Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, March 20, 2017 at 4:00 PM
When the brackets for the 2017 NCAA Tournament were first announced, many eyes were looking ahead to a potential Sweet 16 matchup between historical hoop powers UCLA and Kentucky. Sure, we all know that upsets can wreak havoc with Dance plans. And, both UCLA and Kentucky were capable of getting taken out by dangerous second round foes. Now that the dust has settled…
IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN!
Wichita State couldn’t get in the way Sunday afternoon. Cincinnati couldn’t derail destiny in the final game played Sunday night. We get the Bruins and the Wildcats battling for survival (and a possible date with another historical superpower, North Carolina) Friday night at the Fedex Forum in Memphis, TN.
Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about a game that the whole world will be watching…
UCLA: #14 at Kenpom, #14 at Sagarin
Kentucky: #5 at Kenpom, #5 at Sagarin
The computers haven’t been impressed with UCLA most of the season. Yet, it’s now pretty clear that both college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin had severely overrated the ACC at the expense of everyone else. So, the pollsters could have been right when they had UCLA closer to the top! Kentucky is seen as the slightly superior team, which was seemingly confirmed by the opening like of Kentucky -1.5. But, both sharp and square money came in on UCLA. By early Monday afternoon, it was the Bruins who were the short favorite. Nobody trusts the computers any more!
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
UCLA: 124.2 per 100 possessions (#2 in the nation)
Kentucky: 119.0 per 100 possessions (#13 in the nation)
Whatever you think of computers, it’s clear to all tests that both teams have great offenses. They love to attack, which gets them extra cheap points from the free throw line. Both can make some treys (particularly UCLA). They will score chippies if the opposing defense has to back off with foul trouble. Slight edge to the Bruins on this side of the floor, in a battle of offensive elites.
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
UCLA: 100.1 per 100 possessions (#77 in the nation)
Kentucky: 91.8 per 100 possessions (#7 in the nation)
The big differences between these teams…and the big reason so many have been skeptical of UCLA… is on this side of the floor. Now, it’s true that they’ve been playing with more defensive intensity lately. That’s probably what inspired the early money at the opening price. But, Kentucky’s athletes aggressively protect the rim and force turnovers. The Wildcats certainly have the more “reliable” defense. Handicappers must determine whether or not UCLA can hang with them for 40 minutes (or more!) in this vital statistic.
Boy is this going to be a track meet! Both teams love to run. Both will be in their comfort zone, while dealing with the dilemma of putting their opponent in their opponent’s comfort zone! UCLA is probably better at making the most of a frenetic pace with their scorers. But, if they charge the basket only to run into blocked shots, Kentucky gets the best of it over the long haul. This could really be some game. Smart handicappers will spend some time studying roster depth because fatigue and foul trouble are extremely likely to come into play.
Against the Spread
Both teams were priced like championship contenders all season…so both teams had trouble meeting expectations more than half the time. Note that Kentucky is 0-2 ATS in the tournament, failing to match their target as favorites over Northern Kentucky and Wichita State. UCLA covered against Cincinnati. And, we have to admit that their nailbiter win over USC in the Pac 12 tournament doesn’t look as bad now as it did at the time.
The 2017 NCAA Tournament has already been an electrifying event. Exciting to think that the best may be yet to come! Be sure you do-it-yourselfers devote some extra time to handicapping the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds. You have that break on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Make use of it! Or, take the easy way out and let JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK do all the work for you.
*We’ll build your bankrolls through the week in the lesser tourneys and NBA
*Then we’ll unleash BIG, JUICY WINNERS in the Sweet 16 and beyond!
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Enjoy the Sweet 16. Back with you again soon here in the handicapping notebook. Now, go GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEYS’ NETWORK!