Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 15, 2014 at 7:00 PM
The ACC brackets had a couple of surprises, but nothing that could derail the hoped for Duke/Virginia rematch that will determine the conference tournament winner Sunday afternoon in a game that will be nationally televised by ESPN.
These teams only played once during the regular season, with Duke scoring a home nailbiter win…sticking the only league blemish on the Virginia resume until the Cavs lost a meaningless season ender vs. Maryland. Virginia wants revenge…and they want to prove to the selection committee that they deserve a #1 seed in the Big Dance.
How could a team with the ACC regular season and tournament without getting a #1 seed?! The selection committee would prefer not to have to answer that question. A Duke win would make it easier to stick both Virginia and Duke on the #2 slot behind teams with slightly gaudier full season resumes (Virginia wasn’t that great early on).
There are definitely other great matchups on this CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY. But, we believe that Duke/Virginia will be the most watched…and the most important in terms of pinning down what’s likely to happen in the Big Dance. That’s why we chose it for today’s NOTEBOOK. Let’s run the game through our indicator grinder.
Duke: #8 in Pomeroy, #5 in Sagarin
Virginia: #5 in Pomeroy, #7 in Sagarin
College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today math whiz Jeff Sagarin would have both of these teams as Elite Eight caliber but not worthy of #1 seeds. It’s interesting that ONE of them could scoot the winner up to #4 once Sunday is in the books. They disagree about who is #5 as of press time. Clearly a great matchup. But, it has to be said that the ACC might be overrated this season. That’s been the case in a few recent Dances. And, given Virginia’s “eye test” standard of “solid but not spectacular,” it’s possible that both computer guys have both of these teams too high. See if you can make any determinations about that as you watch the game.
Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
The media thinks these teams are extremely different on this side of the floor. Duke is supposed to have a fantastic offense (which they do), Virginia is supposed to have a horrible offense because they play so many low scoring games. This is WRONG! Virginia plays very slow tempo-wise, which reduces their scoring. Like Michigan, they’re very efficient on a per-possession basis, and are more dangerous than is realized. Duke still gets the edge…but it is not an offensive mismatch. That’s a tempo-based illusion.
Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
This is where there’s a mismatch. Virginia plays great defense at a slow pace, which is why so many teams have trouble breaking the 40’s. Duke is soft inside, and sometimes slow outside too. Duke’s defense is at its best if their own shooting forces opponents into desperation mode. Duke could be in real trouble here in a halfcourt game away from their home floor. The refs are less likely to smile on them in a neutral court game on national television.
You can see what we mean about Virginia playing at a slow pace. Pomeroy only measures about 350 teams! Duke is about national average…though they tend to play faster when trying to build a lead then slower when sitting on one. Clearly, Duke will try to push early to get ahead…while Virginia will try to make it a steel cage wrestling match.
Against the Spread
Duke: 19-13-1 with NCS pending
Both teams have done very well against the market this season. Virginia’s rise through the ACC caught everyone by surprise, including the so-called experts in Vegas. Duke was supposed to be good. Oddsmakers underestimated how potent this offense would be. Duke can make some treys as everyone knows. But, they’re also doing well this year at making free throws and avoiding turnovers. That allows them to cover more big spreads than in past years. They may need those fundamentals boosts to cut down the nets Sunday.
JIM HURLEY always has a huge PARLAY on CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY. The very best from this game, and the finals in the Big 10, SEC, Atlantic 10, and possibly even the Sun Belt will be available for purchase Sunday morning. Keep an eye on the NBA as well, where Houston/Miami, Dallas/Oklahoma City, and Golden State/Portland highlight the card.
If you’d like to talk to a live person about full season options through all of March Madness or through the NBA championships, call our handicapping office Sunday morning at 1-888-777-4155.
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