Kansas - Maryland Sweet-16 Thursday Preview

KANSAS IS STILL ON FIRE...BUT DANGEROUS MARYLAND STANDS IN THEIR WAY THURSDAY IN THE SWEET 16

Through much of the 2015-16 college basketball season, it looked like there weren't any real "super" teams that were capable of dominating the Big Dance.  Nobody like last year's Kentucky anyway (who ended up NOT dominating the Dance when it came time to win a championship!). But, the final weeks of the regular season...the conference tournaments...and the first two games of the NCAA Tournament have made it clear that KANSAS is currently a cut (or two) above the rest of the field.

It's been hard to accept because this team has disappointed in March so often before. Everyone's waiting for a shoe to drop. It didn't happen in the Big 12 tournament (a conference that also launched Oklahoma and Iowa State to the Sweet 16). It didn't happen last week vs. a red-hot Connecticut that had been peaking at the right time.

Kansas 73, Connecticut 61
Two-Point Shooting: Connecticut 28%, Kansas 56%
Three-Pointers: Connecticut 10/22, Kansas 6/17
Free Throws: Connecticut 9/11, Kansas 17/22
Rebounds Connecticut 24, Kansas 44
Turnovers: Connecticut 6, Kansas 13
Phantom Score: Connecticut 31, Kansas 55

Check that out...Kansas won by double digits even though Connecticut had a great game from three-point land! You regulars know that Phantom Score is two-point scoring plus rebounding. It was a rout for the Jayhawks who utterly controlled the inside game. Kansas protected the rim with abandon...earned twice as many free throws...and almost grabbed twice as many rebounds. If not for Connecticut being +12 points on treys (the most fickle of this sport's statistics), it would have been another laugher. You don't often see a REAL team like Connecticut held to just 31 in Phantom Score.

Kansas will be facing Maryland Thursday night...an inconsistent team who caught some schedule breaks with South Dakota State and Hawaii as its first two opponents. Let's look at Maryland's last outing...

Maryland 73, Hawaii 60
Two-Point Shooting: Hawaii 37%, Maryland 70%
Three-Pointers: Hawaii 4/19, Maryland 1/18
Free Throws: Hawaii 10/15, Maryland 28/31
Rebounds Hawaii 42, Maryland 36
Turnovers: Hawaii 9, Maryland 11
Phantom Score: Hawaii 48, Maryland 70

Similar to what we saw with Kansas/Connecticut...except Connecticut's been much better lately than Hawaii! Worth noting that Maryland was a pathetic 1 of 18 on treys while still winning and covering. They won't be able to get away with that Thursday vs. Kansas because the Jayhawks are so good inside. Really bad sign for Maryland that they were outrebounded by a mid-major. The Terps better have been working on their long range shooting!

Let's take a look at JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats for more insights into this marquee Thursday night matchup...

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
Kansas: 118.6 per 100 possessions (#10 in the nation)
Maryland: 113.9 per 100 possessions (#24 in the nation)

Ken Pomeroy's statistical site adjusts for pace and strength of schedule. Kansas has a slight edge here, but both are top 25 on the offensive side of the floor. You can tell from the box scores above that both like to attack the basket. They dare opponents to get in the way and stop them without committing fouls. Tough task!

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Kansas: 92.3 per 100 possessions (#5 in the nation)
Maryland: 96.5 per 100 possessions (#36 in the nation)

Big difference here. Kansas is better on defense than on offense...even though they're top 10 on offense. Maryland slides back to #36, which is strong nationally...but much less strong once the elite teams are playing each other. Maryland couldn't beat the Michigan State team that lost to Middle Tennessee. Maryland has to figure out a way to be stingy against the Jayhawks. We should also note that Pomeroy's methodology doesn't rate "recent form" as any more important than full season data. As great as those Kansas rankings are, they're playing BETTER than that lately!

Pace Ranking
Kansas: #113
Maryland: #226

Kansas pushes tempo...taking best advantage of their athleticism. When things are clicking, there's just no way to slow them down. Opponents have to hope that things aren't clicking on that particular day. This could happen here if Kansas spent too much time reading their press clippings after last week. There's no margin for error for anybody given the talent remaining in this event. Kentucky got too confident last year...then almost lost to Notre Dame before falling to Wisconsin. Maryland was slower than average this season, though not necessarily plodding. They may try "plodding" as a strategy just to keep Kansas from running away. Control of the pace will be vital in determining a winner. Maryland can't run with Kansas. Maryland has a chance if Kansas can't run.

Against the Spread
Kansas: 23-11 (13-20 to the Under)
Maryland: 16-17-1 (13-20-1 to the Under)

Again...Kansas is absolutely ON FIRE. We've talked all season about how hard it is for big name teams to consistently cover pointspreads. Vegas prices them at perfection and few can keep that going. Kansas has been so hot that oddsmakers have under-guessed what perfection is for that team! They just keep rolling over people and covering spreads. Note that both teams have skewed Under. Kansas/UCONN stayed Under even though the Huskies made 10 treys. The market has done a horrible job appreciating this great Kansas defense (betting Kansas and Under this season has totaled 43-24 for an ATS record). Maryland's a slower team than is realized, which has caused them to skew Under too.

As we write this, final determinations haven't been made yet for sides and totals in JIM HURLEYS' Sweet 16 slate. You can purchase nightly BEST BETS all through the college postseason right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service through March Madness or the NBA Playoffs, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. during normal business hours.

Dance coverage in the NOTEBOOK continues through Sweet 16 and Elite 8 weekend with...

Friday: preview of North Carolina vs. Indiana
Saturday: preview of BOTH games in the Elite 8
Sunday: preview of BOTH games in the Elite 8

Keep visiting for handicapping tips here in the NOTEBOOK, and then hook up with WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

24
Sep

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