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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 9:00 PM

The Big Dance may be taking a few days off, but the NIT is back in full swing Monday Night with a tripleheader that features two Cinderella schools who have already scored major upsets. Robert Morris takes the floor for the first time since their shocker over Kentucky last week. Mercer (from the same conference as Florida-Gulf Coast) was even more impressive in its road win at Tennessee…and they’re back in action tonight as well.

Let’s crunch some quick numbers to see of Robert Morris and Mercer can keep the mojo going against Providence and Brigham Young respectively. We’ll also look at the nightcap featuring Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss in a hoops jambalaya!



Vegas Line: Providence -8.5, total of 138

Morris won on its home floor because Kentucky couldn’t play in Lexington (home arena was getting prepped for the Dance). Now we’ll find out if Cinderella can sparkle in foreign territory. The Big East had a few disappointments in the Dance (most notably Georgetown and Pitt), but Louisville, Marquette, and Syracuse are all into the Sweet 16. What does that suggest about Providence?



R. Morris: 138 in Sagarin, 133 in Pomeroy

Providence: 69 in Sagarin, 64 in Pomeroy

Robert Morris (139 offense, 153 defense); Providence (83 offense, 61 defense)

The computer ratings of Jeff Sagarin (USA Today) and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy are in agreement with each other and the markets. Providence is the better team overall and on both sides of the ball. Handicappers must determine if the Vegas line correctly captures that superiority, or overstates it just a shade. You’ve been dealing with so many neutral site games recently…remember that Providence is playing at HOME. For those of you who like handicapping the chess match…the best component rating in the mix is the defense of Providence…and the worst is the defense of Robert Morris. You’re not taking a “defensive dog” if you’re backing Morris…you’re taking the lesser defense and hoping you can score enough to win or cover.



Robert Morris (+4) beat Kentucky 59-57

Providence (-9) beat Charlotte 75-66

Providence was pricey against Charlotte, and couldn’t get the money in a push even though they played well. Morris is in a huge letdown spot…though it’s helped that they’ve had so much time to celebrate. Tougher to be flat with so many days between games. They’re more likely to be rusty from the layoff than emotionally flat. JIM HURLEY’s been working with his Big East sources to get a read on Providence. Are they capable of dominating to the degree necessitated by the Vegas line?



Vegas Line: Brigham Young -7, total of 143

The tough angle here for handicappers will be properly evaluating home court advantage for BYU. Mercer is travelling across the country after already having won a tough road game. They will be dealing with altitude…and a home state crowd that didn’t get anyone into the Dance for the first time in years.



Mercer: 91 in Sagarin, 111 in Pomeroy

BYU: 66 in Sagarin, 69 in Pomeroy

Mercer (135 offense, 112 defense); BYU (65 offense, 89 defense)

The computers are in agreement with the market…but the computers sure misread Mercer vs. Tennessee, and Florida-Gulf Coast vs. Georgetown! Our proprietary numbers have Mercer better than that…particularly within a sampling of mid-majors only.  And, therefore…we also have these defenses close to even rather than giving an edge to BYU. The task for NETWORK will be evaluating the schedule sequence and altitude issues for Mercer. Could those be worth seven points all by themselves? You know what? NIT history shows they CAN be. Tricky matchup.



Mercer (+8) won at Tennessee 75-68

BYU (-6) beat Washington 90-79

That’s the Tennessee team who just missed the Dance, and probably should have gotten in at the expense of Boise State or Middle Tennessee. That’s also the Tennessee team that beat Florida in Knoxville, and crushed Kentucky there. Mercer WON on that same floor. Very impressive. But, BYU showed they wanted to play in this even with that double digit victory over Washington. It’s too bad that BYU and Mercer have lined up to play each other…because each could have offered real value against different opponents.



Vegas Line: Southern Miss -8, total of 145

This can be a tricky home court for visitors…but Louisiana Tech won’t be dealing with serious travel issues…won’t be intimidated at a relatively local sight…and is used to playing in odd circumstances anyway given their position in the geographically spread out WAC. This might feel like a home game to Louisiana Tech compared to all of those trips!



La. Tech: 94 in Sagarin, 87 in Pomeroy

So. Miss: 59 in Sagarin, 59 in Pomeroy

Louisiana Tech (177 offense, 44 defense); Southern Miss (36 offense, 100 defense)

Southern Miss just missed beating Memphis for the automatic bid to the Big Dance from Conference USA. But, Memphis was lucky to draw St. Mary’s in their first game before they got crushed by Michigan State. It’s possible that the computers are about 20 positions too high with the best in CUSA. If that’s the case, then tese teams are very close to being dead even. Note that the best chess match component is the defense of Louisiana Tech. We know that some of you like looking for “defensive dogs” when studying teams you’re not that familiar with. Louisiana Tech definitely qualifies here. Can they score enough points to cover with that lousy offense?!



Louisiana Tech (+3) won at Florida State 71-66

Southern Miss (-11) beat Charleston Southern 78-71

Louisiana Tech got a great result on the road against an ACC team. Maybe Florida State didn’t care. Maybe the ACC is very overrated. Still, that’s a big road win. Southern Miss didn’t establish that they wanted to thrive in the NIT with that pedestrian victory over Charleston Southern. They might have matched Kentucky as a #1 seed losing to a #8 seed had they been forced to play on the road. Maybe playing  a regional foe will get their juices flowing.

You can purchase Monday basketball (the NIT and the NBA) right here at the website with your credit card. Now that the busy weekend is over, this is a great time to talk with one of our representatives about long term service. We have great rates that will take you through the tournament championships and the NBA playoffs. Complete details are available at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you tomorrow for more NIT coverage. Maryland at Alabama is the featured game that will be televised nationally on ESPN. We’ll use the days before the Dance resumption to get you caught up in the NIT. Then, it’s back to big game previews in the Sweet 16 Thursday and Friday, then expanded coverage of the Elite 8 matchups Saturday and Sunday. Have you figured out who’s going to win it all yet? JIM HURLEY can assure you that big surprises are still in store!

Whether it’s the Big Dance…the NIT…or the NBA…you’re going to find out what you need to know on the pages of our sports betting NOTEBOOK…and you’re going to get BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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