Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 12:43 AM
On Friday three of the biggest names in college basketball history took the floor when Kentucky, North Carolina, and Kansas aimed to advance past the Sweet 16. All three survived dangerous threats, and now join Baylor on the final day of the Elite 8 Round.
Let’s crunch the numbers for today’s Clashes of Titans, and review how each survived Friday Night free-for-alls that featured plenty of thrills and drama.
SOUTH REGIONAL IN ATLANTA
KENTUCKY (1) VS. BAYLOR (3)
Baylor: 12 in Sagarin, 17 in Pomeroy, 10 on offense, 39 on defense
Kentucky: 1 in Sagarin, 1 in Pomeroy, 2 on offense, 12 on defense
Vegas Line: Kentucky by 7.5, total of 147.5
Kentucky had a battle on its hands with Indiana Friday Night, but pulled away late to cover the spread in one of the most frantic 40-minute track meets we’ve seen in the Dance for quite some time. Kentucky led 50-47 at halftime. Louisville and Michigan State barely cracked that in a full game against each other! Baylor jumped to a 22-4 lead against Xavier but blew most of that lead, and then most of another before finally closing out a five-point win (not enough for angry backers!).
The computer rankings above (gathered from the respected data of Jeff Sagarin at USA today and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy) clearly give Kentucky the edge. This is actually a slightly larger edge than they had in those numbers of Indiana…a game they won by 12. So, if you’re going to back Baylor here, you’re asking Kentucky to take a step back from their form of the past few games and the full season in composite.
KENTUCKY 102, INDIANA 90
Field Goal Pct: Indiana 52%, Kentucky 48%
Three-Pointers: Indiana 5/18, Kentucky 5/10
Free Throws: Indiana 13/17, Kentucky 35/37
Rebounds: Indiana 28, Kentucky 37
Turnovers: Indiana 8, Kentucky 6
Phantom Score: Indiana 90, Kentucky 89
Vegas Line: Kentucky by 9, total of 145
Fans were out of breath watching this game, so it’s hard to imagine how the players kept going for the full 40 minutes. Well, Indiana actually didn’t manage that. They ran out of gas first…and that allowed Kentucky to pull away in the final minutes. Phantom Score was a virtual tie (two-point scoring plus rebounding). The biggest difference above was in the free throw category, where Kentucky was +22 in makes in a game they only won by 12. Was that a sign of biased refs? Indiana fans think so. But, it has to be said that Kentucky attacked the basket with aggression all night. They earned the bulk of those free throw attempts. Then, a free throw parade at the end of the game on intentional fouls helped inflate the differential. You could say a couple of borderline calls went Kentucky’s way. But, the high number was a reflection of their aggression.
If you’re looking for negatives for Kentucky going forward, the defense sure didn’t sparkle here. Indiana shot very well inside the arc, and rarely turned the ball over. Kentucky’s players loved the shootout environment. That can create bad habits if you start backing off on defense because you’re trying to get out on a fast break. Baylor’s one of the last teams you want to see in a battle of athletes, so it will be interesting to see if Kentucky changes its mindset, or tries to win two track meets in a row.
BAYLOR 75, XAVIER 70
Field Goal Pct: Xavier 43%, Baylor 51%
Three-Pointers: Xavier 3/15, Baylor 5/15
Free Throws: Xavier 19/24, Baylor 12/14
Rebounds: Xavier 26, Baylor 32
Turnovers: Xavier 10, Baylor 12
Phantom Score: Xavier 68, Baylor 80
Vegas Line: Baylor by 6, total of 143
Baylor didn’t hit a bunch of treys in this game, but still managed to express their superiority. Phantom Score was a double digit win. And, if the team could just stay focused for more than a few minutes at a time, this would have been a blowout. That was a problem vs. South Dakota State…and was a problem twice here as the Bears blew two different double digit leads. We like what we see in the areas of defense and rebounding. To beat Kentucky, Baylor can’t suffer any walkabouts.
