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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 12:33 AM

When mapping out the weekend schedule, we had assumed we’d be writing up an in-depth report of Duke vs. Miami in the ACC championship, or Indiana vs. a Big 10 power in Chicago. Upsets have taken any potential #1 seeds in the Big Dance off the floor Sunday. So, we’re going to briefly run through the full Grand Slam schedule for you.

There’s still plenty of star power with potential Sweet 16 and Elite Eight teams Miami, Wisconsin, Saint Louis on the card. And, Florida of the SEC is seen as a Final Four and championship level team by the computers even if the selection committee might stick them with a #3 seed. You need to scout these games so you can pick winners next week. Let’s outline the possibilities for today’s card.

Our previews will be using rankings that were publicly posted as of midday Saturday by Jeff Sagarin of USA Today, and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy. The “offense” and “defense” rankings in parenthesis are Pomeroy’s national rankings in those categories after adjusting for pace factor and strength of schedule.


North Carolina vs. Miami

North Carolina: 16 in Sagarin, 26 in Pomeroy

Miami: 14 in Sagarin, 14 in Pomeroy

North Carolina (34 offense, 30 defense); Miami (31 offense, 19 defense)

Miami has to avoid the possible letdown from NOT getting a chance to avenge their recent loss at Duke. The Hurricanes haven’t been playing well enough lately to go at three-quarter speed. It would be quite an achievement for Jim Larranaga to win both the regular season and tournament titles when nobody was giving them a shot back in November.

North Carolina has made a nice run in the computers lately. Though, their home loss to Duke last week looks worse now that the Blue Devils laid such a big egg in their ACC opener. Maybe Miami peaked too early, and North Carolina is peaking at just the right time. Great test for that theory in the ACC finals. Miami’s defense has lost a step in recent outings…suggesting that the adjusted chess match numbers could be very even. Interesting challenge forhandicappers.


Mississippi vs. Florida

Mississippi: 74 in Sagarin, 43 in Pomeroy

Florida: 3 in Sagarin, 1 in Pomeroy

Mississippi (26 offense, 79 defense); Florida (5 offense, 2 defense)

Florida’s a heavy favorite once again because nobody in this conference can compete with them unless they’re playing at home AND Florida is missing their shots AND Florida is turning the ball over. That leaves little suspense for today unless the Gators beat themselves. What about next week? Will Florida play to its computer expectations and make a run at the Final Four? Or, will they be exposed as a partial pretender when they have to face some legitimate top 30 teams in the Round of 32, and top 20 teams from the Sweet 16 on? Only Gonzaga is less battle tested than Florida in terms of real challenges vs. teams who know how to play.

The chess match numbers show that Ole Miss will be in particular trouble on defense against the Gators. They barely crack the top 80 despite playing a weak schedule in a disappointing conference! Florida will be able to score from inside or outside. Note that the Gators were just 3 of 17 on treys in their double digit win semifinal win over Alabama. They’re likely going to be better than that today. Tough spot for the Rebels, who are hoping Saturday’s win was enough to get them into the Dance.


Virginia Commonwealth vs. Saint Louis

VCU: 26 in Sagarin, 20 in Pomeroy

Saint Louis: 18 in Sagarin, 18 in Pomeroy

Virginia Commonwealth (14 offense, 49 defense); Saint Louis (56 offense, 11 defense)

Here’s a chance for you to determine of Saint Louis is a legitimate darkhorse to go deep (more than one analyst has suggested they can match Butler’s recent success by reaching the Final Four), or if they’re just another nice mid-major who’s just as likely to get upset in their opener as they are to play spoiler. The computers have them right on the edge of a #4 seed and Sweet 16 expectations.

VCU has had trouble matching up with the Billikens in regular season action because Saint Louis isn’t afraid of the VCU press. If you can get the ball past that initial surge, scoring is actually pretty easy against the Rams (witness that #49 defense even with a ball-hawking reputation). Things look pretty even in the computer composite. VCU has been a feast or famine team though…and this opponent has inflicted famine on them before.



Wisconsin vs. Ohio State

Wisconsin: 13 in Sagarin, 9 in Pomeroy

Ohio State: 6 in Sagarin, 6 in Pomeroy

Wisconsin (50 offense, 3 defense); Ohio State (15 offense, 6 defense)

Wisconsin definitely has Indiana’s number in terms of smarts, discipline, and guarding the basket with a passion. Will they be flat just 24 hours after their second Hoosier shocker of the season? Tough to be flat when a tough opponent like Ohio State is on the other side of the floor. The Buckeyes are another in that group of “peaking the right time” nominees that handicappers must keep an eye on. Remember when everyone thought they’d be a #6 seed? They’re now grading out as a #2 seed in the computers even before Saturday’s late afternoon win over Michigan State.

The chess match numbers give the Buckeyes the edge because of the better offense. Wisconsin has to make treys to make up for that likely disadvantage.

We haven’t seen anything this weekend that would discourage market love for the Big 10 right now. Each team has the potential to stub its toe. Nobody in the nation has “the perfect team” this year. This league is clearly the best conference as you work your way down numbers 2-3-4-5-6 etc…

The annual Final Sunday Championship Parlay is always a very popular feature here at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK. You can purchase the final BEST BETS of conference tournament action right here at the website with your credit card. The fact that the schedule has calmed down gives you a great opportunity to think about our NCAA Tournament package (that also includes the NIT and the other lesser tourneys). Check out those rates online, or call us in the office for more details at 1-800-323-4453.

Hey, we can’t forget about the NBA! Big Sunday matchups include New York at the LA Clippers, Golden State at Houston, Oklahoma City at Dallas, and Atlanta at Brooklyn. We’ll pick up coverage of pro hoops in the NOTEBOOK once MARCH MADNESS has quieted down a bit. But…in terms of PICKING WINNERS and GETTING THE MONEY…JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK will keep finding edges all over the board in every Las Vegas betting sport!

Back with you Monday to continue giving you the handicapping angle on major basketball developments. You can look forward to in-depth previews of the best NIT and Big Dance matchups as we get closer to game day. For now…the focus is on Championship Sunday. It will be a few weeks before we get to say this again…when championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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