Final Four Betting News and Notes

Final Four Betting News and Notes

Final Four Betting Angles
By Marc Lawrence
VegasInsider.com

NCAA FINAL FOUR OUT

It’s onward to Atlanta for the Final Four games. To put the wraps on the 2013 NCAA Tournament, listed below are some interesting trends and angles to as our Fab Four heads off to the Hotlanta this weekend.

All results listed below are ATS (Against the Spread) and most recent since 1991 unless noted otherwise. Enjoy…

NCAA FINAL 4 ROUND NOTES

#1 Seed favorites 4 > pts are 6-1 ATS (Louisville)
#8 or lower Seeds are 1-4 ATS (Wichita State)
Favorites who won by 20 > pts are 0-4 ATS (Louisville)
Favorites 4 > pts who scored 80 > pts in Elite 8 round are 1-7 ATS (Louisville)
Teams who are 4-0 ATS last 4 games are 8-15 ATS (Michigan, Wichita State)
Teams with Revenge are 3-9 ATS (Michigan)
Big East teams are 0-3 ATS since 2004 (Louisville, Syracuse)

NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME NOTES

#1 Seed favorites are 7-2 ATS
#4 Seeds are 2-0 ATS
#5 or worse Seeds are 0-5 SU & 1-4 ATS
Favorites of 5 < pts are 11-1 ATS
Favorites who scored 80 > pts in the Final 4 round are 5-1 ATS
Teams with a win percentage of .810 < are 1-5 ATS
Dogs > 2 pts who allowed 60 > pts in the Final 4 round are 0-5 ATS
Dogs of 3 > pts off a SU dog win are 0-4 ATS
Big East teams are 4-0 ATS
Big 10 teams are 0-4 ATS

COACH ME UP

Louisville’s Rick Pitino is:

47-13 SU and 36-22-3 ATS in NCAA tournament
119-52 SU and 100-66-5 ATS vs Big East
16-11 SU and 11-16 ATS vs Big 10
4-0 SU and 2-2 ATS vs MVC
8-8 SU and 4-12 ATS vs Beilein
12-5 SU and 10-6-1 ATS vs Boeheim
0-0 SU and 0-0 ATS vs Marshall
   
Michigan’s John Beilein is:
12-6 SU and 14-3-1 ATS in NCAA tournament
47-53 SU and 50-48-2 ATS vs Big East
6-0 SU and 4-2 ATS vs MVC
0-9 SU and 3-6 ATS vs Boeheim
0-0 SU and 0-0 ATS vs Marshall
2-2 SU AND 1-2-1 ATS vs Pitino

Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim is:
34-18 SU and 27-21-2 ATS in NCAA tournament
13-4 SU and 11-6 ATS vs Big 10
292-160 SU and 219-227-5 ATS vs Big East
4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS vs MVC
9-0 SU and 6-3 ATS vs Beilein
0-0 SU and 0-0 ATS vs Marshall
1-0 5-12 SU and 6-10-1 ATS vs Pitino

Wichita State’s Greg Marshall is:
4-1 SU and ATS in NCAA tournament
2-3 SU and 3-2 ATS vs Big East
3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS vs Big 10
0-0 SU and 0-0 ATS vs Belein
0-0 SU and 0-0 ATS vs Boeheim
0-0 SU and 0-0 ATS vs Pitino

There you have it, trends and notes of teams and coaches for the NCAA Final Four and out games played the last 24 years.

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Final Four Breakdown
By Teddy Covers
Sportsmemo.com

I’ve been writing about college basketball consistently since the Super Bowl, and there’s room for one last college hoops column this week.  No, I’m not going to break down the NIT Final Four, the CBI best-of-three series between Santa Clara and George Mason, or the CIT Championship Game between East Carolina and Weber State.  This column is about the big boys!

Four teams have stood out above the rest on the biggest of stages over the past two weekends: Michigan, Syracuse, Wichita State and Louisville.  Bracketologists might be surprised that only one of the top twelve seeds made it this far, with a pair of #4 seeds and a #9 seed joining the top overall seed Louisville in the Final Four. 

But bettors know that seeding is essentially meaningless, especially when we’re talking about the bevy of quality teams in the Big Dance.  That’s why we’ve seen lower seeded teams favored on more than a handful of occasions here in the tourney, like when Syracuse was the chalk against #3 seed Marquette, in one prominent example this past weekend.

