Saturday elite-8 Previews

#1 SEEDS FACING #2 SEEDS AS KANSAS, VILLANOVA, OREGON, AND OKLAHOMA BATTLE SATURDAY IN ELITE 8

No Cinderella's in these brackets! The top two seeds have advanced to the regional championships being held Saturday in Louisville and Anaheim. All four survivors won impressively Thursday night with double digit victories that easily covered their Vegas pointspreads.

Let's quickly review those Thursday results as we preview the NCAA Elite 8 doubleheader that you'll be watching intently as we continue through MARCH MADNESS MAYHEM!

Because we're previewing two games at once, we'll go to a slightly condensed format. We'll summarize Thursday with "Phantom Score," a great secondary score that reflects two-point scoring plus rebounding (a longtime staple here in the NOTEBOOK) and some other stat notes. Then, JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats for offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency, and pace will be used for preview purposes from the publicly available data at Ken Pomeroy's college basketball website (NETWORK'S own computer stats are proprietary for selection purposes).

Here we go...

SOUTH SWEET 16
Final Score: Villanova 92, Miami 69
Phantom Score: Villanova 71, Miami 47
Key Stat: Any shooting stat! Villanova was red hot from everywhere...going 22 of 36 on two-pointers for 61%, and then 10 of 15 on treys and 18 of 19 on free throws. Nobody was going to beat Villanova on this night because that kind of shooting just can't be overcome. This was a SLOW game and Villanova scored 92! The bad news for Villanova fans is that you just saw peak-Nova. No way they shoot that well across the board twice in three days.

Final Score: Kansas 79, Maryland 63
Phantom Score: Kansas 95, Maryland 62
Key Stat: Kansas owned the boards 43-28, and attacked the basket relentlessly (26 made two-pointers on 53 attempts). Surely helped the Jayhawks cause that Maryland was 5 of 25 on treys. Maryland would miss a bomb, and Kansas would grab the rebound. Kansas is clearly playing championship caliber basketball right now, and has been for weeks. Phantom Score really celebrates teams who attack the basket and own the inside game. That's why it's always proved so valuable.

SOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP
Kansas vs. Villanova: Offense, Defense, and Pace
Kansas: #7 on offense, #4 on defense, #112 in pace
Villanova: #2 on offense, #10 on defense, #266 in pace

This could easily have been a Final Four matchup had Villanova won the Big East Tournament. Right now the computers have both as top four teams nationally. Michigan State's early loss helped launch Villanova to the upper rung. Both teams are great on both sides of the floor. You can see that the main differentiating characteristic is PACE. Villanova has slowed down from its past form, and now focuses on getting good looks. They've made that work because they have a few great shooters. Kansas is relentless. Obviously, if the game slows down...Villanova has real upset potential. If Kansas can hurry up Villanova to force some sloppiness, then the Jayhawks move forward.

WEST SWEET 16
Final Score: Oklahoma 77, Texas A&M 63
Phantom Score: Oklahoma 81, Texas A&M 74
Key Stat: Three-pointers, as Oklahoma was a sharp 11 of 25 while Texas A&M was a dismal 6 of 28. Though, to be fair, OU didn't pull away because of treys. They owned what mattered while building their lead (the Sooners "win and cover" with Phantom Score). Another horrible outing for an SEC team, as Texas A&M looked very much the pretender the last two games except for that 30-second run against Northern Iowa.

Final Score: Oregon 82, Duke 68
Phantom Score: Oregon 84, Duke 70
Key Stat: Oregon won rebounds 42-32, and three-pointers 10-7. That's a lethal combination because there's no way for Duke to win unless they shoot lights out. Oregon was a bit better at everything. Oregon better to be ready to step up in class, because OU is better than Duke and St. Joseph's.

WEST CHAMPIONSHIP
Oregon vs. Oklahoma: Offense, Defense, and Pace
Oregon: #11 on offense, #35 on defense, #175 in pace
Oklahoma: #14 on offense, #14 on defense, #85 in pace

Interesting that the most respected computers have both Kansas and Villanova rated better than both Oregon and Oklahoma. Oregon has used favorable bracketing, and clear over-rating of the Pac 12 to position themselves for a Final Four run. Though, if "defense wins championships," then Oklahoma could be the team that wins the West. Once again a pace differential. Oklahoma likes to attack (though they're much more 3-point happy than Kansas), while Oregon has slowed down this year to national average. The media still thinks Oregon loves to run! Oregon running in the past is what led to the turnovers that kept them from achieving greatness. Oklahoma will try to push the pace here to make that happen again.

Tricky handicapping challenges, even for avid followers of the game. What should YOU do in Saturday's pair of Elite 8 matchups? Don't make a move until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say! The final word for Saturday can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 Saturday morning before the action gets started.

Back with you Sunday to study the action in Philadelphia and Chicago using this same format. Handicapping guidance here in the NOTEBOOK for you do-it-yourselfers....with easy access to BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK just a few clicks away!

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