Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 7:00 PM
Given the nature of Las Vegas betting interest, we’ll be devoting most NOTEBOOK coverage to “The Road to March Madness” over the next several weeks. We’ll turn peak attention to the NBA once the Dance is in the books…and certainly when the much anticipated pro playoffs get underway. But, the college schedule is so light Friday Night…and the Super Bowl is still a week away…so let’s do some catching up.
The quickest and best way to paint a thumbnail sketch is to use the combination of these two elements:
*Average Scoring Margin
*Strength of Schedule
Average scoring margin by itself can work as a virtual Power Rating because it creates a totem pole from best to worst. Strength of schedule allows you to adjust for teams who may have been playing very easy or very hard schedules. You regulars know we like using Jeff Sagarin’s strength of schedule rankings from his pages at USA Today.
Let’s start in the East...
EASTERN TEAMS WITH POSITIVE DIFFERENTIALS
Indiana: +9.0 average margin, vs. the #26 ranked schedule
Miami: +5.5 average margin, vs. the #29 ranked schedule
Toronto: +2.4 average margin, vs. the #15 ranked schedule
Atlanta: +1.1 average margin, vs. the #28 ranked schedule
Chicago: +0.4 average margin, vs. the #30 ranked schedule
Only Indiana and Miami, as you know, are any kind of serious threat to win the championship. But, it’s worth nothing that Toronto is semi-legitimate considering their schedule strength. The Raptors do grade out as a playoff caliber team even by past Eastern standards because they’ve played a league average schedule. That also happens to be the toughest schedule played by anyone so far in the East!
EASTERN TEAMS WITH NEGATIVE DIFFERENTIALS
Washington: -0.7 average margin, vs. the #27 ranked schedule
Charlotte: -2.7 average margin, vs. the #25 ranked schedule
Brooklyn: -2.8 average margin, vs. the #18 ranked schedule
Detroit: -3.4 average margin, vs. the #24 ranked schedule
Boston: -3.5 average margin, vs. the #17 ranked schedule
New York: -4.2 average margin, vs. the #19 ranked schedule
Cleveland: -5.5 average margin, vs. the #23 ranked schedule
Orlando: -5.9 average margin, vs. the #20 ranked schedule
Philadelphia: -8.4 average margin, vs. the #21 ranked schedule
Milwaukee: -8.9 average margin, vs. the #22 ranked schedule
Just a disaster this year in the East. A lot of bad teams who would look even worse if they had played league average schedules. One of the keys to beating Las Vegas this year involves recognizing when these bad teams are going to be trying, and when they’re play like they don’t even care. That discourages a lot of handicappers from even trying. Just be aware that easy money awaits if you can get in synch with coaching and player attitudes.
WESTERN TEAMS WITH POSITIVE DIFFERENTIALS
San Antonio: +7.9 average margin, vs. the #14 ranked schedule
Oklahoma City: +7.3 average margin, vs. the #6 ranked schedule
Portland: +5.8 average margin, vs. the #9 ranked schedule
LA Clippers: +5.4 average margin, vs. the #11 ranked schedule
Minnesota: +5.0 average margin, vs. the #13 ranked schedule
Golden State: +4.2 average margin, vs. the #5 ranked schedule
Houston: +4.0 average margin, vs. the #16 ranked schedule
Phoenix: +3.2 average margin, vs. the #12 ranked schedule
Dallas: +1.3 average margin, vs. the #7 ranked schedule
Denver: +0.5 average margin, vs. the #10 ranked schedule
Oklahoma City can make a solid case for best in the NBA considering their schedule strength and the fact that Russell Westbrook has missed so many games. Come playoff time, they’re likely to be the team to beat in the West. Portland is a great story, with Phoenix right behind them on the scale of surprises. If either of those teams played in New York (instead of the disappointing Knicks and Nets), positive media coverage this year for the NBA would be off the charts! Note that only eight teams will make the playoffs. So, at least two of those teams will fail to reach the brackets. And, Memphis from the group you’re about to read could easily jump into the mix.
WESTERN TEAMS WITH POSITIVE DIFFERENTIALS
Memphis: -0.7 average margin, vs. the #8 ranked schedule
New Orleans: -2.2 average margin, vs. the #4 ranked schedule
Sacramento: -2.4 average margin, vs. the #2 ranked schedule
LA Lakers: -5.2 average margin, vs. the #3 ranked schedule
Utah: -6.7 average margin, vs. the #1 ranked schedule
New Orleans and Sacramento would be playoff teams if they played in the East. They’d make the brackets now with those differentials even without any adjustment for strength of schedule! We’ve said in the past that the East often looks like a glorified D-League. Unfortunately, that’s trending toward even more accuracy. These teams at the bottom play such tough schedules because they have so few games against each other!
Please use the data above to scan through this weekend’s schedule for potential pointspread winners against the Las Vegas numbers.
Among the games JIM HURLEY will be paying close attention to this weekend:
Oklahoma City at Boston
Memphis at Houston
LA Clippers at Chicago (ESPN)
Indiana at Sacramento
Minnesota at Golden State
Oklahoma City at Philadelphia
Houston at Memphis (back-to-back head-to-head!)
Indiana at Denver
Minnesota at Portland
San Antonio at Miami (ABC)
Denver at Sacramento
Portland at Golden State
You can always purchase game day basketball right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about basketball season programs, or combination packages that would include the Super Bowl, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155.
Back Saturday to preview Michigan at Michigan State in the big ESPN prime time game. It’s going to be another BIG MONEY WEEKEND here at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!