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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 at 4:00 PM

The mainstream media is making a lot about the success West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins has had against Kentucky coach John Calipari in the NCAA Tournament. But, that feels a bit like grasping for a storyline given that Kentucky is a whopping 13.5-point favorite over West Virginia Thursday Night in Cleveland in the Sweet 16.

Sure, Huggins has a way of disrupting what other teams are trying to do. But, can he disrupt what looks to be one of the greatest college teams ever…when West Virginia barely registered as a major team in what’s turned out to be a very overrated Big 12 conference?

Kansas lost to Wichita State

Iowa State lost to Alabama-Birmingham

Baylor lost to Georgia State

Texas lost to Butler

Oklahoma State lost to Oregon

Not only are those five Big 12 teams gone from the brackets…but four of the teams they lost to fell the next time they took the floor. And, that could still happen to Wichita State this week.

Oklahoma survived to the Sweet 16 from the league as a #3 seed. West Virginia survived as a #5 seed that enjoyed a favorable draw against Buffalo and over-seeded Maryland (a team with the computer ratings of a #7 seed that was gifted a #4 seed). Sneaking past Buffalo and pulling away from Maryland after a key injury doesn’t mean you’re ready to knock Zeus off the mountaintop!

Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the latest team hoping to end superpower Kentucky’s undefeated season.

 

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

Kentucky: 118.6 per 100 possessions (#6 in the nation)

W. Virginia: 110.67 per 100 possessions (#37 in the nation)

As we keep pointing out…many in the media forget that Kentucky also has a top 10 offense. The defense is fantastic…the offense is better than everyone realizes because they have a variety of weapons…and know how to score off of the turnovers they force. West Virginia can do that too…and tries to force a lot of turnovers with their press. But, that’s ALL West Virginia can do on offense. They’re much more sluggish than that #37 ranking would suggest in the halfcourt. If they’re not getting easy buckets…it can get ugly. And, we now also have to factor in the possibility that Ken Pomeroy’s “adjustments” for strength of schedule gave way too much credit to the Big 12 this season. West Virginia may only be about #50 nationally in real offense. Big edge to Kentucky.

 

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

Kentucky: 85.6 per 100 possessions (#1 in the nation)

W. Virginia: 95.1 per 100 possessions (#39 in the nation)

West Virginia has a lot to be proud of. Nothing wrong with being a top 40 team when you have to travel so much in your league. But, if the Big 12 adjustments drop them down several spots…then it’s very hard to see how this is going to be a game Thursday night. Kentucky is for real! West Virginia’s a bit better than Buffalo and was neck-and-neck with Maryland until an injured Terps star had to leave the game.

 

Pace Ranking

Kentucky: #223

W. Virginia: #29

Kentucky is a bit faster than that makes it look because their ability to rebound offensively extends some possessions. West Virginia plays VERY fast because their full court press either forces turnovers and quick shots, or allows opponents to race to the bucket. Kentucky will try to slow this down into a halfcourt game. Frankly, West Virginia’s only chance to compete is to force a lot of turnovers while luring Kentucky into a track meet. Coach Calipari probably won’t let that happen. But, if he lets that happen for a half, the big underdog will at least have a chance to cover the Las Vegas pointspread.

 

Against the Spread

Kentucky: 18-16-2

W. Virginia: 19-13

Kentucky is break even against very high spreads…but is 0-2 ATS so far in the tournament because they’ve coasted late in the game with big leads. That could happen again here…which will give the Mountaineers a chance to match Cincinnati in vulturing a dog cover. West Virginia has been an underrated team by the market in what turned out to be an overrated conference. Hard to know for sure what that means against a true powerhouse.

 

Las Vegas Line: Kentucky by 13.5, total of 136.5

The early money that did come in here pushed Kentucky from an opener of 13 up to -13.5. Not exactly a big move. And that may have been positioning in advance of expected public money on the media darling Wildcats. A move of only half a point suggests that sharp money would come in on the dog at +14. Should YOU bet the dog if you see +14?

JIM HURLEY and the full NETWORK team are leaving no stone unturned in finding Sweet 16 winners Thursday and Friday (and will do the same for the Elite 8 Saturday and Sunday!). You can purchase the final word for Thursday 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. Remember to ask about long term packages that include the NBA through the playoffs and Major League Baseball. We haven’t had a chance to talk much NBA during this busy college basketball month here in the NOTEBOOK…we’ll be rectifying that very soon.

Dance previews continue tomorrow…here’s what’s coming up…

Friday: NCAA Tournament Preview…Duke vs. Utah

Saturday: Best Elite Eight matchup (possibly Kentucky vs. ND/Wichita winner)

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

The music is starting to begin in the 2015 Sweet 16 party. Are you going to dance with who brung ya? That means partying the night and the weekend away with WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

 

Be sure to follow:

Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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