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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, March 19, 2012 at 10:43 PM

Starting tonight, NIT winners move directly to Madison Square Garden in New York for the Final Four. The first two Elite Eight games go this evening, with the next two scheduled for Wednesday Night so they don’t clash with the Sweet 16 of the Big Dance.

We have four interesting teams on the card this evening:

DREXEL: a team that should have been in the Dance based on VCU’s strong play vs. Wichita State and near win over Indiana. Very little separated Drexel and VCU in the big picture in terms of Colonial Conference play. Drexel had the better computer rankings, but couldn’t win the conference tournament. They would love to send a message to the nation with a deep run in the NIT.

MASSACHUSETTS: these guys closed well, reaching the finals of the Atlantic 10 tournament before bowing out against St. Bonaventure. That’s the St. Bonaventure team that almost beat Florida State in the first round (after leading most of the way), and the conference that has Xavier in the Sweet 16 once again.

OREGON AND WASHINGTON: Twins from the Pac 12 who can play exciting but erratic basketball. The conference has taken quite a hit this year because California played horribly in the Dance play-in game against South Florida, while Colorado pulled off one upset before falling to Baylor (though nobody thinks of Colorado as a Pac 12 team anyway since their so new to the league). The brackets were set up to squeeze a Pac 12 team into the Final Four to guarantee a national representation for TV ratings. At least these guys put on a show!

Let’s crunch our standard indicator numbers and see what might be on tap for tonight. If you’re new to the website, we use computer ratings from Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and Ken Pomeroy. We also present the offensive and defensive efficiency rankings tabulated by Pomeroy (scoring adjusted for tempo and opponents). With only two games on the slate, we’ll have room to run the most recent boxscore for each team as well…meaning the second round games that have been played within the last few days.

 

MASSACHUSETTS (5) AT DREXEL (3)

UMASS: 68 in Sagarin, 72 in Pomeroy, 101 on offense, 64 on defense

Drexel: 49 in Sagarin, 34 in Pomeroy, 46 on offense, 43 on defense

Vegas Line: Drexel by 6.5

Drexel games out as the better side, and obviously has home court advantage because of their superior seed. We, frankly, were surprised they didn’t get a #1 seed. Usually the bubble teams from the Dance get that consideration. Drexel didn’t, and seemed pretty mad about it in their first game. Their second game? Not so much! UMASS has been impressive thus far. Though, they were lucky to draw Seton Hall’s part of the bracket. Seton played like they had no interest in appearing in this tournament. The Pirates barely beat Stony Brook in the first round, then got pounded by UMASS. Let’s see what the boxscores show…

 

SECOND ROUND BOXSCORES

MASSACHUSETTS 77, SETON HALL 67

Field Goal Pct: UMASS 45%, Seton Hall 35%

Three-Pointers: UMASS 5/18, Seton Hall 5/27

Free Throws: UMASS 22/31, Seton Hall 20/28

Rebounds: UMASS 38, Seton Hall 34

Turnovers: UMASS 12, Seton Hall 14

Phantom Score: UMASS 78, Seton Hall 66

Vegas Line: Seton Hall by 6, total of 150

For you newcomers, Phantom Score is simply two-point scoring plus rebounding. We use it as a secondary score because it focuses on what matters most…and because it often has more predictive value than what’s on the scoreboard. Here, we get almost an exact replica…which is a good sign if you’re a UMASS fan. This was a clean win all across the board. Maybe it’s misleading because St. Bonny has been flat. Or, maybe MASS is playing at a Dance level right now.

