Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 7:00 PM
SMU had to overcome a sluggish first half Tuesday Night to get past Clemson in the NIT semifinals. Minnesota had to survive overtime after a sluggish second half in the other semifinal against Florida State. Now, SMU and Minnesota will try to put two solid halves together in hopes of cutting down the nets and carrying the championship trophy back to their campus.
Let’s see what the computers are saying about this TV showdown that hoops fans will be watching on ESPN.
SMU: #30 in Pomeroy, #30 in Sagarin
Minnesota: #52 in Pomeroy, #40 in Sagarin
SMU is still seen as the best team in the NIT, which has been true for the whole event. College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin both have them exactly at #30. There’s disagreement about Minnesota. And, that’s actually a fairly large disagreement here at the end of the season. The two publicly available computer assessments (Hurley Network computer projections are proprietary) are close to lock-step across the college landscape right now. Sagarin is much higher on Minnesota than Pomeroy is.
Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
You’re going to see in the category breakdowns that we have clearly different styles. Minnesota is a good (not great) offensive team that struggles on defense by normal postseason standards. SMU has a very good defense but a mediocre offense. And, we should also add that both suffer from inconsistency. Even though they’ve advanced to the finals…both teams have had stretches where they didn’t really look like champions. That was true just in the semifinals!
Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
If you’re in the school of thought that DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS, then SMU is your team. They’ve been clearly superior on that side of the ball this season. Note that Pomeroy’s methodology adjusts for pace and strength of schedule. Minnesota is seen as comparable defensively in some circles, but that’s because they play a slower pace. When you look at “per-possession” data, SMU is significantly superior.
Here’s what we mean. SMU is fractionally below average pace-wise, while Minnesota is way below average. Because Minnesota slows down the ball on offense, the media assumes lower scores are the result of defense. SMU is better at getting stops and making things happen on defense. Minnesota’s slower pace helps hide that in raw seasonal numbers. It is worth noting though that playoff games, particularly championship games tend to slow way down. Minnesota is much more comfortable at a snail’s pace than SMU is.
Against the Spread
SMU’s big second half surge led to another pointspread cover. They’ve had a great season against the number, though they have cooled off lately in comparison. Minnesota was the underdog against Florida State. They had the game covered at the end of regulation, and finished the job in the extra period. But, that only got them back to 50/50…and that won’t win you any money against the 11/10 in Las Vegas.
Vegas Line: SMU by 3, total of 132
Oddsmakers and sharps have respect for defense, and for the computer ratings. It looks like everyone’s Power Ratings agree (in the market anyway) that SMU is three points better on a neutral court. There hasn’t been much movement off the opener as of this writing. Handicappers have to think through the strengths and weaknesses of each team to determine if there’s an opening worth taking advantage of. Is Larry Brown worth extra points in a huge game as head coach of SMU? Will nerves derail an already shaky Minnesota offense in a high pressure situation against a top defense? Or, is this really a true pick-em game where you should take the dog because anything can happen when a championship is on the line?
JIM HURLEY will very likely have an “information” play in the NIT Finals thanks to his New York sources. You can purchase the final word for all Thursday action right here at the website with your credit card. Be sure to take care of business EARLY because there is a lot of day baseball. If you have any questions, or if you’d like to talk to a live person about full season options, call our handicapping office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.
Here’s the NOTEBOOK schedule for the next few days:
Friday: Preview of Florida/Connecticut in the NCAA Final Four
Saturday: Preview of Wisconsin/Kentucky in the NCAA Final Four
Sunday: Preview of SF Giants/LA Dodgers in ESPN’s Sunday Nighter
Monday: Preview of the NCAA Championship
That’s three of the next four reports covering the final days of MARCH MADNESS here in early April. HOOP IT UP WITH JIM HURLEY! Then, get ready to transition into heavy MLB and NBA coverage through the spring and summer. APRIL SHOWERS WILL BE RAINING MONEY here at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!