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Underdogs exact revenge

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

March 9, 2018 11:23 PM

Providence celebrates after its overtime victory against Xavier in the Big East semifinals.
© USA Today Sports Images

Statement wins from Villanova and North Carolina, while Xavier, Duke, Auburn and Florida all fall Friday. Numbers and notes to get you ready for Championship Saturday in this special report from VSiN City.

ACC Semifinals: Underdogs cash both Friday free-for-alls after Favorites swept Thursday
Virginia continues to play the most consistent high-level basketball in the nation’s strongest conference. Duke continues to make analysts wonder why it can’t do the same thing!

#1 Virginia (-7.5) 64, Clemson 58
Two-point Pct: Clemson 50% Virginia 55%
Three Pointers: Clemson 5/25, Virginia 5/18
Free Throws: Clemson 19/23, Virginia 3/8
Rebounds: Clemson 32, Virginia 37
Turnovers: Clemson 13, Virginia 8
Estimated Possessions: Clemson 66, Virginia 61
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Clemson 18-24-17, Virginia 1-3-2
Market Watch: A fairly common theme all day saw favorites getting bet up early, then drifting back down from sharp money before tip-off. Here, openers of Virginia -7 or -7.5 went to -8 quickly. Late Clemson money dropped the close to 7.5. The opening total of 118.5 came all the way down to 115 or 114.5 depending on the store. 

Screwy numbers in the first post-game box score in terms of estimated possessions. We’ve been using shots…minus offensive one-half free throw attempts…plus turnovers. Since possessions alternate it’s hard to have a wide spread. Either technical free throws or an input error in the initial box score here. Virginia led by as much as 14 in the second half, but Clemson hung around enough to both cover and drive the game Over that very low total. You can see that strong inside shooting gobbled up the margin for error. This should clinch a #1 seed in the Dance for Virginia. Even if the Cavaliers lose in the ACC finals, it would be to a very good team. 

#12 North Carolina (plus 4) 74, #5 Duke 69
Two-point Pct: North Carolina 45%, Duke 52%
Three Pointers: North Carolina 7/24, Duke 6/23
Free Throws: North Carolina 11/15, Duke 19/23
Rebounds: North Carolina 41, Duke 40
Turnovers: North Carolina 13, Duke 18
Estimated Possessions: North Carolina 74, Duke 72
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: North Carolina 7-8-7, Duke 3-2-3 
Market Watch: Hopped between Duke -4.5 and -4 all day. Closed at the lower number. Opening total of 155 closed at 156. Many stores floated higher than that during the day before dropping. 

This was North Carolina’s second look at the new Duke zone in less than a week. That plus revenge seemed to matter through the evening. Tar Heels played like a team on a mission until gagging on their blankets in the final moments. Carolina only scored two points from 6:44 left in the game to the final three seconds. You should have seen the stats at 70-55! Duke only sizzled after trailing by double digits (rallied from down 16-3 to start the game, then cut that 70-55 deficit to three in the final minute). 

If NC’s mission this week was to get revenge on Duke, it may not provide much competition for Virginia in Saturday’s finals. You can’t play hard for only 33 minutes and beat Virginia. 

ACC estimated “market” Power Ratings: Duke 87, Virginia 87, North Carolina 83, Notre Dame 79, Clemson 79, Louisville 79, Florida State 79, Virginia Tech 78, Miami 77, NC State 77, Syracuse 76, Boston College 74, Wake Forest 72, Georgia Tech 72, Pittsburgh 63.

Big East Semifinals: Xavier stunned by Providence, likely losing shot at #1 Dance seed 
So much for potential #1 Dance seeds Xavier and Villanova being on a collision course in New York. Xavier wrecked in the semifinals!

Providence (plus 7) 75, #3 Xavier 72 in overtime
Two-point Pct: Providence 56%, Xavier 43%
Three Pointers: Providence 3/19, Xavier 5/22
Free Throws: Providence 16/20, Xavier 17/18
Rebounds: Providence 38, Xavier 45
Turnovers: Providence 7, Xavier 10 
Estimated Possessions: Providence 75, Xavier 75
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Providence 71-54-69, Xavier 10-11-11 
Market Watch: Openers of Xavier -7 or -7.5 were bet up to -8 early on. There was late dog interest that came in fairly aggressively, bringing the close down to seven. The opening total of 151 came down hard to 147. It took an extra five minutes just to push the late day Over/Under. 

