Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, March 18, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Friday’s carnage in the NCAA Tournament has created one of the oddest Sunday slates ever! Not many of you were expecting to be handicap Xavier vs. Lehigh, or Ohio vs. South Florida. And, the TV networks sure aren’t excited about having to show those teams instead of the anticipated major conference powerhouses. Yes…Duke, Michigan, and Notre Dame will be watching these games with the rest of us!
JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK is prepared for all contingencies and all curveballs. We’ve studied the rankings and crunched the numbers. We can’t tell you who we like here in our previews…but we can at least guide you through boxscore numbers that will help you understand the dynamics in play today. As always, we take the sites in schedule order.
SUNDAY’S GAMES IN GREENSBORO
NORTH CAROLINA (1) VS. CREIGHTON (8)
Vegas Line: North Carolina by 9, total of 160
Notes: One of only two games today that were “supposed” to be played based on the seedings. And, the one that’s projected to be the most high scoring by a mile. You don’t often see 160’s in the college ranks. Both of these teams can play soft inside…and Creighton isn’t well suited to do much about Carolina’s planned tempo. Let’s see how they got here.
NORTH CAROLINA 77, VERMONT 58
Field Goal Pct: Vermont 40%, N. Carolina 42%
Three-Pointers: Vermont 3/18, N. Carolina 5/18
Free Throws: Vermont 5/8, N. Carolina 18/24
Rebounds: Vermont 40, N. Carolina 36
Turnovers: Vermont 19, N. Carolina 11
Phantom Score: Vermont 84, N. Carolina 80
Vegas Line: North Carolina by 15, total of 144
North Carolina really didn’t play very well here based on those numbers. Yet, they posted a comfortable victory margin and a cover on a day where other big name teams were dealing with shock and awe. Their quadrant has really opened up, so the Heels may have a relatively clear path to the Elite 8 even though they’re not in the best of form of late and one of their bigs is recovering from a wrist injury. Biggest concerns here are the rebounding and Phantom Score numbers. Carolina isn’t a three-based team, so they’re supposed to dominate opponents like Vermont in those categories. If you’re new to the site, Phantom Score is simply two-point scoring plus rebounds. It’s a secondary score that often paints a very interesting picture of what was happening in the trenches. It would be a worse omen here if Carolina wasn’t grouped with lesser lights.
CREIGHTON 58, ALABAMA 57
Field Goal Pct: Alabama 46%, Creighton 44%
Three-Pointers: Alabama 7/17, Creighton 9/21
Free Throws: Alabama 6/12, Creighton 5/13
Rebounds: Alabama 29, Creighton 30
Turnovers: Alabama 9, Creighton 7
Phantom Score: Alabama 59, Creighton 56
Vegas Line: Alabama by 1, total of 136
Basically a toss-up game that ebbed and flowed rather than staying tight the whole way. Creighton loses Phantom Score but wins on the scoreboard thanks to a couple of extra treys. They’ll need to shoot lights out to hang with Carolina. Remember that Wichita State just ran roughshod over Creighton in Omaha not too long ago. Carolina is better, and playing in Greensboro. We’ll be checking with our sources here. Nine points may seem like a lot…but scoring variance spreads out more at very high totals.
XAVIER (10) VS. LEHIGH (15)
Vegas Line: Xavier by 3.5, total of 139.5
Notes: Oddsmakers are really just tossing up a guess and hoping for the best. Lehigh isn’t a board team. And, you don’t know how much of a letdown they’ll have (if any) playing so quickly after the Duke shocker. NETWORK has great sources in the Northeast. Those connections are going to be vital for picking the right side in this surprise matchup.
