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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, December 12, 2011 at 10:27 PM

In a few weeks we’ll be transitioning to a hoop-heavy presentation here in the NOTEBOOK…with statistical coverage of college hoops through March Madness, and of the NBA from the new start of the season on Xmas Day through the playoffs in the summer. But, for now, we only have 1-2 days per week to talk about the baskets. And Tuesday is one of those days!

We’re going to use this window in the schedule to crunch some numbers from last Saturday’s most important games. We did this a week ago as well, and what we learned from that exercise hopefully helped many of you pick more winners when those teams took the floor again. Let’s hope the same thing happens here…particularly with teams you’ll be seeing time and time again from now all the way through the tournaments.

Games will be presented in order of the poll rankings at the time the games were played, starting with Indiana’s big upset of #1 Kentucky. Mathew Hurley of JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK mentioned in the weekend video that Indiana had gotten good very quickly. You sure saw that play out vs. the Wildcats. Note that we’ll include the computer rankings for each team at the end of the weekend as tabulated by college basketball expert Ken Pomeroy and posted at his website.

INDIANA 73, #1 KENTUCKY 72

Shooting Pct: Kentucky 56%, Indiana 43%

Three-Pointers: Kentucky 2/7, Indiana 9/15

Free Throws: Kentucky 10/17, Indiana 14/17

Rebounds: Kentucky 26, Indiana 28

Turnovers: Kentucky 16, Indiana 18

Vegas Line: Kentucky by 5.5, total of 146

Pomeroy Rank: Kentucky 2nd, Indiana 13th

Indiana wasn’t ranked at the time of this game in the media polls…but sat at #15 in Pomeroy’s numbers. They moved up to #13 with the victory. You probably at least saw replays of the game-winning three-pointer that finished off a play that was so well drawn up and executed that it made your mouth water. Let’s note though that Indiana NEEDED three-pointers to be competitive here. That 9-2 edge in makes is +21 points in the category, in a game they only won by one. Indiana’s inside defense was soft. They were a bit lucky Kentucky didn’t take advantage of free throw opportunities too. Indiana’s hustle on the boards was a plus…as +2 over a team like Kentucky represents a big effort.

The big lesson here is that Indiana is better than you were thinking, even if they’re not quite ready for powerhouse status yet. Real powers don’t get squashed on two-point percentage like that. Great job by the coaching staff and administration to surge back to relevance so quickly. Kentucky, like the other national powers this year, can be had. A few teams are clear championship contenders…but nobody in that group is head and shoulders above the rest. That will make for an interesting tournament at least. The Big 10 race is going to be something with so many quality teams this year. Kentucky may not be tested much in a disappointing SEC.

#13 KANSAS 78, #2 OHIO STATE 67

Shooting Pct: Ohio State 39%, Kansas 58%

Three-Pointers: Ohio State 5/17, Kansas 9/17

Free Throws: Ohio State 14/18, Kansas 13/20

Rebounds: Ohio State 27, Kansas 30

Turnovers: Ohio State 15, Kansas 18

Vegas Line: Kansas by 1, total of 136

Pomeroy Rank: Ohio State 3rd, Kansas 6th

Jared Sullinger was a late scratch because of back spasms. You got the sense from watching that Ohio State just accepted that it would be okay to lose this game because Sullinger wasn’t playing anyway. Inside defense was poor…and Kansas got too many open looks from behind the arc. The Ohio State defense did force a lot of turnovers at least, so it wasn’t a complete no-show. Looks like they gambled too often for steals, and took the worst of it in the process. Kansas isn’t as good as this final score made it look, so be careful asking too much of them. We’re not as enamored of the team as Pomeroy is with his #6 computer ranking. Too sloppy here…and not enough of a rebounding edge considering Sullinger’s absence.

It looks like Sullinger’s back is going to be an issue for awhile. Once back spasms start, you just never know when the problem is going to fix itself. That means Ohio State suddenly becomes very vulnerable in the competitive Big Ten. They NEED Sullinger at full strength if they’re going to be a national power. They sure didn’t play like a top five team here on either side of the ball.

#5 DUKE 86, WASHINGTON 80

Shooting Pct: Washington 48%, Duke 47%

Three-Pointers: Washington 5/17, Duke 5/17

Free Throws: Washington 13/23, Duke 27/44

Rebounds: Washington 33, Duke 37

Turnovers: Washington 14, Duke 14

Vegas Line: Duke by 8.5, total of 153

Pomeroy Rank: Washington 45th, Duke 9th

Duke has had a habit this year of forging big leads only to give much of the margin away at the very end. That speaks poorly of their bench or of their conditioning. They have time to fix that before the tournaments of course. Something to watch in ACC play and in other non-conference action for the time being.

Note the huge edge in free throws here. Some of that is Washington fouling from behind. But, it’s also true that Duke is far too beloved amongst the officiating community. Imagine the victory margin if Duke hadn’t missed 17 tries! We point this out every season. In home games, and with some non-conference officiating crews, Duke rolls up three-pointers AND free throws in a way that’s abnormal across the sport. That doesn’t happen so much in road conference games, which makes them vulnerable to upset…and in Big Dance games too…which is my most of the story of the last decade is Duke underachieving its seed.

