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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Vegas oddsmakers say the most competitive Thursday matchup in NCAA Tournament action will be the #7-10 meeting between the Texas Longhorns and the Arizona State Sun Devils. At their best, either team could upset Michigan in a “Round of 32” meeting Saturday in Milwaukee. At their worst, neither team may deserve to be in the tournament!

Texas had some great results this season. But, most of those came at home. And, not much has happened recently to suggest Texas is a true Cinderella. They were uncompetitive with Baylor last weekend in Kansas City…continuing a recent trend that had them underachieving expectations in fairly dramatic fashion away from home.

Arizona State was a #3 seed in the Pac 12 tournament. They couldn’t even win their first game against #6 Stanford. And, the market was so down on ASU that the Sun Devils were actually a small underdog in that game played right in Las Vegas.

The respected computers we’ve been using in game previews all season say the teams are evenly matched, but with Texas overseeded. Let’s check in with college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin.

 

Computer Rankings

Texas: #37 in Pomeroy, #39 in Sagarin

Arizona State: #47 in Pomeroy, #37 in Sagarin

The guys are almost in lockstep with Texas. A composite average of #38 would be a #10 seed though rather than a #7 seed. Arizona State’s average ranking is #42, which is more in line with a #11 seed. It’s interesting that Sagarin actually has ASU as the superior team. Moving to a further breakdown of offense and defense…

 

Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)

Texas: #79

Arizona State: #99

Those are good rankings by national standards, because Pomeroy evaluates about 350 teams. But, in terms of Dance caliber, those are poor. Both teams are sluggish in the halfcourt vs. quality defenses. Texas has had a lot of troubles this year in big games, yet still rates 20 spots better than ASU. The initial bad news is that the eventual winner is going to have a much worse offense than Michigan in the next round.

 

Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)

Texas: #36

Arizona State: #29

Both teams are much better defensively. Defense is the reason both are in the tournament frankly. This is where Cinderella potential exists for the winner. Michigan actually has a much worse defense than these two after you’ve adjusted for pace. Should the Texas/ASU winner be able to exploit that in a halfcourt battle, complacent Michigan might get caught napping. Defense MATTERS in playoff-style basketball, which gives the Thursday Night winner a chance to matter Saturday.

 

Pace Ranking

Texas: #84

Arizona State: #53

Both teams like to play fast…with ASU being a much faster team than is generally realized. That could make this a more exciting game to watch than what you had been initially thinking. The winner will try to get very slow Michigan out of its comfort zone with a fast pace.

 

Against the Spread

Texas: 14-16-0

Arizona State: 14-15-1

Both teams lost money for backers after vigorish was figured in. Oddsmakers were generally in synch with the teams over the course of the full season. Though, you could make the case that Texas was generally underrated at home but overrated everywhere else. Milwaukee qualifies as “everywhere else,” suggesting possible value on the underdog.

 

Vegas Line: Texas by 2, total of 142

 

The market has settled on Texas by 2 as we write this up for you. The Horns opened at -1, and were bet up to -1.5 and -2. By the time you read this, some underdog money may have kicked the number back below the deuce.

JIM HURLEY has had his full team of handicapping experts coming the Thursday schedule ever since the matchups were announced Sunday Night. He’s checked with his scouts…his sources…his statheads…his computer programmers…his trend historians…and his Wise Guy connections in Las Vegas and offshore to make sure clients are on the very best picks in both sessions and all weekend long. You can purchase those BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you’d like to talk to a live person, call our handicapping office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. It’s best to call in the morning before the early games tipoff.

Back with you tomorrow to discuss the much anticipated Kentucky/Kansas State game that will launch its winner into a huge Round of 32 affair with #1 seed Wichita State. Then we’ll pick out the best late games Saturday and Sunday for big game previews this weekend. Additional Dance coverage is available on the blog at Vegas-Sports-Masters, where Jim Hurley is a founding member.

You’ve been waiting weeks for this day to arrive. The first big Thursday of MARCH MADNESS is here. Be sure you GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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