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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, February 23, 2018 at 11:31 AM

Through JIM HURLEY'S continuing efforts to prepare you for college basketball handicapping down the stretch and into the tournaments, you'll see us discussing often the importance of DEFENSE. We were writing "Defense Wins Championships" back when our web coverage first started many years ago. It's just as true now as it was back then. The fundamentals of winning are always important, on the basketball floor and at the betting window.

An obvious correlating phrase to that mantra would be "Bad Defense CAN'T Win Championships." That should go without saying. But, you'd be surprised how many bettors don't know who the bad defenses are in college basketball. Or, worse, they think that some of the bad defenses are actually good...and some of the good defenses are actually bad!

When evaluating defense in basketball, remember:

*Don't use raw points allowed averages
*Do use variations on "efficiency" that adjust points allowed for PACE

Some teams create the illusion of great defense by holding onto the ball a long time on offense. Some teams create the illusion of poor defense by playing fast break basketball. Golden State is a great example from the NBA. Too many in the media used to think the Warriors had a bad defense because they played high scoring games. They actually had an elite "per-possession" defense once you made the proper adjustments.

Today, we're going to focus on the likely postseason pretenders. Here's a list of teams that ranked outside the top 50 of Ken Pomeroy's "adjusted defensive efficiency" at midweek. That's points allowed per possession also adjusted from strength of schedule. It's very hard to string together victories in March if you're not getting stops.

Xavier ranked #70 nationally
Wichita State ranked #75 nationally
Nevada ranked #76 nationally
Arizona State ranked #95 nationally
Arizona ranked #96 nationally
St. Mary's ranked #115 nationally
TCU ranked #130 nationally

Admit it. You were probably thinking of at least one of those teams as a Dance darkhorse that you wanted to take in your office pools. Xavier has a chance to be a #1 seed! But, you've seen how that poor defense has killed them vs. Villanova. Somebody is going to take advantage of the Musketeers in the NCAA's. Wichita State has been a big disappointment this season largely because they allow too many easy buckets. They were supposed to make a statement with a rise to a better conference (from the Missouri Valley to the American Athletic). Instead, the Shockers have been exposed to a degree.

How about Arizona and Arizona State ranking so close together. The whole Pac 12 has been defensively challenged this season. There's a chance only TWO teams from the league will earn bids. In fact, ASU is dangerously close to missing out on a bid if they can't find their earlier season form.

Seems like St. Mary's is a team we warn you about every season. They play a very slow pace on offense, patiently working to find good shots. That creates a great offensive efficiency in the weak West Coast Conference. But, it also helps hide a soft defense that typically gets exposed vs. real competition in the NCAA's.

From both ends of the spectrum, both good and bad, we strongly encourage you to study defensive stats for all the teams you'll be handicapping in the NCAA's and even the NIT. If you'd like some additional stats beyond Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency, JIM HURLEY recommends...

*Two-Point Shooting Percentage Allowed
*Defensive Rebound Percentage
*Forced Turnover Percentage (turnovers adjusted for possessions)

The best defenses protect the rim, and force turnovers. Some are also evolving toward better defense around the arc. But, that's still a work in progress at many programs. Successful coaches are emphasizing defense in the paint. Disappointing coaches often have teams that lack intensity in this regard.

You want to bet AGAINST soft defenses...and disappointing coaches...and programs who lose their fight defensively in the last 10 minutes of close games vs. challenging opponents. This is going to matter even more in neutral court basketball in conference tournaments and the NCAA's. We're going to see a lot of point spreads very close to pick-em. Soft defenses will let their opponents run away and hide in the closing minutes.

You probably know JIM HURLEY had a fantastic run through the NFL Playoff. His college basketball selections are going to make oddsmakers run away and hide over the next six weeks! You can purchase our daily BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 to take care of business. Be sure you ask about extended programs that take you through March Madness or the NBA Playoffs. You always get the most bang for your buck on long term purchases, particularly when success in the first few days often pays for the full package.

Our exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach is poised to dominate from this point forward. Our SCOUTS AND SOURCES pay particular attention to the defensive skill sets of each team. Our COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS tweak our simulations for the tendency of poor defenses to wear down even further late in a season. While all that is happening, our friends behind the line in Las Vegas and offshore let us know what the smart money is doing. You only get the best handicapping AND the best market judgment from the PROVEN WINNERS at JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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