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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 14, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Pittsburgh is one of those teams that can either lay a giant egg early in a conference tournament, or go deep and make headlines with big win after big win. Their late season fade didn’t have too many backers optimistic entering the ACC Tournament. But, a blowout of Wake Forest on Thursday, followed by a fantastic 30 minutes (before a near-choke job) against North Carolina in Friday’s quarterfinals now has the Panthers sitting in the semifinals against #1 seed Virginia.

It won’t be easy. Virginia now has a #1 seed in the Big Dance in its sites after seeing Villanova lose earlier this week. The Cavaliers know that winning the ACC regular season AND the ACC tournament would loom very large in the minds of the selection and seeding committee. Still, we’ve seen enough #1 seeds lose over the years to know that we may be looking at a great battle on our hands. Let’s run this early Saturday tipoff through our key indicator stats…

 

Computer Rankings

Pittsburgh: #18 in Pomeroy, #21 in Sagarin

Virginia: #5 in Pomeroy, #9 in Sagarin

Pittsburgh wasn’t playing to those rankings late in the regular season, but definitely has so far in the ACC tournament. Virginia has been consistently terrific since league play began…emphasizing all the right things with a veteran lineup of fundamentally sound players. Time will tell whether or not BOTH teams were overrated by college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin because the ACC as a whole created strength of schedule illusions. For now, this is a battle that should feel very much like a Sweet 16 game.

 

Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)

Pittsburgh: #15

Virginia: #23

Both teams play slow, which hides their offensive production from the media and fans. Once you adjust for possessions and look at how efficient teams are at running plays…each grades out very well. In fact, Pomeroy’s methodology has them both in the top 25 for the year on this side of the floor. Maybe he’s overrated the ACC. That won’t matter until next week. Here, we have two offenses who work patient for good shots, and get them.

 

Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)

Pittsburgh: #48

Virginia: #4

Virginia is one of the best teams in the country because of their stellar defense. Teams find it VERY hard to get anything going in slow-down games against this great stop unit. Pittsburgh’s barely top 50 according to Sagarin after you adjust for pace. The media thinks Pittsburgh has a quality defense because of scoring. Some of that comes simply from playing in slow games. Virginia is the real deal.

 

Pace Ranking

Pittsburgh: #298

Virginia: #325

Here’s what we mean. There are only about 350 teams who are measured by Pomeroy. These are two of the slowest teams in the country! You know what kind of basketball you’ll get here. ESPN was hoping fo North Carolina because they play more entertaining games. This will be a wrestling match of Dance-bound opponents.

 

Against the Spread

Pittsburgh: 12-17-1

Virginia: 17-10-1

The market has had trouble with both teams this year…but from different directions. Pittsburgh was supposed to sparkle in their transition to the ACC. They couldn’t quite live up to expectations, and were 10-17-1 before this tournament started. Maybe Pitt is peaking at the right time. Virginia is well over 60%, as they caught oddsmakers and the rest of the world napping when conference play began.

The ACC semifinals are just part of the picture on this fantastic Saturday of college basketball action. JIM HURLEY will be scanning the entire card to get the best plays for his clients. That means the semifinals from the ACC, Big 10, SEC, and Atlantic 10, as well as championship games from the Big 12, Big East, Pac 12, and a few others. You can purchase the final word for Saturday in the morning before first tip right here at the website with your credit card. If you’d like to talk to a live person about full season options, call our handicapping office Saturday morning at 1-888-777-4155.

Back with you tomorrow for a preview of the most exciting Sunday championship matchup from the ACC, Big 10, SEC or Atlantic 10. Then, we’ll work through the week here in the NOTEBOOK to get you ready for the NIT and the NCAA’s. We know you’re already feeling THE MADNESS! Rest assured that THE WINNING IS JUST BEGINNING here at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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