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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 8:31 PM

What’s been an exhilarating stretch of college basketball for fans and sports bettors continues Saturday with a big late of great matchups capped off by Louisville/Notre Dame in prime time on ESPN. It’s not even Valentine’s yet…and every day already feels like March Madness!

You can rest assured that we’ll keep you on top of developments here in the NOTEBOOK. That means in-depth previews of the top TV games through the week, and occasional conference reviews when many teams in a league are making headlines at the same time. Make plans to be with us EVEYR DAY from now through the tournaments!  Check the archives for yesterday’s preview of North Carolina-Miami which is set for Saturday afternoon. Now, it’s time to turn our attention to the “GameDay” feature on ESPN from South Bend.

It wasn’t too long ago that Louisville was seen as a probable #1 seed in the Big Dance. Three conference losses in a row knocked them all the way out of the top 10. Now that other teams are losing too, will the Cardinals climb back into the elite mix? No better way to make a statement than to win big ON THE ROAD in a national TV showdown. Let’s run Louisville-Notre Dame through our indicator data to see what handicappers and fans can expect…

WON-LOST RECORDS

Louisville: 19-4 (7-3 in the Big East)

Notre Dame: 18-5 (6-4 in the Big East)

Louisville was seen as the much superior team through much of the season. Yet, Notre Dame would forge a tie in both overall and Big East records with a win Saturday Night. This is an amazing development considering where the teams stood a few weeks ago! A big game for both teams. Louisville wants to re-enter the upper echelon of the sport. Notre Dame doesn’t want to drop to 6-5 in the Big East…because they’d suddenly be flirting with bubble status as a team hovering around the .500 mark in a league that has several good teams.

COMPUTER RANKINGS

Louisville: #4 with Sagarin, #3 with Pomeroy

Notre Dame: #30 with Sagarin, #55 with Pomeroy

The respected computers we follow, who’s rankings are publicly available online, currently still see Louisville as a #1 seed in the Dance. Computers are less punishing in terms of straight up losses, particularly if they come against good teams or on the road. If you’re evaluating the sport right now, the computers are saying that you still need to see Louisville as a power along the lines of Indiana, Michigan, Duke, and Florida…rather than a #11 team that’s fallen off the pace. Note the big difference in how the computers evaluate Notre Dame. Sagarin would have them seeded in the #7-8 range, while Pomeroy wouldn’t even have them in the tournament. You usually have to be top 50 to earn an at-large bid because so many poorly ranked teams sneak in by winning their small college tournaments.

COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS

Louisville: #7 with Sagarin, #13 with Pomeroy

Notre Dame: #82 with Sagarin, #102 with Pomeroy

Here’s another reason Louisville is so highly regarded. They’ve scheduled tough! Notre Dame had it pretty easy in non-league play. Even though their won-lost records are close to identical (and might be identical by midnight!), Louisville grades out as the superior side because they’ve played the much tougher schedule. Important to remember now and in March. Notre Dame has made it a habit in recent years to build a false record before getting exposed in the Dance.

WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN’S TOP 50

Louisville: 6-3

Notre Dame: 3-3

The Irish are in danger of falling below .500 vs. quality if they lose here. That’s something the selection committee pays close attention to. More evidence that the polls have these teams too close together. Louisville is more battle-tested (nine tough games vs. six), and is more successful vs. quality (.667 win percentage vs. .500).

JOE LUNARDI’S BRACKETOLOGY

Louisville: projected #3 seed

Notre Dame: projected #7 seed

ESPN’s projections have Louisville as a strong #3, with the potential to move up if they can find their earlier form. Notre Dame is set for the top 32 (agreeing with Sagarin of USA Today), but in danger of falling into the 8-9 slot that’s death for teams who want to go deep. If you’re on the 8-9 slot, you have to play a #1 seed in the Round of 32.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS

Louisville: #13

Notre Dame: #10

Two good offenses here after you adjust for strength of schedule and the number of possessions. We think Notre Dame is a bit overrated. They’re kind of like Duke…in that hot games from long range or high free throw totals from friendly officiating can create the illusion of efficiency. But, this is a home game tonight…which means those factors are in play. Did Notre Dame look like a top 10 offense when you watched them at Syracuse last Monday? In March, Notre Dame probably won’t look like an elite offense. At home in a big game, those rankings could be on the money.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS

Louisville: #2

Notre Dame: #180

Here’s where the Irish take a big hit. They’re very soft defensively. This is hidden by the slow tempo they play. They spend so much time passing the ball around on offense that it creates the illusion of great defense on the scoreboard. Once you adjust for tempo, they fall WAY off the pace for tournament caliber teams. Louisville has a great defense, playing for a coach in Rick Pitino who doesn’t get enough credit for coaching defense. That’s been a hallmark of his Louisville years, and he doesn’t get credit for it because people remember his run-and-gun experiment in the NBA that failed.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS

Louisville: #122

Notre Dame: #324

Very important numbers here…because you can see why Louisville’s defense isn’t appreciated (the Cards play fast), and why ND’s defense is overrated (the Irish are one of the slowest teams in the country). As we’ve mentioned a few times already, the HOME team often gets to dictate tempo when there’s a big discrepancy like this. The Irish will try to keep things slow they can try to steal a win at the end. Louisville will try to push things so they can exploit their athletic advantage. On a neutral site or in Louisville, the Cards would have big edges in the chess game. In South Bend, there’s a chance the tempo stays in Notre Dame’s comfort zone.

BEST EXPECTATION

JIM HURLEY says that pace will be a big factor, as well as officiating. He fully expects both teams to show up with peak intensity given what’s at stake. He expects Louisville to win the inside battle, which will force Notre Dame to score from long range to pull off the home upset.

Are there edges here that would necessitate a big Las Vegas bet? Well, on a HUGE Saturday like this, you have to have a lot of edges for a play to break through into being one of the best on the board. Louisville/Notre Dame is just one of several marquee matchups. Among the others:

#23 Pittsburgh at #17 Cincinnati

#3 Michigan at Wisconsin (Wisconsin should be ranked!)

#5 Kansas at Oklahoma

North Carolina at #8 Miami (see NOTEBOOK archives for preview)

Iowa State at #13 Kansas State (Iowa State should be ranked!)

#15 New Mexico at UNLV

The final word for Saturday can be purchased a few hours before tipoff right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about NETWORK service, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. You have a month to build your bankrolls for the tournaments. You’d better get started now!

This is shaping up as one of the biggest Saturdays of the year. Be sure you spend it with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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