LEHIGH 75, DUKE 70
Field Goal Pct: Lehigh 42%, Duke 41%
Three-Pointers: Lehigh 6/19, Duke 6/26
Free Throws: Lehigh 25/37, Duke 16/23
Rebounds: Lehigh 34, Duke 37
Turnovers: Lehigh 7, Duke 11
Phantom Score: Lehigh 66, Duke 73
Vegas Line: Duke by 12, total of 123
Don’t say we didn’t spend the past few months warning you about something like this! Duke isn’t anything special when the treys aren’t falling or they aren’t getting favorable calls. It was Lehigh marching to the free throw line here because they had the best player on the floor and a disciplined offensive attack. Duke just kept launching treys and missing. Can Lehigh keep it going? Depends on how much celebrating they did after the victory. The team we saw tonight could win again. Tough for these longshot seeds to maintain a high level of play two games in a row though. Again…THIS IS WHY WE SPENT THE YEAR WARNING YOU ABOUT DUKE!
XAVIER 67, NOTRE DAME 63
Field Goal Pct: Xavier 50%, Notre Dame 51%
Three-Pointers: Xavier 5/10, Notre Dame 9/21
Free Throws: Xavier 18/27, Notre Dame 4/9
Rebounds: Xavier 27, Notre Dame 21
Turnovers: Xavier 9, Notre Dame 9
Phantom Score: Xavier 61, Notre Dame 53
Vegas Line: Notre Dame by 2.5, total of 123
Well, we could go all caps in this one too, because we’ve been warning you about Notre Dame this season and over the years. Hoping your three-pointers go in is not much of a plan once you’re in the brackets. Notre Dame doesn’t do much of anything else well. Here they allowed 50% shooting and got outrebounded by a #10 seed from the Atlantic 10 (who’s champion was waxed by South Florida). Clean win across the board for the dog, with edges in fundamentals that could carry the day against flat Lehigh. Against fired up Lehigh? It’s best to call JIM HURLEY so there’s no guesswork!
SUNDAY’S GAMES IN COLUMBUS
GEORGETOWN (3) VS. NC STATE (11)
Vegas Line: Georgetown by 4, total of 132
Notes: The Hoyas finally get over the hump in the first round, but they run right into a red hot team that is playing much better than a #11 caliber seed in recent days. San Diego State was a pretender anyway (another team we warned you about), so this is the matchup that deserved to happen. Will be a great game if both teams maintain their recent form. Will they?
GEORGETOWN 74, BELMONT 59
Field Goal Pct: Belmont 39%, Georgetown 61%
Three-Pointers: Belmont 10/27, Georgetown 5/12
Free Throws: Belmont 7/11, Georgetown 9/13
Rebounds: Belmont 22, Georgetown 30
Turnovers: Belmont 10, Georgetown 11
Phantom Score: Belmont 44, Georgetown 80
Vegas Line: Georgetown by 3.5, total of 133.5
Strong outing for Georgetown, who managed to avoid the upset bug that was going around after some recent embarrassments in this event. They just squashed Belmont like a bug inside, and didn’t worry about treys so much. Look at that Phantom Score! Belmont reached double digits in treys and it still wasn’t much of a game. Now that they’ve cleared the first round hurdle, Georgetown has to be taken seriously as a threat.
NC STATE 79, SAN DIEGO STATE 65
Field Goal Pct: NC State 57%, SDSU 38%
Three-Pointers: NC State 3/9, SDSU 8/25
Free Throws: NC State 14/21, SDSU 11/14
Rebounds: NC State 30, SDSU 25
Turnovers: NC State 9, SDSU 8
Phantom Score: NC State 70, SDSU 41
Vegas Line: NC State by 2.5, total of 138
Is NC State also a threat? Well, they took Carolina to the wire last week…and they sure took control of this game early. The Wolfpack aren’t as good as Georgetown, but an upset here would barely make a ripple after everything that happened Friday. We love what we saw in Phantom Score from NC State here. That could make the Georgetown game very interesting. The Wolfpack are playing better now than that #11 seed would have suggested.
