Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 at 5:00 PM
A year ago this week they met in a #8 vs. #9 matchup in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. This year they draw each other in a play-in game as a pair of #11 seeds. It’s USC vs. Providence highlighting night two of the 2017 Big Dance!
Here’s the schedule, which…for the second night in a row…features a pair of #16’s followed by a pair of #11’s.
6:40 p.m. ET: NC Central vs. Cal Davis (winner plays Kansas)
9:10 p.m. ET: USC vs. Providence (winner plays SMU)
You know the drill…let’s crunch some numbers!
USC: #61 at Kenpom, #55 at Sagarin
Providence: #56 at Kenpom, #58 at Sagarin
NC Central: #152 at Kenpom, #179 at Sagarin
Cal-Davis: #218 at Kenpom, #200 at Sagarin
The most respected college basketball computer analysts, Ken Pomeroy of kenpom.com and Jeff Sagarin of USA Today, disagree on which is the better side in that matchup of 11’s. Pomeroy gives the nod slightly to Providence of the Big East. Sagarin goes the other way with USC of the Pac 12. They do agree however that these are borderline Dance teams at best. Usually the cut-off to get in as an at-large is in the 45-50 range in the computer rankings. Yesterday’s Kansas State/Wake Forest game was more like an 8-9 game in the brackets. This is more like the NIT quarterfinals or semifinals. Consensus in the opener that NC Central is superior…and that Cal Davis is one of the worst teams in the field.
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
USC: 112.5 per 100 possessions (#46 in the nation)
Providence: 108.1.0 per 100 possessions (#108 in the nation)
NC Central: 102.9 per 100 possessions (#201 in the nation)
Cal-Davis: 97.9 per 100 possessions (#292 in the nation)
Wow…more lousy offenses in the opener. Neither NC Central nor Cal-Davis could even crack the top 200 nationally once you adjust for pace and strength of schedule. Clear edge to USC in the nightcap. Providence is going to have real trouble advancing deep this year because they have such little reliable weaponry.
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Providence: 95.2 per 100 possessions (#33 in the nation)
USC: 100.2 per 100 possessions (#86 in the nation)
NC Central: 101.9 per 100 possessions (#112 in the nation)
Cal-Davis: 102.6 per 100 possessions (#128 in the nation)
You could probably deduce that Providence must have the better defense if USC had the better offense. Now you can see why USC hung close to UCLA in Las Vegas last week at the Pac 12 tourney. Neither team can defend vs. quality so both offenses scored at will! If you prefer backing defenses in this event…that would favor Providence. But, either survivor will have to lift its game to take out SMU in the next round. Edge to NC Central on both sides of the floor in the battle of 16’s…though it’s much closer between those two here on defense.
NC Central: #256
It’s not a case of extremes, but we will have a challenge of wills between a relatively fast team and a relatively slow team in both matchups. Neutral court playoff style basketball tends to slow down (except for the elite super-fast teams who can impose their will), so that should favor Providence and NCC. USC will definitely try to take Providence out of its comfort zone while hoping for some cheap transition points. Figure out who wins tempo, and you’ve figured out who’s going to win and cover most likely.
Against the Spread
NC Central: 6-0
Central isn’t on the board much in such an obscure conference. They’re undefeated against the number as a lined team in a limited sampling. Still impressive! Providence was a good money-maker this year, while USC cost its backers after you factor in the 10% vigorish.
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Back tomorrow to preview the prime time Iowa State/Nevada Thursday nighter that features two teams who looked great winning their conference tournaments last week. Friday we’ll preview Wichita State/Dayton, one of the most talked about Round of 64 games because a #10 seed is laying a whopping SIX points to a #7 seed! Saturday and Sunday we’ll crunch JIM HURLEY’S indicator stats in the best evening matchups. No doubt you’re already anticipating some of the great blockbusters that will be on tap this weekend if form holds on the favorites.
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