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Virginia miracle ending: 8 points in 7 seconds

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

March 1, 2018 11:48 PM

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Virginia celebrates after stealing an improbable win from Louisville.
© USA Today Sports Images

And you thought Miami/North Carolina had an exciting ending! No. 1 Virginia pulls off a miracle at Louisville…plus breakdowns from the Big Ten tourney and the latest Lakers’ runaway right now in VSiN City.

ACC Basketball: #1 Virginia scores eight points in the last SEVEN seconds to steal a win from Louisville
You had to see it to believe it. And, frankly, most people who saw it still don’t believe it. Not only did top-ranked Virginia trail Louisville by 13 points with just under 11 minutes to go Thursday night…and by nine with less than four minutes left…but the comeback of the season included this last second flourish:

Virginia hit a trey with seven seconds left
Virginia made two free throws with four seconds left
Virginia banked in a trey launched with 0.9 seconds left

All that for a 67-66 gut punch that could leave Louisville doubled over for the rest of the season. 

#1 Virginia (-4) 67 Louisville 66 
Two-point Pct: Virginia 43%, Louisville 42%
Three Pointers: Virginia 6/14, Louisville 6/15
Free Throws: Virginia 13/19, Louisville 22/29
Rebounds: Virginia 34, Louisville 27
Turnovers: Virginia 12, Louisville 8
Estimated Possessions: Virginia 67, Louisville 64
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Virginia 1-3-2, Louisville 34-22-33
Joe Lunardi Seed Projection: Virginia #1, Louisville #11
Greg Peterson Seed Projection: Virginia #1, Louisville #11

Typical Virginia grinder in a lot of ways. The difference here was that Louisville was able to attack the zone effectively enough to draw free throws. That’s what helped build Louisville’s lead (and drive the game Over its market total of 123). You can see that the Cards were plus 9 in makes on 10 more attempts. Virginia was just 4 of 12 on treys until the last few seconds. Louisville avoided turnovers but lost the rebounding category. 

Just the latest reminder that there’s not much difference between the perceived elite and other Dance-bound entries. This was a certain #1 seed playing on the road against a bubble team. The bubble team should have won. This after Villanova lost at Creighton (and went overtime at Seton Hall), Duke lost at Virginia Tech, and North Carolina lost at home to Miami. It’s not a hierarchy with all the teams standing on a ladder. Everyone’s standing on the same pancake, relatively speaking. A bit of elevation at the front of the pancake where the top 10-15 teams don’t have much clearance over those just behind them. 

ACC estimated “market” Power Ratings: Duke 87, Virginia 86, North Carolina 83, Clemson 80, Florida State 79, Virginia Tech 79, Louisville 79, Miami 77, NC State 77, Notre Dame 77, Syracuse 75, Boston College 74, Wake Forest 73, Georgia Tech 72, Pittsburgh 61.

Big Ten Tournament: Underdogs 5-1, Unders 4-2 vs. the number two days in
We’ll provide wall-to-wall coverage of the Big Ten tournament this week, as it’s the only major conference tournament in action. We won’t be able to go quite as in-depth next week when all the other majors are running simultaneously. We’ve got a few days to figure out a shorthand for getting you the most important handicapping information as those events unfold. 

Sam Panayotovich mentioned on “A Numbers Game” in advance of this tournament that bettors should be considering dogs and Unders out of the gate. Six games in, underdogs are 5-1 ATS (with outright upsets from Iowa over Illinois, Rutgers over Minnesota at midday lines, Wisconsin over Maryland, and Rutgers over Indiana…plus Iowa taking Michigan to overtime in a regulation tie). Overs in the first and last games thus far have book-ended four Unders on the opening lines.  

Let’s go to Gotham for Day 2 stats and summaries. Games are presented in schedule order. 

Wisconsin (plus 2) 59 Maryland 54 
Two-point Pct: Wisconsin 47%, Maryland 56%
Three Pointers: Wisconsin 3/18, Maryland 2/14
Free Throws: Wisconsin 20/24, Maryland 8/9
Rebounds: Wisconsin 31, Maryland 31
Turnovers: Wisconsin 7, Maryland 12
Estimated Possessions: Wisconsin 57, Maryland 58
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Wisconsin 81-62-71, Maryland 44-39-39

Very slow, with estimated possessions (shots…minus offensive rebounds…plus turnovers…plus one-half free throw attempts for each team) in the high 50’s. A combination of both teams working patiently for shots, THEN grabbing offensive rebounds that extended possessions. Wisconsin had a dozen, Maryland nine. 

Big difference was obviously free throws, with the turnover category also looming important. Neither team could buy a trey. A dead heat on the boards. Wisconsin did a better job of attacking the basket without losing the ball. That allowed the Badgers to erase perceived differences in the market and those computer rankings. All three of our standard indicators actually show Maryland as a “tournament caliber” team. The Terps won’t get a bid after this early flame-out (and were a longshot anyway because of a disappointing won-lost record). 

