Saturday Big Game Summaries

KEY STATS FROM SATURDAY'S BIGGEST COLLEGE GAMES

Well, that was emphatic! North Carolina got revenge and then some with an obliteration of Duke Saturday Night in a game nationally televised by ESPN. The Tar Heels stormed to a 48-24 lead at halftime, and coasted after that to an 88-70 victory that was more one-sided most of the night than that score makes it sound.

Let's crunch the key numbers from that game, and a few others from Saturday that involved Dance-bound teams.

#6 NORTH CAROLINA 88, #3 DUKE 70
Shooting Pct: N. Carolina 55%, Duke 41%
Three-Pointers: N. Carolina 4/13, Duke 6/21
Free Throws: N. Carolina 12/15, Duke 12/21
Rebounds: N. Carolina 42, Duke 22
Phantom Score: N. Carolina 106, Duke 62
Turnovers: N. Carolina 12, Duke 6
Vegas Line: North Carolina by 2, total of 154
Pomeroy Rank: N. Carolina 6, Duke 14

Note also that North Carolina cooled off for a short stretch in the second half, and then sat on the clock for most of the last few minutes. They could have scored 100 if they wanted to. They were shooting near 60% early in the second half.

For you newcomers, Phantom Score is a secondary score we created many years ago to add additional context to college basketball games. It's simply two-point scoring plus rebounding. Those are the two most important fundaments in this sport. Conveniently, adding those up often creates something similar to the final score. In this case, the stat matches what the game felt like. North Carolina dominated the boards, and had no trouble scoring inside the arc.

We've often said that Duke NEEDS to win three-pointers and free throws to have a chance against good teams. They were plus six points from behind the arc here, and did earn more trips to the line. Didn't get them anywhere. And, the physical disadvantages were so clear that you have to be skeptical about a run in the Dance that will match their seed. They'll be heavy favorites in their opener in what will probably be a 2-15 game. Round two against the 7-10 winner will be dicey, which it often is for the Blue Devils since the century turned. Last year it was the Sweet 16 that brought them down, when Arizona ran away and hid in the second half.

North Carolina has been in good form of late. Can they run the table? They're capable of doing that...but they're far from a sure thing to impress in the final minutes against another national power. Decision-making is still poor. Defense comes and goes (only 6 turnovers forced tonight). We expect they will have to sweat one or two games against quality opposition. 

 

#2 SYRACUSE 58, #19 LOUISVILLE 49
Shooting Pct: Louisville 34%, Syracuse 42%
Three-Pointers: Louisville 2/23, Syracuse 8/21
Free Throws: Louisville 5/7, Syracuse 12/18
Rebounds: Louisville 37, Syracuse 29
Phantom Score: Louisville 75, Syracuse 51
Turnovers: Louisville 13, Syracuse 15
Vegas Line: Syracuse by 8.5, total of 133
Pomeroy Rank: Louisville 30, Syracuse 5

Defensive struggle, which isn't surprising given Rick Pitino's defensive chops (we always remind you he's underrated on that side of the ball), and the nuances of the Syracuse zone. If you can make treys, you can beat it. Louisville was a ridiculous 2 of 23 on treys! You can see that the visitors won Phantom Score handily. This was another bad rebounding game for the Orange (something coach Jim Boeheim was complaining about not too long ago). It seems like we're spending a lot of time downplaying the championship hopes of everyone. Only one team will ultimately cut down the nets. All the contenders have potential weaknesses. Syracuse gets sloppy on offense (15 turnovers in a game with only 45 shots taken), and they don't always rebound with a passion.

We're not as high as Louisville now as we were a few weeks ago. They've taken a few steps back with no rubber band bounce back. And, they were a disappointment last year in the Dance anyway. Both of these teams may have troubles playing to their seed.

 

#7 MARQUETTE 83, #12 GEORGETOWN 69
Shooting Pct: Georgetown 40%, Marquette 48%
Three-Pointers: Georgetown 5/18, Marquette 2/12
Free Throws: Georgetown 14/25, Marquette 33/45
Rebounds: Georgetown 37, Marquette 38
Phantom Score: Georgetown 77, Marquette 82
Turnovers: Georgetown 14, Marquette 12
Vegas Line: Marquette by 4.5, total of 132
Pomeroy Rank: Georgetown 11, Marquette 18

We were very interested in this one because the rankings suggested a Sweet 16 or maybe even an Elite 8 caliber matchup. Marquette was comfortably ahead much of the day even though they weren't making any treys. That's actually a very good sign for longterm success. Their Phantom edge was just 82-77 though because home cooking helped inflate their margin. They surely can't count on being +19 in makes and +20 in attempts from the free throw line often from this point forward.

Georgetown's done enough good things lately that we won't sour on them just from this one game. The lesson here may be that there are 20-25 teams who can get hot at the right time and go the distance. Three-point shooting and the whims of officials are going to loom large on a daily basis.

We've mentioned before that we're still concerned about the Big East being very overrated in the Dance again this season. We can't say that the early TV action changed our minds much. This isn't a group that can go into the brackets assuming everyone else is going to gape in wonder. Ohio and VCU took out Georgetown in recent seasons. Hopefully the Hoyas have learned from that.  

 

Let's add one game from the conference tournaments since we had a major upset...

ILLINOIS STATE 65, #14 WICHITA STATE 64
Shooting Pct: Illinois State 34%, Wichita State 35%
Three-Pointers: Illinois State 7/21, Wichita State 7/23
Free Throws: Illinois State 20/22, Wichita State 13/17
Rebounds: Illinois State 34, Wichita State 40
Phantom Score: Illinois State 58, Wichita State 70
Turnovers: Illinois State 8, Wichita State 14
Vegas Line: Wichita State by 12, total of 132
Pomeroy Rank: Illinois State 96, Wichita State 8

Wichita had been riding high for weeks, but really fell apart here in the latter stages of the game. They only scored one point in the last six-and-a-half minutes! What had been a 13-point second half lead turned into a stunning loss to a team that wasn't supposed to be on the same court with them. We've seen in past years that results like this can help unify a team that was getting too big for its britches. On the other hand, you have to have a plan late in close games and Wichita was very sloppy when everything was on the line. They shouldn't lose turnovers by THAT much when favored by a dozen. Note that Phantom Score lands right on the margin number and just misses the total. So, the internals still suggest Wichita is the superior side by a good bit. Teams have to stay focused for the full 40 minutes once the calendar turns to March.

College basketball thrills continue Sunday with Ohio State at Michigan State (with the Big 10 regular season championship on the line) and Kentucky at Florida. The NBA schedule is absolutely LOADED Sunday as well...with New York/Boston, Miami/Lakers, Chicago/Philadelphia, and Denver/San Antonio highlighting the must-see card.

The best plays on the board will go up from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK a few hours before first tip. Get in the habit of taking care of business EARLY because we'll have a lot of day games through the week. If you have any questions about our service, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you Monday in the NOTEBOOK to preview the opening night of the Mid American Conference tournament, and the full 16-team Big East event that gets underway early in the day Tuesday. We'll spend the week previewing EVERY board tournament with the key stats we've already led you through in recent days.

The madness has begun. MARCH MADNESS IS MONEY MADNESS WITH JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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