Only one team can cut down the nets in Atlanta next Monday.  This week, I’ll take a closer look at all four squads, assessing their chances moving forward.  Teams are listed from ‘most likely to win it’ to ‘least likely to win it.”

Louisville is the favorite to win the title – bettors have to lay some juice (in the -140/-150 range) to support the Cardinals to win it all as of Monday morning.  And frankly, Rick Pitino’s squad deserves that level of respect from the betting markets, given their level of play right now. 

Louisville has been an undervalued commodity for more than a month, riding a 10-1 ATS mark in their last eleven ballgames.  And the Cardinals have been pointspread machines in the postseason; 14-1-1 ATS in their last 16 Big East and NCAA Tournament games dating back to the start of the 2012 Big East Tourney.  Their spotty shooting during the regular season has been a non-factor here in March, hitting better than 50 percent of their shots since the start of the Big East tourney.

Besides their pointspread success, Louisville has the personnel to give opposing head coaches nightmares.   This is a deep, veteran group for Pitino.  Senior point guard Peyton Siva has 22 steals in seven games since the start of the Big East tourney while dishing out 38 assists in the process.  Siva didn’t have a single turnover in the Cardinals 22-point win over Duke.

Leading scorer Russ Smith, a junior, is averaging 26 points per game here in the tourney, pouring in at least 23 points in all four games.  Junior Gorgui Dieng blocked eight shots in two games last weekend while pulling down 20 rebounds.   The Cardinals have won the rebounding battle in all four tourney games, and their defense has been nothing short of stellar all season.

Here’s what I wrote in my ‘Who Has What It Takes to Win the Big Dance’ article a month ago, before Louisville’s current hot streak. “The Cardinals have star power, depth, experience and talent.  They rebound, play defense and win games consistently away from home.  Rick Pitino’s squad meets all the criteria that has been effective at predicting past championship.  Plain and simple, Louisville has what it takes to win it all.” I still stand by that paragraph.

Michigan certainly has talent.  Point guard Trey Burke will be a lottery pick in the upcoming draft.  Glenn Robinson III should be a first rounder and Tim Hardaway Jr. is a likely second rounder.  Mitch McGary led the team in both points and rebounds against VCU and fellow frosh Nik Stauskas hit 43% of his shots from three-point land this year and led the team in scoring in their blowout over Florida.  Stauskas, too, has an NBA future.

When we talk about the concepts central to March Madness success like guard play and fundamentally sound team basketball, John Beilein’s squad is the poster child.  Michigan doesn’t turn the ball over, values every possession and does all the little things right.  Their offensive and defensive efficiency numbers are exceptional.  That’s how Michigan has won and covered all four previous games over the first two weekends of the Big Dance, and why they are live to cut down the nets next Monday.

But Syracuse certainly isn’t going to roll over without a fight.  And the Orange match up well with the Wolverines.  Michigan’s Nik Stauskas isn’t going to get open looks from the corner against James Southerland or CJ Fair the way he did against Florida.  Trey Burke will be up against the tallest opposing point guard he’s seen all year, NBA- ready sophomore Michael Carter-Williams.  Rakeem Christmas can bang with McGary in the paint.

The Orange are the #1 ranked defensive team remaining in the postseason, holding foes under 37% shooting for the entire season.  And they haven’t even gotten perimeter sharpshooter (and another guy who should be drafted this spring) senior Brandon Triche hot in the tourney yet – Triche was held to single digits twice in their last three games.  It’s surely worth noting that Jim Boeheim’s squad is 7-1 SU and ATS in the last eight games that Triche has put up 15 points or more – he’s the real x-factor against the Wolverines.

Last, but not least, we have my personal favorite team so far this NCAA Tournament, the Wichita State Shockers.  I’ve been on Wichita in all four previous tourney games; so have my clients.  And we’ve cashed with the Shockers as an underdog on the moneyline in three of those four contests.  There’s been nothing fraudulent about Wichita’s impressive wins over Pitt, Gonzaga, La Salle or Ohio State; the only team remaining in the field that knocked off both of the top two seeds in their region.

Wichita State won the NIT two years ago and had a Sweet 16 appearance a few years before that.  Obviously, their game against Louisville on Saturday is a tough one – there’s a reason Greg Marshall’s squad is a double-digit underdog, with the early wiseguy money pouring in against Wichita.  But the Shockers are a hard-working, physical team that maximizes their talent level.  They embrace their blue collar nature; diving for every loose ball and battling for every rebound – essentially, a poor man’s Louisville!

