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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 16, 2012 at 8:11 PM

The Big Dance goes fast once the games begin. Disco on steroids. We’re already down to the final 32 teams. By Sunday Night, the Sweet 16 will be locked into place. Saturday brings the first eight games of the weekend rounds. Let’s review the key stats from Thursday’s game as a way to preview best expectations for these new matchups.

 

SATURDAY’S GAMES IN PITTSBURGH

SYRACUSE (1) VS. KANSAS STATE (8)

Vegas Line: Syracuse by 5.5, total of 134.5

Notes: Syracuse came disturbingly close to becoming the first #1 seed to lose in the first round to a #16. The program had the misfortune of being the first #2 to lose to a #15 many years ago. They’ll need to pick up their intensity significantly today vs. a feisty dog from the Big 12. Kansas State has a chance to set the tone on a busy day for that conference.

 

SYRACUSE 72, NC-ASHEVILLE 65

Field Goal Pct: NC-Asheville 43%, Syracuse 45%

Three-Pointers: NC-Asheville 9/23, Syracuse 5/23

Free Throws: NC-Asheville 14/16, Syracuse 17/24

Rebounds: NC-Asheville 31, Syracuse 33

Turnovers: NC-Asheville 12, Syracuse 8

Phantom Score: NC-Asheville 55, Syracuse 73

Vegas Line: Syracuse by 15, total of 147

One of the most unimpressive openers for a #1 seed in years. Syracuse trailed at the half, and only led by three points with a minute to go. Some borderline calls helped them seal the deal. You can see that Phantom Score is up near the Vegas spread, so it’s not like this was some sort of lucky win. For you newcomers, Phantom Score is two-point scoring plus rebounding, a secondary stat we invented many years ago that often tells you more about a game than the scoreboard does. Syracuse was pretty dominant inside the arc. Asheville made four extra treys in the same number of attempts. Equalize the treys, and nobody’s sweating the ending. In fact, make them both 7 of 23 and you get the Orange winning 78 to 59. So, don’t judge Syracuse too harshly. Just be aware that the team isn’t playing with much fire lately, with or without Melo.

 

KANSAS STATE 70, SOUTHERN MISS 64

Field Goal Pct: S. Miss 36%, Kansas State 50%

Three-Pointers: S. Miss 8/23, Kansas State 2/12

Free Throws: S. Miss 12/17, Kansas State 26/34

Rebounds: S. Miss 32, Kansas State 31

Turnovers: S. Miss 10, Kansas State 11

Phantom Score: S. Miss 60, Kansas State 69

Vegas Line: Kansas by 5, total of 134

Kansas State doesn’t do much from behind the arc, so they have to win everything else to beat people. Well, in composite! Kansas State barely lost turnovers and rebounds, but won free throws by so much that they advanced safely through. Thursday Night’s Iowa State-Connecticut game may have been a precursor for a surprise here. Iowa State and Kansas State have been fairly close lately. Syracuse played a nailbiter with UCONN last week. Definitely a spot where a top seed could go down. Kansas State has the bodies to rebound shots they miss against the zone.

 

OHIO STATE (2) VS. GONZAGA (7)

Vegas Line: Ohio State by 7, total of 134.5

Notes: Both had easy games Thursday. Ohio State also had an easy game in this round last year, crushing George Mason. Gonzaga fell apart after a blowout of St. John’s last season. Does that mean the Buckeyes win big? They don’t have the same three-point production this year, making a rout a bit less likely.

 

OHIO STATE 78, LOYOLA-MARYLAND 59

Field Goal Pct: Loyola 35%, Ohio State 45%

Three-Pointers: Loyola 4/14, Ohio State 5/14

Free Throws: Loyola 17/22, Ohio State 21/26

Rebounds: Loyola 23, Ohio State 45

Turnovers: Loyola 12, Ohio State 18

Phantom Score: Loyola 53, Ohio State 87

Vegas Line: Ohio State by 17, total of 131

A lot of Thursday’s favorites coasted to victory. We’re not going to spend a lot of time detailing how easy it was. Ohio State had the better horses and saddled them up. That shows up more in rebounding and Phantom Score than on the scoreboard.

 

GONZAGA 77, WEST VIRGINIA 54

Field Goal Pct: West Virginia 33%, Gonzaga 56%

Three-Pointers: West Virginia 3/17, Gonzaga 9/17

Free Throws: West Virginia 19/28, Gonzaga 12/16

Rebounds: West Virginia 28, Gonzaga 30

Turnovers: West Virginia 9, Gonzaga 10

Phantom Score: West Virginia 54, Gonzaga 68

Vegas Line: Gonzaga by 1, total of 133

Never in doubt, as Gonzaga jumped to a huge lead in the opening minutes of the game. If they keep hitting around 50% of their treys, they can hang with Ohio State. If not, this could get ugly. The West Coast Conference has a history of getting outclassed in the Dance once they face quality opposition. West Virginia ended the season very poorly, and was probably an NIT caliber team all things considered. We’ll check with our sources before making any final decisions. If the market responds too favorably to this blowout between now and the time NETWORK picks go up…the Buckeyes may be on our radar.

