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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, January 23, 2012 at 9:52 AM

Normally on Mondays we'll preview the Big Monday games on ESPN. But, tonight, it's not exactly a showcase doubleheader. And, to the degree there are showcase teams involved (Syracuse in the early game and Kansas in the late game), what they just did this past Saturday may be A LOT more interesting that what happens tonight.

So, we're going to devote today's report to a stat breakdown of a handful of very big games this past Saturday. You probably know that #1 Syracuse lost its first game of the season at Notre Dame after dealing with some off-the-court academic issues. A few other big name teams were involved in big games as well. Let's get you keyed up for Big Monday with a review of some EXCITING basketball rather than trying to invent a few hundred words about Cincinnati and Texas A&M. Hey, maybe those guys will spring upsets. That will give us something new to review in a few days!

Here are the key boxscore stats from the most important games of Saturday...

NOTRE DAME 67, #1 SYRACUSE 58
Shooting Pct: Syracuse 34%, Notre Dame 50%
Three-Pointers: Syracuse 7/23, Notre Dame 8/16
Free Throws: Syracuse 13/10, Notre Dame 19/27
Rebounds: Syracuse 24, Notre Dame 37
Phantom Score: Syracuse 46, Notre Dame 61
Turnovers: Syracuse 9, Notre Dame 17
Vegas Line: Syracuse by 9, total of 133.5
Pomeroy Rank: Syracuse 4, Notre Dame 94

For you newcomers, Phantom Score is a secondary stat we developed many years ago that's simply two-point scoring plus rebounding. This is often very much in line with the actual score. When it isn't, it's because one team had an abnormal game on three-pointers or free throws...and the Phantom Score probably has better predictive value going forward. In this case, the Phantom Score pretty much told the story of the scoreboard, meaning this was a clean win for the Irish.

Also for you newcomers, "Pomeroy Rank" is simply where the teams stood at tip off in Ken Pomeroy's respected computer rankings. We'll try to add in those as much as we can this year because they're the best online ratings in the industry. (We keep our state-of-the art ratings OFFLINE for our own use with customers!). You can see here that we're talking about a BIG upset in this one. This isn't last year's Notre Dame team that earned a #2 seed in the Big Dance (that turned out to be a different definition of Phantom). Notre Dame is playing like an NIT team this year, yet cleanly beat Syracuse this past Saturday Night.

Key numbers for us were shooting percentage and rebounding. Defense and rebounding wins championships! Notre Dame really disrupted the Syracuse offense (that was a bit discombobulated because of academics), and the Irish absolutely owned the boards. Turnovers were an issue for the Irish as you can see. But, some of those came because they were attacking the basket and earning a +17 free throw edge.

Syracuse may have been the best team in the nation before the new semester started. They have a monkey wrench to deal with this week, which includes tonight's now much more dangerous game at Cincinnati. The Orange are still 20-1 for the year, and 7-1 in the Big East. Notre Dame is 12-8 for the year, and 4-3 in the Big East.

#2 KENTUCKY 77, ALABAMA 71
Shooting Pct: Alabama 48%, Kentucky 43%
Three-Pointers: Alabama 5/7, Kentucky 6/14
Free Throws: Alabama 18/25, Kentucky 27/40
Rebounds: Alabama 32, Kentucky 30
Turnovers: Alabama 14, Kentucky 8
Phantom Score: Alabama 70, Kentucky 62
Vegas Line: Kentucky by 10, total of 129.5
Pomeroy Rank: Alabama 18, Kentucky 5

Note that Alabama wins Phantom Score, which is VERY tough to do on the road at Kentucky! John Calipari is great at two-point basketball, particularly on defense. Yet, the Wildcats needed a +9 edge on free throws (+15 on attempts) to eke out this win as a double digit favorite. Pomeroy was on the mark here with Alabama sitting in his top 20 even though they weren't ranked. The stats here sure back that up.

Alabama outshot Kentucky from the field
Alabama outrebounded Kentucky in Lexington
Alabama hung tough despite unfriendly officiating

Kentucky is already going to be on your radar come March. Don't sleep on Alabama. This boxscore suggests they're capable of doing some damage in big neutral site games vs. anyone.

Kentucky is now about 1-14-1 or 1-15 against the Vegas spread the past few weeks...which is just stunning with a team that has a great record. Vegas consistently overprices them...and you need to be taking advantage! Kentucky moves to 19-1 with the win, 5-0 in the SEC. Alabama is 13-6, but just 2-3 in the SEC. They'd better find some consistency if they want to live up to Pomeroy's rankings.

