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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, February 1, 2013 at 10:49 PM

Fitting indeed that the NFL Super Bowl, the most anticipated sports betting game of the year in all of football, is preceded by Michigan at Indiana, the most anticipated college basketball game of the year.

Both Michigan and Indiana are so strong this year…that we’re definitely looking at a potential National Championship or Final Four preview Saturday Night on ESPN. Florida is also playing at a very high level, and will have something to say about that. And, March Madness is always so full of surprises that you can never know for sure how things will play out. But…at the very least, this is certainly the most important “regular season” meeting this year. No other conference has a legitimate chance to create a #1 vs. #2 or #1 vs. #3 type matchup.

And, given the timing of this game NOW, it will be more important than the rematch that’s scheduled for the regular season finale on March 10 (everyone will be looking forward to the Big 10 tournament), and a potential third meeting in the Big 10 tourney (both teams will be saving themselves for the Dance).

You’re going to get BOTH teams at peak intensity, looking to send a message, with no distractions on the immediate horizon.

Let’s run through some key indicator information to get you ready for the game…

WON-LOST RECORDS

Michigan 19-1

Indiana 19-2

Michigan’s only loss was on the road at Ohio State. There’s no shame in that, as the Buckeyes are highly regarded in the computer rankings and media polls. Michigan had a flat start, but played a fantastic second half to get close in the final minutes. Indiana has fallen twice. Once to dangerous Butler on a neutral court in Indianapolis. Though, it has to be said that Butler isn’t rating as well in the computers as you might expect this year. The other loss was at home to Wisconsin…which is a true blemish because a team like Indiana isn’t supposed to lose as home favorites in that price range. In our view, Michigan’s advantage is slightly more than the won-lost records would suggest. Indiana has a chance to change our minds about that!

COMPUTER RANKINGS

Jeff Sagarin of USA Today: Michigan #2, Indiana #4

Ken Pomeroy: Michigan #3, Indiana #2

Very close here. Both publicly available computer ratings have Florida as the #1 team in the nation. Sagarin has Michigan at #2. Pomeroy has Indiana at #2 even with the extra loss. It’s notable that these two teams are in the top four with both computers…and the margin of error at that level is such that there’s barely any difference. The computers are telling you that both are good enough to be #1 seeds in the Dance, and are heavy favorites to do big things in March.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS

Jeff Sagarin of USA Today: Michigan: #37, Indiana #77

Ken Pomeroy: Michigan #47, Indiana #92

We had great success in the NFL playoffs over the years looking at strength of schedules. Both computer analysts have calculations in that regard. And, both computer analysts show Michigan playing the tougher slate. It’s surprising that Sagarin would rate Indiana over Michigan straight up in that light. Clear advantage here to the Wolverines. Is it enough to make up Saturday Night for the home court advantage Indiana will enjoy in Bloomington?

WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN’S TOP 50

Michigan 5-1

Indiana 5-2

We always encourage you to look at won-lost records vs. top teams whenever you’re trying to handicap a big game. Some “powers” are just bullies who run up the score on lesser teams before struggling against quality when the opponent doesn’t blink (we’re looking at YOU New England Patriots and Oklahoma Sooners!). No surprises here. Both Michigan and Indiana have five wins vs. quality. Michigan’s road loss at Ohio State is more impressive than either of Indiana’s two losses. This subset is consistent with what the big picture data was telling us.

BRACKETOLOGY

Michigan: Projected as a #1 seed

Indiana: Projected as a #2 seed

We’ll bring in Joe Lunardi for a look at his estimated brackets for the Big Dance. This will become part of our college basketball coverage as we get closer to the big event. Unlike the computers, Lunardi has Indiana as a #2 seed rather than a #1. Obviously, if the Hoosiers beat Michigan, that would change. We often disagree with Lunardi. But, we can see his thinking here. Indiana’s losses to Butler and Wisconsin do suggest that they may be a step below the Wolverines.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS

Michigan #1

Indiana #3

It can be tough to break down offensive and defensive quality in college basketball because the stat sources are so polluted. The first six weeks of action comes against random teams who don’t really provide consistently great tests on either side of the ball. And, even conference play is a mix of have’s and have not’s. That’s why it’s dangerous to use raw full season stat rankings when you handicap this sport. Ken Pomeroy makes adjustments to the stats that reflect tempo and schedule strength. Those adjusted rankings are about the best you can do for getting true reads. On offense, BOTH of these teams are FANTASTIC! They score at elite rates on a per-possession basis. You may not realize that because they play the slower game. These teams are dangerous because they score.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS

Indiana #16

Michigan #31

If defense wins championships, then there’s some vulnerability here. Neither team shows up as a superpower stop unit…at least compared to the teams who have been winning titles in past seasons. Hey, we’re still talking about a ranking involving more than 300 teams. But, when you whittle things down to the teams who will matter most in the Dance, these rankings are less stellar. Michigan in particular needs to pick up the pace if they’re planning on running the table next month.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS

Indiana #61

Michigan #275

We wanted to emphasize this element for you. It’s not that one approach is better than the other. Indiana is fast. Michigan is slow. Those tempo’s are important because of how they influence un-adjusted stats…and because they’ll be involved in the coaching chess match.

*Michigan is seen as having a great defense because of their points-per-game allowed stat. That’s a bit misleading. Michigan plays at a slow pace, only ranks #31 on defense once you adjust for that.

*Indiana is seen as having a vulnerable defense because they’ve played some high scoring games. But, the Hoosiers sometimes go run-and-gun in a way that creates a lot of extra possessions. Pomeroy’s adjusted numbers account for that. ESPN’s announcers may not! Trust the people who study basketball for a living over the people who sell it to you on TV for a living.

*Winning Saturday Night could easily come down to whichever team is able to force its preferred tempo on the game. If Indiana juices the flow, Michigan will be out of its comfort zone. If the Wolverines slow things down, Indiana could get frustrated and impatient. Be sure you’re considering this element in your handicapping!

JIM HURLEY knows the whole world wants to bet this game. He’s done his best to find the winner for his basketball clients. You can purchase the full Saturday basketball slate right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Build your Super Bowl bankrolls with Saturday basketball. Our advisors can help you create a SUPER BOWL WEEKEND instead of just a one-day party.

Whether it’s Michigan-Indiana Saturday Night in college basketball, or Baltimore Ravens-San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s SUPER BOWL, don’t make a move until YOU HEAR WHAT JIM HURLEY HAS TO SAY!

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