 

SATURDAY’S GAMES IN LOUISVILLE

MARQUETTE (3) VS. MURRAY STATE (6)

Vegas Line: Marquette by 4.5, total of 140

Notes: This game has the highest Over/Under of the day, suggesting the possibility that it can be the most entertaining game to watch over the full 40 minutes. Great test for Murray State. Arguably their first true test this year since they only drew Colorado State in their opener. The market gives them a shot to win outright with that line. JIM HURLEY’S team ratings have some very interesting things to say about this one.

 

MARQUETTE 88, BYU 68

Field Goal Pct: BYU 38%, Marquette 46%

Three-Pointers: BYU 7/19, Marquette 9/20

Free Throws: BYU 15/22, Marquette 19/26

Rebounds: BYU 32, Marquette 48

Turnovers: BYU 17, Marquette 15

Phantom Score: BYU 64, Marquette 90

Vegas Line: Marquette by 5, total of 153

There was some bad news for the Big East on Thursday, but Marquette certainly came through. They were greatly helped by the fact that BYU emptied its tank Tuesday Night in that dramatic comeback against Iona. Marquette led big…lost focus for a bit…but then closed very strong. They won’t be playing a tired opponent on Saturday. They’ll be facing a Cinderella that has a chip on her shoulder because she didn’t get enough respect during the regular season.

 

MURRAY STATE 58, COLORADO STATE 41

Field Goal Pct: Colorado St. 33%, Murray St. 39%

Three-Pointers: Colorado St. 3/14, Murray St. 5/17

Free Throws: Colorado St. 6/9, Murray St. 13/26

Rebounds: Colorado St. 38, Murray St. 32

Turnovers: Colorado St. 22, Murray St. 8

Phantom Score: Colorado St. 64, Murray St. 62

Vegas Line: Murray State by 5, total of 138

It’s pretty amazing that a team can win by 17 points and still have so many negatives in the boxscore. Murray State couldn’t hit 40% from the floor…couldn’t hit 33% on treys…limped to 50% on free throws, and got outrebounded by the fourth best team in the Mountain West. Yet, there they were celebrating a comfortable victory when the buzzer sounded. They’ll obviously have to play better than this to upset Marquette. At least there are a lot of areas where can improve upon. A team coming in off a peak outing is going to letdown. Murray State didn’t peak.

 

KENTUCKY (1) VS. IOWA STATE (8)

Vegas Line: Kentucky by 10, total of 138.5

Notes: Kentucky’s failed to cover four straight games, and are pricey favorites again here. They are due to embarrass somebody. But, Iowa State can come in loose knowing there’s nothing to lose in a game like this. Some danger spots for the #1’s this weekend as Big 12 dogs earned some battle scars against the likes of Kansas and Missouri.

 

KENTUCKY 81, WESTERN KENTUCKY 66

Field Goal Pct: W. Kentucky 40%, Kentucky 56%

Three-Pointers: W. Kentucky 6/15, Kentucky 3/10

Free Throws: W. Kentucky 10/16, Kentucky 18/25

Rebounds: W. Kentucky 27, Kentucky 39

Turnovers: W. Kentucky 10, Kentucky 13

Phantom Score: W. Kentucky 65, Kentucky 93

Vegas Line: Kentucky by 26, total of 136

Our condolences to those of you who backed the big favorite. Kentucky was in position to name the score. They called off the dogs up 30 and only named a 15 point win. A lack of a bench may hurt them eventually in this tourney…though it is possible to go the distance if you keep everyone out of foul trouble.

 

IOWA STATE 77, CONNECTICUT 64

Field Goal Pct: Connecticut 38%, Iowa State 47%

Three-Pointers: Connecticut 7/19, Iowa State 6/16

Free Throws: Connecticut 15/22, Iowa State 19/21

Rebounds: Connecticut 20, Iowa State 37

Turnovers: Connecticut 4, Iowa State 11

Phantom Score: Connecticut 48, Iowa State 77

Vegas Line: Connecticut by 1.5, total of 137

Too much drama for our taste regarding the UCONN story. Yes, the defending champion lost in the first round. And, yes…that’s rare. But, the collapse came much earlier this season and the troubles could remain for a long time. Check out that Phantom Score for Iowa State! We basically invented Phantom Score many years ago to give perspective on how great some of the top UCONN teams were at controlling their own destiny inside the arc. My how times have changed.

