Submitted by Jim Hurley’s Network on Friday, March 23, 2018 at 4:00 PM
There's already been a lot of press coverage about the upset-riddled half of the bracket that finished up Sweet 16 play Thursday night. The mainstream media and general public are in SHOCK that Kentucky and Gonzaga both lost so unimpressively. Loyola-Chicago's luck was supposed to have run out a long time ago. The only favorite that won Thursday, Michigan, played awful the week before and seemed untrustworthy as chalk.
You know what hasn't been talked about yet? The impact of PACE in Thursday's action. Three of the four games saw slow teams take faster opponents out of their comfort zones to score victories.
Here are the current pace "rankings" at Ken Pomeroy's great college basketball statistical website. You can see the kind of extremes we're talking about. There are 351 teams playing Division I basketball. If you rank in the 300's, you're SLOW.
Michigan #324, Texas A&M #101
Loyola #319, Nevada 104
Kansas State #307, Kentucky #144
Florida State #44, Gonzaga #106
Michigan passed brilliantly in the halfcourt to create open looks outside and inside. The game actually sped up eventually because of a very long garbage time. But, the Aggies prefer to push tempo to create easy buckets. Michigan won the game early at their preferred pace, in their preferred style.
Loyola is almost as slow as Michigan, while Nevada is even faster than Texas A&M. Loyola played VERY slow games with Miami and Tennessee to score upsets (underdogs have a better chance to steal wins by shortening the game). Not quite as slow with Nevada, but slow enough to be disruptive.
Kansas State REALLY slowed down Kentucky. Even with a high number of foul calls, that game finished with a low pace factor. Kentucky's athletes aren't hard-wired to play methodical halfcourt sets. You saw that in the final minutes. This dog gave itself a chance to win by imposing the right kind of pace. Three teams with pace rankings in the 300's...three winners straight up and against the spread against uncomfortable opponents.
The final game on the card featured a fast team, and a slightly faster than average team. At the very least, nobody could take the other out of its comfort zone. That could have played to Gonzaga's advantage...but history has shown that athletes from the West Coast Conference can get soft defensively under pressure. St. Mary's had that problem too in the NIT. Credit to Florida State for taking grabbing control of the evening as an underdog.
Be sure you think about the impact of pace when you handicap Friday's games, and then this weekend's Elite 8. Let's grab those rankings for you from Pomeroy's site.
Kansas #163, Clemson #285
Duke #86, Syracuse #345
Villanova #174, West Virginia #129
Purdue #233, Texas Tech #249
Obviously Clemson and Syracuse will try to slow down Kansas and Duke the way Thursday's slowest dogs did. No guarantee they'll be able to pull that off. Kansas and Duke will be working just as hard to impose their will on proceedings. Figure out who will take control, and the games pick themselves. It's a bit closer in the other two. Being forced into a slow, halfcourt game may hurt Purdue because of a key injury to an inside starter. West Virginia may not like it so fast if Villanova's guards keep sprinting toward easy buckets against the press!
In Saturday's Elite 8...
Loyola #319, Kansas State #307
Michigan #324, Florida State #44
One game might be UN-WATCHABLE it's going to be so slow. Michigan and Florida State will have a real battle to see who can impose its preferred pace on the other. FSU probably has no chance if this is a walk-it-up halfcourt game. Even if Michigan cools off shooting-wise. But, the Wolverines are in trouble if they get lured into a track meet. Florida State can light up the scoreboard quickly with easy baskets if opponents lose their focus (as Xavier and Gonzaga REALLY did during critical stretches.
JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK was using pace to make selections (particularly on Over/Unders) long before that stat joined the public domain. Box scores have made it possible to estimate pace for years. We're always ahead of the curve! Sorry, you'll have to wait about five years to hear what keys we're using NOW to pick winners. Hope you went 3-1 with us Thursday night with winners on Loyola, Kansas State, and Florida State, swallowing a loser on Michigan.
If you'd like additional help finding BIG, JUICY WINNERS this weekend you can purchase our daily BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-3453 to take care of business. Be sure you ask about extended programs that take you through March Madness or the NBA Playoffs. Don't forget that Major League Baseball starts THURSDAY of this week, the earliest start ever for the national pastime.
The field of 68 is down to a dozen...and we'll be down to the Final Four the next time the HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK appears on Monday. Be back with you then to review the weekend and outline the big week ahead. When championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!