Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Is Duke in danger of another Big Dance disappointment? They lost to Lehigh last year as a double digit favorite. They got crushed by Arizona 93-77 as 9-point favorites the year before. Sure, they ran the table thanks to a favorable draw not long ago. But, generally speaking…the last decade has been a story of an overrated team getting spanked when they ran into quality.
Is Creighton quality? Or, are they the latest mid-major that’s going to be shown the door on the heels of blowout losses by VCU and Memphis on Saturday? Duke is already certain that Michigan State represents quality, and that’s who’s waiting for them in the Sweet 16. If the Blue Devils reach the Final Four this season…it’s going to be an impressive accomplishment from the tourney’s toughest region.
You’re going to be watching Creighton/Duke. Here’s a bonus preview of this marquee matchup using the key indicator stats that have been so popular in JIM HURLEY’S SPORTS BETTING NOTEBOOK this season…
Duke: 28-5 (14-4 in the ACC)
Creighton: 29-7 (13-5 in the Missouri Valley)
Duke was missing Ryan Kelly for most of the ACC slate, and probably would have posted a better record with him. Of course, he was in uniform for Friday’s disappointing yawner vs. Albany, and for Duke’s surprisingly bad quarterfinal loss in the ACC tourney to Maryland. Creighton dropped five games in the Missouri Valley, which is a high number in a mid-level mid-major. Their win over Wichita State in the MVC finals looks better now than it did at the time.
Duke: #6 with Sagarin, #6 with Pomeroy
Creighton: #16 with Sagarin, #17 with Pomeroy
You regulars know that we don’t have Duke that high in our proprietary numbers, even with Kelly at full strength. Coach K’s strengths line up with what makes computers hum. His weaknesses don’t get exposed until he runs into good teams on neutral courts in March. We need to point out that we don’t have Creighton that high either. No way a team that loses five games in the Missouri Valley is one of the best 20 teams in the country. And, that will still be true even if they upset the Dukies today as a 5-point underdog. Both of these teams are overrated by the computers (Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy).
COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS
Duke: #8 with Sagarin, #8 with Pomeroy
Creighton: #94 with Sagarin, #83 with Pomeroy
Duke deserves a lot of credit for scheduling tough in November and December. Coach K’s strengths are for early season preparation, as he catches many other big name teams flat-footed out of the gate. We’d say that this made his players battle tested. But, losing so badly to Lehigh, Arizona, and Villanova in recent tournaments suggests otherwise. We can see giving credit to Duke for this category…but they sure didn’t look battle tested the last two games vs. Maryland and Albany!
WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN’S TOP 50
Same story here. Duke is much more battle-tested…and has won better than two-thirds of its games vs. elite competition. Much of that is front-loaded. If the tourney was held in November, we’d probably be the biggest Coach K fans in the world!
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS
Both of these teams live by the three, and die by the missed three. That approach builds fantastic offensive efficiency marks because you really pile on the points when the bombs are falling. Neither offense is as good as that ranking. But, either is capable of getting hot and playing to that ranking in a 40-minute sprint.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS
Creighton is VERY soft defensively, particularly inside the arc. Duke will try to make them pay for that from the get-go. Duke’s defense is soft themselves by Dance standards…and will look that way vs. Michigan State or Louisville if they advance that far. A #30 ranking looks great until you’re facing top 10 defenses. And, as we’ve seen in past years, rating as well as #30 is polluted by the number of Duke opponents who hurry themselves into poor shooting when they fall behind at Cameron Indoor.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS
Duke is fast. Creighton is slightly below average, but only fractionally because there are a lot of teams centered right near neutral pace. Creighton will try to slow Duke down to limit cheapies, hoping to hit more treys out of their set offense than Duke does.
Often in the Dance, Duke is the team that has to make up for soft inside defense with successful long range shooting. And, that will be an issue again very soon if they survive here. Sunday, it’s Creighton who has to out-Duke Duke…and it’s Duke who will try to attack the basket at pace to pick up easy points.
We can’t post an official selection here in the preview because the game might be part of the final Sunday card for JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK. We can tell you that a selection in this game will be a de-facto vote against their opponent’s defense. You MUST handicap defenses in the Dance, and that’s a big part of what we’re doing this weekend in the Round of 32.
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