 

SATURDAY’S GAMES IN ALBUQUERQUE

WISCONSIN (4) VS. VANDERBILT (5)

Vegas Line: Vanderbilt by 1, total of 120

Notes: Interesting matchup between teams who break your heart just as you begin to have faith in them. Should everyone pass this one? Or, does JIM HURLEY know something you don’t? We can’t tell you here. Let’s see if the numbers from Thursday provide any hints.

 

WISCONSIN 73, MONTANA 49

Field Goal Pct: Montana 38%, Wisconsin 48%

Three-Pointers: Montana 3/9, Wisconsin 10/19

Free Throws: Montana 10/15, Wisconsin 17/19

Rebounds: Montana 19, Wisconsin 32

Turnovers: Montana 8, Wisconsin 10

Phantom Score: Montana 49, Wisconsin 58

Vegas Line: Wisconsin by 8.5, total of 117

Nap city. Montana didn’t put up much of a fight. Wisconsin is tough to beat when the treys are falling (but surprisingly easy to deal with when the treys aren’t falling). The friendly quadrant continues for the Badgers. Vandy is up next, and they’re not scary. The winner gets Syracuse or Kansas State. We’re not the biggest fans of the Badgers as you know. They certainly have what it takes to survive this part of the bracket though. Nothing here to dissuade Badger fans from backing their team against the Commodores.

 

VANDERBILT 79, HARVARD 70

Field Goal Pct: Harvard 45%, Vanderbilt 54%

Three-Pointers: Harvard 9/24, Vanderbilt 8/18

Free Throws: Harvard 11/14, Vanderbilt 21/30

Rebounds: Harvard 22, Vanderbilt 35

Turnovers: Harvard 10, Vanderbilt 16

Phantom Score: Harvard 54, Vanderbilt 69

Vegas Line: Vanderbilt by 5.5, total of 123.5

Harvard ended the season unimpressively, and never really got things going here. There’s no prize for looking like a great Cinderella in late November. Solid numbers from Vanderbilt across the board. Some weak double digit seeds in this regional. Who wins between Vandy and Wisconsin? Too similar teams in terms of their Power Rating class and the tendency to wilt vs. powers. That could set up a great game here, before disappointment down the road. Sorry, the numbers didn’t tell us much after all! Both teams were pretty solid across the board against overseeded opposition. 

 

BAYLOR (3) VS. COLORADO (10)

Vegas Line: Baylor by 7, total of 133

Notes: Who would have expected a Big 12 rematch like this in the Dance a couple of weeks ago. Colorado supposedly had no shot to win the Pac 12 tournament…then was supposedly outmatched by UNLV in their Dance opener. Is Cinderella dressed in ski gear from Vail? That could happen if Baylor can’t stay focused. The Bears made their opener more interesting than it should have been.

 

BAYLOR 68, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE 60

Field Goal Pct: S. Dakota State 42%, Baylor 44%

Three-Pointers: S. Dakota State 10/30, Baylor 8/20

Free Throws: S. Dakota State 8/14, Baylor 14/20

Rebounds: S. Dakota State 17, Baylor 31

Turnovers: S. Dakota State 13, Baylor 12

Phantom Score: S. Dakota State 39, Baylor 61

Vegas Line: Baylor by 7, total of 139.5

Baylor led comfortably most of the second half. But, they took their foot off the gas a bit too early and saw the big dog cut the lead to four…and have the ball…very late in the game. A few free throws allowed the Bears to sleaze a cover. This was a Phantom Score blowout thanks to dominating rebounding. Baylor has the athletes to really do something in this tournament. They just have to keep their heads on straight for 40 full minutes every time out. The jury is out on whether or not they can actually do that. The Big 12 enters the day on the cusp of making a huge statement…and on the cusp of suffering an embarrassing flameout.

 

COLORADO 68, UNLV 64

Field Goal Pct: Colorado 46%, UNLV 32%

Three-Pointers: Colorado 7/12, UNLV 9/36

Free Throws: Colorado 17/27, UNLV 9/17

Rebounds: Colorado 43, UNLV 30

Turnovers: Colorado 23, UNLV 8

Phantom Score: Colorado 73, UNLV 58

Vegas Line: UNLV by 5.5, total of 135.5

Great job on the boards for Colorado, giving them a Phantom Score blowout. But, those 23 turnovers were ridiculous, and almost caused a historic collapse. UNLV rallied from 20 down to get very close late. Stunning departure for a team many had going deep in their brackets. Wichita State and UNLV both waste months of build-up with first day losses. Colorado/Baylor may be fun to watch just because both teams will alternate things that make you scratch your head.

 

SATURDAY’S GAMES IN PORTLAND

NEW MEXICO (4) VS. LOUISVILLE (5)

Vegas Line: Louisville by 2, total of 127

Notes: The much-anticipated matchup comes through thanks to the lack of opening day upsets. Two hot teams who won their conference tournaments and have been in good form for awhile. New Mexico’s been better on the scoreboard of late, but Louisville’s played killer defense in a better league.

