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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 3:00 PM

Such a complicated mess! The visitor is a talented team the computers love (top 15 in Pomeroy!)…but one who WON’T be playing in the Big Dance this year because the team is on probation. You were wondering why SMU isn’t in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology projections? Now you know why!

Cincinnati seemed to be in good shape very recently. But, a midweek loss has them back on the bubble…currently projected for a #11 seed entering the weekend. Should they lose Sunday at home to SMU…and then fall earlier than expected in the American Athletic Conference tournament…the Bearcats may drop down to the NIT.

Cincinnati is playing for the Dance. SMU wants to send one last message to its conference and the nation in their final game of the season. Drama!

We start our preview with a look at the AAC standings entering the weekend. This is our first discussion of an interesting conference that doesn’t have a big TV footprint. Here’s how the race has looked…

 

American Athletic Conference Standings (entering the weekend)

SMU 13-4

Temple 13-4

Houston 12-6

Cincinnati 11-6

Tulsa 11-6

Connecticut 10-7

Memphis 7-10

Central Florida 6-11

South Florida 4-13

East Carolina 4-13

Tulane 3-14

SMU wants to finish on top to remind everyone about what’s ahead amidst the current basketball resurgence. Cincinnati has a lot to be proud of. But, as you’ll see in a moment with the ATS records, more was expected of this group.

Game one between these two teams turned out to be a thriller. And, Cincinnati took it right down to the wire as a 6-point road underdog back in early January.

 

First Meeting: SMU 59, Cincinnati 57

Two-Point Shooting: Cincinnati 39%, SMU 61%

Three-Pointers: Cincinnati 8/23, SMU 5/15

Free Throws: Cincinnati 3/4, SMU 10/19

Rebounds Cincinnati 33, SMU 32

Turnovers: Cincinnati 11, SMU 17

Phantom Score: Cincinnati 63, SMU 66

How about that?! Cincinnati took it down to the wire despite getting outshot inside the arc by a 61-39% differential! SMU had significant turnover troubles that kept them from maximizing their inside advantage. Phantom Score was close (two-point scoring plus rebounding), basically matching the game. If the Bearcats can keep it this close on the road, they can certainly with the rematch at home with revenge on their minds.

 

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

SMU: 118.2 per 100 possessions (#11 in the nation)

Cincinnati: 107.6 per 100 possessions (#99 in the nation)

As we move to JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats, the “adjusted” efficiency numbers from Kenpom.com show that SMU has one of the most effective offenses in the nation. This is hidden from the media because a very slow pace keeps the Mustangs from piling up the points. Really no comparison on a per-possession basis. Big troubles here for Cincinnati. Inconsistency from the field is arguably the main reason this has been a disappointing campaign.

 

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

SMU: 98.0 per 100 possessions (#60 in the nation)

Cincinnati: 93.1 per 100 possessions (#10 in the nation)

Things get reversed as we move to the other side of the floor. SMU’s defense isn’t as good as people think. The slow pace has the media bragging about the wrong thing. Cincinnati inflicts some REALLY low scores on people because they play great defense at a slow pace. If you like defense in “playoff style” basketball, then Cincinnati may be appealing.

 

Pace Ranking

SMU: #303

Cincinnati: #315

Well, we can’t call this must-see TV. Expect a very slow wrestling match with tempers likely to flare. That’s Cincinnati’s modus operandi. And, we know that SMU will have a chip on its shoulder in a season finale. Great if you like MMA and potential fisticuffs. Probably not a beautiful game.

 

Against the Spread

SMU: 12-13

Cincinnati: 11-15

We referenced this earlier. Cincinnati was supposed to be better than they’ve shown. The market has had them overrated. SMU is priced like league champions all the time, which makes it harder to cover hurdles. Cincinnati was priced like a sure-Dance-thing…but could only manage bubble status. In context, Cincinnati’s 11-15 ATS is much less impressive than SMU’s 12-13 ATS mark. More than 1.5 games in the standings makes it look anyway.

Who’s going to win and cover this slugfest? JIM HURLEY has some strong ideas. But, he’ll only release the game as an official pick if oddsmakers miss the mark. We don’t force plays just because their on TV or selected for a stat preview here in the NOTEBOOK!

You can purchase the final word for Sunday right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 before the early games get started. Be sure to ask about “rest of the season” packages that take you through March Madness and/or the NBA Playoffs. Hey…ESPN is advertising CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK…which means it’s automatically time to sign up!

Back with you tomorrow to talk about the Monday night mid-major championship games. This week is going to be something special with WALL-TO-WALL BASKETBALL on your TV screens. Be sure you check in with the NOTEBOOK for helpful handicapping tips. Then, hook up with JIM HURLEY for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

 

Be sure to follow:

Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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