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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 7:00 AM

The jury is still out on how nationally relevant Pac 12 powers Arizona and Utah will be in the NCAA tournament. They’ve been highly regarded by the polls and computers all season. Yet, each has shown occasional signs of weakness that have cast doubt on whether or not they really measure up to the best in the sport.

*Utah has played some horrible games away from home…and the NCAA Tournament will be played away from home!

*Arizona will periodically go into walk-abouts where they slack off on defense and don’t do anything on offense. You can get away with that in a weak conference. It’s hard to string together SIX wins vs. tournament caliber opponents on neutral courts with those tendencies.

Of course…at their best…these teams have been fantastic. You saw a reminder of that this past Thursday night when both won huge blowouts in what could have been lookahead spots. Saturday night’s late game on ESPN just might be featuring a pair of Elite Eight caliber teams. Heck, it might be featuring the next National Champion! Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about a matchup that each and every one of you should be watching on TV…


Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

Arizona: 115.5 per 100 possessions (#11 in the nation)

Utah: 113.2 per 100 possessions (#19 in the nation)

Both teams have very efficient offenses. They get there in different ways. Arizona is in the class of teams that pushes tempo and tries to attack the basket. Utah is in the much slower class of teams that works the ball patiently for a good shot. If you just look at raw production, you’ll make the mistake of thinking Arizona is much better offensively. They’re slightly better.


Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

Arizona: 87.1 per 100 possessions (#3 in the nation)

Utah: 87.7 per 100 possessions (#5 in the nation)

Now, it’s the other end of the spectrum. Utah’s slow pace creates the illusion that they have the superior defense of the two teams. Once you adjust for possession counts and schedule strength (as college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy does in his adjusted efficiency calculations), it’s Arizona who has the better defense. Utah does have a great defense…but Arizona’s is slightly better. The visiting Wildcats are better on both sides of the ball, which is why they won the first meeting so handily on their home court.


Pace Ranking

Arizona: #79

Utah: #314

There you go…above average pace vs. very slow. You regular readers know that it’s typically the HOME team that’s able to impose its preferred pace on a game. Utah will certainly be trying to do that here in the revenge spot. They weren’t well-suited to thrive at Arizona, or against any up-tempo road opponent. Here, the home cooking could be delicious indeed.


Against the Spread

Arizona: 17-11

Utah: 18-7-1

Wow…amazing numbers considering that both teams announced early in the season that they were going to be good. Arizona always has to play great to cover because Las Vegas always treats them like the Kentucky of the West price-wise. Going 17-11 against high spreads is something special. Utah is cashing at a 72% rate! And, that includes a few road lemons where they were outmatched.  

Very interesting challenge for handicappers. If you think Utah is a pretender, then getting Arizona at a rare “value” price is going to seem very appealing. If you believe Utah is untouchable at home…then the Utes will seem cheap in comparison to their other games. It’s a clash of styles, but with teams who are similar in true talent on both sides of the floor once you adjust for pace. How much do YOU think home court advantage should be worth here?

JIM HURLEY is looking very closely at this game and the rest of the monstrous Saturday slate. There are showcase matchups all over the schedule (like Syracuse/Duke, Texas/Kansas, Northern Iowa/Wichita State, and West Virginia/Baylor). You can purchase the final word for Saturday right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 before the early games tip off.

We’ve reached the penultimate weekend for the major conferences in terms of regular season action. You know that means DREAM MATCHUPS through these final days. Here’s the NOTEBOOK schedule for this closing salvo…

Sunday: College Basketball…Michigan State at Wisconsin in the Big 10

Monday: College Basketball…Oklahoma at Iowa State in the Big 12

Tuesday: College Basketball…Kentucky at Georgia in the SEC

Wednesday: College Basketball…Notre Dame at Louisville in the ACC

Thursday: College Basketball…Wisconsin at Minnesota in the Big 10

Friday: Early Look…Kansas at Oklahoma in the Big 12

Saturday: College Basketball…choosing from Duke/North Carolina or Virginia/Louisville.

Sunday 3/8: College Basketball…Wisconsin at Ohio State in the Big 10

What a great appetizer for the tournament thrills ahead. The appetizer is a feast in itself! Build your bankrolls now for the tournament smorgasbord. Read valuable handicapping tips here in the NOTEBOOK, then get BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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