The Shockers have depth, a ten deep rotation. They stay fresh down the stretch of tight games -- not a single player on the roster averages more than 29 minutes per game.  And this quote from fellow Missouri Valley Conference head coach Geno Ford (Bradley) speaks volumes about their talent level for a mid-major program.

"They're the best recruiters in the league. We're all out there recruiting. They just get the best players. They've been able to beat BCS conference schools for guys. Nick Wiggins could've gone to any BCS school in the country. (Cleanthony) Early turned down several BCS schools to go to Wichita.....Their length and athleticism are the primary concerns. They impact the game with that two ways. They're probably the best defensive team in the league, mixing athleticism with shotblocking and defensive rebounding."

Can Wichita beat Louisville in a best case scenario?  More importantly, can they cover the pointspread?  In a game that is likely to be rather ugly on the offensive end for both teams, Louisville certainly could struggle to pull away and win by margin.  But if the Shockers fall behind early, they lack the requisite offensive playmakers to rally against a superior foe.

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Biggest Betting Mismatches: Final Four
By Jason Logan
Covers.com

Finding a chink in the oddsmakers’ armor is tough come tournament time. We peel back Saturday’s Final Four matchups in search of some underlying mismatches that could make or break your college basketball bets.

Michigan Wolverines vs. Syracuse Orange (+2.5, 131)

Wolverines’ four-guard set vs. Orange’s long, athletic zone

Michigan’s high-powered offense is driven by a four-guard set featuring freshman big Mitch McGary as the only starter over 6-foot-6. The Wolverines are able to play at a very quick pace, averaging nearly 75 points on 58 field goal attempts per game. Many of those come from behind the arc and Michigan may have to rely on its 3-point shooting versus Syracuse Saturday.

With the Orange’s 2-3 zone plugging up the paint, the Maize and Blue could be left with little choice but to launch from distance. Michigan is among the best 3-point shooting teams in the country and is shooting 40 percent for the tournament.

Syracuse’s long defenders forced Indiana – another premier perimeter team – to chuck up bricks from outside, limiting the Hoosiers to 3-of-15 shooting from 3-point range. The Orange defense is getting a hand up on outside shooters while slowing games to a standstill - not Michigan’s type of party. Cuse has locked down tournament foes to just 61 total field goals in its four games so far.


Wichita State Shockers vs. Louisville Cardinals (-10.5, 130.5)

Shockers’ second-chance buckets vs. Cardinals’ poor glass cleaning

Wichita State has hustled its way into the Final Four, surprising opponents and the nation with great defense, terrific team play, and relentless work on the glass. The Shockers were 25th in the country in rebounding and are especially dangerous on the offensive boards – 38th in Div. 1.

In the tournament, they’ve been out-rebounded only once (vs. Gonzaga) and more than 32 percent of their total boards are coming off the offensive glass. That’s led to plenty of second-chance looks for WSU.

Louisville has barely broken a sweat in the tournament with its closest game coming versus Oregon in the Sweet 16. The Cardinals don’t have many weaknesses but they have been soft on the boards, allowing opponents to grab 9.9 offensive rebounds per game this season.

Louisville allowed the Ducks to pull down 11 offensive rebounds and escaped with an eight-point win, it’s only blown cover since Dec. 23. The Cardinals failed to out-rebound their opponents in all but one of their five losses this season, giving up an average of 10.2 offensive boards in those games.

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Stat Notes for Final Four
Statintelligence.blogspot.com

Here are the statlines that we’ve been using through the Dance in matchup order for Saturday. If you’re new to the blog, we tried to paint a picture of each team’s skill sets and approaches by focusing on these stats:

Two-Point Defense

Rebounding Margin

Turnover Margin

Made Treys per game

Adjusted Pace Rankings as tabulated by Ken Pomeroy

In those first four, we used CONFERENCE ONLY data because that represents a good combination of sample size, schedule quality, and relative recency (ignoring stuff that happened in November and December). I grabbed those from the various conference websites across the nation just before the conference tourneys began. Pace factor was based on the full season because that’s how Kenpom posts it on his home page.

I haven’t done any tweaking to the first four categoreis since the postseason began. We’re using these to get an image of the teams, not to do any fancy calculations. I just grabbed new pace rankings before writing this up Tuesday night. Note also that I include conference differentials based on the ratings on Jeff Sagarin posts at USA Today. I've updated those for this weekend too.

