Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 9:11 PM
We expected Saturday to be a day of thrills and spills in college basketball. It certainly was…with Kansas and North Carolina barely surviving the two biggest matchups of the day. Kansas had to rally from 19 points down in regulation to win in overtime in their border war against Missouri. North Carolina was neck and neck all day with Virginia, ultimately scoring with 13 seconds left to turn a one-point lead into the final three point margin.
Aside from those two games, where favorites won but didn’t cover…there were quite a few upsets in the Top 25 and other near misses. Let’s crunch the numbers from the biggest games, and review the upsets.
#5 KANSAS 87, #3 MISSOURI 86 (in overtime)
Shooting Pct: Missouri 46%, Kansas 48%
Three-Pointers: Missouri 11/29, Kansas 9/19
Free Throws: Missouri 15/28, Kansas 22/33
Rebounds: Missouri 36, Kansas 32
Phantom Score: Missouri 74, Kansas 70
Turnovers: Missouri 9, Kansas 9
Vegas Line: Kansas by 8, total of 144
Pomeroy Rank: Missouri 9, Kansas 4
For you newcomers, Phantom Score is simply two-point scoring plus rebounding. It’s a secondary score we use to focus on the elements of a game that matter most. Three point shooting can be very random, as can officiating. You look at two-pointers and rebounds over a large sampling of boxscores…and you discover which teams are best at REAL basketball. In this case, we had a nailbiter in Phantom Score as well as on the scoreboard. Both teams were able to hit a bunch of treys. Neither team did as much from the free throw line as they should have (which could be a big problem for Missouri in the Dance because they HAVE to turn forays into the paint into points. The Vegas line here was HORRIBLE considering the true level of talent on both teams. The game was a toss-up even in Lawrence. And, it was only a toss-up because Missouri lost some focus when they had that big second half lead. Both of these teams have championship potential in the NCAA Tournament. The market better realize that quick in terms of Missouri!
#7 NORTH CAROLINA 54, VIRGINIA 51
Shooting Pct: North Carolina 33%, Virginia 35%
Three-Pointers: North Carolina 2/14, Virginia 6/23
Free Throws: North Carolina 18/23, Virginia 3/6
Rebounds: North Carolina 44, Virginia 29
Phantom Score: North Carolina 74, Virginia 59
Turnovers: North Carolina 11, Virginia 4
Vegas Line: North Carolina by 4, total of 128
Pomeroy Rank: North Carolina 6, Virginia 22
You can see this was a defensive war. The total stayed Under by more than 20 points, and neither offense could top 35% from the field. North Carolina was able to eke out a win thanks to the free throw category. This is a team that attacks the basket…and that can provide bonus points in defensive struggles like this. Carolina was +15 from the free throw line in a game they only won by three. Since Virginia was +12 from long distance, the scoreboard margin represented the advantage of inside play over outside play. That also shows up in the rebounding category, which helped create a Phantom Score blowout. This tells us North Carolina is better suited to go deeper in the Dance than Virginia, which we already knew! This spells it out in numbers. Don’t forget that Virginia is getting a lot of computer respect this year even if they’re not currently ranked. The Cavs might be able to make some headlines in the Dance if they keep defending like this. We want to point out that North Carolina only forced four turnovers for the game. Part of that was the halfcourt nature of the battle. But, this is also a team that’s better at disrupting shots and boxing out than it is at forcing turnovers. We expect that to matter in the game they eventually lose in the Dance.
