A bracket-busting day as underdogs go 7-1 ATS

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN City newsletter) 

And the seeds…came tumbling down! #1 Xavier OUT! #2’s North Carolina and Cincinnati  OUT! #3 Michigan State OUT! This is why you don’t put all the favorites in teasers and money line parlays. The latest on March MADNESS right now in VSiN City.

NCAA Tournament: Sunday shockers scramble the brackets

Well, THAT was one of the wildest days in recent NCAA tournament history. Underdogs went 7-1 against the spread, winning five games outright. Six of eight games missed the market price by double digits. Let’s run the key stats in the order games were played. We start with the relatively placid Purdue/Butler nailbiter. Computer rankings were taken before the Dance started. Estimated possessions are based on the formula shots…minus offensive rebounds…plus one-half free throws…plus turnovers. 

Purdue (-4) 76, Butler 73 

Two-point Pct: Butler 60%, Purdue 54%

Three Pointers: Butler 6/20, Purdue 11/24

Free Throws: Butler 13/14, Purdue 13/18

Rebounds: Butler 28, Purdue 30

Turnovers: Butler 8, Purdue 10

Estimated Possessions: Butler 61, Purdue 60

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Butler 25-28-25, Purdue 5-5-4

You can see that Purdue missed the big guy. The Boilermakers were soft on inside defense, and were only slightly better than break-even on the boards. That’s a high-scoring total for a game that was slow as molasses. Would have been a strike against either defense that moved forward. Purdue wins because of three-point shooting. Up 15 points in a game they only won by three. Butler won scoring on 1’s and 2’s by a count of 55-43. Purdue can celebrate, but red flags all over that box score. Purdue needed a big day in the most fickle category to make up for what wasn’t happening in the categories with the most predictive value. 

Syracuse (plus 10) 55, Michigan State 53 

Two-point Pct: Syracuse 41%, Michigan State 31%

Three Pointers: Syracuse 1/8, Michigan State 8/37

Free Throws: Syracuse 24/31, Michigan State 11/16

Rebounds: Syracuse 30, Michigan State 51

Turnovers: Syracuse 12, Michigan State 14

Estimated Possessions: Syracuse 63, Michigan State 59

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Syracuse 54-60-53, Michigan State 6-4-6

Our Holy Trinity stats saw this as a toss-up in the stats that matter most in playoff-style basketball. Sure turned out that way, even though the overrated favorite was laying 10 points to a dog that has a proven style for Dance success. Michigan State’s great rebounding (truly elite this season) couldn’t make up for poor shooting vs. the disruptive Syracuse zone. Plus, Sparty kept launching treys out of desperation when things weren’t going well. Very tough to win when you miss 29 treys! Well, 29 treys and 20 deuces because MSU was just 9 of 29 inside the arc. Syracuse wins ugly. Though, a 52-29 scoreboard edge on 1’s and 2’s has a beauty of its own in the numbers. Classic old school basketball.

Texas A&M (plus 6) 86, North Carolina 65 

Two-point Pct: Texas A&M 58%, North Carolina 43%

Three Pointers: Texas A&M 10/24, North Carolina 6/31

Free Throws: Texas A&M 14/21, North Carolina 7/7

Rebounds: Texas A&M 50, North Carolina 36

Turnovers: Texas A&M 14, North Carolina 6

Estimated Possessions: Texas A&M 78, North Carolina 79

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Texas A&M 30-27-38, North Carolina 7-8-7

Texas A&M always had this in them. Back in October, many thought the Aggies were the most likely team to unseat Kentucky in the SEC. A&M sparkled for much of Friday’s win over Providence (though it got hairy at the end). Truly a statement win that was helped by three-point performance, but not determined behind the arc. Texas A&M won scoring on 1’s and 2’s by a count of 56-47, while owning the boards and creating a lot more free throw opportunities. What this means is that the Aggies can slide backward a bit on treys but still have a real chance to take out Michigan in the next round. A reminder above that way too many ACC teams are prone to launching threes when they panic. No reason for the Tar Heels to go 6 of 31 here. Kept the turnover count low, but also free throw attempts. 