Wichita State vs. Louisville

Louisville -10.5, total of 131

Statlines from Regular Season Conference Action ONLY

Wichita St.: 45% two-point defense, +8.0 rebounding, even TO’S, 7.2 treys, #202 full season pace

Louisville: 41% two-point defense, +2.9 rebounding, +4.3 TO’S, 4.9 treys, #119 full season pace

(Sagarin’s Conference Advantage: Louisville by 6.0)

Louisville’s two-point defense was off the charts great this year compared to almost everyone else…only allowing 41% while playing in a great conference. They had a fantastic composite, with the only “weakness” being that they didn’t hit a lot of treys. But, as we’ve discussed often this year, not needing treys to beat people is actually a sign of strength. No surprise that they’ve dominated the postseason.

Wichita State has played better defense than 45% would have suggested…and 45% is above average compared to the nation (though it was done in a mid-major conference). The Shockers are great at rebounding, but don’t do much in terms of forcing turnovers from opponents.

Those numbers would suggest that Wichita State needs to pull off a win in treys to be competitive, though they may be able to create some second chance points with their rebounding. The guards had better be ready for Louisville’s ever-changing presses. Having so much time to prepare will help.

To me, this is definitely a game where intangibles could favor the dog. Louisville just dealt with trauma, rallied around the flag, and now is of the mindset that everything is going to be okay. That’s not the ideal way to approach a huge game.

It’s hard to imagine a team being “flat” for the Final Four. But, when flat performances from superpowers have happened in the past, it’s because a great team came in overconfident and lacking a sense of urgency. Louisville had a sense of urgency in the second half against Duke last week to a degree we can only imagine. Calming back down might lead to a slow start in the opening minutes.

There’s a chance this could get interesting. It’s been awhile since Louisville had to sweat the last 10  minutes of regulation. Their victory margins in the Big East tournament and the Dance in order have been 19-12-17-31-26-8-22. The 31 can be thrown out because that was North Carolina A&T. The Dance seeds of those teams in order were 9-7-4-8-10-2.

Average margin excluding NCAT: 17.3 (midpoints 17-19)

Average seeds excluding NCAT: 6.7 (midpoints 7-8)

Wichita State is a #9 seed. Maybe they should have been a few spots higher. Still looks like Louisville needs to come in a bit flat-footed for this to be a thriller.


Syracuse vs. Michigan

Michigan -2, total of 131

Statlines from Regular Season Conference Action ONLY

Syracuse: 44% two-point defense, +0.7 rebounding, +2.9 TO’S, 5.1 treys, #243 full season pace

Michigan: 48% two-point defense, -1.1 rebounding, +2.9 TO’S, 7.0 treys, #199 full season pace

(Sagarin’s Conference Advantage: Michigan by 1.8)

Michigan is horrendous at defense and rebounding by Dance standards. They back off contact in the paint to keep their bigs out of foul trouble. The offense is so strong (particularly after you adjust for pace and the caliber of teams they face in the Big 10) that they can get away with that. You saw vs. Florida how well this team passes the ball. Good guards, then college versions of Marc Gasol inside.

I’m VERY interested to see how that approach deals with the Syracuse zone. I think the market expects Michigan to deal with it much better than Marquette, Indiana, and Cal did. Our estimate of market Power Ratings had these teams pretty even of late…but the line opened Michigan -2. Given how stingy that Syracuse defense was last weekend…it’s quite the vote of confidence from the market on the Wolverines.

If you’re a Syracuse fan…it looks like you’ve got the better inside defense…it looks like the issues you often have with rebounding won’t be in play as much here…and it looks like you’ll be the more comfortable team if a playoff atmosphere slows things down. In fact, slowing things way down to play like Wisconsin might be well advised.

Syracuse: 44% two-point defense, +0.7 rebounding, +2.9 TO’S, 5.1 treys, #243 full season pace

Wisconsin: 42% two-point defense, +2.2 rebounding, -0.5 TO’S, 7.1 treys, #319 full season pace

If Syracuse slows down…they don't have a team that rebounds as well as Wisconsin, or makes treys (though they did have some big trey games in the Garden)…but they can pair that strong inside defense with a much better turnover outlook in a way that could frustrate the Wolverines. Michigan didn’t like playing Wisconsin very much…

Wisconsin (+2) beat Michigan 68-59 in the Big 10 tournament

Wisconsin (+2) and Michigan went overtime in Madison during the regular season

If it becomes a half court game…and Michigan is going to back off inside while Syracuse isn’t…that’s a road map to a win for the Orange.

