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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 22, 2013 at 7:00 AM

One of the most entertaining games of the entire Round of 64 was saved for the final session. That’s the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame taking on the Iowa State Cyclones…two teams who are soft defensively inside the paint…but who can play with anyone when their shots are falling. And, you know CBS is praying for Ohio State-Notre Dame to rack up a big rating in a Sunday TV window.

Leaving aside the possibility that Iona of the Metro-Atlantic could give Ohio State a thrill Friday Night, let’s dig deeper into Notre Dame/Iowa State. Are either of three teams potential sleepers in the West? Did big game experience against some of the nation’s top teams prepare them for the challenge at hand? Hey, Iowa State took Kansas to overtime twice! Notre Dame won an overtime game against Louisville, the media’s hot pick to win the title this year.

Here’s how the two teams look through the prism of our key indicator gauntlet.



Iowa State: 22-11 (11-7 in the Big 12)

Notre Dame: 25-9 (11-7 in the Big East)

Both teams went 11-7 in tough conferences. The Big East is better this year than the Big 12, which means the Irish deserve the nod as the better team. They were better for the full season, and posted the same record in a superior conference. Confirmation here for the small chalk status the Irish have enjoyed through the week.



Iowa State: #33 with Sagarin, #37 with Pomeroy

Notre Dame: #24 with Sagarin, #31 with Pomeroy

The Selection Committee has this as a #7 seed playing a #10 seed. Jeff Sagarin of USA Today had it more like a #6 playing a #9. College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy saw it as a #8 playing a #10. Considering the high number of teams clustered in this mid-level hunk…you’d have to say that everyone was pretty much in agreement. Quality teams capable of playing with anybody…slight edge to Notre Dame.



Iowa State: #52 with Sagarin, #74 with Pomeroy

Notre Dame: #41 with Sagarin, #44 with Pomeroy

Notre Dame was in the tougher conference, and gets the nod for playing a tougher schedule through the season. Each of these teams is VERY battle-tested…much more so than the mid-majors who earned superior seeds. That will serve the winner well against Ohio State on Sunday.



Iowa State: 6-9

Notre Dame: 7-6

We’ve yet to run into anything that would suggest the market had the wrong team favored. In fact, you have to wonder to this point why the game opened at so many places right on pick-em. Notre Dame has the slightly better resume. They managed a winning record against top 50 teams while Iowa State was down at 40%. Though…if Iowa State wins their two overtime games vs. Kansas instead of losing them…we’re looking at 8-7 for the year (though we’re also looking at a probable #5 seed if that happens too!)



Iowa State: #8

Notre Dame: #12

Both of these teams are significantly better on offense than defense. That’s hard for many in the media to accept because Notre Dame’s slow style leads to low scoring games. They’re getting credit for defense they don’t actually play…and they’re shooters are getting blame that’s unfair. Pomeroy adjusts for tempo and strength of schedule. Both of these teams are nationally elite on a per-possession basis when it comes to getting the ball through the hoop.



Iowa State: #121

Notre Dame: #90

These are soft defenses inside, and very poor defenses in terms of tournament potential. If you’ve been reading these previews all season, you know that many of the elite teams have top 10 or top 20 defenses. There are some teams in the high teens who are going to be in trouble in later rounds! Both of these teams HAVE to shoot well to win. We talked about that with Creighton in the earlier NOTEBOOK entry today. This style of play can play spoiler when the shots are falling…but it’s very hard to string together wins. Makes for exciting basketball for the fans…but potential ulcers for handicappers.



Iowa State: #34

Notre Dame: #320

This is where the teams diverge in the extreme. Iowa State is one of the fastest teams in the country, while Notre Dame is one of the slowest. There may not be a more extreme game the rest of the tourney. Whoever controls tempo will likely pull the other team out of its comfort zone. That battle will be very interesting to watch. Notre Dame’s shooters will be tempted to pick up the pace against a defense that’s much softer than they usually see in the Big East. That could be their downfall though because it will open up more holes on their back end while possibly wearing down their legs.



To a degree, it’s obvious that whoever shoots better from long range is going to get the win. But, that tempo influence is a fascinating Wildcard that’s triggered some very interesting outputs with NETWORK’S computer modeling system. If JIM HURLEY has a major play here, it will be due to that simulation software that’s always represented the state-of-the-art.

You can purchase our Friday plays right here at the website with your credit card. You still have time to talk to a live human about long term service by calling 1-800-323-4453. Be sure you do that during regular business hours Friday, or Saturday morning before the first game tips off.

We’ll continue our big game previews through the weekend. JIM HURLEY’S NOTEBOOK is the daily read of serious sports bettors and sports handicappers. JIM HURLEY’S SERVICE is your daily source for BIG, JUICY WINNERS

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