Nevada (plus 9) 75, Cincinnati 73 

Two-point Pct: Nevada 56%, Cincinnati 45%

Three Pointers: Nevada 6/18, Cincinnati 5/17

Free Throws: Nevada 9/16, Cincinnati 14/17

Rebounds: Nevada 33, Cincinnati 44

Turnovers: Nevada 2, Cincinnati 7

Estimated Possessions: Nevada 63, Cincinnati 67

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Nevada 24-39-31, Cincinnati 4-7-5

We talked about all the blowout indicators for Cincinnati in our Holy Trinity preview. Looked prescient most of the way…until Nevada won the end of the game 32-8! Hard to believe that Nevada only turned the ball over TWICE while missing a key ball handler to injury. Ultimately, some very soft defensive numbers for normally bruising Cincinnati. Took the foot off the gas too early, which shows up in the 56% inside shooting number and the low forced turnovers. Nevada’s become an incredible story this year, from a state that loves longshots. Can the Wolfpack maintain their energy when they’re no longer a longshot in the Sweet 16 against Loyola-Chicago? 

Clemson (plus 1.5) 84, Auburn 53 

Two-point Pct: Clemson 54%, Auburn 29%

Three Pointers: Clemson 10/26, Auburn 7/32

Free Throws: Clemson 16/23, Auburn 12/15

Rebounds: Clemson 50, Auburn 32

Turnovers: Clemson 7, Auburn 6

Estimated Possessions: Clemson 71, Auburn 73

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Clemson 19-24-18, Auburn 16-33-19

Here the Holy Trinity vision did hold up. Auburn’s collapsing offense ran into a great defense, and was utterly helpless from the outset. Box score shows 10 of 34 on two’s, and 7 of 32 on treys. Balanced at least! Clemson isn’t as good as it looked here, because it was facing a shell of what Auburn used to be. But, the defense is for real. Clemson/Kansas is one to look forward to in a few days. 

Kansas State (-10) 50, Maryland-Baltimore County 43 

Two-point Pct: UMBC 32%, Kansas State 53%

Three Pointers: UMBC 6/22, Kansas State 1/12

Free Throws: UMBC 9/18, Kansas State 13/18

Rebounds: UMBC 28, Kansas State 35

Turnovers: UMBC 17, Kansas State 18

Estimated Possessions: UMBC 67, Kansas State 66

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: UMBC 184-189-170, Kansas State 44-41-46

After shooting 12 of 24 on three-pointers in the upset of Virginia, UMBC could only make 14 field goals of any type the whole game Sunday. Grinder with way too many turnovers for that pace. If Kansas State could have made a few treys, the drama would have ended earlier in the evening. Wildcats won scoring on 1’s and 2’s by a count of 47-25, while also owning the boards. So…UMBC did suffer the typical letdown that we normally see when somebody in the 13-14-15 range scores an early upset. Kansas State was too sloppy with the ball, and inaccurate on bombs to take full advantage. First second-round loss ever for a #16 seed! Kansas State will need to play a lot better than this against Kentucky. 

Florida State (plus 5.5) 75, Xavier 70

Two-point Pct: Florida State 50%, Xavier 50%

Three Pointers: Florida State 8/23, Xavier 5/13

Free Throws: Florida State 19/22, Xavier 19/30

Rebounds: Florida State 32, Xavier 33

Turnovers: Florida State 14, Xavier 18

Estimated Possessions: Florida State 70, Xavier 70

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Florida State 35-34-39, Xavier 14-12-13

Not as shocking in the moment, because it was the second time in a matter of hours that a highly seeded team from Cincinnati blew a double-digit second-half lead in Nashville by losing its composure on offense against a big dog that should have been packing for its bus ride to the airport. But, Xavier became the second #1 seed to fall this year before the Sweet 16, which is something that hadn’t happened in more than a decade. The computers saw Xavier as a pretender in the #1 slot anyway. Though, neither Cincy nor Xavier looked like anything special today. The big story here was turnovers. Not only did Xavier lose the ball at an alarming rate, but the Musketeers completely imploded in that stat in the final minutes. Panic, no sense of what they were supposed to do, with the season on the line. Florida State will face Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.  

