NCAA Basketball Championship Preview
A TRUE BLOCKBUSTER AS RED HOT SUPERPOWERS VILLANOVA AND NORTH CAROLINA BATTLE FOR NCAA CROWN
It's hard to imagine two teams playing better basketball than what we're seeing in the 2016 NCAA College Basketball Tournament from the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Villanova Wildcats. It's true that only Carolina is a #1 seed in that tandem. But Villanova should have been...and they've channeled that snub into a string of truly amazing performances.
As great as Carolina has been running the table, Villanova is doing things we've never seen before...repeatedly! We're talking about a team that shot 61% on two's and 10 of 15 on treys vs. Miami in the Sweet 16...then shot 77% on two's and 11 of 18 on treys in the Final Four! That should be impossible. And, oh...by the way...Villanova beat overall tournament #1 seed Kansas in between!
Yet...Villanova is still a market underdog Monday night when they take on North Carolina. That's how much respect the Tar Heels have earned during their own very strong postseason run through the ACC tournament and the Big Dance.
Before we crunch JIM HURLEY'S favorite indicator stats...let's quickly review how both championship entrants won on Saturday...
Villanova 95, Oklahoma 51
Two-Point Shooting: Villanova 77%, Oklahoma 39%
Three-Pointers: Villanova 11/18, Oklahoma 6/27
Free Throws: Villanova 14/19, Oklahoma 7/11
Rebounds Villanova 32, Oklahoma 29
Turnovers: Villanova 11, Oklahoma 17
Phantom Score: Villanova 80, Oklahoma 55
You regulars know that Phantom Score is simply two-point scoring plus rebounding. It's a "secondary" score invented by JIM HURLEY many years ago. Basically the same differential here as in that Miami game earlier...but Miami shot 10 of 17 on treys to "only" lose scoreboard by 23. You can see that Oklahoma had real troubles with that backdrop in Houston while in desperation mode. They couldn't throw the ball in the ocean enduring the worst Final Four loss ever. You heard some in the media saying "We've never seen anything like this!" Actually, they had two games ago...but Miami hit a bunch of treys to help hide it. The key for handicappers to remember is that Villanova has done a FANTASTIC job through the tournament of patiently opening up good scoring opportunities before nailing the shots. And, a lot of those are just dunks and layups against confused or lazy defenses. This team gets open looks and hits them. Game after game!
North Carolina 83, Syracuse 66
Two-Point Shooting: Syracuse 46%, North Carolina 65%
Three-Pointers: Syracuse 8/25, North Carolina 4/17
Free Throws: Syracuse 4/13, North Carolina 9/11
Rebounds Syracuse 31, North Carolina 43
Turnovers: Syracuse 10, North Carolina 12
Phantom Score: Syracuse 69, North Carolina 105
Carolina continues to attack the basket with abandon and dare people to stop them. The Syracuse zone simply couldn't stand up to the onslaught. This wasn't much of a game even though Carolina was 0 for 10 on treys in the first half, and 4 of 17 for the full game. You can see that Phantom Score was even more impressive for Carolina than it was for Villanova. That's because Carolina was so great at rebounding. Worth remember as you handicap Monday. If Villanova isn't missing shots...it doesn't matter that Carolina is great at rebounding! But, if the Wildcats cool off, they may not get many second chance opportunities.
Moving to the key indicator stats, which are Ken Pomeroy's efficiency stats posted publicly at kenpom.com...
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
Villanova: 122.0 per 100 possessions (#2 in the nation)
North Carolina: 123.7 per 100 possessions (#1 in the nation)
Based on what you've watched the past few weeks, no surprise here that we have the two greatest offenses in the nation. Both can seem unstoppable for long stretches. Frankly, both HAVE been unstoppable for entire games in this tournament vs. quality opposition. We're seeing something very special here from both teams.
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Villanova: 91.9 per 100 possessions (#6 in the nation)
North Carolina: 95.2 per 100 possessions (#23 in the nation)
Villanova has the better defense of the two though. And, that's why Pomeroy has them as his #1 team in the overall rankings even though Carolina is the market betting favorite. People don't realize how good this Villanova defense (like Golden State) because the shot-making is so pretty to watch. Carolina did show some "matchup" weakness in their games vs. Duke this year in terms of the weakest link on the floor at any given time being exposed by a smart opponent. If Villanova makes that work...we have an upset. If the Wildcats cool off, then Carolina wins rebounding and the game.
North Carolina: #64
Classic slow vs fast...with Villanova slowing down even more throughout the tournament because they've been sitting on such big leads. Though, they were also slow vs. Kansas in the Elite 8 and it helped them play giant-killer. Clearly, they'll need a replay of that to win Monday (Kansas and NC are very similar stylistically). Carolina will want to take 'Nova out of its comfort zone, the same way they did Syracuse on Saturday. Safe to say...whoever controls the pace has the best chance to win and cover. Tricky for handicappers though because BOTH teams have been enforcing their will on opponents. Something's got to give here.
Against the Spread
North Carolina: 20-18-1
Clearly both teams have found an extra gear in the Dance. Each found it difficult to cover consistently during the regular season because they were always priced to perfection. Both have been playing better than perfect lately!
We're currently seeing North Carolina by 2.5 with a total of 150 in Las Vegas as we prepare this preview for you. You may see something slightly different when you read it. And, who knows this far in advance where it's going to close?! JIM HURLEY has some pretty good ideas about that...and a strong opinion for you in the final college basketball game of the season.
You can always purchase JIM HURLEY'S top selections in ALL sports right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours for complete details on special offers for the rest of NBA or for Major League Baseball. College hoops may be ending...but April's going to be a busy month!
This will be our last chance to say this until the NBA Finals in June. As you consider the options for North Carolina/Villanova Monday night...remember that when championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!
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