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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 7, 2014 at 8:00 PM

We’ll take a break this weekend from conference tournament previews to focus on a couple of key games matching teams who could prove to be very important through the rest of the month. In this report, we’ll study Saturday Night’s North Carolina/Duke rivalry showdown. Then, we’ll be back tomorrow to look at Sunday’s Michigan State/Ohio State battle.

Any of those four teams could reach the Final Four. All four of those teams could be victims of early upsets in conference tournament and Big Dance action given weaknesses that could jump up and bite them at just the wrong time. That means handicappers should be paying close attention!

We start at Cameron Indoor, where Duke tries to bounce back from a Wednesday Night loss at Wake Forest and get revenge for an earlier loss this season to North Carolina. Let’s see what college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today Computer whiz Jeff Sagarin think about the teams heading into this final weekend of regular season action.


Computer Rankings

North Carolina: #23 in Pomeroy, #24 in Sagarin

Duke: #8 in Pomeroy, #6 in Sagarin

Even though North Carolina is ahead of Duke in the ACC standings…and even though North Carolina beat Duke heads up in the first meeting…and even though North Carolina had that string of upsets in non-conference play when they kept knocking off highly rated superpowers…the computers STILL see Duke as the superior team. That’s because Duke tends to win BIG when things are going well. And, it’s because of North Carolina’s inconsistency. They’ve laid an egg for every 1-2 major scalps. The math ends up pointing to Duke when everything comes out in the wash. You longtime readers of the NOTEBOOK know that the computers often overrate Duke in terms of postseason potential though. They look very mortal when the treys aren’t falling or when they’re not getting friendly officiating. We believe the computers overstate the differences in terms of postseason potential.


Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)

North Carolina: #61

Duke: #2

Because Duke occasionally has very big games from long range, and often enjoys friendly officiating, they grade out as having a FANTASTIC offense by Pomeroy’s methodology (that adjusts for pace and schedule strength). Because North Carolina plays at a very fast pace, they often get credit in the media for having a great offense when it’s actually a bit questionable by Dance standards (they’re horrible at making FT’s for example). So, Duke does have the better offense. But, again…they turn mortal when the treys aren’t falling or refs aren’t drinking the kool-aid. Both of these teams are less dynamic than you may be thinking in terms of controlling their own postseason destiny on the offensive side of the ball. The computers have to learn this about Duke eventually! We say this every year.


Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)

North Carolina: #16

Duke: #70

This is where you really need to pay attention. Duke has a crappy defense by tournament standards when you adjust for pace and schedule quality (refs help them out more on offense than defense), and North Carolina is actually very strong at getting stops once you account for the fact that they play much faster than everyone else. Too many in the media think NC slacks on defense because they play some high scoring games. Big edge here to Carolina.


Pace Ranking

North Carolina: #26

Duke: #162

Here’s what we mean about pace. Pomeroy tracks about 350 teams…so Carolina is lightning fast by national standards. Duke is a fraction away from average. Given that the home team usually controls tempo, we’re likely to see Duke slow down Carolina in hopes of working for open looks on treys and drawing fouls out of their halfcourt sets. Carolina will try to push pace if they can to take advantage of Duke’s soft defense.


Against the Spread

North Carolina: 16-14

Duke: 17-12-1

How about that…Duke’s almost at 60% covers for the year even though the public loves betting on Duke! As we’ve said in earlier previews…that’s a tribute to how big Duke wins when the treys are falling. And, we have to say, they’ve obviously been pretty consistent about that to make a run at 60% (which they’d reach with a cover here). They could conceivably offer betting value over the next five games even if they’re destined to fall earlier than expected in the ACC tourney and Big Dance.

JIM HURLEY knows everyone wants to bet Carolina/Duke. He’ll leave no stone unturned in trying to find the pointspread winner for his clients. It could turn up as a major release, or as part of a TV Parlay. The final word for all Saturday action will be posted in the morning here at the website. You can always purchase game day BEST BETS with your credit card.

If you’d like to talk to a live person about full season options, call our handicapping office Saturday or Sunday before the first games tip off at 1-888-777-4155.

Back with you tomorrow to run these same indicator numbers for Michigan State/Ohio State. Then, we return to conference tournament previews through the week. Are you ready to GET ALL THE MONEY in the most exciting Las Vegas batting month of the year? Hook up now with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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