West Virginia (-13) 94, Marshall 71 

Two-point Pct: Marshall 33%, West Virginia 51%

Three Pointers: Marshall 12/26, West Virginia 12/25

Free Throws: Marshall 15/21, West Virginia 16/18

Rebounds: Marshall 24, West Virginia 40

Turnovers: Marshall 18, West Virginia 16

Estimated Possessions: Marshall 75, West Virginia 76

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Marshall 114-125-124, West Virginia 13-8-10

It looks even dumber now that West Virginia was seeded on the #5 line. Though, running into a team computer-ranked in the 120’s is a break compared to what everyone else was dealing with Sunday. Marshall needed to win treys handily to have a chance to compete. West Virginia shot so well from long range that became a non-issue. Mountaineers won scoring on 1’s and 2’s by a count of 58-35 while dominating the boards. Villanova is up next. What should have been an Elite 8 game in a strong field is a Sweet 16 matchup with carnage on the other half of the bracket. 

Market Watch: Early Point Spreads for the Sweet 16 and estimated “market” Power Ratings

Here’s a quick peek at early lines for later this week. We’ll study sharp betting patterns beginning with tomorrow’s report. 

Purdue -1.5 vs. Texas A&M

Villanova -4.5 vs. West Virginia

Nevada -2.5 vs. Loyola Chicago

Kentucky -5.5 vs Kansas State

Duke -11.5 vs. Syracuse

Kansas -4 vs. Clemson

Michigan -3.5 vs. Texas A&M

Gonzaga -6.5 vs. Florida State

East Estimated “market” Power Ratings: Villanova 88, Purdue 84 (Haas out), West Virginia 84, Texas Tech 83.

South Estimated “market” Power Ratings: Kentucky 83, Kansas State 78, Nevada 78, Loyola-Chicago 76.

Midwest Estimated “market” Power Ratings: Duke 87, Kansas 84, Clemson 80, Syracuse 76. 

West Estimated “market” Power Ratings: Gonzaga 84, Michigan 83, Texas A&M 80, Florida State 78.

A lot of basketball to talk about before the Dance resumes Thursday. Let’s get caught up in the NIT…

NIT: Sunday recaps and Monday night “Holy Trinity” previews

Time now to switch our focus to the NIT. There were three games played Sunday, leading into four games set for Monday night. Let’s run the key stats from Sunday first…then we’ll update the estimated “market” Power Ratings for the remaining dozen…followed by Holy Trinity previews for Monday’s quadruple-header. 

Mississippi State (plus 5.5) 78, Baylor 77 

Two-point Pct: Mississippi State 50%, Baylor 57%

Three Pointers: Mississippi State 13/22, Baylor 3/12

Free Throws: Mississippi State 9/11, Baylor 12/17

Rebounds: Mississippi State 22, Baylor 34

Turnovers: Mississippi State 12, Baylor 12

Estimated Possessions: Mississippi State 64, Baylor 68

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Mississippi State 59-63-67, Baylor 33-31-33

Baylor erased a huge lead only to lose a heartbreaker at the end. You can see that Mississippi State had to win the game from long range. The Bulldogs were plus 30 points on treys in a game they only one by a point! Baylor won scoring on 1’s and 2’s by a count of 68-39, and won rebounds by double digits. So…clearly a case where the classier side lost because the opponent happened to be hot from outside. Remember that in the next round when Mississippi State isn’t likely to shoot this well at Lousiville. 

Marquette (-5) 101, Oregon 92

Two-point Pct: Oregon 61%, Marquette 67%

Three Pointers: Oregon 4/13, Marquette 12/26

Free Throws: Oregon 30/38, Marquette 21/24

Rebounds: Oregon 26, Marquette 27

Turnovers: Oregon 13, Marquette 16

Estimated Possessions: Oregon 79, Marquette 79

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Oregon 74-54-73, Marquette 54-49-51

Not much defense here. The teams went up and down the floor, allowing a lot of cheapies inside. Marquette managed to get a lot of open looks outside too. Refs must have had a lot of fun given the high free throw counts. Marquette’s established that it’s in the mood to play, setting up what could be an exciting quarterfinal with Penn State to determine who goes to Gotham. 