Very interesting situation with the respected computers here. Xavier was barely a top 10 team in consensus, even though many bracketologists had the Musketeers as a #1 Dance seed heading into the evening. Providence was NOT rated as tournament caliber by a longshot, though Joe Lunardi had them as a #10 seed. The betting markets have been pretty much in line with the computers. Providence has been priced like an NIT team. Xavier as a Sweet 16 team, but not Elite 8 or Final Four. How do we evaluate this? Xavier feels exposed as a pretender with so many negatives (blowing a 17-point second half lead, poor shooting, poor inside defense, few forced turnovers even with extra time). Providence has impressed in this tournament, but may have trouble next week because of all the battles endured this week. 

#2 Villanova (-8.5) 87, Butler 68
Two-point Pct: Butler 56%, Villanova 56%
Three Pointers: Butler 7/20, Villanova 14/34
Free Throws: Butler 11/13, Villanova 15/17
Rebounds: Butler 25, Villanova 37
Turnovers: Butler 12, Villanova 11
Estimated Possessions: Butler 68, Villanova 69
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Butler 24-28-24, Villanova 2-1-1
Market Watch: Stores were at either Villanova -8 or -8.5 all day (a few outliers had nine up for awhile). An opening total of 152 made it down as low as 149.5 before rising late in the day to 151. 

Villanova scored the first 19 points of the game. Wildcats wanted to make sure Butler didn’t get any ideas after watching Providence upset Xavier! The rest of the night was extended garbage time. Nobody has a chance to hang with Villanova when it makes that many treys. This probably locks up a #1 seed for the Wildcats in the Big Dance, even if they get upset by Providence. They’d rather go in on a high note.  

Big East estimated “market” Power Ratings: Villanova 87, Xavier 83, Creighton 79, Butler 78, Seton Hall 77, Marquette 76, Providence 75, St. John’s 75, Georgetown 71, DePaul 70.

Big 12 Tournament: West Virginia gets shot at double revenge vs. Kansas after both win Friday night 
West Virginia thought it had Kansas beat twice during the regular season. The most recent loss was particularly galling because officiating played such a huge role. A chance for double revenge as both teams won and covered Friday as favorites in Kansas City. 

#9 Kansas (-7.5) 83, Kansas State 67
Two-point Pct: Kansas State 55%, Kansas 56%
Three Pointers: Kansas State 2/13, Kansas 11/28
Free Throws: Kansas State 9/13, Kansas 14/17
Rebounds: Kansas State 30, Kansas 37
Turnovers: Kansas State 13, Kansas 13
Estimated Possessions: Kansas State 75, Kansas 73
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Kansas State 40-38-42, Kansas 11-7-9
Market Watch: Openers of Kansas -4.5 or -5 were bet all the way up to -8 once news broke that Kansas State would be missing a key player. Late money on the dog brought the line under that apex. The opening total of 141.5 was bet down to 138.5.

Both teams were missing key players. That hurt inside defense for both. Kansas has more weapons, which gives them a better shot of overcoming the loss of a key contributor. Basically the story here. Another great showing so far in Kansas City for the Jayhawks. 

#18 West Virginia (-2.5) 66, #14 Texas Tech 63
Two-point Pct: West Virginia 34%, Texas Tech 47%
Three Pointers: West Virginia 10/20, Texas Tech 6/15
Free Throws: West Virginia 12/19, Texas Tech 11/21
Rebounds: West Virginia 32, Texas Tech 38
Turnovers: West Virginia 9, Texas Tech 10
Estimated Possessions: West Virginia 68, Texas Tech 63
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: West Virginia 13-9-10, Texas Tech 12-13-13
Market Watch: An opener of West Virginia -1.5 was bet up to -2 relatively early, then closed at -2.5. The total opened around 143, and was bet down hard to closers around 139 or 139.5.  

Another game where the possession counts in the initial postgame box score skew further than would be natural. Bottom line is it was a slow game where both teams were around a point-per-possession all night. Evenly matched grinder. Tech got the best of it inside but West Virginia made up for that with 50% on three-pointers. 

Big 12 estimated “market” Power Ratings: Kansas 85, West Virginia 84, Texas Tech 82, TCU 81, Oklahoma 79, Kansas State 78 (with an injury), Oklahoma State 79, Baylor 78, Texas 78, Iowa State 72.