MICHIGAN STATE (1) VS. SAINT LOUIS (9)
Vegas Line: Michigan State by 6, total of 123
Notes: Many respected computers saw Saint Louis as more of a #4 or #5 seed, which means this is a Sweet 16 game rather than a “round of 32” game. Tough draw for both. You’ll see that Saint Louis was a legit winner over impressive Memphis in terms of shooting percentage and rebounding. So far, the Sunday schedule is shaping up very well even with the Friday upsets!
MICHIGAN STATE 89, LONG ISLAND 67
Field Goal Pct: Long Island 44%, Michigan State 59%
Three-Pointers: Long Island 8/17, Michigan State 3/9
Free Throws: Long Island 15/23, Michigan State 6/9
Rebounds: Long Island 19, Michigan State 42
Turnovers: Long Island 11, Michigan State 11
Phantom Score: Long Island 47, Michigan State 116
Vegas Line: Michigan State by 19, total of 155
Loyola hung around for a half. But, they just didn’t have the horses to go the distance. Just like Iona from the same conference…except the opponent here was much better than BYU. Appreciate the Phantom Score for the Spartans. You don’t see something like that very often. That makes Carolina’s failure to win the stat as a #1 seed even more glaring. Michigan State may have been more worried about Memphis than Saint Louis in the next round given all the pre-tourney hype about the Tigers. They’d better not take the Billikens lightly. The Spartans quadrant of the West is still loaded for bear.
SAINT LOUIS 61, MEMPHIS 54
Field Goal Pct: Saint Louis 46%, Memphis 39%
Three-Pointers: Saint Louis 5/13, Memphis 2/15
Free Throws: Saint Louis 14/18, Memphis 10/17
Rebounds: Saint Louis 31, Memphis 26
Turnovers: Saint Louis 16, Memphis 11
Phantom Score: Saint Louis 63, Memphis 64
Vegas Line: Memphis by 3, total of 129
A toss-up in Phantom Score, with Saint Louis winning three-point scoring by +9 in a game they only won by seven. Two even teams who both deserved better seeds than this. But, you’re going to have to beat one of the big boys eventually if you’re going to make a name for yourself. Saint Louis has that chance vs. Michigan State. And, they have a head coach in Rick Majerus who’s been here before. Very important. Truly a Sweet 16 matchup coming five days early.
SUNDAY’S GAMES IN NASHVILLE
FLORIDA STATE (3) VS. CINCINNATI (6)
Vegas Line: Florida State by 2.5, total of 127
Notes: This is the second game that matches the “right” seeds. Both teams had late struggles in their openers, but both managed to survive…and the ultimate winner will truly be battle tested heading to the Sweet 16 after last week’s conference tournaments and their early challenges here.
FLORIDA STATE 66, ST. BONAVENTURE 63
Field Goal Pct: St. Bonaventure 40%, Florida State 45%
Three-Pointers: St. Bonaventure 7/14, Florida State 7/19
Free Throws: St. Bonaventure 10/13, Florida State 11/14
Rebounds: St. Bonaventure 34, Florida State 29
Turnovers: St. Bonaventure 13, Florida State 11
Phantom Score: St. Bonaventure 66, Florida State 63
Vegas Line: Florida State by 6.5, total of 129
Great game. St. Bonny didn’t get caught up celebrating their A10 victory last weekend, while Florida State apparently didn’t realize they’d be facing a real opponent. Many of the FSU players didn’t even know where St. Bonny was from. Well, they know now. And, they dodged a bullet that might help them re-focus on the task at hand. If North Carolina is a national title threat…the team that took two of three from them during the regular season has to be as well.