 

NEW MEXICO 75, LONG BEACH STATE 68

Field Goal Pct: LB State 42%, New Mexico 51%

Three-Pointers: LB State 4/16, New Mexico 7/21

Free Throws: LB State 8/14, New Mexico 18/24

Rebounds: LB State 33, New Mexico 30

Turnovers: LB State 15, New Mexico 14

Phantom Score: LB State 81, New Mexico 66

Vegas Line: New Mexico by 4, total of 139

Good game. New Mexico couldn’t shake the beach boys until the very end. Long Beach actually won Phantom Score huge…but couldn’t make any treys and struggled to get to the line. New Mexico didn’t look as scary here as they did in the Mountain West tourney. And, now there are reasons to question how good the Mountain West is. At least the Big East has some questions too. The level of hype is such in this sport that a lot more teams are going to fall short of expectations than will play to them.

 

LOUISVILLE 69, DAVIDSON 62

Field Goal Pct: Davidson 35%, Louisville 40%

Three-Pointers: Davidson 4/19, Louisville 1/5

Free Throws: Davidson 16/23, Louisville 26/36

Rebounds: Davidson 35, Louisville 37

Turnovers: Davidson 10, Louisville 11

Phantom Score: Davidson 50, Louisville 66

Vegas Line: Louisville by 5.5, total of 139.5

Easy win for the Big East tourney champs against an overmatched dog. Davidson didn’t have the resume of a #13 seed, and sure didn’t play like one here. Bad decision by the committee in this case. We’re very interested in how Louisville and New Mexico do battle. Both have things to like…and things to be skeptical about. Both won their conference tournaments in impressive fashion. Either could make life interesting for Michigan State if the Spartans make it through to the Sweet 16 against this winner. Perhaps this is a spot where we pass the game so we can unleash a monster in the next round.

 

INDIANA (4) VS. VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH (12)

Vegas Line: Indiana by 5, total of 137.5

Notes: Shaka Smart is still winning games and stunning favorites. He’ll have another chance here against an Indiana team that was inconsistent away from home this year. We respect what both coaches have done at these schools. Glad to see one is guaranteed of a Sweet 16 spot. Too bad it’s probably going to be against Kentucky.

 

VCU 62, WICHITA STATE 59

Field Goal Pct: VCU 42%, Wichita State 38%

Three-Pointers: VCU 6/22, Wichita State 5/17

Free Throws: VCU 6/9, Wichita State 6/10

Rebounds: VCU 31, Wichita State 35

Turnovers: VCU 12, Wichita State 13

Phantom Score: VCU 69, Wichita State 73

Vegas Line: Wichita State by 7, total of 137.5

VCU does it again! Except, this time, it wasn’t because of great three-point shooting. Neither team shot well from behind the arc. Neither team really sparkled for more than a few minutes at a time in a very evenly matched game. That’s probably means Wichita State was overrated coming in. We’ll admit we were fooled. Or, we at least believed they could keep a prior high level of play going for as long as they wanted. The Bracket Buster win at Davidson was probably more on Davidson given Thursday’s results. Great to see a team and a coach who know how to play playoff basketball. Can VCU pull a Butler and go deep two years in a row?

 

INDIANA 79, NEW MEXICO STATE 66

Field Goal Pct: N. Mex. State 55%, Indiana 59%

Three-Pointers: N. Mex. State 4/12, Indiana 7/13

Free Throws: N. Mex. State 8/10, Indiana 8/10

Rebounds: N. Mex. State 22, Indiana 20

Turnovers: N. Mex. State 16, Indiana 11

Phantom Score: N. Mex. State 68, Indiana 68

Vegas Line: Indiana by 6, total of 155

You may not have watched much of this one because Indiana jumped ahead early, and there were other more compelling games on TV. Well, be aware that we had something very unique here in terms of Thursday action. Both teams shot very well, as inside defense basically disappeared. You can see nobody was going to the free throw line…yet both teams would shoot better than 60% on two-pointers. The defense that was played came in the form of forcing turnovers, and Indiana got the best of it there. Phantom Score was a wash…which means Indiana was partially an illusion here. They were plus nine points on treys in a game they won by 13. Both Indiana and Wisconsin have to be concerned about winning when the treys don’t fall. And, that internal defense here was ridiculous. Let’s see if VCU finds a way to exploit that.

Now that you know the numbers, you can make better decisions about the games. If you’d like some help picking winners, you can purchase JIM HURLEY’S top Saturday plays a few hours before the first tip right here at the website. Or, sign up for the rest of the postseason at a great rate by calling 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you again before the Sunday games to run through all the key stats from Friday’s action. Be sure you’re with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what’s really happening in the NCAA Tournament!

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