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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, February 26, 2017 at 4:00 PM

It’s another BIG MONDAY in the ESPN family of networks. But, it’s not a blockbuster doubleheader this week. Two great games are on at the same time!

7 p.m. ET on ESPN: North Carolina at Virginia

7 p.m. ET on ESPNU: West Virginia at Baylor

All four of those teams could end up being seeded for the Sweet 16. It’s not inconceivable that all four of those teams could survive until the Elite Eight once the tournament begins next Month! But, this is definitely a season where any power program is vulnerable to a bad game under playoff pressure.

Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicators stats have to say about all four teams as they begin their final week of regular season play. You regulars know we use the publicly available efficiency data from Ken Pomeroy’s landmark college basketball stat site…kenpom.com.

 

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

North Carolina: 122.8 per 100 possessions (#4 in the nation)

West Virginia: 118.7 per 100 possessions (#15 in the nation)

Baylor: 117.0 per 100 possessions (#27 in the nation)

Virginia: 114.3 per 100 possessions (#39 in the nation)

North Carolina has become almost a “perfect” offense this season because they’ve finally added a three-point scoring threat. In the past, they just flew at the basket and tried to wear people down. Now…they do that while also hitting treys! West Virginia and Baylor are both efficient in their own way…but are prone to dry spells in big games. You probably remember that West Virginia’s offense disappeared late in that choke job at Kansas. If Baylor becomes content to launch treys too much, they can go silent in crunch time too. Virginia is currently playing a lot worse than that #39 ranking would suggest on this side of the floor. They were a top 25 offense (adjusted for pace and schedule) up until a few weeks ago.

 

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

Virginia: 87.6 per 100 possessions (#1 in the nation)

West Virginia: 90.5 per 100 possessions (#6 in the nation)

Baylor: 92.0 per 100 possessions (#8 in the nation)

North Carolina: 94.4 per 100 possessions (#22 in the nation)

Defense wins championships…which means all four of these teams are in the championship discussion. You might be thinking that Virginia’s slow pace is creating illusions here. But, Pomeroy adjusts for pace. On a per-possession basis, adjusted for schedule, nobody’s better at getting stops than Virginia. North Carolina is better than that #22 mark right now. They were in the 40’s not too long ago. Frankly…if Carolina keeps playing at their most recent form, they’re the clear favorite in the Dance. Easier said than done! Great stuff across the board in this category.

 

Pace Ranking

North Carolina: #49

West Virginia: #69

Baylor: #339

Virginia: #351

Noe the huge differences there. We’ll have a tug-of-war in both Monday night games…with the home team in both trying to keep things very slow while the visitor tries to run. You see above another reason why North Carolina can be a real steamroller when things are going well. They don’t just squash people, they run away and hide. Virginia will try to keep things slow and steady so they have a shot at revenge. One of the paradoxes of tournament play is that comfort at a slow pace is best in a one-game battle…but less likely to launch you to a winning streak because it’s harder to string together wins when you can’t get scoreboard distance from opponents. Keep that in mind when you’re filling out your brackets.

 

Against the Spread

North Carolina 16-12-1

Virginia 15-11

West Virginia 12-11-1

Baylor: 12-12

Both ACC teams have had more success vs. market prices. Worth noting though that North Carolina has caught fire of late, covering four in a row. Virginia hit a wall recently, though Saturday’s cover at NC State pushed them to 1-4 ATS their last five. Two weeks ago…Virginia was a stellar 14-7 (67% rate), while Carolina was at .500. That makes tonight’s challenge for oddsmakers and handicappers tricky. How much should recent form (which includes an easy win for the Tar Heels over the Cavaliers) count in the line?

JIM HURLEY has some thoughts about that. As we go to press, it’s not certain yet whether or not these games will be in the Monday investment portfolio. Based on projected pointspreads, NETWORK clients will likely be involved in at least one. You can get the final word for Monday right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. Be sure to ask about “rest of the season” packages for both college and pro basketball. The tournaments start THIS WEEK with select mid-majors!

Back with you midweek to talk more basketball. Then we’ll have our preview for Saturday night’s long awaited Duke/North Carolina rematch up for you in plenty of time to evaluate that matchup.

March is knocking on the door…and JIM HURLEY is standing right there ready to crash inside and GRAB ALL THE MONEY! Keep getting all the BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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