Thursday NCAA Stat Previews

GAME-BY-GAME STAT PREVIEWS FOR THURSDAY'S DANCE CARD

Okay. The preliminaries are over, and it's time to get to the nitty gritty. We've compiled the same key indicator numbers we used throughout the conference tournaments to get you ready for the 16 games scheduled for Thursday (discussed in this report), and the 16 games scheduled for Friday (which will go up the next time we're together).

For you newcomers, we focus on the computer rankings compiled by Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy. We also include offensive and defensive efficiency (points adjusted for tempo and opposition) as tabulated by Pomeroy.

There's a lot to digest...so let's jump right in. Games are presented in starting time order for each of the Thursday locales...

THURSDAY'S GAMES IN PITTSBURGH

So. Miss (9): 57 in Sagarin, 71 in Pomeroy, 45 on offense, 128 on defense
Kansas St. (8): 22 in Sagarin, 22 in Pomeroy, 44 on offense, 17 on defense
Vegas Line: Kansas State by 5, total of 133.5

The stats and the market think the selection committee was insane here. No way Southern Miss and Kansas State should be this close in the seedings. The computer composite has them about 40 spots apart. Vegas sees K-State as better by a full five points. If you think the Big 12 is overrated this year, here's a spot to step in on a dog. If you love betting on superior defenses, Kansas State could make a case for themselves even at this price given their edges on that side of the floor.

NC-Asheville (16): 125 in Sagarin, 121 in Pomeroy, 68 on offense, 199 on defense
Syracuse (1): 5 in Sagarin, 7 in Pomeroy, 14 on offense, 15 on defense
Vegas Line: Syracuse by 15, total of 147

We're not going to talk much about the projected blowouts these first two days. It can be hard to trust the math on the worst seeds anyway because their schedules were so different from what everyone else faced. Note here that the line did drop about a point and a half after Fab Melo was suspended. Did that set up the first ever 16 victory over a 1? Probably not. It's likely to matter eventually though, particularly if rebounds matter in a second round game against Kansas State.

W. Virginia (10): 38 in Sagarin, 42 in Pomeroy, 35 on offense, 70 on defense
Gonzaga (7): 30 in Sagarin, 32 in Pomeroy, 42 on offense, 35 on defense
Vegas Line: Gonzaga by 1, total of 133

Gonzaga has a slight edge in the computers, and apparently the better defense. That justifies a Vegas spread of a point. We were looking to fade both of these teams and both of these conferences because of past influences. Too bad they're playing each other. We may get a chance to do that in the next round against Ohio State is the line isn't exhorbitant. You'll recall OSU crushed George Mason in that round last year before losing to Kentucky in the Sweet 16. Gonzaga did beat up on St. John's from the Big East last year in their opener, which might be meaningful here.

Loyola-MD (15): 133 in Sagarin, 128 in Pomeroy, 140 on offense, 123 on defense
Ohio State (2): 2 in Sagarin, 2 in Pomeroy, 7 on offense, 1 on defense
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 17.5, total of 129.5

Loyola won the conference tournament that Iona was supposed to win. Then, Iona flamed out Tuesday Night in historic fashion. We'll think about the big ugly dog here because of the low total (low for a projected blowout) and the general pedigree of the Metro-Atlantic.

 

THURSDAY'S GAMES IN LOUISVILLE

Colorado State (11): 76 in Sagarin, 76 in Pomeroy, 27 on offense, 175 on defense
Murray State (6): 40 in Sagarin, 45 in Pomeroy, 65 on offense, 46 on defense
Vegas Line: Murray State by 4, total of 135.5

The market hit Murray State hard here, because the game opened down around one or two. They will have a home area crowd, and this early start can't be good for the travelers from the West. The problem with loving Murray State is that you can't know for sure where they stand until they play some games. They did impress in the Bracket Buster vs. St. Mary's. They may impress against Colorado State and still not be any good! This might be a game to learn from rather than one to pick. JIM HURLEY will only get involved if he gets great info from his on-site sources.

