Sunday, March 27, 2016

Elite 8 Day 2 Picking The Lines

It's interesting that in a year defined so much by parity that we've mostly seen the top teams go through. In my Final Four preview I suggested six teams that were potentially the best in the country, and if the two heavy favorites win today then all four of the Final Four teams will come from that group of six. Normally, one would expect that a year with a few great teams (like last year) would end up in a chalk-ish Final Four while one with more parity would end up with chaos... but not always.

One of the analytical concepts I try to stress a lot is probability. Every game is a probability. The media often lampoons computer ratings after a computer rating darling loses to an underdog, but of course, they should lose sometimes. Take the North Carolina/Notre Dame game, which the Pomeroy ratings have as a huge blowout at a 9 point spread. The ratings still have Notre Dame with a 21% chance to win the game. In other words, if they play five times, Notre Dame should win once. And hey, what do you know, Notre Dame did beat North Carolina this season. If North Carolina played Notre Dame 20 times and never lost, then that would be stronger evidence of the computer ratings being wrong than Notre Dame winning once.

And so if we played this NCAA Tournament a whole bunch of times, I'd bet that most of the time we end up with chaos. But we only play it once, and weird things can happen when you play it once. Notre Dame and Syracuse being in the Elite 8 qualify as "weird" things, of course. But so is us likely having such a chalk-ish Final Four.

On the plus side, that means that we are likely heading into some fantastic games next week. And it's hard to complain about that.

Yesterday ATS: 2-0-0
2016 Tournament ATS: 33-28-1
2015 Tournament ATS: 39-28-0 (58%)
2010-14 ATS: 181-139-11 (57%)

Notre Dame (+10) over North Carolina: North Carolina beat Notre Dame by 31 points in the ACC tournament, so this line was always going to be on the high side. Of course, the Irish beat North Carolina in South Bend back in February, and so I'm not sure why that game isn't getting talked about at all. We can look at those two games as somewhat instructive. Obviously that 31 point win for North Carolina involved some fluky bad shooting by Notre Dame, but the Irish were also annihilated on the glass. North Carolina was the best offensive rebounding team in the ACC and Notre Dame is a mediocre defensive rebounding team, so it's not a surprise to see the Tar Heels do well there, but in their win over the Tar Heels, Notre Dame got after the offensive glass themselves, and kept rebounding basically even. And to me, that will be the difference in this game. Notre Dame will slow the pace down and force the Tar Heels to score in the half court. If they can keep the rebounding reasonably close, they'll have a chance to win.

Syracuse (+8) over Virginia: Virginia's offense is playing incredibly well right now. They have scored 1.10 PPP or more in 10 of their last 11 games, with 5 of those 11 games coming against Top 5 ACC defenses. Of course, Syracuse is a Top 5 ACC defense as well, and their zone is a difficult match-up for Virginia. The Cavaliers shoot the three-pointer well (40.3%), but they don't like to shoot a high volume of them. They're going to have to hit a lot of them against Syracuse. In contrast, Syracuse loves to chuck up a ton of three-pointers (they led the ACC in 3PA/FGA), which is the type of shot that they'll get all day against the pack-line. Virginia is the better team, of course, but they don't ever really get after the offensive glass, which is Syracuse's biggest problem. This game will very likely come down to outside jump shooting, and 8 points are a lot of points to give.

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