Really interested in seeing how that plays out. Won’t pretend that I know in advance how it’s going to play out! If you hear Coach Boeheim talk about playing deliberately and making sure he contains the Michigan guards, the Under might make some sense here.

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Louisville vs. Wichita State
By Brian Edwards
VegasInsider.com

For the first time since 2007, the Final Four returns to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta this weekend. Louisville is the only team that was in New Orleans last year, losing to eventual champ Kentucky in the semifinals.

Michigan is back for the first time since 1993, joining Syracuse which last won four NCAA Tournament games on its way to the 2003 title. Wichita St. is the sleeper squad, becoming the first No. 9 seed to ever make the Final Four (Boston College was the only other previous #9 to make a regional final, losing in 1994 to Florida in Miami after Craig Brown hit three straight corner 3’s late in the second half.).

Rick Pitino is making his seventh career Final Four appearance, joining North Carolina’s Roy Williams for the fourth most in NCAA history. Only John Wooden (12), Mike Krzyzewski (11) and Dean Smith (10) have more.

This is Pitino’s third Louisville team in the Final Four. The Cardinals are looking for their first national championship since beating Duke in the 1986 finals behind the play of freshman center Pervis ‘Never Nervous’ Ellison.

U of L will have to go through Wichita St. to get to Monday night.

As of Friday morning, most betting shops had Louisville (33-5 straight up, 23-15 against the spread) as a 10.5-point favorite with the total in the 132-133 range. Gamblers can take the Shockers to win outright for a +500 return (risk $100 to win $500).

In Saturday’s nightcap game, Michigan and Syracuse will collide. Most spots have installed the Wolverines as two-point favorites with a total of 131.

Sportsbook.ag has proposition wagers galore for both semifinal matchups. The website has Michigan star guard Trey Burke with an ‘over/under’ of 18.5 points that’s shaded to the ‘under’ at a -130 price (even-money for ‘over’ bets). Burke’s total for assists is seven (-115 either way) and rebounds is 3.5 (‘over’ -130).

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s total for points is 13.5 (‘over’ -120), rebounds is 4.5 (-115 either way) and assists is three (-115 either way).

B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets

Wichita St. has held all four of its NCAA Tournament foes to shooting percentages of 35.7% or worse. The Shockers allowed Ohio St. to make just 5-of-25 shots from 3-point range.

I like the prop for Hardaway’s points to go ‘over’ 13.5. Also, I like ‘over’ 11.5 points (-130 price) for Michigan freshman center Mitch McGary, who has averaged 17.5 points per game during the NCAA Tournament. McGary scored 21 against VCU and dropped 25 on Kansas.

Sportsbook.ag has Louisville as the -150 ‘chalk’ on the futures board (risk $150 to win $100). Michigan has +325 odds (risk $100 to win $325), followed by Syracuse (+400) and Wichita St. (12/1).

Sportsbook has Russ Smith as the -125 favorite to win Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors. The next-shortest odds belong to Peyton Siva and Trey Burke (+300), followed by C.J. Fair (+800), Gorgui Dieng (+800), Tim Hardaway Jr. (10/1), Michael Carter-Williams (12/1,), Nik Stauskas (15/1), Brandon Triche (15/1) and Cleanthony Early (25/1).

William Hill released lines for the four potential national-title matchups earlier this week:

Louisville -5 vs. Michigan
Louisville -4.5 vs. Syracuse
Michigan -5 vs. Wichita St.
Syracuse -4.5 vs. Wichita St.

On Thursday afternoon, Darren Heitner of Forbes reported that Michigan’s Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. will be turning pro next week.

Has anybody had a better week than Rick Pitino? The U of L head coach has been selected to the Hall of Fame and his son, Richard, was hired as the new head coach at Minnesota at the age of 30. Pitino can cap an incredible week if his team can cut the nets down on Monday night.

Iowa’s incredible 10-0 ATS run came to a halt Thursday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Baylor won its first NIT Championship in school history by spanking the Hawkeyes 74-54 as a 2.5-point underdog. Pierre Jackson was the catalyst with 17 points and 10 assists for the Bears. Jackson finished his stellar collegiate career with a fourth straight double-double. Baylor hooked up money-line supporters with a +125 return.

