Weekend Hoop Highlights

COLLEGE AND PRO HOOP HIGHLIGHTS

Once again the Big Monday schedule features a couple of teams who are longshots at the moment to be relevant come March...Pittsburgh in the Big East and Texas in the Big 12...so, instead of running stat previews of the ESPN doubleheader, we're going to crunch some numbers from the most important basketball games of this past weekend.

Let's start with Saturday's thrillers involving ranked teams...

#4 SYRACUSE 63, WEST VIRGINIA 61
Shooting Pct: West Virginia 41%, Syracuse 46%
Three-Pointers: West Virginia 6/18, Syracuse 4/20
Free Throws: West Virginia 11/15, Syracuse 13/17
Rebounds: West Virginia 36, Syracuse 20
Phantom Score: West Virginia 68, Syracuse 58
Turnovers: West Virginia 14, Syracuse 6
Vegas Line: Syracuse by 9, total of 138
Pomeroy Rank: West Virginia 32, Syracuse 6

For you newcomers,"Phantom Score" is a stat we invented many years ago that provides a"secondary score" for the game. It's simply two-point scoring plus rebounding, which helps handicappers focus on the most important and most consistent elements in the college game. It erases any pollution that comes from a bunch of made three-pointers or a free throw imbalance."Pomeroy Rank" is the computer ranking at game time in Ken Pomeroy's respected computer assessments of the sport.

You can see here that West Virginia won Phantom Score impressively, which is very hard to do on the road at Syracuse. They absolutely crushed Syracuse on the boards. The Mountaineers weren't able to score the upset though because of turnover problems, and because referees missed a blatantly obvious goaltending call that could have sent the game to overtime. You can't assume West Virginia wins outright in extra time of course. But, they deserved that chance.

Syracuse has clearly lost a step in recent days. But, late January and early February is the best time to have a lull in this sport. There's no prize for peaking early. Syracuse has plenty of time to get back up to peak production for March. West Virginia continues to impress as a potential tournament darkhorse. The Big East is capable of falling apart in March, or of controlling the Dance. Some very good signs here for West Virginia in terms of rebounding and just pure guts at a tough road site in a big game.

IOWA STATE 72, #5 KANSAS 64
Shooting Pct: Kansas 48%, Iowa State 44%
Three-Pointers: Kansas 6/17, Iowa State 7/17
Free Throws: Kansas 10/16, Iowa State 25/34
Rebounds: Kansas 19, Iowa State 34
Phantom Score: Kansas 55, Iowa State 60
Turnovers: Kansas 15, Iowa State 19
Vegas Line: Kansas by 7, total of 142
Pomeroy Rank: Kansas 2, Iowa State 45

Saturday's tend to feature a game or two where an underdogs pulls a shocker and the crowd floods the court to do the group hug dance after the final buzzer. Iowa State got to throw the party this week. You can see that Phantom Score suggests a clean win for the home dog thanks to a big rebounding edge. That's just embarrassing for Kansas, to lose the battle of the boards that badly. Turnovers were a problem for Iowa State though, as they showed some nerves with a lead. A big edge in free throws helped make up for the lost possessions on turnovers.

Iowa State's a top 50 team according to Pomeroy, and possibly a team that could sneak into the Dance and surprise anybody. Let's see how they do on the road vs. quality opposition from this point forward. You get the sense right now that the youth of Kansas is going to be a problem at least once in the Dance. They have trouble playing 40 consistent minutes when not on their home floor.

#6 DUKE 83, ST. JOHN'S 76
Shooting Pct: St. John's 44%, Duke 42%
Three-Pointers: St. John's 5/16, Duke 7/19
Free Throws: St. John's 11/21, Duke 32/42
Rebounds: St. John's 33, Duke 38
Phantom Score: St. John's 83, Duke 68
Turnovers: St. John's 10, Duke 15
Vegas Line: Duke by 17, total of 147
Pomeroy Rank: St. John's 152, Duke 14

Standard Duke game as a big favorite. They jumped to a big lead, but the lack of a bench allows the opponent to come back and make it interesting. That's happened several times this year. St. John's made it very interesting in the final minutes despite seeming to be out of the game in the first half. Duke got crushed in Phantom Score, which won't surprise you longtime readers. That's a Coach K characteristic generally. He hopes to beat people from long range and with friendly officiating. That works far too often in non-conference and ACC action. But, come March, the refs call it straighter and the Blue Devils tend to underperform their seed and computer projections (though they did go the distance two years ago). Duke was +21 in made free throws here in a game they only won by seven. Duke lost turnovers at home to a Big East team that has no chance of getting to the Dance with that Pomeroy rating. There's a very good chance that Duke will be overseeded again this year. We might as well try to call a second round upset now, against any opponent!