BYU (14): 39 in Sagarin, 50 in Pomeroy, 101 on offense, 25 on defense
Marquette (3): 15 in Sagarin, 18 in Pomeroy, 25 on offense, 19 on defense
Vegas Line: Marquette by 5

Will BYU have any gas left in the tank after their dramatic come-from-behind victory? They didn't defend well much of the night vs. Iona, and they made way too many turnovers. A repeat of that would lead to a blowout here. But, we have to remember that the Big East was pretty sorry in the Dance last year, with few teams playing up to their computer ratings or stat indicators. Here, even if Marquette is a true 6-7 seed rather than a three...they still may be able to run away from a tired BYU squad.

W. Kentucky (16): 202 in Sagarin, 189 in Pomeroy, 233 on offense, 151 on defense
Kentucky (1): 1 in Sagarin, 1 in Pomeroy, 2 on offense, 6 on defense
Vegas Line: Kentucky by 24

Great matchup for the Louisville crowd. And, Western has nothing to lose now after surviving a horrible first 30 minutes vs. Mississippi Valley in front of the president. We'll check with our sources to evaluate the run-up-the-score potential for the Kentucky bench. That's what matters most in a game with a line this high.

Connecticut (9): 37 in Sagarin, 35 in Pomeroy, 40 on offense, 56 on defense
Iowa State (8) 32 in Sagarin, 30 in Pomeroy, 29 on offense, 49 on defense
Vegas Line: Connecticut by 1.5, total of 136.5

Classic 8-9 type matchup because we do appear to have very evenly matched teams. It's also a great proxy for evaluating the Big East and the Big 12. If one team wins big, the losing conference could well be overrated the rest of the way. Last year the Big East gave several early indications that trouble was on the way. Maybe we have a replay in 2012, or maybe it's a different conference that's about to be embarrassed. Our Big East sources will be prominent with both Marquette and UCONN playing in Louisville. True Big East flavor.

 

THURSDAY'S GAMES IN ALBUQUERQUE

Montana (13): 97 in Sagarin, 94 in Pomeroy, 156 on offense, 42 on defense
Wisconsin (4): 8 in Sagarin, 6 in Pomeroy, 24 on offense, 4 on defense
Vegas Line: Wisconsin by 9, total of 118

Montana is definitely a danger team with this coach and this defense. You can see Vegas posted a very low total in anticipation of a defensive struggle. That means the line is higher than it seems because points will be at a premium. Early starts often favor dogs because the favorite has trouble waking up all the way and bringing peak intensity. This game is definitely on our radar.

Harvard (12): 43 in Sagarin, 39 in Pomeroy, 71 on offense, 30 on defense
Vanderbilt (5): 20 in Sagarin, 16 in Pomeroy, 17 on offense, 31 on defense
Vegas Line: Vanderbilt by 5.5, total of 122.5

The computers actually buy Vandy as a #5 seed, but they think Harvard is a lot better than a #12. You just can't be certain until you see these lesser known but respected mid-majors on the floor. Back in December, we definitely had Harvard on our short list of potential Cinderella stories. But, they gagged again late in the Ivy League schedule...which makes it tougher to truly love them in the Dance. The arena may be empty with so little local interest in these two non-marquee basketball schools. That may have us thinking about the Under considering the defensive rankings.

S. Dakota St. (14): 59 in Sagarin, 55 in Pomeroy, 26 on offense, 127 on defense
Baylor (3): 12 in Sagarin, 14 in Pomeroy, 15 on offense, 34 on defense
Vegas Line: Baylor by 7.5, total of 140.5

We're tempted to say South Dakota deserved a better seed. But, this is actually the biggest pointspread amongst the 3-14 games. Some good 14's this year with Belmont, St. Bonny, and BYU. We're a bit concerned Baylor sent its message last week with the upset of Kansas. They can't sleep on this weekend because SDS can play and dangerous UNLV may be up next.