SEC Tournament: Alabama explodes out of second half gate 20-1 on way to 45-13 blitz to rout Auburn
This is something you don’t see often. The “tired” underdog falls behind by 10 points at halftime, then absolutely crushes the conference’s #1 seed in the second half on the way to a blowout! Alabama was relentless in an attack that very likely locked them into a Dance bid. 

Alabama (plus 7) 81 #16 Auburn 63
Two-point Pct: Alabama 60%, Auburn 41%
Three Pointers: Alabama 8/22, Auburn 8/33
Free Throws: Alabama 21/30, Auburn 15/22
Rebounds: Alabama 44, Auburn 33
Turnovers: Alabama 15, Auburn 10
Estimated Possessions: Alabama 74, Auburn 73
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Alabama 44-52-49, Auburn 16-20-18
Market Watch: Auburn opened most places at -6, then dropped to -5.5 (which was the opener at other spots). Public money hit the rested #1 seed from that point forward, which makes sense given how Thursday’s games went for fresh favorites. Stores either closed at -6.5 or -7. The Over/Under hung around the opener of 151.5 in this early tip. 

Alabama’s aggression shows up with a big edge on two-pointers from charging the rim (18 of 30 on deuces for the Tide), and then plus six points on eight additional free throw attempts. A loss in the turnover category from that aggression was swallowed up by second chance opportunities from a big rebounding edge. Amazing stretch against a fresh and rested top seed. 

Of course, Auburn has been in shaky form of late while dealing with injuries. This is no longer the best team in the SEC, or a team that should be given a #3 or maybe even #4 seed in the Dance. Auburn is now 2-4 straight up its last six, despite being favored in five of those. The mark against the point spread is 1-5 ATS, with the misses coming by 25, 4, 10.5, 4, and 16. The Tigers are clearly upset fodder in the Dance in a 4-13 or 5-12 type game (which is basically what this was today). Even a good #14 can give them a scare if Auburn does get a 3-seed. 

In other action from St. Louis…

Kentucky (-5) beat Georgia 62-49
Fantastic defensive effort from Kentucky. This is usually a Calipari strength, though not as much this season. Georgia was 6 of 23 on treys, 9 of 30 on deuces for a dismal 15 of 53 afternoon. Kentucky didn’t exactly sparkle on offense themselves outside of committing just five turnovers. A defense-led blowout. That defense will be needed Saturday if Alabama is feeling its oats again. 

Tennessee (-6.5) beat Mississippi State 62-59
Ugly game for both. Key to Tennessee’s win was a 50-33 edge in rebounding. Vols advance despite 17 turnovers, shooting 5 of 20 on treys, 15 of 40 on two’s, and missing 11 free throws. Took awful shooting from the dog to keep this from being an upset. Tennessee had stretches of greatness during the season, but doesn’t seem like a team you can trust to perform on command next week. 

Arkansas (plus 4) upset #23 Florida 80-72
Perhaps inspired by Alabama earlier in the day, Arkansas attacked the basket to win decisively inside the arc. Hogs won scoring on “1’s and 2’s” by a count of 56-33, while also winning rebounds 43-28. And, only six turnovers even with all of that attacking. Florida usually needs to hit treys to impress. Gators were fine at 13 of 32 (40%), but still couldn’t impress as favorites. 

There are several SEC teams who can make headlines in the NCAAs. Trick is figuring out ahead of time who that’s going to be!

SEC estimated “market” Power Ratings: Auburn 83, Florida 82, Tennessee 82, Kentucky 81, Texas A&M 80, Missouri 79 (Porter back), Arkansas 78, Mississippi State 76, Alabama 76, Georgia 76, LSU 75, South Carolina 74, Vanderbilt 75, Ole Miss 74. 

Pac 12 Semifinals: Arizona/UCLA goes extra time…Wildcats win OT 11-zip 
An exciting 40 minutes followed by an anticlimactic overtime Friday night at the T-Mobile Arena. Was that enough to get UCLA into the Big Dance? Why is Arizona having so much trouble playing to market expectations in regulation? 

#15 Arizona (-6.5) 78, UCLA 67 (in overtime)
Two-point Pct: UCLA 52%, Arizona 52%
Three Pointers: UCLA 10/35, Arizona 7/24
Free Throws: UCLA 3/4, Arizona 13/18
Rebounds: UCLA 33, Arizona 42
Turnovers: UCLA 9, Arizona 6
Estimated Possessions: UCLA 71, Arizona 71
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: UCLA 45-41-54, Arizona 25-17-22
Market Watch: A lot of support for Arizona through the day. An opener of Arizona -4 was bet all the way up to at least -6 everywhere, with some spots closing at -6.5 or -7. Not much interest in the total, which hung around 155.5 or 156 all day. 

