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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, February 1, 2016 at 4:00 PM

The Big 12/SEC Challenge was a lot of fun to watch this past Saturday. But, it wasn’t fun at all for the coaches and players on West Virginia and Iowa State. Both of those highly regarded contenders flunked road tests fairly badly at Florida and Texas A&M respectively. That puts both in bouce-back spots Tuesday Night in a nationally televised showdown that will loom very large in the Big 12 race.

To preview this game…let’s look back at what happened Saturday. Here are the key boxscore stats…starting with the earliest tip…


Florida 88, West Virginia 71

Two-Point Percentages: West Virginia 47%, Florida 48%

Three-Point Shooting: West Virginia 7/20, Florida 12/20

Free Throws: West Virginia 14/16, Florida 24/31

Rebounds: West Virginia 32, Florida 30

Turnovers: West Virginia 18, Florida 14

Phantom Score: West Virginia 68, Florida 58

If you’re not a longtime reader of the NOTEBOOK, that “Phantom Score” category focuses just on two-point scoring and rebounding. We found many years ago that this combination creates a helpful “secondary” score that sheds more light on a game. It takes out three-point scoring (which blows hot and cold), and free throw shooting (which can be at the whims of officials) to leave the keys that the players themselves have the most control over. You can see that “Phantom Score” played to the poll rankings here. West Virginia did look like a Top 10 team, while Florida enjoyed some home cooking on the way to their blowout. The Gators were +15 points from behind the arc, and +10 points from the free throw line in a game they won by 17.

Good news for West Virginia fans…as the result wasn’t quite as bad as it looked. But, their usually sterling defense disappeared in a lot of ways. They were softer than normal inside, more foul prone than normal…and then obviously Florida was getting a lot of open looks from long range. The Mountaineers better clean that up…or they’ll get run out of the gym in Ames too. The turnover category is also a concern. West Virginia panicked from behind. While “Phantom Score” is great for isolating what “should” have happened if 1’s and 3’s cancel out…the actual boxscore shows how bad things can get for the Mounties when fate isn’t smiling on them.


Texas A&M 72, Iowa State 62

Two-Point Percentages: Iowa State 54%, Texas A&M 51%

Three-Point Shooting: Iowa State 6/23, Texas A&M 5/21

Free Throws: Iowa State 4/12, Texas A&M 15/23

Rebounds: Iowa State 41, Texas A&M 41

Turnovers: Iowa State 16, Texas A&M 9

Phantom Score: Iowa State 81, Texas A&M 83

Both teams were lousy from three-point land. Phantom Score shows something closer to expectations in terms of a high scoring thriller. The biggest problem for Iowa State was that they couldn’t get to the free throw line. Then they couldn’t make anything the few times they got there! FOUR of TWELVE…are you kidding?! Iowa State’s reliance on the three-pointer hurts them in a lot of ways…and those ways typically bite them in the Dance (as happened last year when they were shocked in the first Thursday session).

That being said…if Iowa State gets the open looks from behind the arc that Florida was getting…then they can thrive Tuesday night. Really a great matchup featuring the explosive offense of Iowa State and the normally terrific defense of West Virginia.

In terms of tournament basketball down the road…there are concerns for both teams about the ability to pass tests away from their home floor. It’s possible that neither will shine on neutral courts next month. It’s just the nature of college basketball this year that almost EVERYBODY is like that. Somebody’s going to get hot at the right time. West Virginia’s superior defense probably gives them the better chance to string together March victories. Note that Iowa State only forced nine turnovers in College Station while allowing the Aggies to shoot 51% behind the arc. This may not be a season where “defense wins championships.” But, soft defense is going to derail a lot of teams from even having a shot.

Who’s going to win Tuesday when these motivated young men face each other? JIM HURLEY does what he can every night to find you BIG, JUICY WINNERS. Check in to get the best Las Vegas betting options on the board as discovered by the full team of NETWORK experts. BEST BETS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about combination packages through the Super Bowl or March Madness, please call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.

We’ll finish off our series of college basketball conference summaries Wednesday with a look at the Pac 12. We’ve already covered the other majors in prior reports. Super Bowl stat coverage resumes Friday with JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats for the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. Don’t make your final decision until you’ve read those numbers!

Hopefully your basketball season has been going well. Are you in “bounce back” mode after a tough weekend like West Virginia and Iowa State are? Don’t worry…help is on the way. Hook up now with WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!


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