ACC shocker, plus Big Ten tutorial

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN.com

February 28, 2018 12:20 AM

USATSI_10660636
Miami's Ja'Quan Newton beats North Carolina on this last-second shot.
© USA Today Sports Images

North Carolina shocked at home by Miami…the night after Duke was stunned at Virginia Tech. Plus, expanded SEC notes and a huge Big Ten tournament preview today in VSiN City. 

Tuesday ACC Basketball: No power is safe! #9 North Carolina falls as a double-digit home favorite to bubble-boys from Miami

We hadn’t expected to be leading the report with an upset in this matchup. North Carolina had been in good form of late (having won six straight while covering all but one), and was facing a slumping Miami side that had been 3-10 its last 13 vs. market expectations. Firmly on the bubble, Miami picked a great time to play its best road game of the year. 

Miami (plus 10) 91, #9 North Carolina 88 

Two-point Pct: Miami 58%, North Carolina 60%

Three Pointers: Miami 11/22, North Carolina 13/27

Free Throws: Miami 12/13, North Carolina 13/20

Rebounds: Miami 27, North Carolina 31

Turnovers: Miami 10, North Carolina 13

Estimated Possessions: Miami 70, North Carolina 69

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Miami 41-36-34, North Carolina 7-7-8

Joe Lunardi Seed Projection: Miami first four out, North Carolina a #2 seed

Greg Peterson Seed Projection: Miami second four out, North Carolina a #3 seed

First, important to note that the high scoring final (Over by 28 points) was NOT signaling a run-and-gun game. You can call it great offense or suspect defense…but both teams shot lights out inside the arc and on treys. It often takes a hot night on treys for a big dog to spring an upset. But credit Miami for winning “1’s and 2’s” by a count of 58-49.

North Carolina did rally from a big early deficit to make it a thriller in the closing moments. Not enough. And another reminder that there’s just not that much difference among the top 40 teams right now. At least Villanova and Duke lost to Creighton and Virginia Tech on the ROAD. 

All computer rankings and bracketology notes listed today reflect numbers BEFORE the games were played. Miami has a much better chance of cracking the brackets now…particularly with computer measures having them the rough equivalent of a #9-10 seed before the night began. 

Tuesday SEC Basketball: Busy night in a super-competitive conference might launch March memories

When we saw the Tuesday schedule, we thought it would be fun to focus on SEC summaries because four games featuring Dance-bound teams featured point spreads of -2 or less. Looked like some competitive basketball on tap! Instead, a few SEC stalwarts made statements about March potential with impressive wins. Let’s take the games in schedule rotation order…

#16 Tennessee (plus 1.5) 76 Mississippi State 54 

Two-point Pct: Tennessee 62%, Mississippi State 52%

Three Pointers: Tennessee 4/11, Mississippi State 4/20

Free Throws: Tennessee 18/23, Mississippi State 10/16

Rebounds: Tennessee 34, Mississippi State 24

Turnovers: Tennessee 11, Mississippi State 13

Estimated Possessions: Tennessee 64, Mississippi State 65

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Tennessee 14-24-16, Mississippi State 50-54-58

Joe Lunardi Seed Projection: Tennessee a #3 seed, MSU “first four out”

Greg Peterson Seed Projection: Tennessee a #3 seed, MSU “second four out”

Probably a death knell for Mississippi State’s Dance hopes, with such a one-sided home loss (as a slight favorite!) coming at such an important time. You don’t play your way into the brackets with a disaster like this. Great night for Tennessee, who won big despite not doing much of anything on treys. A dominant performance inside for a group solidifying its chances for a #3 Dance seed. 

Florida (-1) 73 Alabama 52 

Two-point Pct: Florida 63%, Alabama 33%

Three Pointers: Florida 7/24, Alabama 3/15

Free Throws: Florida 12/20, Alabama 13/22

Rebounds: Florida 31, Alabama 46

Turnovers: Florida 6, Alabama 15

Estimated Possessions: Florida 66, Alabama 66

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Florida 26-23-31, Alabama 47-50-49

Joe Lunardi Seed Projection: Florida a #6 seed, Alabama a #9 seed

Greg Peterson Seed Projection: Florida a #10 seed, Alabama a #8 seed

The computers don’t agree with the bracketologists about Alabama’s likely seed number. That’s very similar to Syracuse’s computer line from the other day (51-47-51 after the loss to Duke). Such a bad home loss here may have the Tide alarmingly close to the bubble. If not, handicappers should at least think of them as a bubble team rather than a true sleeper after this offensive debacle. Note the poor shooting across the board AND 15 turnovers. Rare game for Florida where the Gators don’t do much from long range but still dominate. 

