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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 1:00 PM

For the past several months, sports bettors have been focused on football on Monday Nights. Now, it’s time to put your full weeknight attention on BASKETBALL as ESPN’S BIG MONDAY starts us down the road to MARCH MADNESS with a marquee doubleheader.

Handicappers and fans will be intently watching Louisville at Connecticut in the Big East, followed by Baylor at Kansas in the Big 12. Let’s review where those teams stand at the moment in college basketball’s big picture. Then, we’ll review how they played the last time they took the court on Saturday.

Here were the major computer rankings for these teams heading into the weekend. You regulars know that we’re always monitoring Jeff Sagarin’s numbers that are posted at USA Today, as well as Ken Pomeroy’s numbers that are available at kenpom.com. JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK does keep its own proprietary numbers. We don’t release those because they play such a huge role in determining our nightly selections.

LOUISVILLE AT CONNECTICUT (7 p.m. ET)

Louisville: #2 in Sagarin, #4 in Pomeroy

Connecticut: #43 in Sagarin, #54 in Pomeroy

Rick Pitino has another great team at Louisville. They are certainly a serious national title contender even though much of the media is focusing on the great teams in the Big 10 right now. Great test here because Connecticut is right in the sweet spot for a road challenge. Beatable, but still a team you have to respect.

BAYLOR AT KANSAS (9 p.m. ET)

Baylor: #27 in Sagarin, #26 in Pomeroy

Kansas: #5 in Sagarin, #9 in Pomeroy

Kansas has been inconsistent this year, but still grades out as a top 10 team in the computers. Baylor didn’t get any votes for the top 25 in the most recent polls. You can see that both computers would have them knocking on the door. If Baylor is better than the media realizes, they may also be better than Kansas realizes.

MARCH MADNESS OUTLOOKS

*LOUISVILLE: The Cardinals are making a serious bid so far for a #1 seed. You’d have to think they’ll be in line for a #2 at worst barring a major injury. And, in terms of the brackets, there really isn’t much difference between the challenges faced by either a #1 or a #2. The Cardinals will be a team you’re seeing and handicapping a lot this year on TV, particularly come tournament time.

*KANSAS: Tough to know with the Jayhawks. They are capable of playing as well as the best in the country, but they also go flat for extended periods of time. They’re currently in the mix for a #3 or #4 seed, meaning Sweet 16 caliber in the brackets. They can certainly put the pieces together and make a run for something better.

*BAYLOR: Looks like the Bears may have a resume that impresses computers but not humans. That can be a problem come seeding time. The computers say that Baylor should be seeded in the top 32, somewhere around #7 or #8. They certainly look Dance worthy, so you can’t call them a bubble team. Monday’s game will go a long way toward shaping perceptions. A strong performance, and media respect will come. A blowout, and there won’t be many more chances to make a big statement on a national stage.

*CONNECTICUT: We’re definitely in bubble territory here based on the computers. Connecticut will always get media respect because of the program’s history and its Big East pedigree (which still means something in basketball if not football). A home game with Louisville is HUGE in terms of how the rest of the season is going to play out.

Here’s how each of Monday’s Big Four performed in their most recent games Saturday…

#3LOUISVILLE 64, SOUTH FLORIDA 38

Shooting Percentage: South Florida 27%, Louisville 38%

Three-Pointers: South Florida 3/17, Louisville 3/18

Free Throws: South Florida 11/21, Louisville 15/17

Rebounds: South Florida 22, Louisville 48

Turnovers: South Florida 17, Louisville 15

Phantom Score: South Florida 40, Louisville 88

Vegas Line: Louisville by 18, total of 126

For those of you who are new to the NOTEBOOK, Phantom Score is two-point scoring plus rebounding. It provides a secondary score that is often more helpful to handicappers than the actual final score. Here, we have agreement that Louisville was the dominant side. Fantastic defense in the game, and a dominant rebounding edge. Even if Louisville isn’t shooting well (which they weren’t here), they’ll be in position to win most every game they play because of their great defense.

CONNECTICUT 65, #17 NOTRE DAME 58

Shooting Percentage: UCONN 51%, Notre Dame 43%

Three-Pointers: UCONN 4/13, Notre Dame 6/13

Free Throws: UCONN 7/11, Notre Dame 4/7

Rebounds: UCONN 30, Notre Dame 22

Turnovers: UCONN 8, Notre Dame 9

Phantom Score: UCONN 76, Notre Dame 58

Vegas Line: Notre Dame by 8.5, total of 136

Great performance here for the Huskies, who obviously weren’t looking ahead to Big Monday. You longtime readers know that Notre Dame is often exposed by physical teams in Big East play. That was a big problem here…as the Irish lost rebounds badly, and couldn’t earn many trips to the free throw line. Connecticut shot better than 50% overall and inside the arc against the soft Notre Dame defense. Impressive win for UCONN as a big dog. They will be facing a much tougher defense when they host the Cardinals. Phantom Score confirms the one-sided win for the dis-respected underdog.

BAYLOR 51, TCU 40

Shooting Percentage: TCU 33%, Baylor 41%

Three-Pointers: TCU 4/9, Baylor 3/12

Free Throws: TCU 6/14, Baylor 4/7

Rebounds: TCU 30, Baylor 29

Turnovers: TCU 14, Baylor 10

Phantom Score: TCU 52, Baylor 67

Vegas Line: Baylor by 18, total of 126

Ugly game. Phantom Score pushes it closer to the Vegas spread. That’s an awfully high line for a low tempo game. Baylor will try to create a wrestling match in Lawrence Monday Night. They better not fall behind early, because this group of Bears doesn’t seem well-suited to making up ground quickly.

#6 KANSAS 60, TEXAS TECH 46

Shooting Percentage: Kansas 46%, Texas Tech 35%

Three-Pointers: Kansas 3/10, Texas Tech 4/11

Free Throws: Kansas 19/26, Texas Tech 8/13

Rebounds: Kansas 25, Texas Tech 26

Turnovers: Kansas 9, Texas Tech 14

Phantom Score: Kansas 57, Texas Tech 52

Vegas Line: Kansas by 18, total of 146

Kansas bounced back from an overtime home game they had to sweat vs. Iowa State with a straight up win. But, you can’t say it was an impressive performance. They were sluggish again from long range, and were outrebounded by a very bad team. Until we see improvement, we’re going to remain skeptical about the championship possibilities of this Kansas squad. It’s tough to win a bunch of neutral site games in a row vs. quality if you’re not getting much from long range.

JIM HURLEY knows how important Mondays are in the sports betting world. He leaves no stone unturned when trying to find BIG, JUICY WINNERS for his clients. You can purchase his top plays every day at this website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call our office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you again tomorrow with more handicapping coverage. We’ll pick up again with our conference discussions on Tuesday with the Big 10. That will get you ready for Wisconsin/Indiana that night on ESPN. You’re going to love THE ROAD TO MARCH MADNESS when JIM HURLEY is driving THE BIG MONEY BUS!

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