Network Bulletin: March Madness Edition

March Madness Edition

Jim Hurley's Network finishes the Conference Tournaments on a 17-1 run!  Now it's time for the Real Madness! Click Here to Learn More!


The NCAA Tournament Tips Off Tuesday Night In Dayton...Here's the The "First Four" Previews...Plus What The Committee Did Right And What They Really Got All Wrong!

By Jim Hurley

Can you believe it? Maybe they shouldn't even play this year's NCAA Tournament now that all the ESPN "experts" have weighed in and each and every one of 'em picked Michigan State to win it all!

Hey, maybe the likes of Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas, Seth Greenberg, Jay Williams and Digger Phelps read our column way back last November when we forecast a Michigan State vs. Oklahoma State showdown in the NCAA Championship Game (and, yes, that could happen as they're on opposite sides of the bracket) but it's rather bizarre that all of the pundits on the all-sports network would snap up a #4 seed to win this year's crown, right?

Gotta say - first off - we officially feel sorry for Michigan State now because everyone is picking 'em these days and that will serve to add pressure to Tom Izzo's Big 10 team that just demolished everyone in its way in the mini-tourney in Indianapolis and so don't be terribly shocked if Sparty plays its first couple of games with an imaginary weight on its shoulders ... you heard it here first! The fact of the matter is some six or seven weeks ago we stated the belief that as many as 12-to-15 different teams could win this year's NCAA Tournament and we'll stick by that for a couple of reasons:

Number one, the way the NCAA Tournament jazzed up the Midwest bracket - where Wichita State, Michigan, Duke and Louisville represent seeds #1-thru-#4 - you could see any of the above navigate its way to the Lone Star State for this year's Final Four. And ditto - to a slightly less degree - in the South where overall #1 seed Florida, Kansas and Syracuse are the #1-through-#3 seeds, respectively, and gotta believe any of them could be wearing the crown next month. Heck, that's seven teams right there in just two regions that could win six games in a row and cop a national crown.

Obviously, one of the really fun parts about analyzing/dissecting the NCAA Tournament in the early hours/days is to forecast a long-shot team or two that could come from - let's say - the #7 seed on down and for that may we suggest Connecticut (a #7 seed in the East) or possibly aforementioned Oklahoma State (a #9 seed in the West)?

Looking for a double-digit seed team that might wind up playing in the Sweet 16 and/or Elite 8 round? Either #11 Nebraska (West) or #10 Stanford (South) might be hot-to-trot this first week/weekend of NCAA Tournament play.

Okay, but enough fun ditties here ...It's time to get down to brass taxes and tell you what we liked and didn't like from the not-all-knowing NCAA Tournament Committee folks and we'll get that chat into high gear in a moment but first this important reminder:

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It's safe to say that - despite what the NCAA Tournament Committee folks tell you - the most important part of the early rounds of this tourney is to make sure there are teams playing close to their zip codes and no doubt the committee got most everything "right" here with Syracuse playing in Buffalo, Florida getting second- and/or-third-round games in Orlando, Wisconsin making the trek to Milwaukee and Duke and Virginia both getting to play in Raleigh.

Plus, notice all the West Coast teams that stayed out West as the likes of San Diego State, UCLA, Arizona and Gonzaga all will be playing on the left coast. Secondly, for the most part we agreed with the bubble teams that were left out of the field such as Minnesota, St. John's and Arkansas all deserved to booted to the curb - but we're less inclined to fight the fight for guys like Wisky-Green Bay and Georgia State because those teams know they hail from one-bid leagues and that's that!

Finally, we liked the fact the committee folks filled the field with 37 power conference teams and 31 non-power conferences teams (in last weekend's Jim Sez we suggested 40-or-so power conference teams, but this is cool) - that's a 54 percent to 46 near-split and consider the committee didn't bend to "requests" from the SEC which cranked out just three tourney teams in this admittedly down year for that conference. Now, with all that said-and-done, we have a few "bones to pick" with the committee:

Obviously, we're not the first guys to show shocked looks on our faces in regards to Louisville being a #4 seed in this NCAA Tournament field. The U of L Cardinals have won 14 of their last 16 games, shared (with Cincinnati) the regular-season crown in the American Athletic Conference and convincingly captured last weekend's mini-tourney in Memphis, and yet the likes of Iowa State, Duke, Wisconsin, Creighton and Kansas all rank ahead of Rick Pitino's red-hot team here ... something does not compute but, alas, everyone on TV took up that argument on Sunday night and so we'll pull back from beating that proverbial "dead horse".

Maybe there was no conspiracy theory at work here, but we don't like Wichita State's draw either as the Midwest's top seed has a mine field of tough teams to beat just to get back to the Final Four and - while we'll take the chairman's word on it that the committee wasn't attempting to put the Shockers to the ultimate test here - we do believe their draw should not have been so challenging although some folks do believe that side of the bracket including #8 Kentucky and #3 Duke isn't so bad but it does sure look like a Wichita State vs. Louisville matchup come the Sweet 16 and that's rough.