Wisconsin advances to play #1 seed Michigan State in Friday’s quarterfinals. The opener was Sparty -11. The Badgers will have to do much better than 3 of 18 on treys to be competitive there. That said, weird stuff happens in this tournament! No more jitters for the big Friday dog. Michigan State may not be breathing fire in the earliest tip in front of a near empty arena. Let’s see if it gets interesting. 

#15 Michigan (-9) 77, Iowa 71 (in overtime)
Regulation Score: Iowa 67, Michigan 67
Two-point Pct: Iowa 48%, Michigan 58%
Three Pointers: Iowa 7/23, Michigan 3/19
Free Throws: Iowa 10/18, Michigan 18/32
Rebounds: Iowa 44, Michigan 42
Turnovers: Iowa 14, Michigan 9
Estimated Possessions: Iowa 76, Michigan 76
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Iowa 95-88-87, Michigan 16-13-17

Iowa got off to a great start, in synch off that high scoring win over Illinois the day before. Michigan rallied while rusty despite not being able to make any treys (and also missing way too many free throws). Note that this was also a slow game, staying Under the opener even with extra time. Usually about 10 extra possessions (or so) per team in an overtime period. This was mid-60’s in regulation. 

The computers love Michigan, as did many analysts who picked the Wolverines as their tournament dark horse. Plenty of time to bounce back from this disappointing performance. Sometimes a team has to go through a scare like this before it plays with alacrity. We’ve talked a lot this week about the relative parity of college hoops. Here a team that was roughly #15 in a computer composite played a neutral court tie with a team around #90. 

Nebraska is up next for Michigan in a game that could play a huge role in determining whether or not the Cornhuskers earn a Dance bid. Their fans believe earning the #4 seed in this tournament should already be enough (a top four finish in a major conference). The full-season resume doesn’t agree. But how can you argue about a team that just went 18-2 against the spread? Nebraska has played MUCH better than informed expectations for two months. Big game.  

Penn State (-5) 65, Northwestern 57
Two-point Pct: Northwestern 48%, Penn State 28%
Three Pointers: Northwestern 5/19, Penn State 13/29
Free Throws: Northwestern 10/15, Penn State 8/12
Rebounds: Northwestern 38, Penn State 37
Turnovers: Northwestern 9, Penn State 5
Estimated Possessions: Northwestern 58, Penn State 59
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Northwestern 88-69-72, Penn State 33-42-28

You read that right, Penn State won and covered despite shooting just 28% inside the arc. The Nittany Lions were 9 of 32 on two-pointers, 13 of 29 on three-pointers. Style-wise, a virtual replay of Wisconsin/Maryland with long possessions often extended by offensive rebounds (11 for NW, 13 for PSU). Penn State’s still alive because of those bombs. The Nittany Lions were the first favorite to cover a spread in this tourney. 

Note that all three computers would have Penn State comfortably in the Dance. It's not really on the bracketology radar unless PSU keeps winning, despite a profile that would equate to about a #9 seed. Second-seeded Ohio State is up next. Penn State already owns two wins over the Buckeyes this season.  

Rutgers (plus 7.5) 76, Indiana 69 
Two-point Pct: Rutgers 60%, Indiana 45%
Three Pointers: Rutgers 4/8, Indiana 6/24
Free Throws: Rutgers 14/18, Indiana 25/29
Rebounds: Rutgers 29, Indiana 31
Turnovers: Rutgers 11, Indiana 11
Estimated Possessions: Rutgers 68, Indiana 69
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Rutgers 151-126-131, Indiana 73-63-75

Maybe everyone should have been giving New Jersey’s Rutgers more credit for “home court advantage” in nearby New York. Not so much because of a boisterous crowd. But because a New York version of “the Vegas Flu” helping the NHL’s Golden Knights might be in play. Big Ten teams may be losing focus in the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple. Or, maybe it’s just a new shooting backdrop messing up three-point attempts.

Minnesota was 3 of 19 on treys
Wisconsin was 3 of 18 on treys
Maryland was 2 of 14 on treys
Iowa was 7 of 23 on treys
Michigan was 3 of 19 on treys
Northwestern was 5 of 19 on treys
Indiana was 6 of 24 on treys

Some teams did make their bombs. Rutgers doesn’t emphasize long-range shooting, and hit a sparkling 60% of two-pointers Thursday (25 of 42) to pull off the shocker. #14 seed Rutgers faces #3 seed Purdue Friday night. (Note that both “head start” teams won their first halves as dogs Thursday…with Iowa beating Michigan 40-35, Rutgers edging Indiana 29-28). 

Big Ten estimated “market” Power Ratings: Purdue 86, Michigan State 86, Ohio State 82, Michigan 81, Penn State 78, Maryland 77, Nebraska 76, Indiana 76, Wisconsin 75, Northwestern 73, Iowa 73, Illinois 73, Rutgers 70, Minnesota 69.

It’s not uncommon for the market to give a rested “bye” team a half-point or a point of consideration early in tournaments. We’ll keep Michigan and Iowa eight points apart even though that Thursday line finished at -9. You can see that Penn State is being priced like a team in the Dance, while Nebraska isn’t yet. On our scale, looks like 77 is working out as the bubble line in other conferences. 

