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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 7:00 PM

The Wisconsin Badgers entered the Big 10 tournament on the short list of teams who could seriously challenge the Kentucky Wildcats for the National Championship. Yes, Kentucky still looks to be head and shoulders above the field. But, teams like Wisconsin and Arizona were seen to be in a special zone that was below Kentucky but at least “a head” above everyone else.


Wisconsin (-7) had to go overtime to beat Michigan State in the Big 10 finals

Wisconsin (-20) didn’t thrill in an 86-72 win over Coastal Carolina

Wisconsin (-12) had to sweat the second half in a 72-65 win over Oregon

Hey, nothing wrong with stringing together wins! And, a regulation tie with Michigan State isn’t a big blemish considering what Sparty just did to #2 seed Virginia over in the East Regional. But, out West, #1 seed Arizona is seen as heading toward a showdown with #2 seed Arizona. And, Arizona just CRUSHED Oregon last week. Can Wisconsin even get out of the West to have a shot at Kentucky? Can Wisconsin even get past Thursday’s game with surging North Carolina (ACC tourney finalist off a big win over Arkansas?)

There are now serious doubts about whether or not Wisconsin really is equal to or better than Arizona. Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the best of the early Thursday tips in the 2015 Big Dance…


Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

Wisconsin: 124.9 per 100 possessions (#1 in the nation)

N. Carolina: 115.6 per 100 possessions (#12 in the nation)

Two elite offenses here, though they go about it in very different ways. Wisconsin is slow as molasses, and works the ball around for good looks. This year they’ve added the ability to earn free throws to what was already a productive three-point attack. In fact, they beat Oregon because of free throws (21 of 29 vs. 5 of 7) in a game where treys washed out. The Badgers are still mortal when the treys aren’t falling (a bigger issue for them in the past). Versatility should help them compete with anybody.

North Carolina prefers to race the ball up the floor to get good looks before the defense sets. In the halfcourt, they try to attack the basket and draw fouls. Their success Thursday may depend on the officiating style, and their ability to make free throws if they do draw whistles.


Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

Wisconsin: 95.2 per 100 possessions (#41 in the nation)

N. Carolina: 95.7 per 100 possessions (#50 in the nation)

This is where both teams have issues, at least in terms of the tournament’s elite teams. Champions are supposed to rank in the top 40 on defense! It’s too easy to score on these defenses…which becomes a problem in “playoff style” basketball against top competition where every possession matters. Wisconsin couldn’t shake Oregon until the final moments. Heck, they could barely shake Coastal Carolina. North Carolina hopes to race down the floor to outscore what they’re giving up. Sets up a very interesting chess match, and handicapping challenge.


Pace Ranking

Wisconsin: #346

N. Carolina: #12

There you go…one of the slowest teams in the nation vs. one of the fastest (according to the great database at Ken Pomeroy’s college basketball website). Whoever controls tempo is likely to have an advantage. Typically, that’s the slower team in the Dance, particularly when the slower team is a market favorite. That being said, CHAMPIONS have been a bit closer to Carolina’s style in recent seasons. Attacking the basket works, and isn’t reliant on three-point production to succeed. Just remember that CHAMPIONS tend to play better on defense than Carolina, or either of these teams do.


Against the Spread

Wisconsin: 18-17-1

N. Carolina: 20-16-1

Wisconsin’s 0-2 ATS in the Dance, which dropped them out of profitability. Still, they’ve been dealing with high lines all season…and there’s no shame in breaking even when priced to perfection every time out. North Carolina split ATS in the Dance after having to sweat the second half of the Harvard game. Clearly, THAT version of the Heels will be in trouble vs. Wiscy. The version that beat Virginia in the ACC semifinals and pulled away from Arkansas has a much better chance.

Las Vegas Line: Wisconsin by 6, total of 144

Early money has been on Wisconsin and the Over. Not hard to see why sharps would believe that a versatile offense would do well vs. Carolina’s vulnerable defense. But…can the Badgers be trusted to protect a lead on a neutral court against a deep opponent who’s not going to throw in the towel?

JIM HURLEY and his full team of experts will study every Sweet 16 encounter from every angle. The very best from the first four games will go up Thursday morning. You can always purchase BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. Be sure to ask about long term packages that include the NBA through the playoffs as well as Major League Baseball.

Dance previews continue tomorrow…here’s what’s coming up in the NOTEBOOK…

Thursday: NCAA Tournament Preview…Kentucky vs. West Virginia

Friday: NCAA Tournament Preview…Duke vs. Utah

Saturday: Best Elite Eight matchup (possibly NC/Wiscy winner vs. Arizona)

Sunday: Best Elite Eight matchup (possibly Duke vs. Gonzaga)

There are probably some surprises in store Thursday and Friday, so we can’t know yet which matchups we’ll be previewing for you on these pages. We’ll cover it as it happens!

MARCH MADNESS is about to resume. Keep riding the NETWORK bandwagon down THE ROAD TO RICHES with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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