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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, March 24, 2014 at 7:00 AM

No time to rest! The Big Dance may be taking a brief intermission until the music starts again Thursday. But, the NIT is still going strong with mid-level hopefuls trying to earn a ticket to the Final Four in Madison Square Garden in New York next week.

Chief among them is overall NIT top seed Southern Methodist, who plays their second game of the tournament Monday Night at home against LSU. SMU had a relatively easy time with Cal-Irvine in their tune-up. LSU had to win on the road at San Francisco to keep their hopes alive for a deep run. There are actually THREE games on the Monday NIT ticket (this plus Georgetown at Florida State and Arkansas at California). SMU’s “revenge” for their Dance snub is still the biggest story in the NIT until the Mustangs lose…so we picked Metroplex Madness for tonight’s showcase spotlight here in the NOTEBOOK.

Let’s run the matchup through our gauntlet of indicators…


Computer Rankings

LSU: #55 in Pomeroy, #50 in Sagarin

SMU: #27 in Pomeroy, #31 in Sagarin

College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin are in agreement with both teams. SMU is roughly top 30, while LSU is down around #50. SMU’s American Athletic Conference provided mixed signals in the Dance. Conference co-champs Cincinnati and Louisville went 1-2 ATS, with Louisville playing relatively poorly in that one cover against Saint Louis. But, Connecticut of the AAC stunned Villanova late Saturday to restore some prestige. The SEC had some very good Dance results. Conference champion Florida is still on the short list of national title favorites. Best evidence suggests LSU might be slightly better right now than the computers are suggesting.


Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)

LSU: #73

SMU: #98

Both of these teams struggled on offense this year by postseason standards. You’ve seen Dance teams in those ranking ranges really put up ugly numbers once their forced to play pressure basketball against quality opposition. That could set up an ugly game here in Dallas. Neither team is a sure thing to sparkle.


Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)

LSU: #60

SMU: #11

If defense wins championships…then SMU looks best positioned to at least reach New York given that high ranking. The Mustangs are much better than LSU on defense, and will also have an edge over the Cal/Arkansas winner in the next round if they get there. SMU is the superior seed in this event, and the better team in the computers because head coach Larry Brown knows how to coach DEFENSE!


Pace Ranking

LSU: #31

SMU: #165

SMU is neutral tempo-wise, which allows them to adapt to whatever the opponent brings. LSU is extremely fast…which can be great if you catch your opponent napping…but is generally a problem in a ROAD game with so much at stake. LSU is likely to run themselves into mistakes, particularly against the highly regarded SMU defense.  And, if the game is tight in the second half…meaning things slow down into a halfcourt battle, that takes LSU out of its comfort zone. The Tigers really need to strike early, then keep the petal to the metal.


Against the Spread

LSU: 11-15-3

SMU: 18-11

SMU caught oddsmakers by surprise this year. Remember that they had a late three-game slump after going all out to try and beat Louisville. They were 17-8 ATS before that huge game that had celebrities from all over the state of Texas in attendance. LSU was overrated by oddsmakers this season.

JIM HURLEY isn’t going to take any days off just because the NCAA’s are dark for a few days. Be sure you get the very best from the NBA, the NIT, and the other tournaments this week as you keep building your bankroll through this magical March. Game day BEST BETS can be purchased right here at this website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call our handicapping office during normal business hours Monday or any time this week at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure to ask about Major League Baseball when you call.

We’ll return Tuesday for more basketball coverage. Our NCAA big game previews resume Thursday with the best matchup from Memphis or Anaheim. Then we’ll study the cream of Friday’s crop from New York or Indianapolis. Remember to visit the Vegas-Sports-Masters BLOG for expanded tournament notes. That site was created by JIM HURLEY to bring together the nation’s best handicappers.

Monday’s are always big in the world of Las Vegas sports betting. That’s true in the NFL and in college hoops. BIG MONDAY…BIG MONEY…FROM THE BIGGEST NAME IN HANDICAPPING…JIM HURLEY!

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