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Post Super Bowl Thoughts and NCAA Hoops

   by Al McMordie - 02/06/2012

For the fifth straight year we had an exciting Super Bowl. All that talk about the NY Giants defensive line dominating and the Patriots ended up with the edge in sacks, 3-2. In the end, it was about execution, turnovers and time of possession. The Patriots had chances to put the game away in the fourth quarter, but failed to execute on a drive with five minutes left, with Wes Welker and Deion Branch narrowly missing big receptions on back to back plays. The Giants took over, down 17-15, and Eli Manning executed on another brilliant drive, the biggest play was that 38-yard bomb to Mario Manningham.

Turnovers, too, were a huge factor. QB Tom Brady had the only one, a killer fourth quarter interception, while the Giants fumbled twice…but got them both back. And the time of possession was enormous: 37-23 in favor of New York. So now Eli has twice as many titles as Peyton! Who would have thunked it.
The dog won straight up, so that makes the underdog 8-3 ATS the last 11 Super Bowls, with five dogs winning despite being underdogs of +14, +4, +12, +5 and +3.
Now that football season is behind us, it's time to delve deep into both college and pro basketball as soft wagering numbers don't stop with the end of the football season. Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin are 1, 2, 3 in the Big 10. Ohio State and Wisconsin are No. 1 and 2 in the Big 10 in points allowed and had a serious clash on Saturday, a 58-52 Buckeye road win as a 2-point favorite.
Ohio State made a run, tearing up the college hardwood just five years ago with Greg Oden and Mike Conley and last season had a No. 1 ranking around this time. The last Ohio State men’s basketball team to win 23 consecutive games in one season made it to the NCAA tournament final, in 1961.The common these is that they still didn’t fare well, losing the NCAA title game in 1961, 1962 and 2007. They did win the whole thing in 1960 with Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek.
Ohio State has only 3 losses, at No. 13 Kansas (78-67), at No. 15 Indiana (74-70) and at Illinois (79-74). The Buckeyes also beat No. 8 Florida (81-74) and No. 4 Duke (85-63). There is tremendous talent and flexibility with this team as Ohio State has sophomore 6-9 Jared Sullinger (17 ppg, 9 rpg, .588%) and 6-4 soph Lenzelle Smith (4.7 rpg) up front, with 6-6 senior William Buford (15 ppg) in the backcourt and playmaker sophomore Aaron Craft (5.0 apg). They are 11th in the nation in shooting (.492%) and 27th in scoring with 77.3 ppg, No. 1 in Big 10 in scoring (75.4 ppg), No. 1 in scoring defense (56 ppg). That doesn’t guarantee a trip to the Final Four, but it does mean there are not a lot of weakness to exploit with the Buckeyes (just as Duke).

Ohio State topped Wisconsin Saturday and the problem for the Badgers continued – weak outside shooting, hitting just 40% of their shots and a miserable 5 of 27 from long range. Ohio State ended a nine-game losing streak to Wisconsin in Madison - and avoided a repeat of last year's comeback by the Badgers.

Wisconsin is about defense, No. 2 in the Big 10 in points allowed (56.8 ppg) and allowing 40% shooting (third in the Big 10). The offense shoots just 40%, 10 in the Big 10 for Coach Bo Ryan. They are tops in free throws (.745%), but that didn’t help against Ohio State.

Ohio State beat Michigan last week and they got a good test, as instead of routing the opponent it was a close game in the second half. The challenge one wondered how Ohio State would handle arrived less than 5 minutes into the second half, where the Buckeyes usually had been drumming opponents this season by 15 points going on 30. This time, their lead was one, against Michigan, with first place in the Big Ten going to the victor. “It was probably good for us,” coach Thad Matta said. “We haven’t had those. We’ve had sizable leads at halftime the last couple of games. Hopefully, we’re a better team because of it.”

There is often a burden of carrying No. 1 during the regular season, as the bulls' eye on the back. A man-child is leading them in 6-9 sophomore Jared Sullinger, but you never know the value of experience during March play. And that’s the thing: these days with so many college basketball talents jumping early to the NBA, senior leadership is rarer and rarer.

It’s also rare for the defending champs to lose their coach, but UConn Coach Jim Calhoun is taking an indefinite medical leave of absence because of back problems. He missed three games earlier this season because of NCAA sanctions, too. The Huskies (15-7, 5-5 Big East) have lost four of five games and fell out of the Top 25 for the first time in 28 weeks. Of course, they were a No. 8 seed in the Big East last season before roaring in March.

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