#5 MISSOURI 89, #3 BAYLOR 88
Shooting Pct: Missouri 55%, Baylor 57%
Three-Pointers: Missouri 7/21, Baylor 7/16
Free Throws: Missouri 22/31, Baylor 9/11
Rebounds: Missouri 27, Baylor 24
Phantom Score: Missouri 53, Baylor 82
Turnovers: Missouri 18, Baylor 19
Vegas Line: Baylor by 4.5, total of 148.5
Pomeroy Rank: Missouri 7, Baylor 9

Disappointing result for Baylor in a bounce back spot. But, as the TV announcers said, there's no shame in losing to Kansas and Missouri in back-to-back games. We want you to note here that Baylor absolutely crushed Missouri in Phantom Score. That's a big deal to us, and could be a big deal down the road when these teams meet again. What happened?

Very odd...but Missouri kept marching to the free throw line for some reason, even though they were the visitors. You don't normally see THAT much respect for the visitors from refs when both teams are playing a similar style. Missouri actually shot more treys!

Both teams attacked the basket
Both teams suffered a lot of turnovers as a result
Both teams shot well on deuces when not turning it over

Yet, Missouri was +13 in free throw makes on +20 in attempts. Hey, a credit to them that they played so aggressively the whistles had to blow. But, be careful holding the loss too much against Baylor. Odd circumstances here. Two good teams...and Missouri continues to impress in terms of national possibilities. The Tigers move to 18-1 with the win, 5-1 in the Big 12. Baylor falls to 17-2, and 4-2 in the Big 12. They were undefeated entering the week.

FLORIDA STATE 76, #4 DUKE 73
Shooting Pct: Florida State 54%, Duke 40%
Three-Pointers: Florida State 7/14, Duke 10/23
Free Throws: Florida State 15/20, Duke 13/17
Rebounds: Florida State 28, Duke 20
Phantom Score: Florida State 68, Duke 59
Turnovers: Florida State 12, Duke 10
Vegas Line: Duke by 10, total of 144.5
Pomeroy Rank: Florida State 26, Duke 10

You regulars know we love it when Duke or North Carolina gets a wake-up call on national TV against somebody who's sick and tired of hearing media hype. Florida State has now taken BOTH of those teams out in recent days...which will hopefully keep Dick Vitale quiet for a few weeks (not likely). A clean win for FSU according to Phantom Score, as they did a great job inside the arc. Duke had to be +9 on treys just to be in the game.

We often say that Duke doesn't pass the eyeball test in terms of championship material. They did manage to win a title a couple of years ago with truly splendid tournament play and some breaks in the brackets. This year's team just doesn't look like anything special when the other team isn't cowering in fear. The Blue Devils will be in the mix. But, if anything, they look a tad worse than last year's team that was run off the floor in the second half by Arizona. Let's see if they pick up the pace the rest of the way. It's not a great year in the ACC, so there's plenty of time to rebuild confidence.

Duke falls to 16-3 with the loss, 4-1 in the ACC. Florida State is 13-6 and 4-1...with a pair of monster victores. Duke is 1-5 or 0-5-1 ATS its last six games.

#7 KANSAS 69, TEXAS 66
Shooting Pct: Kansas 45%, Texas 34%
Three-Pointers: Kansas 5/15, Texas 8/19
Free Throws: Kansas 14/23, Texas 16/17
Rebounds: Kansas 33, Texas 40
Phantom Score: Kansas 73, Texas 66
Turnovers: Kansas 6, Texas 9
Vegas Line: Kansas by 3.5, total of 137.5
Pomeroy Rank: Kansas 2, Texas 24

This game alternated hot runs. Kansas would build a comfortable lead. Texas would come storming back. Kansas would rebuild its lead. Texas would come back, then take a small lead in the final minutes. Kansas got the job done when it mattered, in a win that was confirmed by Phantom Score.

It's tempting to say that it was maturity that mattered most at the end of the game. But, this is a young Kansas team that was supposed to be in a rebuilding year relatively speaking. They have sure played like an older team in recent weeks. Though, they didn't shine on three-pointers or free throws. When attacking the basket, they were tough to stop. They will have to step up from the line to be a true force late in the Dance. And, the nerves were obviously showing the few times they blew a lead.

Interesting that neither team forced a lot of turnovers. You see that sometimes in halfcourt games where two coaches are trying to play it safe. It's not a good sign for Texas in our view that they only forced six turnovers at home, allowed around 50% on two-pointers, but shot so poorly themselves. On the other hand, they almost won anyway!

Typical Big 12 stuff...capable of greatness...but something gets in the way at the very end. That happens to Texas time and time again as they have trouble playing to or surpassing their seeds. Kansas has a few Cinderella-related disappointments on their resume. They're hoping not to run into her this year.

Those were the most important and most exciting games of this past Saturday. And, they happen to feature a couple of teams who are in action on ESPN's Big Monday. You can purchase our Monday slate right here at the website with your credit card. We may also have something for you from the busy Colonial Conference schedule. And, we're looking at Orlando-Boston as a possible information play in the NBA.

If you have any questions about our service, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Last week we ran breakdowns of some of the major conferences in college hoops. This week we're planning to do the same with some of the important midmajors. That series is scheduled to start on Tuesday. Be sure you're with us EVERY DAY so you know what's REALLY going on in the world of sports!

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