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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 7:00 PM

A national gasp was heard last Sunday evening when Oregon’s name came up as a #12 seed in the Midwest regional. They were one of the first games listed…so it was an early surprise that had many pundits and handicappers scratching their heads.

*Was the Pac 12 tournament champion one of the last teams in?!

*Did this mean the whole conference was about to get slammed?

*What kind of prize is this for winning the Pac 12 tourney? Drawing Okie State for the right to play Saint Louis and Louisville in the NCAA’s toughest regional?

It came out later that there were some bracketing issues in play here. The selection committee didn’t believe that Oregon was truly worse than Colorado (#10 seed in the East). The whole conference didn’t get slammed as UCLA drew a #6 even after losing a key player to injury, while Arizona was also a #6 despite being nominated as “Underachiever of the Year” across the sport. But, it was really a brutal draw given how loaded the Midwest brackets are.

And, how can you make Oregon play Oklahoma State in the Group of Death…when UCLA and Colorado are sent to Austin to play Big 10 duds Minnesota and Illinois? Air mileage?

Even after hearing public apologies, Oregon will enter with a chip on its shoulder. But, Oklahoma State has something to prove as well after their disappointing Big 12 tournament loss to Kansas State. And, the Cowboys were hoping for a short trip to Austin to play a weak #12 rather than jetting to California to play in the Group of Death. Two teams who are mad about their circumstances!

Let’s run the showcase game of the early Thursday slate through our gauntlet if key indicators…



Vegas Line: Oklahoma State by 3



Oregon: 26-8 (12-6 in the Pac 12)

Okla St.: 24-8 (13-5 in the Big 12)

Both teams had eight losses. Both teams were good in decent conferences, but far from great. Oregon does have an excuse in that they lost their point guard for a meaningful stretch of action. He returned late in the season, and they started getting some results. Oklahoma State beat #1 seed Kansas in Lawrence, and took them to overtime at home. They just couldn’t maintain that high level of play week in and week out.



Oregon: #47 with Sagarin, #43 with Pomeroy

Okla St.: #18 with Sagarin, #20 with Pomeroy

Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy see things very similarly here. Oklahoma State is seeded properly in their view. And, Oregon isn’t that far off. It’s interesting that Oregon graded out as a #11 or #12 seed in these computers before the pairings were announced. That tells you that TV announcers should pay more attention to the most respected publicly available computer sites! Though, in fairness, Oregon’s rating was hurt by the temporary loss of their point guard. They were better than 40-ish when Dominic Artis was healthy.



Oregon: #93 with Sagarin, #95 with Pomeroy

Okla St.: #40 with Sagarin, #71 with Pomeroy

Oklahoma State gets the edge here…dramatically with Sagarin, less so with Pomeroy. They did a good job of scheduling some pre-conference challenges. And, you’ll see in a moment that they played TWICE as many teams in Sagarin’s Top 50 than Oregon did. Our own proprietary numbers are typically down on Western basketball in general. That means we would agree with Sagarin in this particular category assessment. Maybe the Big 12 is overrated this year. The Pac 12 is almost always overrated. 



Oregon: 5-2

Okla St.: 7-7

Interesting dilemma for handicappers. Do you give Oklahoma State credit for playing so many tough games and holding their own? Or, do you give Oregon credit for its great winning percentage when they did have to step up and play a good team? Oklahoma is more battle-tested. Oregon shows more confidence and success when being tested. How we’ve interpreted that dynamic is a part of a potential release in this game…so we’re not going to say any more about that!



Oregon: #121

Okla St.: #56

Big edge here to Oklahoma State…though Oregon probably cracks the top 100 if you only count the games where they were at full strength. They had huge turnover issues with backup point guards during that injury-caused slump. Still, the nod clearly goes to Oklahoma State. Keep in mind in later rounds that anything outside the top 50 is actually pretty bad by tournament standards. Oklahoma State blew hot and cold this year, with way too much cold happening at surprising times. The winner will have a headache dealing with Saint Louis on Saturday.



Oregon: #16

Okla St.: #9

You don’t think of Oregon has having a strong defensive team. That’s because they play a fast pace. Pomeroy adjusts for tempo and schedule strength…which helps uncover hidden defensive gems across the nation. Oregon is better than you thought defensively…but so is Oklahoma State! They rate better in the computers because they’re better on both sides of the ball.



Oregon: #46

Okla St.: #94

This is likely to be a very entertaining game to watch. That’s one reason we picked it for showcase coverage. We WANT you to watch this one because the pace will be fast and talented athletes will be battling for tournament survival. In past situations like this…BOTH teams turn into sprinters even if one is well behind the other in rankings. Both are faster than average. Both want to run. Oklahoma State will love getting a chance to be in a track meet. Oregon will be in their comfort zone. Think about the Over and hope the refs don’t get in the way.



JIM HURLEY has this matchup on his short list for possible big money bets. So, we’re can’t suggest too much of an inkling beyond saying that we expect a track meet. Our computer simulation program has spit out something very interesting here. If you sign up for plays and see this one listed, you can rest assured that it was a software finding that triggered the release.


Other early games we’re looking at:

Valparaiso vs. Michigan State

Bucknell vs. Butler

Pittsburgh vs. Wichita State

Davidson vs. Marquette


Possibilities from tonight’s card include:

Belmont vs. Arizona

UNLV vs. California

Missouri vs. Colorado State

Do you see any Cinderella stories? Do you see any automatic blowouts? Can you find the pretenders? The true contenders? No matter how you’ve done picking games on your own in recent years, JIM HURLEY HAS DONE BETTER!

You can purchase our top Thursday plays right here at the website with your credit card. If you want to talk to a live human, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure you take care of business early. You don’t want to miss a single BIG, JUICY WINNER!

Back with you Friday for an expanded look at Cincinnati vs. Creighton. That’s a marquee game from the early slate, with the winner probably getting Duke on Sunday.

We’ll have big game previews all through the weekend here in the NOTEBOOK. Do your research here…then link up with the biggest name in handicapping for the best plays on the board. MARCH MADNESS MEANS MONEY MADNESS at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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