Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 18, 2016 at 8:00 PM
Thanks to a Selection Committee that may have lost its mind last weekend, what should have been a fantastic Sweet 16 matchup is being played in the Round of 32! Kentucky, a consensus top 10 team in most respected computer ratings (but a ridiculous #4 seed) is facing a consensus top 16 team and Big 10 regular season champion Indiana (but an even more ridiculous #5 seed) Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.
Let that whole thing sink in for a minute…The teams were in the wrong spots in the seedings, AND the geniuses put one of the best possible matchup in the tournament in Des Moines, Iowa!
Given their computer rankings and late season form, Kentucky could have made a case for a #2 seed…#3 at worse. Yes, this isn’t a vintage Kentucky team. And, they had some moments of sluggishness early in the season. But, no way they should drop to a #4. How were they seeded behind Texas A&M? They went overtime in their only two meetings with the Aggies, and none of those games were in Lexington!
Indiana won the Big 10 for goodness sake! They were seeded like they finished fifth. Like they were Purdue…who couldn’t even get past Arkansas-Little Rock Thursday. The committee put Michigan State at #2. Sparty was stunned by Middle Tennessee.
There were some concerns from handicappers that one or both of these traditional powers might have gotten caught looking ahead in their first round action Thursday night. Didn’t happen Let’s quickly review those boxscore stats…
Kentucky 85, Stony Brook 57
Two-Point Shooting: Stony Brook 27%, Kentucky 58%
Three-Pointers: Stony Brook 3/13, Kentucky 4/13
Free Throws: Stony Brook 14/18, Kentucky 15/17
Rebounds: Stony Brook 46, Kentucky 44
Turnovers: Stony Brook 14, Kentucky 10
Phantom Score: Stony Brook 80, Kentucky 102
For you newcomers, Phantom Score is simply two-point scoring plus rebounding. We discovered long ago that this sum is a great “secondary” score that often tells you more about a game than the final score. Here, it just confirmed the blowout. Though, it’s odd that Stony Brook won rebounding! Easier for a big dog to do that in extended garbage time. Important to remember that Kentucky was only a 14-point favorite here. This was a 4-13 game in the seedings. Hawaii was a 13 that knocked off a 4 Friday. Big result for Kentucky in Dance context…and more evidence that they should have been a higher seed.
Indiana 99, Tennessee Chattanooga 74
Two-Point Shooting: Chattanooga 61%, Indiana 68%
Three-Pointers: Chattanooga 3/18, Indiana 10/17
Free Throws: Chattanooga 15/19, Indiana 15/18
Rebounds: Chattanooga 24, Indiana 30
Turnovers: Chattanooga 15, Indiana 12
Phantom Score: Chattanooga 74, Indiana 84
Indiana was less impressive in the stats that matter most. Two-point defense was horrible. This was a blowout because Indiana shot lights out from long range while Chattanooga couldn’t throw a trey in the ocean. The pointspread was Indiana by 11. Phantom Score had it 10, which was more reflective of what would have happened if not for the somewhat fluky trey results. (Teams can’t have that big of an advantage “on purpose” in such a fickle stat).
Two easy wins, with Kentucky being more impressive. Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the matchup…
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
Kentucky: 122.1 per 100 possessions (#1 in the nation)
Indiana: 119.9 per 100 possessions (#5 in the nation)
Two great offenses. Kentucky is now the most efficient offense in the nation off that Thursday blowout. The “adjusted” data comes from Ken Pomeroy’s publicly available numbers (NETWORK’S numbers are proprietary). He adjusts for both pace and strength of schedule. Indiana is top five themselves. We have two talented teams who know how to attack the basket for the most value.
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Kentucky: 98.3 per 100 possessions (#59 in the nation)
Indiana: 98.8 per 100 possessions (#67 in the nation)
Similar drop-offs here, in that both are worse on this side of the floor…neither even making the top 50. That’s not at all like most John Calipari coached teams. This is the worst Kentucky defense to make the Dance in years. Indiana’s approach can leave them softer on this side of the floor most of the time. Slight edges to Kentucky in both categories. Kentucky’s defensive demise is the bigger shock.
Kentucky also tends toward speed when Calipari has great athletes or fast point guards. The fact that the Wildcats are below average in pace tells you that it’s different than what you’re used to. They slow it down to find a matchup advantage for a scorer. Indiana is around national average. To the degree pace is going to matter here…the Wildcats will be slightly more comfortable at playoff style basketball. But, both offenses seem capable of exploiting both defenses.
Against the Spread
Both covered their Thursday spreads to move to three games over the .500 mark. Since they’re both “name” schools in basketball, it can be tough to post a winning ATS record because prices are inflated a bit against them.
As we prepare this preview, Kentucky is a 3-point favorite. The market is giving them credit for closing the season well, and for being slightly better on both sides of the floor. Handicappers must determine if that’s an overreaction. Remember, Indiana was the regular season Big 10 champ…which is much tougher to accomplish than a tourney title. Also, Kentucky going overtime on a neutral court with Texas A&M isn’t consistent with beating Indiana by more than three.
Tough call. How should YOU handle this game and the rest of the Saturday card? Don’t make a move until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say! The final word for Saturday can be purchased 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 tipoffs.
See you again Sunday for another big game preview. Keep riding the road to MARCH MADNESS riches with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!
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