Louisville (-5) 84, Middle Tennessee 68 

Two-point Pct: M. Tennessee 58%, Louisville 55%

Three Pointers: M. Tennessee 5/15, Louisville 11/21

Free Throws: M. Tennessee 11/16, Louisville 15/20

Rebounds: M. Tennessee 27, Louisville 28

Turnovers: M. Tennessee 15, Louisville 7

Estimated Possessions: M. Tennessee 67, Louisville 64 

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: M. Tennessee 40-56-42, Louisville 32-25-31

Important to notice that this wasn’t a fast-paced game, and Louisville made a run past 80 points. Fantastic offense from the host shooting inside, outside, and avoiding turnovers. Looks like the defense lost some interest inside in the blowout. Only thing you can nitpick about. Louisville’s lousy first half vs. Northern Kentucky is way back in the rearview mirror. 

NIT estimated “market” Power Ratings

79: St. Mary’s

78: USC, Louisville, Oklahoma State

77: Penn State, Marquette, Utah, Western Kentucky

76: LSU, Mississippi State

74: Stanford

72: Washington

Now to the previews for Monday’s busy schedule…

Stanford (plus 7.5/153.5) at Oklahoma State (7 p.m. ET on ESPNU)

Stanford: #75 defense, #25 rebounding, #296 TO avoidance

Okie St. #53 defense, #86 rebounding, #189 TO avoidance

You’re not going to see great stat composites in the NIT because those belong to teams in the NCAA’s. These numbers don’t justify the stiff price. But, the Pac 12 has had a dismal postseason when not playing on its home floor…so it may be a league that’s worse than its numbers. And, that turnover avoidance mark for Stanford is awful anyway. That could lead to a disaster in a hostile road environment. Nothing here to hang anyone’s hat on. 

LSU (plus 4.5/149) at Utah (9 p.m. ET on ESPNU)

LSU: #124 defense, #204 rebounding, #64 TO avoidance

Utah #78 defense, #219 rebounding, #127 TO avoidance

LSU is in a tough scheduling spot because that win over Louisiana-Lafayette got very emotional. Now, the team has to deal with altitude at a quirky site that can be tough for the uninitiated. That seems based into the line, though you can’t really bake the implosions into the line that sometimes happen. Utah’s another Pac 12 team that might not be as good as its mediocre numbers. Again, dicey call unless you want to play the altitude angle.

Washington (plus 10.5/144) at St. Mary’s (11 p.m. ET on ESPNU)

Washington: #62 defense, #261 rebounding, #206 TO avoidance

St. Mary’s #111 defense, #13 rebounding, #16 TO avoidance

The only thing Washington has going for it is that they play the Syracuse zone defense. But, St. Mary’s is a smart team that has some varied weaponry on an offense that runs clean. Plus, the rebounding edge is huge (much better than Michigan State’s “on paper” edge over Syracuse in that regard. The line is high because all of that is known. Will the Huskies just lay down? Not out of the question for the third team from the overrated Pac 12 on the evening schedule. One issue with laying the points is that St. Mary’s plays very slow, and is likely to control the tempo at home. You don’t often see stat routs in two different Holy Trinity categories in the same game. Feels like St. Mary’s or pass based on that. 

Western Kentucky (plus 4/151) at USC (11:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2)

W. Kentucky: #80 defense, #96 rebounding, #66 TO avoidance

Southern Cal #84 defense, #124 rebounding, #20 TO avoidance

Yup, a Pac 12 team in every game. Brutal road trip for this visitor. Pretty tight stat comparison where Western Kentucky’s rebounding strength may be cancelled out by USC’s turnover avoidance. Time for the host to regroup off a lethargic opener against UNC Asheville. Louisville got its act together. You can tell the market has soured on USC compared to a couple of weeks ago if the Trojans are only laying -4 at home vs. this caliber visitor. That’s -1ish on a neutral floor. 

Back with more basketball talk Tuesday. 

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