Missouri (plus 2) 74 Vanderbilt 66 

Two-point Pct: Missouri 61%, Vanderbilt 42%

Three Pointers: Missouri 12/22, Vanderbilt 13/30

Free Throws: Missouri 10/14, Vanderbilt 5/10

Rebounds: Missouri 28, Vanderbilt 28

Turnovers: Missouri 13, Vanderbilt 12

Estimated Possessions: Missouri 62, Vanderbilt 64

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Missouri 45-45-52, Vanderbilt 86-79-83

Joe Lunardi Seed Projection: Missouri a #9 seed

Greg Peterson Seed Projection: Missouri a #9 seed

Similar situation here with the bracketologists more optimistic than the computers about where an SEC team sits in the big picture. Though, this road win could shrink the distance. Missouri was 14 of 23 on deuces, 12 of 22 on treys while discouraging good looks on defense. Impressive result as a short dog at what can be a tough site. 

Arkansas (pick-em) 91, #14 Auburn 82 

Two-point Pct: Auburn 42%, Arkansas 53%

Three Pointers: Auburn 7/28, Arkansas 10/19

Free Throws: Auburn 31/34, Arkansas 19/30

Rebounds: Auburn 37, Arkansas 39

Turnovers: Auburn 11, Arkansas 11

Estimated Possessions: Auburn 80, Arkansas 79

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Auburn 10-20-14, Arkansas 38-35-37

Joe Lunardi Seed Projection: Auburn a #3 seed, Arkansas a #8 seed

Greg Peterson Seed Projection: Auburn a #2 seed, Arkansas a #7 seed

This was the fast-paced game we didn’t have in Miami/North Carolina. Helped by some whistle happy refs. Auburn struggled from long range…and just couldn’t keep up (despite great free throw shooting) because Arkansas was in blitz mode. Auburn has now lost three of four straight up and ATS. Going to be tougher to make a case for a Sweet 16 seed if the Tigers don’t finish better than this. Not the same team after a recent injury. 

Arkansas is now 6-1 straight up and ATS its last seven. Though, the blemish was an ugly loss at Kentucky that might foreshadow trouble vs. quality away from home in March. Strong results otherwise.

SEC estimated “market” Power Ratings: Auburn 82, Florida 81, Tennessee 81 at home…80 on the road, Kentucky 81, Texas A&M 80 at home…79 on the road, Arkansas 79 at home…77 on the road, Missouri 79 at home…77 on the road, Mississippi State 78 at home…77 on the road, Alabama 77, Georgia 77, South Carolina 75,  LSU 75 at home…74 on the road, Vanderbilt 76 at home…75 on the road, Ole Miss 73. 

Really tightly bunched. Let’s not forget that the SEC showed well in its challenge against the Big 12 a few weeks ago. Some tough NCAA outs, and some NIT title contenders.

College Basketball Tutorial: Key numbers to look at when handicapping conference tournaments

The first major conference tournament begins Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York when the four worst teams in the Big Ten take the floor. If the four best Power Rated teams in the league reach the semifinals (Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State, and Michigan), Gotham will be in for a real treat this weekend. Of course, Nebraska and Penn State are hoping to upset the Big Apple cart with deep runs that would push them to the right side of the bubble. 

This week’s tutorial will focus on the types of stats handicappers should be considering as they approach a conference tournament. We just won’t have the time and space to run numbers like this for all the events. But this outline will give you some guidance for your own research process. 

We start with something simple…the scoring margin averages for each league team in conference action only. This is ideal because it’s a relatively large sample size (18 games in the case of the Big Ten) with great connectivity because everyone’s playing each other. It’s not perfect because the Big Ten is too big for a double round robin. Nebraska, for example, managed to only face “the big four” once apiece rather than doubling up. But at least we have a great “picture painter” for team quality. 

