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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, February 17, 2017 at 7:00 AM

The buzz has really started to build for what’s shaping up as very exciting MARCH MADNESS melodrama in 2017. This Saturday’s schedule features two more head-to-head TV showcases involving teams that are expected to be serious championship contenders next month. Last Saturday, Gonzaga and Villanova passed what were expected to be challenging road tests (didn’t turn out that way!). They stay high atop the short list. What about these next four powers…

#3 Kansas at #4 Baylor, 1 p.m. ET on CBS,

#14 Virginia at #10 North Carolina 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN

(Note that Virginia/North Carolina has been time-changed to prime time after originally being the third game listed early in the day in the official Nevada Rotation).

You’ll see in a moment that there’s quite a discrepancy in perceptions between pollsters and the most respected computers. Let’s run JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats for all four teams. You longtime readers know that our staff statheads place a lot of priority on the data from Ken Pomeroy’s respected college hoops website (kenpom.com). We also include the computer rankings from Jeff Sagarin of USA Today, and the “bracketology” assessments from Joe Lunardi at ESPN. (All data is through Wednesday night’s games)

 

Current Rankings

#3 Kansas is #9 at Kenpom, #7 at Sagarin, projected for a #1 seed

#4 Baylor is #8 at Kenpom, #12 at Sagarin, projected for a #1 seed

#10 North Carolina is #10 at Kenpom, #6 at Sagarin, projected for a #2 seed

#14 Virginia is #3 at Kenpom, #8 at Sagarin, projected for a #4 seed

What a mess. Virginia should fall from #14 in the polls after Wednesday’ night’s home loss to Duke…but the Cavaliers are still #3 with Pomeroy even when that loss is counted! You can see how wide-open the Big Dance could get in a few weeks. The top dozen or so teams are virtually interchangeable depending on which assessment you trust most. Also interesting that Kansas and Baylor are seen as #1 seeds by Lunardi and the committee, while the computers average them out at #8 and #10 respectively.

 

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

North Carolina: 122.2 per 100 possessions (#3 in the nation)

Kansas: 121.2 per 100 possessions (#6 in the nation)

Virginia: 117.3 per 100 possessions (#20 in the nation)

Baylor: 116.5 per 100 possessions (#23 in the nation)

North Carolina and Kansas have always done a great job of attacking the basket efficiently under their current Hall of Fame bound head coaches. Though, you all know that both can become turnover prone in big games because they become a bit too aggressive. Virginia’s offense is better than you think…which is hidden by their very low tempo. Pomeroy makes adjustments for that. But, they’ve been dropping lately because they’ve gone cold from the field. That’s one side of the court…get ready for a flip!

 

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

Virginia: 88.2 per 100 possessions (#4 in the nation)

Baylor: 90.3 per 100 possessions (#6 in the nation)

Kansas: 95.0 per 100 possessions (#29 in the nation)

North Carolina: 96.1 per 100 possessions (#42 in the nation)

The top two offenses in our quartet are the bottom two defenses after you adjust for tempo and strength of schedule. Carolina is particularly vulnerable in terms of championship hopes because so many teams in the final Dance brackets will rank better than that defensively. Kansas isn’t scary defensively unless they’re in a full court press in the final minutes in front of a loud home crowd! (Ask West Virginia about that). The defenses of both Virginia and Baylor will give headaches to whoever faces them for the first time in the Dance…though both may look softer in their own conference tournaments for opponents having third looks.

 

Pace Ranking

North Carolina: #44

Kansas: #87

Baylor: #328

Virginia: #350

The clashes of style are always interesting to watch. Carolina and Kansas will fly at the basket in entertaining fashion. Baylor and Virginia will patiently work the ball on offense, then frustrate teams defensively inside the paint. You regulars know that the HOME teams are usually better able to enforce their preferred pace on a game (in neutral site games, it’s the superior team). That would favor Baylor and Carolina Saturday in terms of imposing their will.

 

Against the Spread

Virginia: 14-9

Baylor: 12-9

North Carolina 13-12

Kansas: 7-16-1

Even with a lousy week, Virginia is still in the black by a good bit. They were at 67% before laying eggs vs. Virginia Tech and Duke the past few days. Kansas has been a debacle in terms of playing to expectations. And, they were lucky to win straight up against both Texas Tech and West Virginia in their last two outings. Will pollsters and Joe Lunardi ever figure out that Kansas is overrated?! Maybe the Jayhawks will make a statement about that in Waco.

What are the right bets against the Las Vegas lines in these big TV games? Don’t make a move until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say! The final word for game-day action can always be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. And, we’ve reached the time of the season where GAME OF THE YEAR caliber releases start to pop up.

If you have any questions about this weekend or extended service, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 Friday during normal business hours or Saturday before the action gets started. Remember that Kansas/Baylor is a relatively early tip!

Back with you next time to talk about what’s suddenly become a big South Carolina/Florida game Tuesday night in the SEC. We’ll keep hopping around to all the major conferences so you’ll be ready for the postseason. Keep riding the fast-breaking basketball wave with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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