CINCINNATI 65, TEXAS 59
Field Goal Pct: Texas 35%, Cincinnati 46%
Three-Pointers: Texas 7/20, Cincinnati 3/16
Free Throws: Texas 12/14, Cincinnati 8/16
Rebounds: Texas 33, Cincinnati 37
Turnovers: Texas 11, Cincinnati 9
Phantom Score: Texas 59, Cincinnati 85
Vegas Line: Cincinnati by 3, total of 129.5
Texas only made four baskets in the first half…yet they stormed back to tie the game in the final minutes. But, as soon as it was close again, they went back to making boneheaded decisions with the ball. Just not a smart team this year. It cost them time and time again in close games. Cincinnati won a Phantom Score blowout, with a poor day on treys preventing this from being a laugher. There are a lot of teams like that still alive. Cincy will probably have more trouble scoring inside on FSU than they did here, which means they’ll need some treys to fall.
SOUTH FLORIDA (12) VS. OHIO (13)
Vegas Line: South Florida by 3.5, total of 114
Notes: Last year VCU won a play-in game, then managed to go deep. So, a similar run for South Florida would certainly be possible. They’re playing great defense, which always gives you a puncher’s chance no matter who you face. And, this is a team that had a signature win or two late in the season. They’re probably playing like more of a #8 or #9 seed right now. Though, with the Big East, it’s hard to know what that means just yet. Notre Dame was a #7 seed that probably should be banned from the tournament. The MAC has snuck some teams into the Sweet 16 over the years…in situations exactly like this where a #12 or #13 seed swept the opening weekend.
OHIO 65, MICHIGAN 60
Field Goal Pct: Ohio 51%, Michigan 41%
Three-Pointers: Ohio 6/16, Michigan 7/23
Free Throws: Ohio 15/17, Michigan 9/11
Rebounds: Ohio 23, Michigan 25
Turnovers: Ohio 9, Michigan 10
Phantom Score: Ohio 55, Michigan 55
Vegas Line: Michigan by 5.5, total of 125.5
Don’t sleep on the MAC! You know that conference loves taking out Big Ten teams, whatever the sport is. The Bobcats brought everything here, against the only Big Ten team that’s lived down to our early concerns. Wisconsin and Indiana won Thursday. Purdue came through against St. Mary’s. Michigan was in front of all of them in the standings but went home early to watch the round of 32 on TV with the rest of us. Phantom Score was a tie, with Ohio winning the game mostly on free throw differential. Will they get the calls two games in a row?
SOUTH FLORIDA 58, TEMPLE 44
Field Goal Pct: South Florida 34%, Temple 36%
Three-Pointers: South Florida 8/17, Temple 2/12
Free Throws: South Florida 16/21, Temple 12/16
Rebounds: South Florida 33, Temple 26
Turnovers: South Florida 13, Temple 12
Phantom Score: South Florida 51, Temple 52
Vegas Line: Temple by 2.5, total of 121.5
A brutal first half was quickly wiped from memory as South Florida starting making some treys while Temple kept missing everything. We saw several games in this style in the Big East tournament last weekend. At least many of those teams know how to win these wrestling matches now. Ohio better put on its headgear or do some interviews with Mean Gene.
SUNDAY’S GAMES IN OMAHA
FLORIDA (7) VS. NORFOLK STATE (15)
Vegas Line: Florida by 14, total of 143
Notes: Wow, still no respect for Norfolk! It won’t be as easy scoring inside this time around because Florida has some bodies and they won’t be taking the team lightly. We get that. But, 14 points (off an opener of 15)? We’ll have to do some serious thinking about that. We do respect Florida in playoff mode, and we do understand the letdown likelihoods for the surprise Cinderella.
NORFOLK STATE 86, MISSOURI 84
Field Goal Pct: Norfolk State 54%, Missouri 53%
Three-Pointers: Norfolk State 10/19, Missouri 13/29
Free Throws: Norfolk State 12/18, Missouri 13/17
Rebounds: Norfolk State 35, Missouri 23
Turnovers: Norfolk State 11, Missouri 8
Phantom Score: Norfolk State 79, Missouri 55
Vegas Line: Missouri by 21, total of 144
Wow…it shouldn’t be possible for a 21-point favorite to lose straight up. But, Norfolk had a lineup that could give Missouri some trouble…and the Missouri players spent the day refusing to believe they were going to actually lose the game. How could they win the Big 12 but lose to a nobody like Norfolk State? That’s why this tournament is so great. The stunner to us was Phantom Score. We wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that Norfolk would win THAT stat by 24 points. Great hustle. Great rebounding. Great attitude. And Missouri leaves the Big 12 humbled and humiliated rather than riding off on a white horse.
