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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 26, 2016 at 4:00 PM

Oddskmakers, sportsbooks, and dog lovers everywhere were reeling from a Sweet 16 round that saw pointspread favorites go 7-1 straight up and against the spread. Only Gonzaga failed to win and cover as a favorite. Many sharps liked that side anyway, so it was small consolation.

Well, the prices FINALLY adjusted! North Carolina opened at a whopping -10 over Notre Dame, after being just -5.5 or so against Indiana Friday night. When the Heels played the Irish a couple of weeks ago in the ACC Tournament, the line was only -7. Big jump! Virginia opened at -8.5 against Syracuse in what’s expected to be a very low-tempo matchup. That’s like a double digit spread in most other games. The Cavaliers were favored by less than that when they played AT HOME vs. Syracuse earlier this season.

Let’s review how Sunday’s survivors won on Friday as we prepare to handicap the last two games of the 2016 Elite Eight…

 

EAST SWEET 16

Final Score: North Carolina 101, Indiana 86

Phantom Score: North Carolina 79, Indiana 56

Key Stat: Arguably two-point shooting, even though the media raved about North Carolina going 11 of 20 on three-pointers. That was fantastic. But, Indiana made 13 treys themselves! Carolina won inside shooting 50% to 40%, as well as rebounding and turnovers. You regulars know that “Phantom Score” is a secondary score invented by JIM HURLEY many years ago that represents the sum of two-point scoring and rebounding. Carolina won a rout in the most important “playoff-basketball” categories…meaning the treys were trivial in determining the outcome. Carolina broke the century mark because of treys! They had important inside edges that would have helped them win a lower scoring affair.

 

Final Score: Notre Dame 61, Wisconsin 56

Phantom Score: Wisconsin 70, Notre Dame 68

Key Stat: You have to say it was the turnover category because Wisconsin lost the ball 17 times while utterly imploding in the final minutes. Give Notre Dame credit for forcing those turnovers (particularly the brilliant clinching steal where a foul wouldn’t have hurt because Wiscy wasn’t in the bonus yet). You can see that Wisconsin won Phantom Score in a nailbiter. Notre Dame overcome that with a 12-17 advantage in the turnover category.  

 

EAST CHAMPIONSHIP

North Carolina vs. Notre Dame: Offense, Defense, and Pace

North Carolina: #2 on offense, #16 on defense, #51 in pace

Notre Dame: #10 on offense, #154 on defense, #318 in pace

You can see why Notre Dame got crushed in the ACC semifinals by North Carolina. That defense is awful on a per-possession basis. If the Tar Heels can successfully attack the basket with that #2 efficiency offense (stats are posted by college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy at kenpom.com, and are adjusted for pace and schedule strength) against the #154 defense in an up-tempo game, it’s going to be a slaughter. Notre Dame MUST slow things down to their own comfort zone…and MUST guard people inside! Oddsmakers don’t see it, which is why Carolina is laying double digits as we go to press.

 

MIDWEST SWEET 16

Final Score: Virginia 84, Iowa State 71

Phantom Score: Virginia 89, Iowa State 64

Key Stat: Virginia was so much better at everything besides three-pointers that it’s tough to pick just one. You can see Phantom Score was a blowout. Virginia’s patient offense knows how to work for good shots…while Iowa State’s very soft defense had no chance to do anything about it! Big edge on the boards (33-24) for the Cavaliers too.

 

Final Score: Syracuse 63, Gonzaga 60

Phantom Score: Gonzaga 69, Syracuse 67

Key Stat: We have to choose between free throws and turnovers. Syracuse won free throws 14/16 to 4/5, and turnover 9 to 17. Clearly that pesky Orange zone defense did a great job of disrupting Gonzaga. The favorite kept losing the ball, and couldn’t earn any trips to the free throw line because Syracuse knows how to stand tall and long in the paint.  

 

MIDWEST CHAMPIONSHIP

Virginia vs. Syracuse: Offense, Defense, and Pace

Virginia: #8 on offense, #4 on defense, #351 in pace

Syracuse: #53 on offense, #19 on defense, #324 in pace

This will be one of the slowest Elite 8 games ever played. Both are near the very bottom nationally in pace. The bad news for Syracuse fans is that they won’t have a “first look” advantage here because Virginia’s already seen the zone once. We mentioned the other day that Syracuse typically plays better in the Dance than in late-season league play because of that issue. Dayton, Middle Tennessee, and Gonzaga were virgins to this zone. Virginia already beat it once…and has the perfect offensive mindset to beat it again. That being said…the Cavs have to play very well to cover such a high number in a game with so few possessions.

Is it safe NOW to play some dogs because the lines are so high? Or, do the personnel matchups still favor the #1 seeds by so much that the lines should be even higher. Don’t forget that the #1 seeds won their Sweet 16 games by 16, 14, 15, and 13 points. Hey, the #2’s won by 14 and 23! Teams playing “the right way” are naming the score vs. mid-level and worse seeded opponents.

Once again…don’t make a move until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say! The final word for Sunday 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 Sunday morning before the action gets started.

Back with you Monday to run the key boxscore stats from all four Elite 8 matchups as preliminary preparation for handicapping the Final Four

 

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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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