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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, March 3, 2014 at 7:00 PM

March Madness is here! The first postseason conference tournament of 2014 begins Tuesday Night with opening round action in the Horizon League. The worst six teams in the nine-team loop play first round games at campus sites. Top seed Green Bay has a bye into the semifinals, which they will be hosting later this week. Second seed Cleveland State is also off until Saturday’s semifinals. Third seed Wright State has a bye into the quarterfinals.

Here’s the schedule:

 

TUESDAY

Illinois-Chicago (9) at Valparaiso (4)

Detroit (8) at Milwaukee (5)

Youngstown State (7) at Oakland (6)

 

FRIDAY (in Green Bay)

Wright State (3) vs. Youngstown/Oakland winner

UIC/Valpo winner vs. Detroit/Milwaukee winner

 

SATURDAY (in Green Bay)

Cleveland State (2) vs. winner of first quarterfinal

Green Bay (1) vs. winner of second quarterfinal

 

TUESDAY

Survivors play on home court of superior seed

You can see that the deck is stacked for the top seed in this event. That used to be for Butler’s benefit. Now that Butler is in the Big East, it’s Green Bay who’s first positioned to take advantage. They can play nothing but home games if they keep winning, and they enter as the best team in the event.

According to college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy, and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin, they also enter as the only team with any sort of shot at an at-large invitation. Let’s check the computer rankings as of Monday to see where everyone stands.

 

Computer Rankings by Seed

1…Green Bay: #51 in Pomeroy, #56 in Sagarin

2…Cleveland State: #76 in Pomeroy, #79 in Sagarin

3…Wright State: #135 in Pomeroy, #150 in Sagarin

4…Valpo: #156 in Pomeroy, #152 in Sagarin

5…Milwaukee: #201 in Pomeroy, #191 in Sagarin

6…Oakland: #178 in Pomeroy, #183 in Sagarin

7…Youngstown State: #180 in Pomeroy, #182 in Sagarin

8…Detroit: #188 in Pomeroy, #190 in Sagarin

9…Ill-Chicago: #262 in Pomeroy, #275 in Sagarin

The computers are suggesting that Green Bay and Cleveland State are the only real threats to win the event. They’re head and shoulders above the pack (the only teams in the top 130!), and they get favorable placements in the brackets. Very tough to pick a darkhorse you can trust from the rest based on those numbers. Let’s break things down offensively and defensively for some additional guidance.

 

Pomeroy’s Adjusted Offensive and Defensive Ranks By Seed

1…Green Bay: #80 on offense, #55 on defense

2…Cleveland State: #75 on offense, #105 on defense

3…Wright State: #282 on offense, #34 on defense

4…Valpo: #205 on offense, #112 on defense

5…Milwaukee: #219 on offense, #186 on defense

6…Oakland: #72 on offense, #302 on defense

7…Youngstown State: #108 on offense, #264 on defense

8…Detroit: #256 on offense, #118 on defense

9…Ill-Chicago: #246 on offense, #252 on defense

If you believe that “defense wins championships,” then Wright State becomes a possible threat because they have the best defense in the Horizon after you adjust for pace and schedule strength. The problem is, they also have the worst offense…a truly putrid offense that has little chance of getting hot against the decent defenses they’d be facing in a Cinderella run. Maybe they can win a mud-wrestling coin flip over Cleveland State if they get that far. They’ll really have to shut down CSU to make that happen.

Speaking of Cleveland State…let’s move to the market dynamics…

 

Most Underrated ATS

Cleveland State: 20-7-1

Green Bay 15-10:

Wow…oddsmakers never snapped to attention with the Horizon runners-up! And, the market did a poor job with the top two seeds…who were a combined 33-15 ATS when not playing each other. More evidence that it’s going to be tough for an outsider to crash this party. The best teams were also the most underrated, and consistently played beyond expectations.

 

Most Overrated ATS

Oakland: 10-18

Oakland had some name recognition from past headlines. They also made some news with a high octane offense that lit up the scoreboard. Their defense was historically pathetic though, making it very hard to cover numbers. Given the role defense plays in tournaments, Oakland is a poor darkhorse choice if you’re thinking of getting creative.

JIM HURLEY may or may not be releasing early round action in this event to NETWORK clients. We’ll be previewing as many tournaments as we can on these pages the next two weeks…but only the best bets on the board will go to customers! You can purchase the final word each day right here at the website with our credit card. Possibilities from Tuesday’s regular schedule include Iowa State/Baylor, Michigan/Illinois, Creighton/Georgetown, and Alabama/Kentucky. Plus there are six games in the NBA that will get a look too.  

Back with you tomorrow to run these same numbers for the Ohio Valley tournament that begins late Wednesday afternoon. Then, it’s the Missouri Valley tournament on Thursday, where Wichita State will try to stay undefeated on its way to a hoped for #1 seed in the Big Dance.

The first sprinkles from the coming tournament storm are starting to fall. It’s going to be raining MONEY at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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