#4 DUKE 70, VIRGINIA TECH 65 (in overtime)
Shooting Pct: Virginia Tech 41%, Duke 39%
Three-Pointers: Virginia Tech 4/13, Duke 6/24
Free Throws: Virginia Tech 7/16, Duke 24/34
Rebounds: Virginia Tech 37, Duke 42
Phantom Score: Virginia Tech 83, Duke 70
Turnovers: Virginia Tech 10, Duke 12
Vegas Line: Duke by 13, total of 137
Pomeroy Rank: Virginia Tech 81, Duke 12
Duke continues to find a way to win these games. Too many people consider that a vote in their favor. But, if you’re sweating home games as 13-point favorites vs. probable non-tourney teams, then you’re going to be vulnerable next month. In fairness to Duke, they were in a letdown spot off the big revenge win on the road over Florida State the other night. We’ll cut them some slack for that surely. But, we can’t cut them slack for losing Phantom Score by 13 points at home, or for needing a +17 edge in made free throws (+18 in attempts) to get the win. They get those calls at home in the ACC. They don’t when playing a real team the second time they take the floor in the Dance, or in the Sweet 16 or Elite 8. The computers are more realistic with where they have Duke than the polls are in our view.
#1 KENTUCKY 83, VANDERBILT 74
Shooting Pct: Vanderbilt 41%, Kentucky 57%
Three-Pointers: Vanderbilt 7/18, Kentucky 2/10
Free Throws: Vanderbilt 15/23, Kentucky 17/20
Rebounds: Vanderbilt 23, Kentucky 33
Phantom Score: Vanderbilt 61, Kentucky 93
Turnovers: Vanderbilt 7, Kentucky 9
Vegas Line: Kentucky by 11, total of 140
Pomeroy Rank: Vanderbilt 24, Kentucky 1
This game was closer through much of the second half than the score makes it look. That was enough to convince us to run the numbers. Once you do that though, you see that Kentucky was absolutely dominant in Phantom Score. Compare this boxscore to the one above it. Vandy’s significantly better than Virginia Tech. Kentucky didn’t need friendly officiating to beat Vandy. Kentucky won despite missing almost all of their treys. You have Duke and Kentucky both sweating games as home favorites…but digging deeper helps you see why Kentucky is a much more serious threat to win the title this year. The rankings have Kentucky at #1, Duke at #4. Reality is further apart.
To this point, we don’t have any upsets. We have three thrillers with home teams winning, and a near-thriller. This certainly suggests that March could get CRAZY! Nobody’s invulnerable. There are A LOT of teams from the mid 20’s to the 60’s in true rankings that are capable of playing well one day and taking out a power.
We’ve only discussed underdog covers so far. That would be a theme for the day. Other ranked favorites failing to top high numbers were Baylor and UNLV against Oklahoma and Air Force respectively in afternoon action. Here’s a list of ranked teams who WERE taken out Saturday afternoon…
#11 Florida lost badly at Georgia 76-62. They sure didn’t look like a top dozen team. It looks to us like a lot of teams have started thinking about the postseason a bit too early.
#13 Michigan was embarrassed at home by Purdue 75-61. Just when you start to take Michigan seriously as a threat in March they do something like this. The result doesn’t fully erase Michigan’s win last week over Ohio State. But, it does remind you that the Big Ten has a lot of “okay” teams this year but isn’t nearly as top heavy as everyone was thinking back in January.
#18 Notre Dame lost at St. John’s in an early tip. We talked about the Notre Dame conundrum in our Saturday discussion of the Big East. They were pretty shaky early on, certainly compared to last year when they created so many illusions they got a #2 seed. A strong run in the Big East may or may not have been because the Big East is having another down season despite intense media hype. A bad loss here mucks things up even more. Where do you seed one of the top four Big East teams when the computers say they may not even be top 30?
#21 New Mexico laid a colossal egg at TCU, losing 83-64. We still think the Lobos have a good chance to do some damage in the Dance. But, this shows you that the best mid-majors really have to show up at peak intensity to look like powers. Hopefully the whole Mountain West won’t play down to the level of the leaders’ worst recent games.
#22 Temple faded late at St. Joseph’s in an 82-72 loss. Barely made a ripple on a day with so many upsets!
Obviously the road to March Madness is already showing potential potholes for a variety of bandwagons. Be sure you sign up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK to you can reach the promised land safely! Call 1-800-323-4453 for details on seasonal rates. Game day selections can always be purchased right here at the website with your credit card.
Saturday was something special in college basketball. THE SHINING MOMENTS ARE JUST BEGINNING!