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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 8:46 PM

We wanted to run through the key numbers from this past weekend’s Elite Eight action when they were fresh in our minds. We’ll post comprehensive previews for the Final Four games next Saturday that will focus very much on the strengths and weaknesses of each survivor.

Let’s take the games in the order they were played, starting with that amazing come-from-behind win for Louisville over Florida.

 

LOUISVILLE 72, FLORIDA 68

Field Goal Pct: Florida 50%, Louisville 45%

Three-Pointers: Florida 8/20, Louisville 6/16

Free Throws: Florida 12/18, Louisville 12/15

Rebounds: Florida 32, Louisville 27

Turnovers: Florida 13, Louisville 6

Phantom Score: Florida 64, Louisville 69

Vegas Line: Florida by 1, total of 132

The 40-minute stats don’t do this game justice because there were such extremes. Florida was unstoppable in the first half, shooting about 70% on everything they tossed up…against what is arguably the best defense in the nation when you adjust for tempo and strength of schedule. It was an amazing performance by the Gators. Just as amazing was the Louisville comeback. Down double digits with less than 10 minutes to go, the Cardinals got hot just as Florida ran out of gas. An 18-3 run put the Cards ahead for good. Florida only scored one field goal over the last several minutes of action.

Key numbers for us are Phantom Score (that’s two-point scoring plus rebounding) which fell very close to the actual final score. And, turnovers were obviously important in a game where every possession mattered. The Cardinals only lost the ball six times, which is proof that they kept their composure even when the sky seemed to be falling for much of the game.

It’s still hard to see the Cardinals as full blown national championship material because of their offensive inconsistency. But, we’ve seen in other sports that defense by itself can get you most of the way there…whether you’re taking about the Baltimore Ravens when Trent Dilfer was the quarterback…or an MLB champ led by great pitching. Louisville has a chance to slow down and disrupt Kentucky, which is seemingly the only way the Wildcats can be beaten.

 

OHIO STATE 77, SYRACUSE 70

Field Goal Pct: Ohio State 41%, Syracuse 42%

Three-Pointers: Ohio State 4/12, Syracuse 6/16

Free Throws: Ohio State 31/42, Syracuse 20/25

Rebounds: Ohio State 37, Syracuse 22

Turnovers: Ohio State 11, Syracuse 12

Phantom Score: Ohio State 71, Syracuse 54

Vegas Line: Ohio State by 2.5, total of 136

This was a Phantom Score rout for the Buckeyes. So, even though there was legitimate griping in the media and from fans about their huge edge at the free throw line…they did a great job at the stuff that matters most. They played decent if not overpowering defense, and they owned the boards. It was assumed that rebounding would be the key whenever Syracuse eventually lost. You just have no margin for error when you allow that many second chance opportunities on one end of the floor, while not giving yourself many on the other.

Ohio State has to keep in mind though that the refs probably won’t be as friendly the next time out. And, 4 of 12 from three-point land…particularly against a team that WANTS you to shoot treys…usually isn’t enough to get the job done. Even if you think Ohio State should have been a #1 seed in the first place, they aren’t yet performing at the level we’ve been seeing from Kentucky game in and game out. The Buckeyes are a favorite Saturday, but wouldn’t be a favorite Monday Night if both of Saturday’s favorites win out.

 

KENTUCKY 82 BAYLOR 70

Field Goal Pct: Baylor 39%, Kentucky 53%

Three-Pointers: Baylor 4/14, Kentucky 4/9

Free Throws: Baylor 16/19, Kentucky 30/44

Rebounds: Baylor 29, Kentucky 29

Turnovers: Baylor 14, Kentucky 12

Phantom Score: Baylor 71, Kentucky 69

Vegas Line: Kentucky by 8, total of 148

The sluggishness in the SEC tournament is a distant memory, as Kentucky has truly looked like the best team in the nation in every game they’ve played since then (as long as you take out scrub garbage time in their Dance opener). The Iowa State game blew up for them in the second half. Indiana was a track meet, and the Hoosiers didn’t have the horses to go 40 full minutes. This one was over in the opening minutes when Kentucky kept flying at the basket while Baylor kept flying into blocked shots.

Baylor did make the score respectable in the second half here. But, when it MATTERED, Kentucky was the much superior side in everything including Phantom Score. Maybe they got a bit tired in the last few minutes here. If that’s to repeat, it won’t be an issue until next Monday’s championship rather than Saturday’s semifinals.  

 

KANSAS 80, NORTH CAROLINA 67

Field Goal Pct: Kansas 46%, North Carolina 44%

Three-Pointers: Kansas 4/14, North Carolina 2/17

Free Throws: Kansas 18/24, North Carolina 9/12

Rebounds: Kansas 40, North Carolina 30

Turnovers: Kansas 8, North Carolina 10

Phantom Score: Kansas 90, North Carolina 82

Vegas Line: Kansas by 2.5, total of 142

Funny that Kansas ended up with a bigger victory margin than Kentucky given how Sunday’s action played out. Kentucky coasted home, while Kansas was neck-and-neck with the Heels until the last few minutes. Then…when Carolina hit a wall, the Jayhawks kept piling up the points and pulling away.

That boxscore doesn’t do this game justice at all. The first half was extremely well played, truly showing off the best of this sport. Both teams shot extremely well in a fast-paced game. The pace slowed down after the break, and shorthanded Carolina finally fell apart very late. A poor 2 of 17 performance from behind the arc prevented any chance for a comeback once the game started to drift away.

The game itself wasn’t done justice in the numbers, but the edges for Kansas were real. They won Phantom Score by a comfortable margin. They won rebounding by 10 while also winning the turnover battle. The right team won…and now the Big 12 will have a chance amidst the Big East, Big Ten, and SEC to carry the 2012 championship banner.

That wraps up our review of this past weekend’s action. Again, comprehensive previews will be right here in the NOTEBOOK for the Final Four on Saturday. Between now and then we’ll be getting caught up in the NIT and the NBA. Don’t forget that baseball is just around the corner. We’ll have plenty to keep us busy through the Spring and Summer even if college hoops is winding down.

In fact, JIM HURLEY’S NETOWRK will be getting busy TONIGHT with the top plays from a card that includes Miami-Indiana, Milwaukee-New York, and Denver-Chicago. You can purchase game day releases right here at the website with your credit card. Selections go up a few hours before first tip every day. Keep the cash rolling in with tonight’s NBA, Tuesday’s NIT Final Four, Wednesday’s NBA, and Thursday’s NIT Championships. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

We hope you’ve enjoyed following MARCH MADNESS right here in the NOTEBOOK for the past few weeks. Don’t stop now! Be sure you’re with us EVERY DAY so you know what’s REALLY happening in the world of sports!

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