FLORIDA 71, VIRGINIA 45
Field Goal Pct: Virginia 38%, Florida 53%
Three-Pointers: Virginia 3/18, Florida 4/23
Free Throws: Virginia 6/10, Florida 11/17
Rebounds: Virginia 21, Florida 36
Turnovers: Virginia 13, Florida 12
Phantom Score: Virginia 51, Florida 84
Vegas Line: Florida by 3, total of 122
This one happened early in the day. By bedtime, nobody remembered that there had been a favorite who played fantastic rather than getting shocked. Florida won Phantom Score by a whopping 33 points. Billy Donovan has a knack for getting the job done in March. Few teams were as truly impressive as Florida over the first two days when you adjust for context and size of the win. They’re going to catch Norfolk in a letdown spot, then won’t be intimidated by whoever they face in the Sweet 16. Florida had the computer resume of a #5 seed…but getting a #7 dropped them out of the killer half of the bracket in this regional (Michigan State’s regional).
KANSAS (2) VS. PURDUE (10)
Vegas Line: Kansas by 8, total of 140.5
Notes: We can’t say this is a surprise matchup even of the #10 seed beat the #7 seed to get here. St. Mary’s wasn’t a legit #7. There always exposed come Dance time. So, another good matchup for handicappers to sink their teeth into. And, Kansas often has a way of making these first weekend games interesting. Who can forget Northern Iowa’s trey from the corner?!
KANSAS 65, DETROIT 50
Field Goal Pct: Detroit 32%, Kansas 46%
Three-Pointers: Detroit 3/17, Kansas 5/16
Free Throws: Detroit 7/14, Kansas 14/23
Rebounds: Detroit 39, Kansas 38
Turnovers: Detroit 13, Kansas 14
Phantom Score: Detroit 73, Kansas 74
Vegas Line: Kansas by 14, total of 143
This was a 2-15 game in the brackets. The last thing Kansas wanted to deal with was joining Duke and Missouri on the losers’ list. They stumbled a bit early on…but pulled away to a comfortable victory. We’re sure not impressed with that Phantom Score line. Too many powerhouses are getting outrebounded by mediocrity. That’s a certain red flag, as you’ve learned in past years. Ugly percentages on treys and free throws too for the Jayhawks.
PURDUE 72, ST. MARY’S 69
Field Goal Pct: Purdue 46%, St. Mary’s 42%
Three-Pointers: Purdue 5/16, St. Mary’s 4/25
Free Throws: Purdue 15/18, St. Mary’s 11/13
Rebounds: Purdue 25, St. Mary’s 36
Turnovers: Purdue 10, St. Mary’s 11
Phantom Score: Purdue 67, St. Mary’s 82
Vegas Line: St. Mary’s by 1.5, total of 140
Another team we’ve been warning you about for weeks. St. Mary’s just doesn’t have it when it matters. The sport is dying for true Western powers. But, you just can’t create them out of whole cloth. If St. Mary’s had to play in the Big 10, they probably would have finished behind Minnesota and Northwestern. That’s the reality of West Coast hoops right now. The reality of Big Ten hoops is that the mid-level teams can play with anybody over 40 minutes, even if a few too many of them are overly reliant on treys (Notre Dame-ish without being as bad off as Notre Dame). The Phantom Score here is humbling from the Boilermakers perspective though. Be careful getting delusions of grandeur.
Our Sunday releases will be up a few hours before the first tip. You can still take advantage of great rates for the rest of basketball by calling the NETWORK office at 1-800-323-4453. Hey…it’s only Day Four of the Dance. The winning is just beginning!