Surprisingly slow game in regulation. The estimated possessions include overtime, which typically adds on about 10 or so possessions. Regulation only saw 134 points scored, more than 20 below the market total. Let’s answer our questions. 

*Is this enough to get UCLA into the Dance? Still borderline. Something’s definitely wrong with a team that launches 35 treys but only earns four free throws. That’s not real basketball. That’s being too afraid to attack the rim. And, defensively, only six takeaways from the Bruins in 45 minutes. Let’s say it this way. It’s no great loss if UCLA isn’t invited. Down year for the Pac 12, and UCLA only does things in fits and starts.

*Why is Arizona still overrated by the market? The computers haven’t been high on the Wildcats since the lost weekend in the Bahamas. Market influences still seem swayed by the preseason hype. Arizona’s inside defense is soft. Arizona’s offense lacks flow for long stretches, which makes it hard to cover as favorites. Wildcats just 5-11 ATS their last 16 as favorites at the end of regulation…and one of those covers was with a fatigue advantage over Colorado in the quarterfinals if this tourney. 

Arizona advances to face the winner of the late matchup that featured USC and Oregon. 

Pac 12 estimated “market” Power Ratings: Arizona 83, USC 80, Oregon 78, Arizona State 78, UCLA 77, Utah 77, Stanford 74, Oregon State 73, Colorado 72, Washington 72, Washington State 67, California 67.

Friday NBA: Raptors snap Rockets’ 17-game win streak in potential championship preview
Even though we’re in the midst of an intense college basketball stretch, we had to include THIS thriller from the NBA.

Obviously, the Golden State Warriors are the odds-on favorites to win the Western Conference on their way to what’s expected to be another NBA Championship. But`` it has to be said that the Houston Rockets are clearly playing “championship caliber” basketball the past several weeks. They’ve been built specifically to disrupt what the Warriors do. And, if Golden State keeps running into injury issues (with injury-prone players), who knows? Fans and bettors were at least likely to be treated to playoff caliber basketball with this well-timed Houston/Toronto showdown featuring peaking contenders. 

Toronto (plus 2.5) 108, Houston 105 
Two-point Pct: Houston 57%, Toronto 55%
Three Pointers: Houston 9/27, Toronto 15/38
Free Throws: Houston 16/23, Toronto 11/14
Rebounds: Houston 36, Toronto 42
Turnovers: Houston 13, Toronto 16
Estimated Possessions: Houston 99, Toronto 96

Took awhile to get interesting, after Toronto won the first quarter 32-16. You can see it got plenty interesting down the stretch in front of an electrified crowd. Great result for the Raptors…just the second loss this season for Houston when Harden, Paul, and Capela were all in the lineup. Both offenses were able to get easy buckets inside. Difference, oddly, was that Houston was outperformed behind the three-point line. Not the fault of Harden, who was 4 of 8 on his way to 40 points. 

Frankly, nobody in the East is going to touch Toronto in the playoffs if the Raptors perform like this. That’s 40% on treys at high volume while also winning rebounding against a league juggernaut. Toronto is 14-1 straight up its last 15, with the loss coming in overtime. Raptors’ record is 41-12 the last 53. Houston falls to 51-14 for the season. Super-teams!

NBA Eastern Conference estimated “market” Power Ratings: Toronto 84, Philadelphia 83, Cleveland 82, Boston 82, Washington 80, Milwaukee 80, Miami 79, Charlotte 78, Indiana 78, Detroit 78, Orlando 74, New York 73, Brooklyn 73, Atlanta 73, Chicago 73.

NBA Western Conference estimated “market” Power Ratings: Golden State 90 (but 84 with slew of current injuries), Houston 89, Oklahoma City 82, Portland 82, Utah 82, San Antonio 81, Denver 81, New Orleans 81 (but 74 with injuries), Minnesota 80, LA Clippers 79, LA Lakers 77, Phoenix 73, Dallas 72, Sacramento 72, Memphis 70. 

Quick Clicks
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See you Sunday morning with championship recaps, and a full look at estimated “market” Power Ratings for the projected NCAA Tournament field. 

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