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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, April 3, 2015 at 7:00 PM

Thinks couldn’t have worked out better for Duke this postseason. Falling in the semifinals of the ACC tournament gave them an extra day of rest without costing them a #1 seed in the Big Dance. They were put in a region with a relatively unimpressive #2 seed in Gonzaga. They were put on the opposite half of the brackets from #1 Kentucky…which gave them a friendly pathway to the finals. And, now, they happen to face the only non #1 seed to reach the Final Four in Indianapolis when they take on #7 seed Michigan State in the early game Saturday.  

How does this team catch so many breaks year in and year out!

Beating Michigan State is far from a sure thing though. The Spartans are playing much better than a #7 seed this month…and should have been at least a #4 seed anyway. MSU also beat Virginia on their way to Indy, which is the team that won Duke’s ACC conference. Of course, Sparty announced its intentions to go deep in the Dance by taking eventual #1 seed Wisconsin to overtime back in the Big 10 tournament.

Duke better not start thinking ahead to Kentucky (and Kentucky better not look past Wisconsin!). Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about Michigan State’s upset potential in the first semifinal. Maybe Duke is a team of destiny. Or, maybe this is just going to be another Dance upset that derails their title hopes.


Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

Duke: 121.5 per 100 possessions (#3 in the nation)

Michigan State: 115.2 per 100 possessions (#13 in the nation)

Though longtime readers of the NOTEBOOK know that we emphasize a “defense wins championships” theme, it’s telling that we have four elite offenses in the Final Four. It’s become so hard to score these days that only the best offenses have a chance to string together tournament victories! Duke gets a slight edge here in the adjusted efficiency numbers tabulated by college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy. But, only a slight edge. The mainstream media will be talking about Duke’s “potent” talent while Michigan State is the “win ugly” team that has to invent ways to score. That’s a misleading by-product of pace differentials. On a per-possession basis, Michigan State has been much better than realized this season.


Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

Duke: 93.4 per 100 possessions (#19 in the nation)

Michigan State: 95.4 per 100 possessions (#46 in the nation)

The downside of pace illusions for Michigan State is that their defense isn’t as good as believed. Like Wisconsin, once you adjust for pace and strength of schedule, they’re down around #50 in the nation rather than being elite. It’s odd to think of MSU being a team that has to “outscore” people. But, that really is the case once you account for tempo. They’re too soft too often, and have to make up for that with offensive efficiency. Duke has a good defense by past standards, though playing in the dome in Houston last week created some illusions about their ability to get stops. Edge to Duke on both sides of the floor.


Pace Ranking

Duke: #123

Michigan State: #253

Duke likes to push tempo and attack the basket. Michigan State prefers to slow it down, though they also pound the paint rather than hoping to make a bunch of treys. That means officiating could play a big role here. Duke has no depth! If both teams attack the basket at a reasonable pace while refs are blowing their whistles…that probably favors the underdog. If Duke can keep its starters on the floor, they’ll be able to express the advantages we just learned about on both sides of the floor.


Against the Spread

Duke: 22-14-1

Michigan State: 22-16

Yesterday we were very complimentary of Kentucky and Wisconsin, two teams who broke even against very high prices. This is even more impressive. Duke (of all teams!) was actually underrated by the markets this season! They’re always priced aggressively, so this represents a stellar performance. Michigan State was also better than expected, particularly once “tournament basketball” took center stage. Sparty always peaks late.


Las Vegas Line: Duke by 5.5, total of 137.5

The line has been slowly rising through the week…which is likely the result of public money gradually hitting the board. Squares like to bet favorites…particularly when a TV team like Duke is the favorite! If you prefer the Blue Devils, hopefully your money is already in play. If you’re looking at Sparty, you might see as much as +6 before tipoff of visiting tourists continue to lay the chalk.

JIM HURLEY annually has a HUGE PARLAY in the FINAL FOUR. You’ll be able to purchase Saturday’s BIG, JUICY WINNERS right here at the website with your credit card in the hours leading up to tipoff. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 Saturday morning or early afternoon.

We’ll spend a day in the NBA Sunday before returning Monday to preview the National Championship game matching Saturday’s winners. Here’s what’s coming up the next several days as we transition from college hoops to the NBA and MLB…

Sunday: NBA Preview…Golden State vs. San Antonio

Monday: NCAA Championship Preview

Tuesday: MLB Preview…Los Angeles Angels vs. Seattle Mariners

Wednesday: MLB Preview…San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers

Thursday: NBA TV Preview…Chicago at Miami or Portland at Golden State on TNT

Friday: MLB Series Preview…Detroit Tigers at the Cleveland Indians

Monday April 13: MLB Series Preview…Washington Nationals at the Boston Red Sox

Wow…powerhouses on parade whatever the sport! The single biggest college basketball betting day of the year is upon us. Be sure you keep riding THE ROAD TO RICHES with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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