Big Ten Margin Averages (League Play Only) 

Michigan State plus 10.3

Purdue plus 10.3

Ohio State plus 9.3

Michigan plus 5.5

Nebraska plus 3.9

Penn State plus 2.8

Indiana plus 0.7

Maryland -1.8

Northwestern -3.4

Wisconsin -3.8

Illinois -5.3

Iowa -7.0

Minnesota -9.6

Rutgers -11.9

You can see that the big four are clear of the field, with Sparty and Purdue making their cases for National Championship consideration. Those two powers are so close in quality that they scored and allowed almost exactly the same exact numbers in the Big Ten. 

Points Scored per Big Ten Game: Purdue 76.6, Michigan State 76.5 

Points Allowed per Big Ten Game: Michigan State 66.2, Purdue 66.3

That’s a tenth of a point in both! Maybe both elites will reach the finals so handicappers (and the NCAA Selection committee) will have a neutral court battle to serve as a tie-breaker entering the Dance. 

Next up, offensive and defensive efficiency. The best college basketball stat source on the planet, kenpom.com run by Ken Pomeroy does a great job clearing through the pollution to get the best reads. 

“Adjusted Efficiency” means scoring adjusted for pace AND strength of schedule.

While it’s true that teams don’t always play to their regular-season norms under postseason pressure, the following evaluations from Pomeroy help you spot at a glance which teams are elite…which teams are one-dimensional (great on offense but bad on defense, or vice versa)…and which teams are no-dimensional (bad at everything). 

Ken Pomeroy’s Adjusted Efficiency Rankings (thru Monday’s games)

1…Michigan State #10 on offense, #7 on defense

2…Ohio State #31 on offense, #15 on defense

3…Purdue #3 on offense, #16 on defense

4…Nebraska #79 on offense, #38 on defense

5…Michigan #36 on offense, #11 on defense

6…Indiana #96 on offense, #55 on defense

7…Penn State #61 on offense, #20 on defense

8…Maryland #41 on offense, #72 on defense

9…Wisconsin #89 on offense, #80 on defense

10…Northwestern #104 on offense, #89 on defense

11…Minnesota #91 on offense, #149 on defense

12…Iowa #26 on offense, #251 on defense

13…Illinois #98 on offense, #118 on defense

14…Rutgers #306 on offense, #31 on defense

We presented those in seed order so you can make notes in your brackets. Purdue might be “co-No. 1” with Michigan State in stats and national perceptions, but the Boilermakers are just a #3 seed in New York. You can see that Purdue and MSU are similarly balanced in an elite way. Ohio State and Michigan are virtual clones in these measures. Penn State is the most dangerous sleeper because of a #20 ranked defense. Nebraska doesn’t have the stat profile of a Big Dance team regardless of its great league run (as Greg Peterson has been talking about on twitter this week). Would you have expected a bad team like Rutgers to grade out so well on defense?

With those stage-setters, let’s move on to our estimate of “market” Power Ratings. We’ve tweaked our final numbers from Monday’s report to account for Illinois being -1 over Iowa in Wednesday’s opener, followed by Minnesota at -2.5 over Rutgers. You might want to print these out today just so you can tweak on your own as new lines come up for later action. 

Big Ten estimated “market” Power Ratings: Purdue 86, Michigan State 86, Ohio State 82, Michigan 81, Penn State 78, Maryland 76, Nebraska 76, Indiana 76, Wisconsin 76, Northwestern 74, Illinois 74, Iowa 73, Minnesota 71, Rutgers 68.

Here now, are the matchups for the next three days with those “market” Power Ratings estimates in parenthesis. Those will help you ballpark likely point spread ranges in the quarterfinals and beyond.  