#7 BAYLOR 76, TEXAS 71
Shooting Pct: Texas 40%, Baylor 47%
Three-Pointers: Texas 7/24, Baylor 5/15
Free Throws: Texas 16/26, Baylor 27/34
Rebounds: Texas 24, Baylor 37
Phantom Score: Texas 58, Baylor 71
Turnovers: Texas 9, Baylor 18
Vegas Line: Baylor by 7.5, total of 140
Pomeroy Rank: Texas 24, Baylor 9

Interesting game in that both teams took some negatives out of it. Texas continues to struggle versus quality in terms of getting over the hump and impressing down the stretch. Baylor has lost a step or two recently (like Syracuse), and needed a free throw edge here to make up for a horrible day in the turnover department. It's tough to win in March when you're this sloppy. And, if you're this sloppy in a big home game, what's going to happen under tournament pressure? Even though Texas has a high Pomeroy ranking, they're clearly on the bubble right now in terms of an invitation to the Dance. They need some quality wins quick.

PITTSBURGH 72, #10 GEORGETOWN 60
Shooting Pct: Georgetown 42%, Pittsburgh 52%
Three-Pointers: Georgetown 5/17, Pittsburgh 3/13
Free Throws: Georgetown 7/12, Pittsburgh 19/22
Rebounds: Georgetown 22, Pittsburgh 33
Phantom Score: Georgetown 60, Pittsburgh 77
Turnovers: Georgetown 11, Pittsburgh 15
Vegas Line: Pittsburgh by 1, total of 129
Pomeroy Rank: Georgetown 15, Pittsburgh 93

This is the Pittsburgh team everyone expected to see earlier in the season. They owned the boards, won Phantom Score convincingly, and shot very well inside the arc. Where have these guys been hiding?! Some imposters played so badly for a few weeks that the team almost fell out of the top 100 in the most respected computer ratings in the land. Maybe Pittsburgh has time to get back on the radar. And, this level of play could surely run the table in the Big East tournament. Let's see if they can do it again Monday Night on the road at West Virginia. Very disappointing day for Georgetown...who didn't look at all like a top 10 team. Last year's Dance Disaster may have been a wake-up call for many of you about the vulnerabilities of the Big East. Be sure you're thinking about that through the rest of the regular season. Be looking for those vulnerabilities.

COLORADO STATE 77, #12 SAN DIEGO STATE 60
Shooting Pct: SDSU 31%, Colorado State 49%
Three-Pointers: SDSU 3/21, Colorado State 6/13
Free Throws: SDSU 17/20, Colorado State 23/23
Rebounds: SDSU 27, Colorado State 37
Phantom Score: SDSU 61, Colorado State 73
Turnovers: SDSU 8, Colorado State 16
Vegas Line: San Diego State by 1.5, total of 136
Pomeroy Rank: SDSU 43, Colorado State 115

Speaking of not looking like your ranking...San Diego State barely showed up here against a team that isn't in the top 100 of Pomeroy's rankings. And, look where SDSU rated before the game started! Pomeroy only had them 43rd, which is a far cry from the 12th that pollsters believed. There could be quite a few teams who end up being overseeded this year if the committee puts too much weight on won-lost records or poll rankings and not enough on how good the teams actually are! Phantom Score shows a clean upset for the host, so this wasn't a polluted win by any means.

Note that we're focusing on the close games or the upsets with our weekend review. Scoring easy wins Saturday amongst the national powers were #1 Kentucky over LSU, #2 Missouri over Texas Tech, #9 Murray State over Eastern Illinois, and #13 Florida over #16 Mississippi State.

There was a huge NBA game Sunday...the first meeting this year between the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat. We'll wrap up this report with the key numbers from that game...

MIAMI 97, CHICAGO 93
Shooting Pct: Chicago 43%, Miami 41%
Three-Pointers: Chicago 3/11, Miami 3/8
Free Throws: Chicago 20/28, Miami 30/40
Rebounds: Chicago 47, Miami 48
Turnovers: Chicago 15, Miami 13
Vegas Line: Miami by 4.5, total of 191.5

For most of the game, you could see why nobody else in the East is likely to compete with Miami or Chicago come playoff time as long as the stars stay reasonably healthy. Then, in the last two minutes, you saw why it was hard to trust either team late in close games! Miami gagged away a late lead. Derrick Rose gagged two free throws when he was in position to give Chicago its first lead of the day in the final seconds. LeBron James then gagged two free throws himself. And, finally, a ref gaggled on a whistle when it shouldn't have been anywhere near his mouth. The jump ball was kind of a gag too if you ask Chicago fans. The Heat ultimately won because of free throw differential. And, that's mostly because they two or two and a half guys who will get respect from refs while Chicago has only one (James-Wade-Bosh were 25 of 33 from the charity stripe, Derrick Rose was 12 of 14. Should the Eastern Conference even play the rest of its season?! They will, and we'll stay on top of developments for you in both the East and the West here in the NOTEBOOK.

JIM HURLEY'S top plays from Monday action will be available here at the website a few hours before first tip. You can expect TV winners in the Big Monday games on ESPN, and we're looking at Orlando-Philadelphia, San Antonio-Memphis, Minnesota-Houston, Portland-Utah, and Oklahoma City-LA Clippers in the NBA as well. If you have any questions about our packages, call the home office at 1-800-323-4453.

We're less than a week away from the Super Bowl. Keep building that bankroll for the big football game. Every dollar you win the next few days will multiply itself over several times by the final gun in the Giants-Patriots game! THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT SPORTS BETTING WEEK OF THE YEAR IN LAS VEGAS!

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Nov

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