#6 NORTH CAROLINA 84, LONG BEACH STATE 78

Shooting Pct: Long Beach St. 47%, N. Carolina 52%

Three-Pointers: Long Beach St. 7/21, N. Carolina 6/16

Free Throws: Long Beach St. 5/8, N. Carolina 8/10

Rebounds: Long Beach St. 33, N. Carolina 33

Turnovers: Long Beach St. 15, N. Carolina 12

Vegas Line: North Carolina by 15, total of 161

Pomeroy Rank: Long Beach St. 47th, N. Carolina 4th

We hadn’t originally planned to include this game…but when a big name school like North Carolina has to sweat out Long Beach State at home…something’s going on! Carolina was way below expectations here as you can see with that 15-point Vegas spread. And, even if Long Beach is pretty good for a mid-major team (top 50 in Pomeroy), this still shouldn’t have been a nailbiter. Carolina’s inside defense was soft…Carolina’s rebounding was very disappointing…and Carolina did little to draw fouls in the paint based on this ridiculously low free throw totals. North Carolina attempted only 10 free throws against Long Beach State??!!

It’s not an upset…but it’s big news in our view that Carolina is playing so far below preseason expectations. This is a team that lost to UNLV, and then fell again to Kentucky. ESPN was running stories before the season started online about the possibility of running the table. Important result here in a widely overlooked game.

#14 PITTSBURGH 74, OKLAHOMA STATE 68

Shooting Pct: Oklahoma State 42%, Pittsburgh 53%

Three-Pointers: Oklahoma State 7/18, Pittsburgh 4/10

Free Throws: Oklahoma State 9/13, Pittsburgh 18/29

Rebounds: Oklahoma State 23, Pittsburgh 37

Turnovers: Oklahoma State 4, Pittsburgh 10

Vegas Line: Pittsburgh by 7.5, total of 134

Pomeroy Rank: Oklahoma State 48th, Pittsburgh 28th

We mentioned in our preview late last week that this would be a good tester game for Oklahoma State and the Big 12. They basically passed the test even if they didn’t ace it. The Cowboys covered the spread, and did a great job of protecting the ball against a respected defense. On the other hand, their own defense was soft, their work on the boards was miserable, and they got out-free-throwed 29-13 on a neutral court. Clearly this team has to toughen up inside. Note that Pomeroy has Pittsburgh well below the media ranking. Be on top of that during Big East play. If the press is overrating Pittsburgh, Vegas will probably do the same thing.

#16 WISCONSIN 62, UNLV 51

Shooting Pct: UNLV 39%, Wisconsin 37%

Three-Pointers: UNLV 5/12, Wisconsin 10/26

Free Throws: UNLV 10/14, Wisconsin 12/18

Rebounds: UNLV 26, Wisconsin 34

Turnovers: UNLV 15, Wisconsin 10

Vegas Line: Wisconsin by 9, total of 126

Pomeroy Rank: UNLV 25th, Wisconsin 1st

When UNLV upset North Carolina, it was taken by many (us included) as a great sign for the Rebels. Now, it’s looking more like a big strike against a Carolina team that wasn’t as great as everyone was thinking. UNLV didn’t cover here even though nine points is a lot in a low tempo game. UNLV was waxed recently by Wichita State, and barely got by Cal-Santa Barbara. So, a lot of indicators are now anti-Carolina rather than pro-Rebels. Poor shooting here for UNLV, and a lot of turnovers for a slow game. Wisconsin didn’t exactly sparkle, but they did grind out a win and a cover in a game that could have been a trouble spot.

We don’t agree with Pomeroy that Wisconsin has the best team in the country. Wisconsin lost to that Carolina team that keeps fading before our eyes! The Badgers are in the championship discussion…but they’re not the team best suited to win a championship.

MICHIGAN STATE 74, #22 GONZAGA 67

Shooting Pct: Michigan State 54%, Gonzaga 43%

Three-Pointers: Michigan State 6/13, Gonzaga 7/14

Free Throws: Michigan State 16/25, Gonzaga 22/28

Rebounds: Michigan State 20, Gonzaga 27

Turnovers: Michigan State 15, Gonzaga 19

Vegas Line: Gonzaga by 4, total of 141

Pomeroy Rank: Michigan State 12th, Gonzaga 32nd

The nightcap shows that Pomeroy was much more in synch with reality here than the pollsters or oddsmakers were. Michigan State’s kids have learned quickly against their tough early schedule. Gonzaga…AGAIN…gets exposed as overrated when they play a real team. This basically happens three times out of every four over the last decade. But, they do have a catchy name…and ESPN is desperate to have a Western power they can hype in TV broadcasts.

We’ve been talking a lot about the Big Ten today by default. What a loaded conference. Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Purdue are all top contenders…Indiana is on the move…Michigan State looks to be on the fast track. Should be a fun year in a conference that we usually scold for being overrated.

This week isn’t exactly loaded with great games in college hoops because it’s final exams week in many places, or the winter break has already started. JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK will have a top play of the day for you through the week here at the website. Check in every afternoon and have your credit card handy. Great rates for the full season are available in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

The football bowls start Saturday…so BUILD YOUR BANKROLLS IN THE BASKETS WITH JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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