Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 23, 2012 at 9:00 PM
It’s amazing how fast this thing goes once the jet-powered roller skates have ignited. We’re down to the final eight teams in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. By the time you go to bed Sunday Night, we’ll all know who the final four are going to be.
JIM HURLEY has some very strong opinions about who those teams will be heading to the Superdome in New Orleans. You can purchase his Dance picks right here at this website Saturday and Sunday to find out in advance what everyone else will know late Sunday Night!
First things first…time for our NOTEBOOK stat previews in the games set for Saturday tips. We’ll be back at the same time tomorrow to run the numbers for Sunday’s games. We start with a game that will have a true Final Four feel to it. Syracuse and Ohio State both spent a lot of time this year in the top four of the national rankings. It’s a bit of a shame they have to meet in the final eight rather than the Final Four. Let’s see what the numbers have to say about that game and Louisville-Florida. If you’re new to the site, we use the respected computer rankings of Jeff Sagarin (USA Today) and Ken Pomeroy to give you a sense of where the teams stand nationally. Then, we use Pomeroy’s tabulations of offensive and defensive efficiency (points scored, adjusted for pace and schedule strength) for additional context.
EAST REGIONAL IN BOSTON
SYRACUSE (1) VS. OHIO STATE (2)
Ohio State: 2 in Sagarin, 2 in Pomeroy, 7 on offense, 2 on defense
Syracuse: 4 in Sagarin, 6 in Pomeroy, 6 on offense, 17 on defense
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 3, total of 136
That’s right, the #2 seed is favored over the #1 seed! Part of that is because Fab Melo is out. Syracuse earned the top seed at full strength, but is now missing a key player. We should point out though that the market has been very fond of Ohio State this year…probably too fond down the stretch in Big Ten play (and against Michigan State).
The computers confirm that this is more of a Final Four game than an Elite Eight game, as long as you give the Orange credit for beating Kansas State and Wisconsin without Melo (Wisconsin has a high computer rating, so that’s legit). As much as you hear from the media about Syracuse’s great zone defense, it’s actually Ohio Stat that’s done the better job in efficiency this year.
Very even teams…the numbers say Ohio State has a slight edge. Vegas gives credit to the Buckeyes for an edge that’s maybe a bit better than slight. Let’s see how these teams advanced Thursday Night.
SYRACUSE 64, WISCONSIN 63
Field Goal Pct: Wisconsin 43%, Syracuse 55%
Three-Pointers: Wisconsin 14/27, Syracuse 5/9
Free Throws: Wisconsin 7/12, Syracuse 5/9
Rebounds: Wisconsin 23, Syracuse 23
Turnovers: Wisconsin 6, Syracuse 6
Phantom Score: Wisconsin 37, Syracuse 67
Vegas Line: Syracuse by 3, total of 119
For you newcomers, Phantom Score is two-point scoring plus rebounding. We use it as a secondary score that helps us see who’s emphasizing the right things on the floor. Wisconsin had no chance to compete with the Orange inside the arc…so they HAD to go bombs away from long range. That created a +30 edge for Syracuse in Phantom Score…because they owned the inside game. But, Wisconsin was +27 on three-pointers thanks to a fantastic shooting performance (14 of 26 before the Hail Mary failed in the final seconds). We hope you watched because it really was one of the best college basketball games in years. The studio announcers kept saying that…but it was justified in this case. Great battle in front of a great crowd. This is what we imagine March Madness to be all the time!
OHIO STATE 81, CINCINNATI 66
Field Goal Pct: Cincinnati 46%, Ohio State 48%
Three-Pointers: Cincinnati 9/23, Ohio State 8/17
Free Throws: Cincinnati 5/8, Ohio State 19/27
Rebounds: Cincinnati 26, Ohio State 33
Turnovers: Cincinnati 18, Ohio State 11
Phantom Score: Cincinnati 60, Ohio State 71
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 7.5, total of 129
Very solid game for Ohio State in just about every way that can be measured. The only volume category they lost was three-point shooting, but they had the better percentage. Just run your finger down the number…Ohio State was better in everything. And, this is a good Cincinnati team we’re talking about. They reached the Big East finals last week, and survived a nailbiter against a Florida State team that went 2-1 against both North Carolina and Duke. When Ohio State plays like this….they’re truly championship material. Can they keep it going Saturday vs. Syracuse…and then TWO more times next week?
