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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 4:00 PM

The Big East has mostly turned out to be a disappointment this season. But, there’s still a very good chance that the two best teams in the league can earn headlines for the conference all the way to the Elite Eight and beyond. Current leader (and national #1 in the polls) Villanova is very likely to be a #1 seed in the Big Dance. Xavier is either an Elite 8 team (if you trust the polls) or a Sweet 16 team (if you trust the computers). Those teams square off Wednesday night in Cincinnati in what should be “the game of the year” in the Big East.

Their first meeting, unfortunately, was far from compelling. Of course, that was technically last year! Back on December 31, Villanova won the opener by a huge 95-64 final margin. The Wildcats were red hot from the field. And, Xavier lost a key player to injury early on. The rematch should be much more entertaining. If it’s not…and Xavier loses big AGAIN…then you really have to wonder about the Muscateers’ chances in the Dance.

A quick peak at the Big East standings, followed by JIM HURLEY’S key indicators stats…


Big East Standings

Villanova 13-1

Xavier 12-3

Seton Hall 9-5

Creighton 8-6

Providence 7-7

Butler 7-8

Georgetown 7-8

Marquette, DePaul, St. John’s off the radar

You can see that Villanova and Xavier have separated themselves from the field…and that Villanova can still win the conference if they lose this game because of a two-game advantage in the loss column. Tough to tell now whether this is a GREAT conference that’s just beating up on each other…or a mediocre conference that’s helping to launch Villanova and Xavier to unrealistic records. That will be more clear come Dance time. For now, the middle of that pack has been surprisingly mediocre on the floor and to the eye test.


Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

Villanova: 116.5 per 100 possessions (#16 in the nation)

Xavier: 114.3 per 100 possessions (#23 in the nation)

Ken Pomeroy’s publicly available efficiency numbers (adjusted for strength of schedule and pace) have these teams relatively even offensively on a per-possession basis. Slight nod to Villanova. They probably won’t shoot lights out again in the rematch.


Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

Villanova: 91.0 per 100 possessions (#4 in the nation)

Xavier: 94.1 per 100 possessions (#18 in the nation)

The reason Villanova is the best in the Big East, and a serious National Championship threat is on the defensive side of the floor. They are truly elite on this side of the ball…frustrating opponents and getting stops. Defense wins championships! Xavier is good enough to be a threat, or to play spoiler to another threat. The biggest concern here for handicappers (and fans of these teams) is that Pomeroy has overrated the Big East…and therefore the national rankings for both Villanova and Xavier are too rosy.


Pace Ranking

Villanova: #286

Xavier: #55

Big difference here…and one that matters because must faster Xavier will try to drive Villanova out of its comfort zone. Xavier has a much better chance to outscore the visitor if they can get cheap baskets in transition. Xavier will be in big trouble of if this turns into a plodding wrestling match. They just don’t have the patience to thrive in that style.


Against the Spread

Villanova: 13-12-1

Xavier: 17-10

Difficult for Villanova to post a great pointspread record because they’ve been priced like national powers all season. Xavier has been a money-maker because the market didn’t trust their rankings. So far, Xavier is outperforming what was expected by sharps and the computers…and is justifying media pollsters. Does that foreshadow what’s going to happen in this revenge rematch?

JIM HURLEY has some thoughts about that. But, he’ll only release this Wednesday blockbuster to clients if it qualifies as a true BEST BET. NETWORK doesn’t force picks in TV games. We get you the smartest investments on the board! Those daily gems can always be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about combination packages through March Madness or the NBA Playoffs, please call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.

More great basketball on the immediate agenda. Here’s a quick look at the NOTEBOOK from now through the first big week of MARCH. That’s right…MARCH MADNESS is almost here!

Thursday-Friday: Cleveland at Toronto Friday in the NBA (Eastern Finals preview?)

Saturday: North Carolina at Virginia in the ACC

Sunday-Monday: Kansas at Texas Monday in the Big 12

Tuesday: Indiana at Iowa in the Big 10

Wednesday-Thursday: California at Arizona Thursday in the Pac 12

Friday-Saturday March 4-5: North Carolina at Duke in the ACC (long awaited rematch!)

Sunday March 6: SMU at Cincinnati in the AAC (last day of the regular season!)

Monday March 7: Conference Championship Previews (Colonial, Metro-Atlantic)

One last pro hoops preview to remind everyone that the NBA is back in full gear…then we embark on the Road to the Final Four with great regular season clashes…a huge week of conference tournament action…and then THE DANCE!

Your favorite time of the year is about to begin. Be sure you GET ALL THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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