Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, March 29, 2019 at 10:00 AM
During this long week of NCAA Tournament chatter, one thing has become very clear to me. There are a lot of pundits who think they’re experts on basketball “pace” who have no idea what they’re talking about.
Friday night’s schedule features a game that many are expecting to be a track meet. North Carolina loves to run the ball. Auburn’s first step on offense is always to try to race down for a basket. What’s less well-understood is:
*If the break isn’t there, Auburn then pulls the ball back out and runs a very slow, methodical attack.
*Auburn’s defense does a great job of slowing down opponents.
*Auburn’s full-game pace this season is only slightly faster than average. North Carolina really does play racehorse basketball. Auburn is a complicated mix.
Even when watching a game right before their eyes, announcers and social media “geniuses” get it wrong. Thursday night’s Florida State/Gonzaga game was on an Under pace the whole way…so people were calling it slow. It was actually a fast-paced game in terms of possession counts. But, the Seminoles were a horrible 3 of 20 on treys, while Gonzaga was a less-than-stellar 7 of 19. Also, both teams combined for 14 turnovers, which are possessions that result in no points.
As that was going on, Purdue/Tennessee was seen as a fast-paced game because it was so high scoring. The thriller went overtime tied at 82-all. That’s 164 points against a market total of 148. Purdue just missed reaching the century mark in extra time. Must have been a track meet, right?
Wrong, it was actually a slow, halfcourt game through most of regulation. But, Purdue ended up shooting 15 of 31 on treys (outstanding!), while Tennessee was 12 of 24 (better percentage, but fewer makes). A slow game with everyone draining treys isn’t a fast game. It’s just a high-scoring slow game.
This is why I encourage you to do your own homework here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping (or sign up for subscription services that do the homework for you like kenpom.com). The public LOSES because it listens to misguided announcers or draws bad conclusions because of its own laziness. Hard work is rewarded. Assuming that you already know everything is punished harshly.
Your homework for today and in this weekend’s Elite 8 games is to research the pace rankings for remaining teams as you handicap the matchups. Then, after games are over, review box scores to estimate how many possessions each team finished with. This is actually very easy to do. Possessions end four different ways:
*A made basket (count up made field goals)
*A turnover (check out team turnover counts)
*Free throws (divide free throw attempts by 2 for a rough estimate)
*Defensive Rebounds by the opponent (easy to find in most boxscores)
Do that for both teams, and you’ll have a good sense of whether the game was played at a fast pace (a lot of possessions for both teams) or a slow pace (fewer possessions for both teams).
This will be a good habit to develop in advance of the NBA playoffs too. There are a lot more possessions per team in the pro’s because there are 48 minutes on the game clock rather than 40, and because the shot clock is 24 seconds instead of 30. But, there are still teams that prefer to slow down (particularly in the playoffs), and those who like to race to their first good look.
I do believe that teams are helped immensely when they can pull opponents out of their comfort zone. Just be aware that it’s tougher to predict exactly when this is going to happen. Team intelligence is often a hidden key here. This will sound harsh, but DUMB teams are easier to pull out of their comfort zone than smart teams. In particular, dumb teams who shouldn’t run will get waxed if they start running with a great fast-tempo team. Also, dumb up-tempo teams will lose their composure quickly in slow-down basketball, forcing up bad shots and losing focus after 20 seconds on defense.
Something for you to think about through the rest of the Dance. If you’d like some help finding smart bets on a daily basis in all the wagering sports, KELSO STURGEON’S top plays can always be purchased at this website by credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office by calling my office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. Be sure you ask about combination packages with the NBA and Major League Baseball when you call.
I will do my first baseball tutorial for the 2019 season in our next class get-together on Monday. Then, it’s back to basketball Friday in advance of the college basketball National Semifinals. Once the Dance is in the books, we’ll be hopping between the NBA and MLB through the pro hoops championships in June.
The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance and hard work. If you want to get a head start on Monday’s baseball discussion, be sure you read all the box scores for Thursday-thru-Sunday action in MLB. Be aware of the new faces in new places. Start developing a sense for how all 30 managers are putting together their starting rotations. Try to notice before the market does which closers have lost their stuff. Winning early baseball is all about staying a couple of steps ahead of the oddsmakers. I was about to say “winning in April,” but it isn’t even April yet! If baseball wants to start in March, smart handicappers will be happy to accommodate them.
Have a great weekend. See you Monday.