Colorado (11): 80 in Sagarin, 75 in Pomeroy, 132 on offense, 41 on defense
UNLV (6): 24 in Sagarin, 33 in Pomeroy, 56 on offense, 28 on defense
Vegas Line: UNLV by 5.5, total of 134

There's a lot to like about UNLV...but we are concerned that they struggled so much away from home this season. They will probably have the most electric crowd of the day given their residence in the Mountain West conference...and given the lack of matchups with local appeal in the earlier games. Our sources may have us stepping out here against a Pac 10 entry that will be suffering a championship hangover from a conference that isn't very good to begin with. We'll see what our sources have to say.

 

THURSDAY'S GAMES IN PORTLAND

Davidson (13): 71 in Sagarin, 68 in Pomeroy, 37 on offense, 124 on defense
Louisville (4): 18 in Sagarin, 20 in Pomeroy, 122 on offense, 2 on defense
Vegas Line: Louisville by 7.5, total of 138.5

We were looking to fade both of these teams, so it's a shame they paired up. Louisville should still be drained from their huge weekend in New York (where they shot poorly but kept winning anyway). This Davidson team is well behind past entries...and would probably be an underdog to many of the teams on the 14-seed line. Davidson definitely would be a dog to Belmont! If we hear from our Big East guys that Louisville is spent, we'll think about the dog (remember that Louisville lost to Morehead State last year). Otherwise, we'll fade the winner on Saturday.

L. Beach St. (12): 41 in Sagarin, 37 in Pomeroy, 54 on offense, 38 on defense
New Mexico (5): 16 in Sagarin, 13 in Pomeroy, 32 on offense, 13 on defense
Vegas Line: New Mexico by 4, total of 137

These are teams we were both looking to take in the first round! Long Beach is a true live dog vs. most of the field, and it's a scandal that they got stuck down at #12 in the seedings. The computers would have them around 10-ish. New Mexico is been playing great ball of late. It's too bad they run into dangerous Long Beach right off the bat. We'll be thinking about the winner on Saturday, particularly if New Mexico draws Louisville and the Big East has another sluggish start this year.

VCU (12): 50 in Sagarin, 46 in Pomeroy, 88 on offense, 26 on defense
Wichita St. (5): 10 in Sagarin, 10 in Pomeroy, 10 on offense, 18 on defense
Vegas Line: Wichita State by 6.5, total of 133.5

Wichita State is everyone's sweetheart...and they were underseeded as a five most likely (the computers agree at about 2.5!). VCU was destiny's darling last year. We'd say that this means they have no hope this year. But, Butler reached the Final Four two years in a row, so you never know. We will have Wichita State going deep in the Dance until they show us we should change our minds.

N. Mex. St. (13): 63 in Sagarin, 63 in Pomeroy, 67 on offense, 68 on defense
Indiana (4): 9 in Sagarin, 11 in Pomeroy, 4 on offense, 58 on defense
Vegas Line: Indiana by 6, total of 154

As we've mentioned a few times, we think the computers are overvaluing the Big 10 this year...particularly teams like Indiana and Wisconsin. Maybe we're wrong. Maybe it won't matter until the weekend. New Mexico State is far from our favorite danger squad in the 12-14 range in the seedings. But, they rank similarly on defense to the Hoosiers and can certainly make this one interesting.

We hope you enjoy the first big day of tourney action. And, we hope you'll WIN WHILE YOU WATCH by signing up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK! Releases will be posted online Thursday morning for credit card purchase. Then come back for more winning action Thursday night. You can get more information at 1-800-323-4453.

We'll run through Friday's games the next time we're together. This weekend, we'll use the Thursday and Friday boxscores to preview the Saturday and Sunday games (as is our tradition). BE SURE YOU PRINT OUT the reports for the Thursday and Friday games so you have all the computer information and stat rankings at your fingertips.

FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS BASKETBALL FANS...YOUR WILD RIDE IS ABOUT TO START!

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