Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 8:00 PM
It doesn’t matter that North Carolina was a disappointment for much of the season….and that Kansas lost to horrible TCU earlier this season and almost lost Friday Night to Western Kentucky in their 2013 Dance debut. The networks got what they wanted for a Sunday showcase…two of the most prominent college basketball institutions in the history of the sport!
And, given how we’ve seen several powers start slowly in recent years before building to peak performance, there’s still time for Kansas to prove they were worthy of that #1 seed by taking out North Carolina Sunday and Michigan in the Sweet 16.
You know you’re going to watch this one. Let’s crunch our key indicator stats to see if there’s a way you can WIN while you watch!
N. Carolina: 25-10 (12-6 in the ACC)
Kansas: 30-5 (14-4 in the Big 12)
Let’s start with Kansas because they’re the favorite…but they’re a favorite from a conference that’s been badly exposed so far in the tournament.
*Oklahoma State was supposed to be the second best team in the Big 12. They were dispatched by Oregon in embarrassing fashion.
*Kansas State was supposed to be the third best team in the Big 12. They were upset by LaSalle even though the Explorers were playing their second high pressure game in three days (that was also a day game Friday after a night game Wednesday!).
*Oklahoma fizzled against San Diego State of the Mountain West…helping the Mountain West make up for dismal showings from New Mexico, UNLV, and Boise State.
Only Iowa State impressed in the Round of 64 (the Big 12 was 1-4 ATS counting Kansas!), thanks to drawing a soft Notre Dame team that’s built very poorly for tournaments.
So…Kansas is 30-5 for the season, and went 14-4 in the Big 12. But…the early evidence is that hoops nation may have overrated what that means.
North Carolina’s 10 losses sure stick out. They are a young team that’s improved over the course of the season. They did make it to the finals of the ACC tournament before losing to Miami. Could Carolina actually be the better team right now?
N. Carolina: #18 with Sagarin, #27 with Pomeroy
Kansas: #5 with Sagarin, #7 with Pomeroy
The computers (Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy) still give the nod to Kansas, as the seeding match up of #1 vs. #8 would suggest. It’s clear though that the computers didn’t have Kansas as a true #1 seed…and they may be re-thinking those top 7 rankings as we speak. The computers were also much more impressed with Carolina than the Selection Committee was. Sagarin would have had them as a #5 seed, Pomeroy a #7. You want to call this a 2-7 matchup instead of a 1-8 matchup? That’s fine with us.
COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS
N. Carolina: #14 with Sagarin, #20 with Pomeroy
Kansas: #45 with Sagarin, #65 with Pomeroy
Important to note here that North Carolina was the much more battle-tested team…AND that the Big 12 may have been overrated by the computers. Perhaps Kansas should rate about 20 spots worse than that with both. This is potentially a great hidden reason to consider the underdog in the matchup. Carolina isn’t afraid of anybody (except maybe Duke and Miami after recent losses). Kansas may have a false sense of confidence given how poorly Oklahoma State and Kansas State played in this event.
WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN’S TOP 50
N. Carolina: 7-9
This is where you have to curb your enthusiasm for the Tar Heels. They may be more battle tested, but they’re not winning half of those battles. And, even though Kansas stunk up the joint vs. Western Kentucky Friday Night…and in their regular season finale at Baylor…and in that memorable nightmare at TCU, they do have a knack for rising to the occasion in their toughest tests. Even if the Big 12 wasn’t as good as we thought, going 11-3 vs. Sagarin’s Top 50 is worthy of high praise.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS
N. Carolina: #26
We move to the chess match to see a pair of very similar offensive rankings. This isn’t a surprise, because both teams have athletes who can attack the basket. Carolina is a bit more aggressive in how they do that tempo-wise. But…these coaches recruit the same kinds of players, and ask them to do the same kinds of things. If you were went through the sport and classified very programs in a logical manner, North Carolina and Kansas will usually show up in the same group. That’s why they win! They both do the same things well as a general rule.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS
N. Carolina: #48
This is where Carolina has fallen off the pace this season. The youngsters aren’t embracing the fundamentals of defense the way that you would hope. They don’t rotate well. They sometimes get caught napping. And, they’re tendency to disappear at the worst possible times versus quality is the explanation for those 10 regular season losses. They better not assume Kansas is going to provide a Western Kentucky replay, or it will be 20-0 Jayhawks at the first TV timeout. Big edge here to the Jayhawks, justifying their role as market favorites.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS
N. Carolina: #18
This is going to be a fast game! Both teams want to push the pace. And, a team like Kansas won’t mind going faster than normal against somebody like North Carolina. They would have played faster than a #90 rank would suggest if opponents had let them! Think about the Over on the total…and be sure you know how the bench guys are going to play because the starters are going to get winded. Plus, keep in mind that the “value” of each point diminishes in a fast-paced game. It’s easier for favorites to cover spreads. It’s easy for the team best suited to pace to win by 8-14 points even if they game felt closer most of the way.
JIM HURLEY has been working closely with his on-site sources to get a read on the Kansas mindset entering the game. They’ve bounced back from bad performances before…and did play well on this floor in the Big 12 Tournament last week. Our computer simulations are showing some crazy possibilities because of this pace. We can’t get too specific here because we have to protect the information for our clients. But…if you see that NETWORK has a release in this game as part of its final cut…it’s going to be connected to what our simulations were showing. And, if you see this was a MAJOR release, it’s because the simulations were in line with the information coming in from our on-site sources and are connections offshore and in Las Vegas.
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Back with you tomorrow to study Monday Night’s NIT slate. Kentucky won’t be playing because of a loss to Robert Morris. Tennessee won’t be playing because of a loss to Mercer. You’re going to handicap the NIT without knowing much about Robert Morris or Mercer!
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