Wednesday

Iowa (73) vs.  Illinois (74)

Minnesota (71) vs. Rutgers (68)

Thursday

Wisconsin (76) vs. Maryland (76)

Illinois/Iowa winner vs. Michigan (81)

Northwestern (74) vs. Penn State (78)

Minnesota/Rutgers winner vs. Indiana (76)

Friday

Wisconsin/Maryland winner vs. Michigan State (86)

Illinois/Iowa/Michigan survivor vs. Nebraska (76)

Northwestern/Penn State winner vs. Ohio State (82)

Minnesota/Rutgers/Indiana survivor vs. Purdue (86)

Are we done yet? No! Real handicapping takes a long time! Let’s look at the odds to win the tournament as posted Tuesday at the South Point in Las Vegas. We saved this for last to emphasize the importance of evaluating teams to outline your own expectations before odds are presented. Too many bettors just wait to see the numbers, then bet their gut reactions to what they see. For most sharps, seeing the odds is a very late step in the process rather than the launching point. 

Odds to Win Big Ten Tournament (South Point)

Michigan State plus 150 (40% percentage equivalent)

Purdue plus 150 (40%)

Ohio State plus 600 (14%)

Michigan plus 600 (14%)

Nebraska plus 1500 (6%)

Penn State plus 2000 (5%)

Maryland plus 2500 (4%)

Indiana plus 2500 (4%)

Wisconsin plus 3000 (3%)

Northwestern plus 10000

Illinois plus 15000

Iowa plus 15000

Minnesota plus 15000

Rutgers plus 25000

If you’re new to VSiN City, we like to throw in those percentage equivalents to give you a better sense of what futures prices mean. It’s not as widely realized as it should be that futures are very much stacked against the player. Sports books do that to create a house edge that serves as a form of vigorish. You can see that “the big four” percentages already add up to more than 100%. Everyone down to Wisconsin adds up to 130% before you get to the super longshots. 

Generally speaking, you’ll get a better return betting the team of your choice in a sequential open-ended parlay than you will purchasing a futures ticket. For example, Nebraska will pay off a lot better than 15/1 in a day-by-day three-team parlay with itself if it runs the table against Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue (or Ohio State). 

Is there a team outside the big four well-positioned to grab headlines? Penn State has the most appealing stat profile and schedule sequence of the options at 20/1 or higher. 

Enjoy the tournament!

NBA Quickies: Miami and Washington win important Eastern battles

We’re long already today, so we’ll skip the boxscores. Wanted to quickly mention these two results from Tuesday NBA…

*Miami rallied to steal a win from Philadelphia on a Dwyane Wade jumper 102-101. The Sixers had riding time almost all night as a short road dog, but couldn’t get the job don’t in the final moments. Miami had covered five straight before this non-cover. 

*Washington blew a huge early lead, but held off Milwaukee 107-104. In a storyline we first discussed before the VSiN City hiatus, the Wizards are playing GREAT without John Wall. The record is now 10-3 straight up and ATS since his injury. And, one of the losses was as a dog in overtime. So, in regulation, Washington is 10-2-1 straight up and 11-2 vs. market expectations. Still playing more effectively as a unit without Wall, and with more sustained energy. Milwaukee is 1-4 ATS its last five games, as continuing defensive lapses helped launch its opponent to 40 first quarter points Tuesday. There had been an initial improvement on the defensive side after Jason Kidd’s firing. Old news now. 

Ramifications in the Eastern brackets…

*Washington holds onto the #4 spot, just a half game behind #3 Cleveland and 1.5 games ahead of #5 Indiana. Would be something if the Wizards can earn home court in the first round after losing Wall for so many weeks. 

*Milwaukee stays in the #6 spot, but would have dropped to #7 if Philadelphia hadn’t fallen apart down the stretch in Miami. 

*Miami has a tighter grip on a playoff spot, sitting at #8 but now 3.5 games ahead of self-destructing Detroit. 

NBA Eastern Conference estimated “market” Power Ratings: Toronto 85, Cleveland 83, Philadelphia 82, Boston 82, Milwaukee 80, Washington 80, Miami 80, Indiana 79, Charlotte 79, Detroit 78, Brooklyn 75, New York 74, Orlando 72, Chicago 72, Atlanta 71.

NBA Western Conference estimated “market” Power Ratings: Golden State 89, Houston 87, Oklahoma City 83, San Antonio 82, Utah 82, Minnesota 81, Portland 81, Denver 81 at home…80 on the road, New Orleans 80, LA Clippers 79, LA Lakers 76, Dallas 75, Memphis 74, Sacramento 73, Phoenix 73. 

That wraps up Wednesday. See you again tomorrow. 

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