We should note that Baylor has had an easy path to the Elite Eight all things considered. They defeated a #14 seed in the round of 64, then a #11 seed in the round of 32, followed by a #10 seed here. That could provide a false sense of confidence at the exact wrong time.
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his sources since Friday’s games ended. He wants to know what tempo this game will be played at. Learning that could create both side and total selections in this matchup. You can expect some amazing feats of physical derring-do from both teams. Will it be a great game? You’ll have to sign up with NETWORK to find out!
MIDWEST REGIONAL IN ST. LOUIS
NORTH CAROLINA (1) VS. KANSAS (2)
Kansas: 6 in Sagarin, 4 in Pomeroy, 19 on offense, 4 on defense
North Carolina: 5 in Sagarin, 7 in Pomeroy, 16 on offense, 9 on defense
Vegas Line: Kansas by 2, total of 143.5
We had two matchups in the Elite Eight matching #1 and #2 seeds. Vegas made the #2 seeds favorites in both games. Kansas is laying two here against a shorthanded Carolina team that played WAY below their computer ratings in the overtime game against Ohio. You’ll see in a moment that the team was a turnover machine without their star point guard. But, they did do a lot of other things well. Ohio hit a lot of treys in that game, which is something Kansas has been unable to do so far in the Dance.
Frankly, neither team has played to their computer ratings in this event. Carolina has obvious reasons why that’s the case. Kansas really doesn’t have any excuses for barely beating #10 seed Purdue and #11 seed NC State.
NORTH CAROLINA 73, OHIO 65 (in overtime)
Field Goal Pct: Ohio 32 %, N. Carolina 41 %
Three-Pointers: Ohio 12/32, N. Carolina 7/22
Free Throws: Ohio 7/8, N. Carolina 14/24
Rebounds: Ohio 27, N. Carolina 55
Turnovers: Ohio 12, N. Carolina 23
Phantom Score: Ohio 49, N. Carolina 93
Vegas Line: North Carolina by 10.5, total of 142
Phantom Score was an absolute slaughter for North Carolina…which proves that they had a substantial edge in physicality and talent even if they were shorthanded. Ohio’s only hope was to make a bunch of treys. An even dozen would get them a competitive overtime loss that they can be proud of. We want to direct your attention to the turnover line. Carolina had a ridiculous 23 giveaways. There’s no way they can think about going the distance in this event until they clean that up. Hustling on rebounds will get you past Ohio. Everyone left is bigger and better than Ohio.
KANSAS 60, NC STATE 57
Field Goal Pct: NC State 28 %, Kansas 38%
Three-Pointers: NC State 6/21, Kansas 1/14
Free Throws: NC State 13/17, Kansas 11/20
Rebounds: NC State 43, Kansas 42
Turnovers: NC State 14, Kansas 13
Phantom Score: NC State 69, Kansas 88
Vegas Line: Kansas by 8, total of 143
Kansas joins Baylor on the list of Big 12 teams who have had easy paths. They’ve been less impressive than Baylor in terms of results…and they lost to Baylor in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament. It’s possible that the whole Big 12 was overrated this year…and that easy schedules have helped protect Baylor and Kansas from early embarrassment (Missouri suffered one of the biggest early embarrassments ever, Kansas State and Iowa State were badly outclassed by Syracuse and Kentucky respectively, and Texas lost in the first round to Cincinnati).
That being said, Kansas won Phantom Score in a rout, and that could have more predictive value than the 1 of 14 mark on three-pointers. Hey, if there’s ever a game where Kansas makes some treys, look out!
Well, one team is hurt, and the other is slumping even if they keep squeezing out victories. That creates in interesting handicapping challenge. Luckily, NETWORK’S exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach is designed to solve the deepest of mysteries.
You can purchase our Sunday slate right here at the website with your credit card. Don’t forget that there’s NBA on the schedule too. We’re looking at Miami-Oklahoma City, Philadelphia-San Antonio, and Memphis/LA Lakers for possible serious play. If you have any questions about our service, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.
Two more regional championships are on the line Sunday in the Big Dance. When championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!