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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 7:00 PM

Two teams good enough to be #4 seeds in the 2016 NCAA Tournament are somehow playing each other in the first round Thursday night. Number 11 seed Wichita State stormed home late vs. Vanderbilt Tuesday night to advance to a meeting with #6 seed Arizona. If the most respected computers or Las Vegas betting influences were in charge of the brackets, these teams wouldn’t be anywhere near each other so soon!

But…it is what it is…and a mangled bracket created by a misguided selection committee has created a true blockbuster matchup of national powers on the first night of action.

Think about it this way…

*Arizona was pick-em in the Pac 12 tourney last week vs. Oregon (and the game went OT!)

*Oregon is the #1 seed in the West Regional

*Arizona is pick-em Thursday with Wichita State

Maybe Oregon shouldn’t be a #1 seed…and these are all roughly equivalent to #3 or #4 seeds depending on how much you penalize them for their weaknesses. But, one being a #1 seed, one being a #6 seed, and one being a #11 seed makes no sense. They’d all be pick-em with each other!

Let’s dig deeper into JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats for the first true super-showdown of the 2016 Dance…


Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

Wichita State: 108.9 per 100 possessions (#81 in the nation)

Arizona: 116.0 per 100 possessions (#16 in the nation)

This is going to be a very interesting challenge for handicappers because the teams are very dissimilar even though the market has the game at pick-em. Wichita State’s offense can take a long time to get rolling as they gradually wear down their opponent’s defense. You saw that vs. Vandy Tuesday night. Wichita State only had 30 points at halftime (a 30-all tie), but then won the second half 40-20. When they get open looks, they can hit them. Takes awhile for that to happen, which is why the offense is so far down in the national efficiency rankings. Arizona is talented and efficient on this side of the floor.


Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

Wichita State: 88.6 per 100 possessions (#1 in the nation)

Arizona: 96.5 per 100 possessions (#41 in the nation)

But, things are reversed on defense…and defense wins championships! Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency numbers (which we use in our game previews because NETWORK data is proprietary) are adjusted for pace and strength of schedule. The Shockers grade out best in the nation at press time. Arizona is disappointing by Dance standards. Ranking #41 is good nationally when over 300 teams are being measured, but not good when you’re talking about teams trying to win a national championship. Edge here to the Shockers, even as a #11 seed.


Pace Ranking

Wichita State: #262

Arizona: #151

Again, dissimilar. Wichita State is methodical, though they’ll take fast breaks when offered. Their great defense makes opponents work for a shot. Their offense runs long sets trying to spring an open shooter. Arizona is more aggressive…but only enough to rank “average” nationally.

Clearly, we have a game here where the slower team will try to win with patience and great defense, while the more talented team will try to push tempo a bit to get easy looks for its offense. Properly handicap pace, and you’ve got the winner of a pick-em game.


Against the Spread

Wichita State: 19-12 (13-17 to the Under)

Arizona: 16-17 (22-11 to the Over)

We included the Over/Unders here so you can see that pace battle. Wichita State wants things relatively slow. Betting the Shockers and Under is 2-0 in the Dance, and 36-25 for the season. Arizona has trouble covering team side spreads consistently because they’re always priced to perfection. But, betting their Overs would have yielded a 67% success rate in a year where they had a strong offense but a disappointing defense (by the standards of national powers).

Complicated in some ways…but simple in others. You know what each team wants. You know that “playoff style” basketball tends to favor teams more comfortable at a deliberate pace (except for the handful of teams who can fly at the basket without turning the ball over too much…like North Carolina and Kansas). You know that defense wins championships. So far, this is pointing to Wichita State. The problem with loving the Shockers is that they had to rally late to pull away from Vandy Tuesday night, while Arizona has been resting since last Friday. Can the fresher superior seed force its pace on the game?

JIM HURLEY is thinking very seriously about this one. But, he has a full 16-game opening day card to consider. He won’t force a release here just because it’s a big TV game! You can purchase the final word for Thursday…and daily selections throughout the college postseason…right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service through March Madness or the NBA Playoffs, please call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours.

Dance coverage in the NOTEBOOK continues through the weekend and beyond. Here’s what’s on tap for big game previews the next few days…

Friday: a few possibilities, including Pittsburgh/Wisconsin, Notre Dame vs. Wed-winner.

Saturday: best late start…if favorites win Thursday, the possible choices are Kentucky/Indiana, Duke/Baylor, Kansas/Connecticut, and Miami vs. Arizona/Wichita State winner.

Sunday: best late start…if the favorites win Friday, possible choices are Maryland/California, Villanova/Iowa, Texas A&M/Texas, and Michigan State/Syracuse.

Upsets usually get in the way of the best laid tournament plans. So, we’ll let the chips fall where they may before finding you the best games each day to preview. Rest assured you’ll be getting great handicapping guidance here in the NOTEBOOK, and BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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