Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, January 16, 2012 at 9:31 AM
Normally Big Mondays by themselves are worth getting excited about. ESPN shows a marquee matchup in the Big East...followed by a marquee matchup in the Big 12. Those conferences have enough quality teams that you will generally be assured of great entertainment and some high quality handicapping opportunities.
But, TODAY, in honor of the Martin Luther King holiday, ESPN has a twinbill of twinbills! There's a daytime doubleheader in those featured conferences, followed by a nighttime twinbill. This quadrupleheader will give you a great taste of all the March Madness thrills due to come our way very soon. Six of the eight teams in action are likely Dance teams, and there are 3-4 teams currently who believe they're going to earn #1 seeds in time for Selection Sunday.
Let's crunch some key indicator stats in these four games to get you ready. You can read or hear about the personalities and the potential future NBA stars elsewhere. Here in the NOTEBOOK, we focus on STATS that help you pick winners! Dick Vitale is happy to tell you about all the superstars on North Carolina just before they get annihilated by Florida State in a TV game (missing the spread Saturday by 40 points!). Let Jay Bilas talk about how great Kentucky is why we explain why they've failed to cover more than a dozen games in a row (coming up tomorrow on these pages).
We'll take the games in rotation order, using the offensive and defensive efficiency numbers posted on the public side of the pay wall at Ken Pomeroy's excellent college basketball website.
LOUISVILLE AT MARQUETTE (3:30 p.m. ET)
Louisville: 137th on offense, 12th on defense
Marquette: 31st on offense, 28th on defense
Louisville bounced back Saturday from their debacle loss to Providence last week with an easy win over Depaul. But, you're supposed to beat DePaul easily if you know what you're doing. The Cardinals are still hard to trust in terms of current form. Recent outings included that loss to Providence, and losses to Notre Dame and Georgetown as favorites. Before league play began, Louisville missed the spread in wins over Western Kentucky and Charleston by double digits.
You can see above that offense is the main culprit. Rick Pitino teams always play great defense. We've talked about that a lot over the years. He was marketed as an offensive guru several years ago and he never gets credit for how great his defenses play. Right now, his offense is struggling badly against anyone but the true dregs.
Marquette is showing great balance, and is a solid tournament team right now if not a true threat for a meaningful run. They did have a good showing in a road loss at Syracuse that covered the spread. But, they are still 3-7 ATS over their last 10 games even with that cover. We'll work closely with our Big East sources to see if Louisville is ready to make a TV statement after their recent embarrassing slump.
TEXAS A&M AT MISSOURI (5:30 p.m. ET)
Texas A&M: 262nd on offense, 30th on defense
Missouri: 2nd on offense, 60th on defense
The Aggies don't really belong on a Big Monday showcase this year. They weren't supposed to be this bad! We've seen this in both basketball and football in recent years...where some teams on the move completely lose their focus until after the move. That's NOT happening with Missouri, who's playing great basketball this year under a new head coach...and who's also moving to the SEC next year along with Texas A&M.
You know Missouri is excited about the TV spot. They'll be laying a very high number though because of Texas A&M's poor play. We'll do our best to find value for you in this game. Obviously the Aggies don't have the kind of offense that can play well from behind. They need to grind from opening tip through the final gun to get this cover.
Missouri's one of the few teams on the court today who believe they have a chance to earn a #1 seed in the Dance. Three of them are from the Big 12! You have to impress when you get the chance. Missouri did that with a win over Texas Saturday, and wants to keep their mojo working here.
PITTSBURGH AT SYRACUSE (7:30 p.m. ET)
Pittsburgh: 41st on offense, 188th on defense
Syracuse: 3rd on offense, 10th on defense
Pittsburgh's fall from grace has been one of the stunning stories of the season. They were supposed to be a Big East power once again. Yet, Pomeroy barely has them in the top 100 of his website's national rankings. When you adjust defense for tempo, Pitt barely qualifies as a top 200 team!
In case you missed the story, Pitt has lost SIX STRAIGHT games...and it started with a loss to unheralded Wagner of all teams. The first five losses were as favorites. One of the losses was to DePaul, and we've already talked about them. The Panthers did show some life this past Saturday in a road cover at Marquette. No better way to get your season back on track than with a huge TV win against the #1 team in the country (the team on tonight's TV card best positioned for a #1 seed is obviously top ranked Syracuse).
Once again, you're dealing with a high spread if you want to back the highly regarded favorite. Can Pittsburgh and Texas A&M be trusted as big dogs with those big weaknesses that have been exposed by the stat rankings?
BAYLOR AT KANSAS (9:30 p.m. ET)
Baylor: 10th on offense, 11th on defense
Kansas: 14th on offense, 3rd on defense
The showcase game of the day in terms of the math and the national rankings. Both teams are serious contenders for the Big 12 crown along with Missouri. Either of these two could keep the good times rolling through the whole season and earn a #1 seed in the Dance. Baylor tuned up for this one with a 41-point slaughter of Oklahoma State in what could have been a look-ahead spot. Kansas was more pedestrian in a non-cover win over Iowa State...but the Jayhawks had covered their prior three games before that.
We're not ready to call this a potential Final Four preview. But, it is certainly a potential Elite Eight preview. It would be a stunner if these teams weren't seeded for the Sweet 16 come tourney time...and they might well join Missouri, Syracuse, and a few other conference champs amongst the best eight seeds.
Because this is the showcase game of the night...and the final game in the quadrupleheader, you can be fairly certain that JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK is going to have a play for you. We love using money management to expand our edge over the Vegas line. We win the games YOU have to win! Today's full slate of both college and pro games can be purchased here at the website with your credit card. Just be sure to take care of business EARLY because there are so many day games.
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We'll be delving deep into college basketball the next few days, picking up with our conference breakdowns that started last week. Here's a brief look at the schedule:
Tuesday: SEC Breakdown, in time for Kentucky's TV game against Arkansas (and we'll talk more about that 14-game non-cover streak!).
Wednesday: Big 12 Breakdown, on a day where Texas will visit Kansas State on ESPN2 in a game with great Vegas betting potential. We may have room to run some key stats from Monday's action.
Thursday: ACC Breakdown, to get you ready for Wake Forest/Duke and North Carolina/Virginia Tech in an ESPN doubleheader
Friday: NBA notes and some thoughts on that night's ESPN pro doubleheader
Saturday: Big East Breakdown, with ESPN's Gameday crew in Pittsburgh for what's suddenly a not-so-big TV game against Louisville! Syracuse-Notre Dame will be played that day too, and a few other rivalry clashes.
Sunday: NFL Championship Sunday! We'll crunch the numbers for pro football's remaining Final Four.
Be sure you're with us EVERY DAY so you know what's REALLY going on in the world of sports!