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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:15 PM

Tuesday Night’s TV schedule may give sports bettors a look at the two teams destined to square off for the national championship in early April. Or, it may give us a chance to evaluate two teams who are unfortunate to draw each other in the Elite Eight!

Indiana has been playing great basketball in recent weeks. Tuesday they draw a road game at dangerous Minnesota…a team that’s underperformed its talent lately…but a team that truly is talented enough to take down the Hoosiers. Right now, you have to assume Indiana is safely ensconced as a #1 seed in the Big Dance. They’re the betting favorite to cut down the nets.

Florida is seen by the betting markets  and computers as being virtually equal to Indiana. But, a loss last week at Missouri knocked the Gators down to a #2 seed in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology (through midday Monday…making it possible that Florida will be back to a #1 replacing Miami by the time you read this). Should Florida continue to stub its toe periodically, there’s a danger that they could fall into the same region as Indiana…putting the two best “computer” teams head to head as early as the Elite Eight. One of those potential potholes comes Tuesday Night when Florida visits the Tennessee team that just crushed Kentucky.

Is this the night where the two superpowers send a message to the rest of the nation about the futility of getting in their way? Or, will see once again that the race at the top is wide-open because everyone has an exploitable weakness?

Let’s crunch some numbers in both games to see how things might play out…


Indiana: projected #1 seed

Florida: projected #2 seed

Minnesota: projected #10 seed

Tennessee: not currently projected to qualify

Tennessee is on the wrong side of the bubble right now. But, they are definitely playing at a tournament level in terms of recent form. They’ve won and covered FIVE games in a row, including a 30-point blowout of Kentucky that you may have watched on TV. The SEC is weak, and Tennessee is only 8-6 in league play because it took them awhile to find their form. That hurts the resume significantly. A win over Florida would surely vault them into serious consideration for an at-large spot given how many other bubble hopefuls are floundering.

Could Minnesota’s recent slump knock them all the way out of the Dance? The computer guys would be offended. But, you have to win SOME of your games in a tough conference or you lose any right to complain! Lunardi has Minnesota as a #10 seed before playing Indiana. If this is a bad loss…then it’s suddenly a #11 seed and there’s no margin for error. An early exit from the Big 10 tournament…who knows? Minnesota needs to find a sense of urgency and chemistry right away or their season will be over much sooner than expected.

We’ll take the games in the order they’ll appear on ESPN’s doubleheader…

7 p.m. ET: Indiana at Minnesota

Indiana: 1 in Sagarin, 2 in Pomeroy

Minnesota: 23 in Sagarin, 19 in Pomeroy

Indiana (1 offense, 14 defense); Minnesota (24 offense, 35 defense)

Jeff Sagarin of USA today and college basketball guru  Ken Pomeroy would have Minnesota seeded about #5 or #6. So, that’s a serious disconnect with Lunardi. In this case, we agree with Lunardi. Minnesota’s playing nowhere near what those computers have been suggesting for weeks now. They’ll really need to lift their game against the Hoosiers.

In terms of the chess match, we have the best offense in the nation visiting a vulnerable defense (by elite standards). The good news for dog lovers is that Indiana can get rattled. They become turnover prone when they get antsy on offense, and they also lack the depth that would protect them from foul trouble. If there’s a raucous crowd…and referees who want to play to a raucous crowd…there’s a chance for Minnesota to sneak through with a shocker.

Given the recent number of blowout losses for the Gophers, a neutral site meeting between these two teams would have to be projected as another blowout. Indiana’s playing better than the teams who have been embarrassing Minnesota recently. As handicappers, you have to determine if home court, a sense of urgency, revenge, and perhaps complacency from an overconfident visitor could set up a TV surprise.

9 p.m. ET: Florida at Tennessee

Florida: 2 in Sagarin, 1 in Pomeroy

Tennessee: 49 in Sagarin, 67 in Pomeroy

Florida (3 offense, 2 defense); Tennessee (63 offense, 87 defense)

We need to emphasize again that Tennessee is playing better NOW than their full season data would suggest. You can’t look at their full season data and make the case that they deserve to be in the tournament. You CAN look at what’s been happening lately and make the case that the Volunteers can be competitive tonight in a way that helps them surge into the tournament.

If the teams play to those numbers…Florida wins by double digits.

Speaking of Florida…one of the biggest challenges for handicappers in March will be determining how legitimate those stat rankings are. The Gators are legitimately very strong. No question about that. Would they be tied at the top of the Big 10 with Indiana if they had to play a tough schedule in that conference? How would they fare in the Big East? How much of their offensive and defensive “efficiency” is simply abusing weak opponents worse than other teams do…which messes up the normal adjustments you make for strength of schedule. How much of their offensive efficiency is hitting a bunch of treys against half-hearted defenses? How much of their defensive efficiency is standing by while trailing opponents flail in desperation mode?

The Gators have passed some big tests. They haven’t passed all of their tests! It will be interesting to see how they handle their annual trip to Knoxville.

JIM HURLEY is definitely considering a serious play in at least one of those big TV games. Also under consideration from the Tuesday card:

Memphis at Xavier (interesting interconference battle on ESPN2!)

Golden State at Indiana in the NBA (two great stories)

Milwaukee at Dallas (must-win for the Mavs)

There’s also a chance for an off-the-radar MONSTER in the Horizon League or in one of the projected NBA mismatches. You can purchase the final word with your credit card right here at the website. If you have any questions about service, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. The schedule is about to get very busy in both college and pro action starting Wednesday…so take care of your season package now!

Back with you tomorrow for a stat breakdown of San Diego State/New Mexico…a huge game in the dangerous Mountain West Conference now that New Mexico has stunned Colorado State on the road. Thursday brings a road test for Duke at Virginia similar to the challenges that Indiana and Florida are facing Tuesday. Yesterday we mentioned Saturday’s smorgasbord…with HUGE matchups across the national landscape (like Miami-Duke, Louisville-Syracuse, and Michigan State-Michigan!)

Be sure you’re with us in the NOTEBOOK every day to get a read on ALL the important conferences that will be making headlines in the Big Dance.  And, link up daily with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for THE BEST BETS ON THE BOARD!

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