 

DREXEL 65, NORTHERN IOWA 63

Field Goal Pct: Northern Iowa 46%, Drexel 52%

Three-Pointers: Northern Iowa 10/23, Drexel 7/10

Free Throws: Northern Iowa 9/13, Drexel 12/19

Rebounds: Northern Iowa 30, Drexel 20

Turnovers: Northern Iowa 13, Drexel 11

Phantom Score: Northern Iowa 54, Drexel 52

Vegas Line: Drexel by 7.5, total of 122.5

This may surprise some of you, but we don’t consider it a positive when a team barely wins after shooting 70% from the three-point line. Drexel was outrebounded here by a good bit, and didn’t exactly sparkle the way you’d expect from a home team playing with a chip on their shoulder. Phantom Score has Northern Iowa barely winning…and they were the ROAD team. That means Northern was a very likely winner on a neutral court. We’re working with our Northeast sources very carefully here (we’re well connected to information in both the Boston and Philadelphia areas), and that information could lead to a big play for us.

 

OREGON (3) AT WASHINGTON (1)

Oregon: 54 in Sagarin, 54 in Pomeroy, 18 on offense, 153 on defense

Washington: 50 in Sagarin, 55 in Pomeroy, 63 on offense, 65 on defense

Vegas Line: Washington by 4.5

Wow, hard to get much closer than that. These teams aren’t pure clones because Oregon is much better on offense while Washington is much better on defense. But, this has the potential to be a thriller because the teams are evenly matched and both would love to earn a trip to New York. You regulars know we prefer defense to offense when trying to make postseason predictions. The oddsmakers have made an adjustment for that though, since “conference” home court advantage isn’t usually as high as 4.5 points.

 

SECOND ROUND BOXSCORES

OREGON 108, IOWA 97

Field Goal Pct: Iowa 47%, Oregon 59%

Three-Pointers: Iowa 10/22, Oregon 10/23

Free Throws: Iowa 13/15, Oregon 28/32

Rebounds: Iowa 30, Oregon 32

Turnovers: Iowa 8, Oregon 10

Phantom Score: Iowa 84, Oregon 82

Vegas Line: Oregon by 8, total of 155.5

This was the highest scoring non overtime game this year in college basketball. Must have been a lot of fun to watch. Both teams did a good job making treys. Oregon was able to win because they also earned a lot more trips to the free throw line. Was that home cooking? Iowa won Phantom Score, and may have reversed the result had they been the home team based on those one-sided free throw totals. We can assure you we’ve spent a lot of time reviewing Oregon’s across-the-board ROAD stats in conference play this year before making a final decision.

 

WASHINGTON 76, NORTHWESTERN 55

Field Goal Pct: Northwestern 35%, Washington 43%

Three-Pointers: Northwestern 9/24, Washington 11/32

Free Throws: Northwestern 10/17, Washington 11/14

Rebounds: Northwestern 24, Washington 42

Turnovers: Northwestern 15, Washington 17

Phantom Score: Northwestern 42, Washington 74

Vegas Line: Washington by 5, total of 147.5

Great result for the Huskies. This was a Phantom Score blowout, so there aren’t any concerns about fishy officiating here. Three-pointers were close too in terms of scoring volume. We don’t like seeing that high turnover total. And, it could be a problem in a run-and-gun game with Oregon. Just keep in mind that the Big Ten has looked pretty good this year in the postseason. The NIT had to send Iowa and Northwestern way out West to get rid of them! It hasn’t been well-reported. But, Washington thought winning the regular season title in the Pac 12 should have put them in the Dance. Like Drexel, they have reasons to bring an extra “us against the world” edge to the festivities.

Clients will get our best play from the NIT tonight, and possibly BOTH games, when they sign up for service. We’re also looking over a very interesting NBA schedule that includes the LA Lakers at Houston just days after their deadline trade, suddenly hot Phoenix at Miami, the LA Clippers at Indiana, and Oklahoma City at Utah.

Keep building your bankrolls for the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight this week in the Big Dance by piling up the profits today and Wednesday! Game day selections always go up online a few hours before first tip for credit card purchase. If you’re ready to sign up for the rest of basketball, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you Wednesday to cover the rest of the NIT’s Elite Eight round. Then, on Thursday, in-depth previews begin for the Sweet 16. Be sure you’re with us every day so you know what’s REALLY happening in the world of sports!

YOUR MARCH TO RICHES CONTINUES EACH AND EVERY DAY!

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