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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 15, 2013 at 3:50 PM

This late night affair direct from Las Vegas is surely worth staying up for, as the Mountain West continues to make its case for being one of the “major” conferences across the basketball landscape. The participants here, Colorado State and UNLV, as well as those in the other semifinal…New Mexico and San Diego State..are all capable of slaying any giant that crosses their past next week in the Big Dance.

Who’s going to win tonight’s CSU/UNLV encounter at the Thomas & Mack Center? Let’s run the game through JIM HURLEY’S gauntlet of indicators that have proven so insightful this season…

WON-LOST RECORDS

CSU: 25-7 (11-5 in the Mountain West)

UNLV: 24-8 (10-6 in the Mountain West)

Slight edge to Colorado State…but just one better in the loss column in both of those categories. Vegas was a disappointment on the road this year in league play. But, as host of the conference tournament, they don’t have to worry about that!

COMPUTER RANKINGS

CSU: #35 with Sagarin, #23 with Pomeroy

UNLV: #38 with Sagarin, #33 with Pomeroy

Jeff Sagarin of USA Today had these two teams in a virtual dead heat. College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy saw Colorado State as the clearly superior side. Of course, both of those ratings are looking at a neutral court comparison. UNLV would have the clear nod at home according to Sagarin…with the game being a toss-up by Pomeroy’s parameters. The betting market sees UNLV as a favorite of -4 to -4.5 points…making it more in line with Sagarin.

COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS

CSU: #74 with Sagarin, #54 with Pomeroy

UNLV: #79 with Sagarin, #58 with Pomeroy

Both see CSU as playing a slightly tougher schedule…but 4-5 spots isn’t much of a difference. Pomeroy’s approach thinks more highly of the Mountain West in general. So, he has the teams in the 50’s, while Sagarin has them in the 90’s. This foreshadows some opportunities for sharp handicappers in the Big Dance. If the most respected computer assessments can’t agree on how good the Mountain West is, the market could have some issues with that as well.

WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN’S TOP 50

CSU: 2-5

UNLV: 5-3

A bit of a surprise given that few places are showing UNLV as the clearly superior team. Yet, in big game tests, they certainly were just that. Colorado State’s record is a huge disappointment considering some were touting them as a Sweet 16 seed earlier in the season. You have to win big games to advance in the Dance! Vegas has maintained their composure much more impressively in their toughest tests. Could that be meaningful tonight? Or, as the market already accounted for that in the price?

JOE LUNARDI’S BRACKETOLOGY

CSU: projected #8 seed

UNLV: projected #6 seed

Lunardi of ESPN agrees with the market, and not so much the computers. He has UNLV as the superior seed before this game has been played. Given that New Mexico and SDSU will also have respectable seeds, there’s a very good chance the Mountain West will be very prominent in the Round of 32 as they try to crash the Sweet 16 party. Be sure you study BOTH of tonight’s semifinal games so you can make a smart pick in the finals AND in next week’s Dance.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS

CSU: #6

UNLV: #96

We’re going to have a very interesting dichotomy for you chess lovers to consider here. Colorado State has a great offense, but they’re going to be running into UNLV’s strength on defense. The Runnin’ Rebels have struggled with the ball this season, but will be trying to score on CSU’s weak link.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS

CSU: #99

UNLV: #11

There you go…UNLV has a top dozen defense according to Pomeroy (who adjusts for pace and schedule strength). You regulars know we love backing defense in playoff style basketball. A great offense vs. a great defense when CSU has the ball…a disappointing offense against a mediocre defense when UNLV has the ball. Have fun with that!

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS

CSU: #226

UNLV: #47

Complicating matters more…UNLV likes to push tempo, while CSU prefers a slower pace (not a snail’s pace by any means, but slightly below average). You’ve seen in our previews the past several weeks that the home team generally forces its pace on a game. But, in the tourneys the last few days…the pressure of playoff-style basketball often slows things down in a way that can trump home court. Very interesting set of parameters in this particular handicapping challenge.

BEST EXPECTATION

JIM HURLEY has sources in Vegas all over the Mountain West, Pac 12, and WAC tournaments…to go along with his New York sources that are on top of the Big East and Atlantic 10 (Brooklyn) events. What a great week to get connected with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

You can purchase Friday Night basketball (possibly some NBA too!) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-445. If you haven’t already taken advantage of great rates for the rest of basketball, do so now!

Back with you overnight and early Friday with more NOTEBOOK previews. The official Saturday entry for JIM HURLEY’S NOTEBOOK will look at Indiana’s semifinal challenge in the Big 10. We’re aiming for bonus reports Saturday that will discuss the Big East and Big 12 championships at the very least.

We told you it was going to be a wild ride! Stay in the driver’s seat with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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