Submitted by Jim Hurley’s Network on Friday, March 9, 2018 at 3:00 PM
All season we've been talking about how balanced college basketball has been. Teams destined for #1 and #2 seeds in the NCAA's aren't as far above the field as you've seen in past seasons. It's not just "anything can happen on any given day," but "there are no truly great teams with a bunch of pretty good teams."
You might be thinking JIM HURLEY and his NETWORK team are changing their minds about that after all the blowout results on Thursday. Didn't teams like Virginia, Duke, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas, and maybe even top Pac 12 seed Arizona established clear superiority in easy covers?
Maybe. What's much more likely is that those teams showed the power of having a fatigue advantage when you're the superior team.
*Xavier crushed recently hot St. John's. But, that was in a day game after a night game for the Red Storm! Of course St. John's ran out of gas in the second half. Xavier's not going to catch a break like that in the Big Dance.
*Villanova had no trouble with Marquette, also as a case of a fresh team facing a tired team. Villanova really runs up the score when things are going well, but can be mortal when the opponent doesn't blink. Good opponents await this weekend and next week.
*Virginia caught Louisville in a back-to-back spot, after the Cardinals had seemingly clinched a Dance invite by beating Florida State.
*Duke caught Notre Dame playing its third game in three days! That's shown to be a huge edge in the postseason. Compounding matters here, Notre Dame had to come from way behind to beat Virginia Tech the day before. Nothing left in the tank.
*Kansas also enjoyed a "day-game-after-a-night-game" edge over Oklahoma State. Plus, the game was in Kansas City, a virtual home-away-from-home for the Jayhawks going back decades. The betting markets overreacted to a Kansas injury, instead of understanding the importance of a fatigue advantage for a superior team.
*Arizona may or may not be a pretender. The Pac 12 is weak this season. But, they did get to play tired Colorado, a team that has struggled away from home anyway. There won't be fatigue advantages like that in the rest of the Pac 12 tournament, or next week in the Big Dance.
What we might be learning this week is that Michigan State and Purdue of the Big 10 are pretenders in terms of the national rankings. Neither could win impressively with a fatigue advantage last week in New York. Sparty barely got by Wisconsin in the quarterfinals before losing to Michigan in the semi's. Purdue didn't impress vs. Rutgers in the quarterfinals, who was playing its third game in three days. Purdue would also lose badly to Michigan at the Garden.
Will we see more parity this weekend now that many of the top teams are facing each other? We'll certainly be monitoring that. The answer is "probably" yes. But, it's surely possible that a few of these current powers have lifted their games even further at just the right time. Michigan did that last week. Maybe Villanova, Virginia, or Duke will be signaling an imminent national championship run with big blowouts vs. high caliber teams Friday and Saturday.
How will you know if a top team has improved?
*Big results AREN'T keyed by a hot night from three-point land, but by quality performances across the board.
*Big results AREN'T keyed by the opponent having a horrible shooting performance from behind the arc. You should be much more impressed with any favorite who wins comfortably even when its opponent is making treys. (Virginia won by 17 even though Louisville was 9 of 21 on treys...THAT'S impressive!)
*Big results AREN'T keyed by one-sided free throw shooting. Sometimes a favorite catches breaks from the refs, or pads its margin with a free throw parade at the end of the game. You can't expect that to continue game-by-game through the Big Dance. Be more impressed with teams who don't need that to win impressively.
You should also pay attention to the rebounding and turnover categories to get a sense of executing the fundamentals. Elite teams show their excellence here. Plus, those categories have much more predictive value for the future than do three-point shooting or free throw attempts.
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