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers earn a statement win at Cleveland
Buzz built throughout Thursday as the early line of Cleveland -2.5 at home over Philadelphia stood pat. Yes, J.R. Smith was suspended for a game by the Cavs for misbehavior at the shoot-around. But he’s not a line-mover. In a matchup of playoff teams, Cleveland was holding at a price below the value of home court advantage. The market was telling us that, even though Cleveland had fixed some of its earlier defensive issues, the Sixers were still perceived as the current superior team by the most respected market influences. 

Philadelphia (plus 2.5) 108, Cleveland 97 
Two-point Pct: Philadelphia 50%, Cleveland 49%
Three Pointers: Philadelphia 10/30, Cleveland 9/32
Free Throws: Philadelphia 18/27, Cleveland 16/23
Rebounds: Philadelphia 54, Cleveland 44
Turnovers: Philadelphia 9, Cleveland 9
Estimated Possessions: Philadelphia 99, Cleveland 99

Solid effort from the road victors, who largely cancelled out every category but rebounding where extra chances served as the tie-breaker. Perhaps most importantly, the young up-and-comers didn’t fold down the stretch. It’s one thing to carry a lead into the fourth quarter on the road against LeBron James. It’s another to slam the door with a double-digit victory. 

Can Philadelphia be a force in the Eastern playoffs? 

*Toronto is the current class of the East, but has had trouble playing to expectations in the postseason.

*Boston is well-coached by lacks dynamic talent.

*Cleveland is still trying to figure things out, though it’s a good sign that they’ve fixed the chemistry issues present during Isaiah Thomas’s stay.

*Washington is a wildcard, who may deal with some awkwardness if John Wall returns just in time to mess up what’s working. 

The “Process” wasn’t supposed to arrive THIS season in terms of a deep playoff run. Thursday’s win in Cleveland is at least a whistle that should catch your attention. 

NBA: LA Lakers still on fire after the All-Star Break with huge win over the Heat
We talked about this earlier in the week. The Los Angeles Lakers are playing like the Harlem Globetrotters on offense, within a league that has some disinterested or otherwise distracted opponents. Let’s update the list… 

LAL Since the ASB
Lakers (-4) beat Dallas 124-102
Lakers (-1.5) beat Sacramento 113-108
Lakers (-2) won at Atlanta 123-104
Lakers (plus 5) won at Miami 131-113

Those are point spread covers of 18, 3.5, 17, and 23 points, highlighted by a free-flowing offense that’s running circles around defenses who seem to be wearing cement shoes. Note that the Lakers had 33 at the end of the first quarter, 73 at halftime, and 104 entering the fourth quarter against an opponent that needed a win in the playoff chase.    

LA Lakers (plus 5) 131, Miami 113 
Two-point Pct: Lakers 62%, Miami 58%
Three Pointers: Lakers 16/29, Miami 9/31
Free Throws: Lakers 21/26, Miami 12/16
Rebounds: Lakers 36, Miami 40
Turnovers: Lakers 13, Miami 11
Estimated Possessions: Lakers 99, Miami 100

We should clarify, the Lakers are playing like the Globetrotters in terms of free-flowing basketball that puts on quite a show. But tonight’s win wasn’t run-and-gun basketball. Same number of possessions here as in the Philadelphia/Cleveland game that stayed way Under with 205 points. Actually, Sixers/Cavs was supposed to be higher scoring (222 to 218 in market prices)! It’s just that the free-and-easy Lakers are getting great looks for their sharpshooters. That’s 31 of 50 on deuces, and better than 50% on high trey volume. 

Los Angeles is playing very efficient offensive basketball and daring opponents to keep up. Some of the elites on the pending schedule should be able to do that. Disinterested tankers or borderline contenders feeling pressure may continue to have trouble. Tough pricing challenge for a market that’s seen the Lakers beat the spread by a combined 61.5 points their last four games. 

NBA Eastern Conference estimated “market” Power Ratings: Toronto 85, Philadelphia 82, Boston 82, Cleveland 81, Milwaukee 80, Washington 80, Miami 79, Indiana 79, Charlotte 78, Detroit 78, Brooklyn 75, New York 74, Orlando 73, Chicago 72, Atlanta 72.

NBA Western Conference estimated “market” Power Ratings: Golden State 90, Houston 88, Oklahoma City 83, San Antonio 82, Utah 82, Portland 81, Denver 81 at home…80 on the road, Minnesota 80, New Orleans 80, LA Lakers 78, LA Clippers 77, Dallas 75, Memphis 73, Phoenix 73, Sacramento 71. 

That wraps up Friday. Don’t forget that VSiN City will run SEVEN DAYS A WEEK through March. That means we’ll be back Saturday morning to run key stats from all four Big Ten quarterfinal matchups. Toronto/Washington will certainly get a look in the NBA. If space permits, a stat preview of Saturday night’s North Carolina/Duke clash in the ACC. 

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