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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 10:31 AM


Believe it or not, we're now just a month away from the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Sunday, March 13th and so get ready to hear more and more about "bubble teams" and "RPI's" and "strength of schedule" talk and all that other fun stuff.

Every day/night brings "must-win" games to the fore and we'll touch on some of 'em here in a jam-packed Thursday night card with lots of key TV action.
First, however, this key reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to pile up the profits all this week/month with loads of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - so go ahead and pound the books with hard court action today!

Okay, so here's some of what we'll be watching this evening on the flat screen TV at home:

UCONN (17-6, 7-3 AAC) at TEMPLE (14-8, 8-3 AAC) - 7 p.m. ET, espn2
Don't look now but the UConn Huskies are starting to heat up. Kevin Ollie's club has won six of its last seven games since mid-January - the Huskies also covered six of those last seven tilts, for your handicapping knowledge! - and now comes a major challenge inside the better-than-you-think American Athletic Conference that could well give the NCAA Tournament folks four teams even with SMU sidelined because of NCAA sanctions (see UConn, Temple, Cincinnati and Tulsa).
In tonight's bash in Philly, look for UConn - the eighth-best scoring defense in the land - to put the squeeze on Temple's far-and-away leading scorer G Quenton DeCosey (16.5 ppg) and it'll be Ollie's strategy to speed up this game against a thin Temple bench. Hey, the Owls also enter this one having copped six of their last seven games SU (straight-up) and head coach Fran Dunphy remains one of the country's 10-best game coaches ... wire job here? Count on it!

#11 OREGON (20-4, 9-2 Pac-12) at CALIFORNIA (15-8, 5-5 Pac-12) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Okay, so by now you're well aware of our thoughts concerning the Oregon Ducks ... they are way too loooooow in the current rankings (we'd have 'em at #3 or #4 with any say) but this is no time to quibble if you're Oregon head coach Dana Altman who brings in a Ducks' squad riding a six-game SU and six-game ATS (against the spread) winning streak into Cal-Berkeley tonight.
Hey, lots going right for the Ducks these days but how about the play of F Dillon Brooks who busted loose for a game-high 30 points in Oregon's 76-66 win/cover against 6-point road underdog Utah back on Super Sunday? Brooks also chipped in with 9 assists in that Pac-12 home win and keep in mind the Ducks managed to convert Utah's 14 turnovers into 19 big points ... if Cal gets a little loose with the ball tonight, than Oregon will be in a strip-and-search mode reminiscent of Denver Broncos' Super Bowl MVP Von Miller.
One note on the Bears: They snapped a four-game losing skid with last weekend's 76-61 win against 7.5-point pup Stanford but can Jordan Matthews and Jalen Brown (combined for 34 points against the Cardinal) rise-and-shine here?

#4 IOWA (19-4, 10-1 Big 10) at INDIANA (19-5, 9-2 Big 10) - 9 p.m. ET, espn2
Here's the real skinny on the nation's fourth-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes: Fran McCaffery's kids have won nine of their last 10 games while dating back to New Year's and note the 'Eyes own a rock-solid 6-2 ATS mark in their last eight tilts.
If Iowa - which will play half of its remaining six regular-season games at home following this bash, including a March 1st date versus these IU Hoosiers - is gonna stay among the nation's elite in the polls with a win here than this speed-'em-up offense must be willing to trade punches with a high-octane Indiana team. Might it come down to a battle of who's superior ... Iowa leading scorer F Jarrod Uthoff (18.4 ppg) or Indiana G Yogi Ferrell (17.3 ppg)?
Hey, Indiana has six guys shooting it at 42 percent-or-better from downtown and so the three-ball could make-or-break Tom Crean's team on its own floor tonight.

GONZAGA (19-5, 11-2 WCC) at PORTLAND (11-15, 5-8 WCC) - 11 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Are hoop folks out there mistakenly "sleeping" on the Gonzaga Bulldogs these days? We wonder aloud 'cause Mark Few's crew may not be part of the current top 25 but the 'Zags do own non-league wins against Washington, UConn, Washington State and Tennessee and they bolt into this one on a five-game SU winning streak ... than why do some scribes insist that Louisville's recently self-imposed post-season ban has helped Gonzaga?
Heck, we do indeed believe the 'Zags have a lock on an at-large bid for this year's NCAA Tournament should they not win the West Coast Conference Tournament. Here, seven-footer Domantas Sabonis (14 double-doubles this year after his 20-point/11-rebound showing against Pepperdine last weekend in a 69-66 non-cover triumph as 6.5-point favs) looks to take command versus a Portland team that did slip under the bloated 19-point price tag last month when Gonzaga posted an 85-74 win that featured F Kyle Wiltjer's 32 points and Sabonis' 28 points and 17 caroms.



We'll be getting you on Eastern Conference and Western Conference Mid-Term Report Cards in the next two editions of Jim Sez, so don't miss out!
Meanwhile, here's some NBA News/Notes regarding the teams that fired their head coaches even before we got to this weekend's All-Star Game:

CLEVELAND (37-14) - The oft-criticized David Blatt surely received lots of "love" after the Cavaliers axed him weeks ago but let's face reality and that's as long as LeBron James wanted a "new voice" he was going to get it. Now, James better get Cleveland back into the NBA Finals or else he'll get criticized big-time and Blatt may be the one having the last laugh. Ty Lue might wind up being an NBA Finals head coach this year but anyone that feels Blatt was given a "raw job" should raise your hand ... we've got ours raised!

NEW YORK (23-32) - Even the New York City tabloid writers were caught off guard by Monday's firing of personality-less Derek Fisher and who knows what direction guru Phil Jackson goes with his next choice (we're not counting interim Kurt Rambis who knows he's merely filling out the rest of the 2015-16 season). Two things about Fisher is he alienated the NYC media and never did show any game-to-game improvement. Sorry, but right now we're not believing those Scott Brooks (former Oklahoma City head coach) rumors just 'cause it might bring the Knicks a guy named Kevin Durant.

BROOKLYN (14-39) - The Tony Brown Era hasn't exactly been a big hit although the truth is the downtrodden Nets have played harder for him than the axed Lionel Hollins (another dude who couldn't win a personality contest even if there wasn't a single opponent!) and word is Brooklyn will soon hire a new GM and then follow it up with a brand-new coach in time for the 2016-17 season. Can't wait!

HOUSTON (27-27) - The early-season firing of Kevin McHale (who did get the Rockets into the NBA's Western Conference Finals last spring) was a mistake even if this club right now is on the inside-looking-out at a playoff berth. Nothing against young boss J.B. Bickerstaff - he'll be a good coach in this league for years, we're quite sure about that - but McHale was "jobbed" big-time and his veteran bench leadership will be missed later in the year in crunch-time games.

PHOENIX (14-39) - Not even Red Auerbach could have saved the Suns from sinking out West this year ... note Phoenix is 4-22 on the road and losers of eight straight games in all at last check and so the February 1st firing of Jeff Hornacek probably was a relief to the one-time All-Star guard. Interim coach Earl Watson has a shot to perk up this franchise but we recommend he better win one of these days or he might be gonzo prior to the end of the campaign too!

NOTE: Get our NBA Mid-Term Report Cards in the next couple of Jim Sez columns.

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