIANCE
VCU: 34.6% of points on treys
Fla. St.: 27.0% of points on treys

VCU is an extreme three-point team in the mold of Wisconsin and very few others. Historically, this is the worst kind of team to ask much of in the Dance in terms of stringing together victories. They can score a big upset, or even two. Can they win 4-5 games in a row hoping they never have an off-day from long range?

FLORIDA STATE 71, NOTRE DAME 57
Shooting Percentage: Florida State 46%, Notre Dame 31%
Three-Pointers: Florida State 9/19, Notre Dame 7/30
Free Throws: Florida State 18/25, Notre Dame 12/19
Rebounds: Florida State 37, Notre Dame 34
Turnovers: Florida State 12, Notre Dame 8
Phantom Score: Florida State 63, Notre Dame 58
Vegas Line: Notre Dame by 5, total of 134
Notebook: Phantom Score shows Florida State was a clean winner. It was a blowout because Notre Dame couldn't throw the ball in the ocean even when they were getting open looks. One of many exhibits in the case for the Big East being overrated.

VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 94, PURDUE 76
Shooting Percentage: VCU 58%, Purdue 46%
Three-Pointers: VCU 8/21, Purdue 8/25
Free Throws: VCU 12/14, Purdue 8/11
Rebounds: VCU 26, Purdue 31
Turnovers: VCU 5, Purdue 7
Phantom Score: VCU 82, Purdue 75
Vegas Line: Purdue by 9, total of 135
Notebook: You can't say this was exactly a trey-influenced win. That category was a wash, and VCU won by doing an AMAZING job of getting easy two-point baskets while not committing turnovers. Do you know how hard it is to shoot over 60% on two's with just five turnovers in a neutral site tournament game? Horrible defensive job by Purdue. So, any concerns about VCU stringing together big three-point games can be tossed aside for now. This wasn't a big effort in that regard. But, they do run into FSU's fantastic two-point defense tonight...suggesting very strongly that treys will be the deciding factor in San Antonio.

When you rank the Sweet 16 from best to worst, these two teams cluster down at the bottom. One of them will reach the Final Eight though. And, that team will have significant underdog support against Kansas on Sunday assuming the Jayhawks survive tonight. If Kansas is upset, tickets for Sunday will be available for about $1.50 on the Riverwalk before the game.

RICHMOND (12) VS. KANSAS (1)

Richmond: +7.4 margin average, 45% two-point defense
Kansas: +12.1 margin average, 45% two-point defense
Conference Adjustment: Kansas 7 points
Vegas Line: Kansas by 10.5, total of 136
Notebook:
The math is pretty close here. Kansas is about 4.5 better in margin average, in a conference that was about 7 points better according to the computers. Both teams  can play internal defense. No surprises to this point. It's probably worth remembering that Richmond is from the Atlantic 10...the conference that spurred Xavier to the Sweet 16 the past few years. Xavier hasn't done the league proud under the spotlight. Richmond is fully capable of doing the same.

ADJUSTED TEMPO
Richmond: 63.0 possessions per game
Kansas: 69.3 possessions per game

The biggest difference in any Sweet 16 game, with Richmond trying to play VERY slow, while Kansas likes to push tempo to take advantage of its athleticism. Whoever controls the tempo controls the scoreboard most likely.

THREE-POINT RELIANCE
Richmond: 33.7% of points on treys
Kansas: 26.5% of points on treys

Big differences here too...as Richmond is extremely trey-heavy (similar to Wisconsin in style and pace), while Kansas is your typical blow and go national power that dares you to stop them. In a dome, this could be a big problem for Richmond. It's easy to see Kansas going for the jugular, while Richmond misses early treys. If Richmond falls behind, they can't play too slow...which just makes life that much easier for Kansas. If Kansas CAN make a few early treys, running clock in the process, they could move Kansas out of its comfort zone. Another game with extreme possibilities. Richmond is fairly similar to Northern Iowa last year for what it's worth.

RICHMOND 65, MOREHEAD STATE 48
Shooting Percentage: Morehead State 38%, Richmond 47%
Three-Pointers: Morehead State 2/14, Richmond 4/16
Free Throws: Morehead State 10/15, Richmond 9/13
Rebounds: Morehead State 31, Richmond 29
Turnovers: Morehead State 8, Richmond 5
Phantom Score: Morehead State 63, Richmond 73
Vegas Line: Richmond by 5, total of 126
Notebook:
Funny how some of the three-heavy teams slowed down on their threes last week! Richmond emphasized defense, and took care of business in workmanlike fashion against a  Cinderella in a letdown spot. They actually shot very poorly on bombs, which maybe means they're due for a good game. They'll really need to avoid turnovers to hang with Kansas.

KANSAS 73, ILLINOIS 59
Shooting Percentage: Illinois 38%, Kansas 52%
Three-Pointers: Illinois 6/21, Kansas 4/12
Free Throws: Illinois 7/9, Kansas 15/20
Rebounds: Illinois 30, Kansas 35
Turnovers: Illinois 12, Kansas 12
Phantom Score: Illinois 64, Kansas 81
Vegas Line: Kansas by 8.5, total of 143
Notebook:
This is what Kansas does most of the time. They were dominant across the board...didn't need three's...and posted a Phantom Score blowout. If they did this to Texas in the Big 12 championship game, and Illinois here, they can certainly do it to Richmond.

We finish off with another game that's likely to miss the Vegas spread by a good bit. The line "splits the difference" of the extreme possibilities rather than servicing as a prediction for the game.

JIM HURLEY is a master at beating these kinds of challenges. That's why his lifetime tournament record is so strong. That's why he covers so many games by such big margins! You can purchase NETWORK'S Friday Night slate here at the website with your credit card. Or, sign up for the rest of the season and use the profits from these next few days to pay for the service. We can already report that a HUGE play will go Saturday as the Elite 8 round starts. Our game previews will run here in the NOTEBOOK early in the morning to give you plenty of time to get ready. The BIG JUICY WINNERS themselves can only be purchased from JIM HURLEY! If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

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