Here's the Las Vegas odds as per Sunday night in terms of this year's NCAA Tournament:

Florida 4-1
Michigan State 9-2
Arizona 6-1
Kansas 8-1
Duke 15-1
Louisville 15-1
Syracuse 15-1
Virginia 15-1
Wichita State 15-1
Wisconsin 20-1
Creighton 25-1
Michigan 25-1
Villanova 25-1
Iowa State 35-1
UCLA 35-1
Kentucky 40-1
North Carolina 50-1
Ohio State 60-1
Oklahoma State 60-1
San Diego State 75-1
VCU 75-1


The 68-team field NCAA Tournament swings into action on Tuesday/Wednesday nights in Dayton and here's our quick-hitter looks at what's on the early-bird menu: On Tuesday, it's ...

#16 MOUNT ST. MARY'S (16-16) vs. #16 ALBANY (18-14) - 6:40 p.m. ET, Tru TV
The tourney tips off with this battle to see who'll next play mighty Florida and we'll see if Albany G Peter Hooley (15.7 ppg and team-leading 69 triples) can dent the two-point underdog Mountaineers from deep here. Mount St. Mary's tandem of Rashad Whack (17.7 ppg) and Julian Norfleet (17.5) led the top scoring team in the Northeast Conference at 76.3 points a game

#12 N.C. STATE (21-13) vs. #12 XAVIER (21-12) - approximately 9:10 p.m. ET, Tru TV
Gotta say we think the N.C. State Wolfpack got hosed by having to play in this out-bracket affair and the $64,000 question is will scoring whiz T.J. Warren (24.8 ppg) and mates have their legs after playing three games in as many days in the ACC Tourney versus Miami, Syracuse and Duke? The X-men are a two-point betting favs at press time.

On Wednesday, it's...

#16 TEXAS SOUTHERN (19-14) vs. #16 CAL POLY SLO (13-19) - 6:40 p.m. ET, Tru TV
Talk about stealing a show! The Cal Poly kids were the seventh seed among eight participating teams in last week's Big West Tournament and yet they're a 3 ½-point favorite against a Texas Southern squad starring 6-foot-10 stud Aaric Murray, who poured in 27 points and 10 rebounds in the SWAC mini-tourney win against Prairie View.

#11 IOWA (20-12) vs. #11 TENNESSEE (21-12) - approximately 9:10 p.m. ET, Tru TV
Put it this way: The Iowa Hawkeyes are happy to be here - the surging Tennessee Volunteers (won six of their last eight including a 27-point victory against Missouri) not so much as Cuonzo Martin's club had to think more along the line of being in one of the famed #8 vs. #9 seed games. Here, Tennessee's Jordan McRae (18.6 ppg) will look to take over against an Iowa team that has lost six of its last seven games including that stunning 67-62 setback against 14-point dog Northwestern in the Big 10 Tourney's opening round ... ouch

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Now that the seeds and brackets have been announced for the 2014 NCAA Tournament, you're going to read and hear a lot of information about past trends involving seeds in the Big Dance. Our advice is to IGNORE them. You don't pick winners by listening to trivia. As we've shown you day-by-day and year-by-year here in the pick winners by looking at what really matters!

  • It doesn't matter that X number of #1 seeds have or haven't made the Final Four in the last X number of years. This set of teams has nothing to do with prior sets of teams. The sport keeps evolving, particularly when it comes to the depth of the best 30-40 entries. This years #1's are going to get there...or not...based on their own merit or their own weaknesses. You'll do a lot better picking pointspread results for those #1 seeds by knowing their strengths and weaknesses than you will by looking at what other #1's did in the past.
  • It doesn't matter that certain seed numbers have better or worse recent histories than other. Being a #2 seed isn't a kiss of death. Being a #12 seed isn't an automatic invitation to Cinderella's ball. It doesn't matter what happened with past teams in past years...or with past seeding mistakes made by past seeding committees. Networks presenting trivia because it sounds interesting to people who don't think very yard is not something you should be wasting time with. And, as big a strike as that is against the sure is helpful to serious handicappers who have legitimate edges against the line. The fewer the merrier when it comes to the number of truly informed bettors in the marketplace. If the public is going to bet after hearing trivia, that's just more money for us.
  • What matters is how good teams are. We've been looking all season at the ratings posted publicly by college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin. Study those, along with the BPI numbers by the statheads at ESPN. If the seedings are out of alignment with the consensus of those ratings, THAT'S when you should pay attention.
  • What matters is how well teams are playing RIGHT NOW! To the degree that Pomeroy, Sagarin, and other analytics miss in the's because their "full season" numbers aren't able to account enough for recent developments. If a slumping team is a #3 or #4 seed...the fact that they're slumping is more important than the fact that they earned a respected seed. The computers have some teams in the teens who should probably be in the 30's. Study recent form so you can outperform the computers.
  • What matters is how well-suited teams are to the specific challenges of the NCAA tournament. Do they have a variety of weapons on offense? Do they guard the basket like their lives depended on it? Do they have enough depth to handle a whistle-happy officiating crew? Doesn't that stuff obviously matter a lot more than trivial trends about what different numbered seeds did in past Dances?

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Through the rest of the week, we'll look at the NCAA tournament through the lens of our standard indicator stats. That will start Tuesday with "First Four" action from Dayton. Be sure you're with us every day this week for key information that will help you find winners in the highest profile matchups. The sharpest bettors will be signing up for JIM HURLEY'S early week action in the "First Four" and the NIT, CBS, and College Insider tournaments because they'll help you build your bankroll for those big Thursday and Friday Dance schedules.

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