Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 10:41 AM
The power base in college basketball's top ten is spread out enough that there are actually very few truly great games on the schedule. Saturday Night's game between #8 Kansas and #4 Missouri may be one of the few remaining contests this year where top 10 teams will square off head-to-head. Bucking recent Saturday Night luck, ESPN's "GameDay" crew will be there to bring the showdown to a national audience.
How rare is a game like Kansas-Missouri?
#1 Kentucky represents the SEC. Nobody else from the SEC is currently in the top ten. Florida has a chance to crack the elite before those teams play from their current spot at #12.
#2 Syracuse represents the Big East. In a down year for the conference after last year's Big Dance debacle, Syracuse is the only team in the top dozen right now from this storied conference. ESPN will be showing a zillion Big East games this month...but very few will truly impact the national picture in a significant way.
#3 Ohio State represents the Big Ten. Michigan State is currently at #9 from the Big Ten. We have TWO meetings between those teams still ahead this year. So, that's something to look forward to. Note that Ohio State has a danger spot on the schedule today on the road at Wisconsin. That game will certainly have a March Madness feel to it even though the Badgers are only #20 in the current polls.
#5 North Carolina and #7 Duke still have two play dates.
#6 Baylor will play both Missouri and Kansas before Valentine's. The two losses in Baylor's 19-2 record are to Missouri and Kansas, casting some doubt on whether or not Baylor is ranked properly. Will all three teams still be in the top 10 after those showdowns are complete?
#10 Murray State is in a small conference, and won't run into anyone of consequence until the Big Dance.
#11 UNLV from the Mountain West has a shot to crash the top 10 if there are some upsets soon. Obviously there aren't any other cohorts currently in that rarefied air.
#13 Creighton from the Missouri Valley can also rise up if they keep winning. Again, they'll be the sole representative from a lesser league.
That's pretty much it between now and the start of the conference tournaments! Kansas-Missouri-Baylor will have a triple threat round robin. Duke/North Carolina and Ohio State/Michigan State will have their home-and-home's. Not a lot to look forward to in terms of volume over more than 30 days of regular season action still to go. Enjoy tonight's game while you can!
We know many of you will be watching...let's crunch some numbers to get you ready.
RESPECTED COMPUTER RANKINGS
Kansas: 3rd in Pomeroy, 4th in Sagarin
Missouri: 7th in Pomeroy, 8th in Sagarin
Those, of course, refer to the rankings of college hoops math guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer guy Jeff Sagarin. You regulars know we've been referencing their data all year because Network's in-house stuff is proprietary and has a strong influence on our service plays. These respected computer sources aren't bad though...and serious handicappers should be monitoring them on a regular basis.
Note that BOTH places think the rankings have things reversed. The polls have Missouri at #4, Kansas at #8. These guys both get Kansas as the better team heading into tonight's TV showdown. (For you Big 12 fans, both sources currently have Baylor at #9).
Kansas: 3rd in adjusted defensive efficiency
Missouri: 51st in adjusted defensive efficiency
Computers often have great respect for defense, and Kansas grades out very well in Pomeroy's adjusted numbers (points allowed, adjusted for tempo and caliber of opposing offenses). Clearly, this is a VERY big edge for Kansas. And, it's amazing that they can be this good with so many young players. These coaches sure know how to teach defense!
Missouri's relative weakness may not be as big a deal in home games as it will in big road games or neutral site games down the road. Missouri has a very aggressive offense that really attacks the basket. There's some margin for error on defense when the offense is clicking. And, home cooking can often lead to one-sided margins. In other words, this category may matter more in March than it will tonight.
Missouri: 2nd in adjusted offensive efficiency
Kansas: 10th in adjusted offensive efficiency
You can see what we mean about Missouri's elite offense. On the other hand, Kansas is still top 10 themselves! That's why computers are more impressed with Kansas to this point in the season. Both of these teams clearly have a chance to go deep in the Big Dance. They will have favorable seeds too barring any surprise collapses this month. Kansas will have to worry about their recent tradition of choking in the Dance. Missouri will have to dodge hot shooters from other teams if they run into any.
WHO'S MORE BATTLE TESTED
Kansas: 2nd ranked schedule according to Sagarin
Missouri: 86th ranked schedule according to Sagarin
The final important point that puts Kansas over the top in the computers. They challenged themselves early, and quickly learned how to swim in the deep end with young talent. That means they were winning AND getting better! Missouri is in a tough conference, so it's not like they've only played patsies. But, you can see that Kansas is clearly the more battle-tested of the two teams. That could matter tonight, and is likely to matter at some point in time in March.
As you handicap tonight's game, the biggest challenge appears to be properly weighting Missouri's home court advantage. Both teams are excellent. Kansas has more going for them on a statistical basis because a strong defensive season has come against a killer schedule. Let's quickly run through what Missouri has done at home in league play:
Missouri (-23) beat Texas Tech 63-50 (non-cover)
Missouri (-15) beat Texas A&M 70-51
Missouri (-9) beat Texas 84-73
Missouri (-12) beat Oklahoma 87-49
Texas is the only top team in the mix...but that was an 11-point victory and a cover. You can see in the numbers that Vegas has great respect for Missouri at home. Are they giving the Tigers too much respect with the line you're seeing right now?
JIM HURLEY may or many not be playing this game for his clients. We always try to preview the biggest TV games for you here in the NOTEBOOK. But, paying customers aren't limited to TV games. They get the best plays on the board period! If you love betting TV games, we usually have a special TV Triple Crown for you at a very affordable price. Today we'll be looking at this game, Ohio State-Wisconsin, Syracuse-St. John's, Vanderbilt-Florida, Marquette-Notre Dame, Arizona-Stanford, North Carolina-Maryland, and Indiana-Purdue as possibilities. Even with the relative dearth of head-to-head top 10 matchups this year...this has to be the strongest Saturday card we've seen all season!
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