Iowa and Baylor for the NIT Crown

IOWA BATTLES BAYLOR THURSDAY NIGHT FOR THE NIT CHAMPIONSHIP

The Iowa Hawkeyes and Baylor Bears put on impressive basketball displays Tuesday Night in the Final Four of the NIT. Thursday they take the floor at Madison Square Garden with the tourney championship at stake.

Should you bet the more explosive offense or the more impressive defense?
Should you bet the Big 10 or the Big 12?
Should you look for an up-tempo track meet or a playoff style wrestling match?

You can't answer those questions without INFORMATION! Let's run Thursday Night's NIT title tilt through our gauntlet of indicator stats...

WON-LOST RECORDS
Iowa: 25-12 (9-9 in the Big 10)
Baylor: 22-14 (9-9 in the Big 12)

Both teams went .500 in their conferences. So, how you think of each conference should influence your decision in this matchup. Though we believe the Big 10 has been a bit of a disappointment this year (particularly Indiana vs. Temple and Syracuse, and Michigan State in the second half vs. Duke), it's still been better than the woeful Big 12! Only Iowa State played solid ball all the way through. Kansas played two good halves out of six...and they were the best of the lot. Those records plus tournament input suggests an early edge to Iowa.

COMPUTER RANKINGS
Iowa: #17 with Sagarin, #20 with Pomeroy
Baylor: #33 with Sagarin, #34 with Pomeroy

The computers see it that way too. Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy both currently have Iowa as a top 20 team. The problem with that is that Iowa keeps lifting themselves by winning vs. non-Dance caliber teams...while many of the teams they're passing are done for the season. Stick those teams in the NIT, and they'd be winning games too! Both have Baylor as top 35. So....in terms of a direct comparison...Iowa gets the nod as the better team. We will tell you that our proprietary numbers have those teams at least 20-25 spots worse in national rankings...and our numbers are right! No way Iowa is a Top 20 team.

COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS
Iowa: #48 with Sagarin, #48 with Pomeroy
Baylor: #44 with Sagarin, #54 with Pomeroy

Both teams played very similar schedules in the big picture...with Baylor scheduling a little tougher early in the season, while Iowa played in the superior conference.

WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN'S TOP 50
Iowa: 6-9
Baylor: 3-10

This is what we mean. How can you go 6-9 vs. the teams you face in the top 50, but rank in the top 20 nationally? How can you go 3-10 and rank in the top 35? Baylor doesn't get credit for beating BYU here because BYU is down at 55. Iowa does grade out as the better team again. If the game settles at pick-em, the evidence so far is still pointing their way. If Iowa is bet to be a favorite, you then have to ask yourself if you want to lay points with a team that had a losing record this year vs. quality.

POMEROY'S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS
Iowa: #34
Baylor: #20

Moving now to the chess match, Baylor has the better offense. You saw some of that weaponry vs. BYU even though the game stayed Under the Vegas total. Baylor could score out of the set offense. They only had to sweat the ending because BYU hit a few desperation treys in the final moments. Iowa can do some scoring themselves once you adjust for tempo and schedule strength (as Pomeroy does). Baylor gets the nod in this category.

POMEROY'S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS
Iowa: #17
Baylor: #78

While Baylor got a slight nod on offense, Iowa has a huge edge on defense according to Pomeroy. Even if you assume he's gone overboard on the Iowa bandwagon...there's still no debate about this category. Baylor has had trouble getting stops all year vs. teams who know what they're doing. That's why they were 3-10 vs. top 50 opposition in a conference who's top 50 caliber teams mostly stunk in the Dance.

POMEROY'S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS
Iowa: #102
Baylor: #92

Both teams like tempo. Baylor likes it more than Iowa. It was interesting that Baylor/BYU bogged down into a slow game until the final minutes when the free throw parade and trey launching started. Sometimes that happens in playoff style basketball. Which team is better suited to a slowdown game?

BEST EXPECTATION
We asked a few questions at the top of this article...and the answer has come up "Iowa" for the most part. If you believe that defense wins championships. If you believe that the Big 10 is better than the Big 12, this game picks itself. Of course, winning is rarely quite that easy. It's interesting that the Wise Guys didn't hit Iowa very hard out of the gate here...though there's still time for that before tipoff. Sharps have a lot of respect for "athletes," which is why they've been backing Louisville so hard in the postseason. Should YOU be backing the athletes of Baylor rather than the stat indicators favoring Iowa?

JIM HURLEY has some thoughts on that after talking to his sources in New York, in Las Vegas, and offshore. He has some thoughts on that after studying his computer simulation program too! You can purchase tonight's big winner and the rest of Thursday action right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you tomorrow in the NOTEBOOK to crunch the numbers for Wichita State/Louisville in the Final Four of the Big Dance. Then we'll come back a day later to do the same for Michigan/Syracuse.

When championships are on the line, you need undisputed WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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