You regulars know we can’t post JIM HURLEY’S selections here in the NOTEBOOK. Our Boston sources have been very helpful pinning down what we need to know to put you on the right side.
WEST REGIONAL IN PHOENIX
LOUISVILLE (4) VS. FLORIDA (7)
Louisville: 16 in Sagarin, 17 in Pomeroy, 107 on offense, 1 on defense
Florida: 11 in Sagarin, 12 in Pomeroy, 3 on offense, 63 on defense
Vegas Line: Florida by 1.5, total of 131.5
We’d have to say that those computer ratings may be underplaying how well each team is playing right now. Louisville just won the Big East tournament, then took out respected New Mexico and powerful Michigan State in back to back games. They’re playing like a #2 seed even if the computers still haven them as the equivalent of a #4. Same story for Florida…who received a ridiculous #7 seed given their resume. They’re playing like a #2 seed as well…having crushed a #15 and a #10 last weekend, before dispatching of a #3 Thursday Night. Classic Elite Eight type game even if the seedings don’t suggest that.
Once again we have the inferior seed favored! Who’s going to argue with that given Florida’s performances of late. The efficiency stats show that the weakest link on the court is Louisville’s offense. They’ve hidden that by hitting some treys the last two games. Can they keep that going after struggling from long range this season?
LOUISVILLE 57, MICHIGAN STATE 44
Field Goal Pct: Louisville 38%, Michigan State 29%
Three-Pointers: Louisville 9/23, Michigan State 5/21
Free Throws: Louisville 6/11, Michigan State 11/12
Rebounds: Louisville 34, Michigan State 32
Turnovers: Louisville 9, Michigan State 15
Phantom Score: Louisville 58, Michigan State 50
Vegas Line: Michigan State by 5.5, total of 124
We’re proud to say we’re about the only media source of the past few years that’s been alerting you to the great job Rick Pitino does coaching defenses. You regulars have hopefully been marveling at that all through this postseason run. Michigan State was just put in a straightjacket and muzzled for 40 full minutes. The Cardinals get a clean upset in Phantom Score…then add to that advantage with a +6 edge in the turnover department. Bad luck for Michigan State this year drawing Saint Louis and Louisville in succession when other teams lucked into lesser challenges. Solid stuff from Louisville.
FLORIDA 68, MARQUETTE 58
Field Goal Pct: Florida 41%, Marquette 31%
Three-Pointers: Florida 7/27, Marquette 6/21
Free Throws: Florida 13/15, Marquette 12/18
Rebounds: Florida 39, Marquette 34
Turnovers: Florida 11, Marquette 9
Phantom Score: Florida 73, Marquette 62
Vegas Line: Marquette by 1.5, total of 146
This wasn’t necessarily a great performance from the Gators. They shot poorly from long range. It’s kind of futile to keep launching treys if you’re going to miss 20 of them. And, when you’re WINNING, that doesn’t seem like a percentage play at all. Though, as some TV pundits pointed out…how good is Florida going to look in the game where the three’s start to fall! This was a defensive win for the Gators, who Phantom Score handily as an underdog and slammed the door on any Marquette comeback hopes. There’s been a lot of good defense in the Dance of late. Florida is on the short list of teams who are really clamping down on that side of the ball.
Given that Louisville’s game with Michigan State stayed Under by 23 points Thursday Night, while Florida’s game with Marquette stayed Under by 20…we’ll have to think about Under possibilities here. These teams are playing defense…and a close game may bog down in the final minutes tempo-wise.
You’ll have to sign up for our service to see what final sides and totals we settled on based on our exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach. BIG JUICY WINNERS are always available here at the website for credit card purchase. You can also get on board by calling the office at 1-800-323-4453.
Be sure you spend every hour of the Elite 8 with us…because there’s no more elite name in the world of sports handicapping than JIM HURLEY!