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Michigan vs. Syracuse
By Brian Edwards
VegasInsider.com

Thirty minutes after the conclusion of Louisville-Wichita St. in Saturday’s lid-lifter at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Michigan and Syracuse will meet in the other national-semifinals matchup.

As of early Friday evening, most books had Michigan (30-7 SU, 18-16-1 ATS) favored by two with a total of 131. The Wolverines are one-point ‘chalk’ for first-half wagers.

For bettors extremely bullish on Michigan, Bovada has a proposition wager in which you can lay 8 ½ points on the Wolverines for a +250 payout (risk $100 to win $250). On the flip side, gamblers can back Syracuse as a 4.5-point favorite for a +225 return.

Bovada also has alternate totals. Bettors can take ‘over’ 137.5 for a +175 payday or they can go ‘under’ 124.5 (+175).
   
John Beilein’s team has dominated three of its four NCAA Tournament foes. Michigan has dealt out ruthless beatings to VCU and Florida and it also bested South Dakota St. in the opening round.

In the South Region semifinals at Cowboys Stadium last Friday night, Trey Burke led a furious rally to force overtime against Kansas. Michigan eventually captured an 87-85 victory as a 1.5-point underdog.

Burke scored all 23 of his points in the second half and overtime, including an audacious 30-footer from beyond the time line to tie the game with five seconds left in regulation. Burke also dished out 10 assists, while freshman center Mitch McGary exploded for a career-high 25 points and 14 rebounds.

The Wolverines raced out to leads of 13-0, 23-5 and 41-17 en route to a 79-59 win over Florida as 2.5-point underdogs on Sunday. Nik Stauskas snapped out of a shooting slump to bury all six of his attempts from 3-point land on his way to a 22-point effort.

Syracuse (30-9 SU, 20-15 ATS) advanced to the Final Four for the fourth time on Jim Boeheim’s watch thanks to last Saturday’s 55-39 win over Marquette as a 4.5-point favorite. The 94 combined points stayed way ‘under’ the 126.5-point total.

James Southerland paced the ‘Cuse with a game-high 16 points. C.J. Fair added 13 points, six rebounds, three steals and a pair of blocked shots, while Michael Carter-Williams finished with 12 points, eight boards and six assists.

The Orange’s other NCAA wins came over Montana (81-34), California (66-60) and Indiana (61-50). But this team’s surge started in the Big East Tournament with three wins before a loss to Louisville in the finals. The ‘Cuse led the Cardinals by 17 late in the first half but went cold offensively in the second half of the defeat.

Michigan owns a 6-7 spread record in 13 games as a single-digit favorite this year. Meanwhile, Syracuse has been an underdog seven times, compiling a 4-3 record both SU and ATS.

The ‘over’ is 21-14 overall for Michigan, 12-8 in its 20 games with a total in the 130s.

The ‘under’ is 18-15 overall for the Orange, going 3-1 in its last four games. The ‘over’ is 7-6 in Syracuse’s 13 games with totals in the 130s.

These schools last met at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City two seasons ago with the ‘Cuse winning a 53-50 decision. However, the Wolverines took the cash as 6.5-point underdogs.

Although we should note that Boeheim had superior talent in nearly every instance, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Boeheim is unbeaten in nine head-to-head meetings against Beilein.

Boeheim has a 52-28 career record (65%) in the NCAA Tournament compared to Beilein’s 12-7 ledger (63%).

Sportsbook.ag has prop wagers galore for both semifinal matchups. The website has Burke with an ‘over/under’ of 18.5 points that’s shaded to the ‘under’ at a -130 price (even-money for ‘over’ bets). Burke’s total for assists is seven (-115 either way) and rebounds is 3.5 (‘over’ -130).

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s total for points is 13.5 (‘over’ -120), rebounds is 4.5 (-115 either way) and assists is three (-115 either way). I like the ‘over’ for Hardaway as I anticipate him scoring at least 14 points.

Also, I like ‘over’ 11.5 points (-130 price) for Michigan's McGary, who has averaged 17.5 points per game during the NCAA Tournament. McGary scored 21 against VCU and dropped 25 on Kansas.

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Wichita State vs. Louisville: What Bettors Need to Know
By Covers.com

Wichita State Shockers vs. Louisville Cardinals (-10, 133)

Louisville overcame a gruesome injury to one of its best players and ended up dominating Duke to reach the Final Four. To earn a spot in the championship game, the top-seeded Cardinals will have to get by Cinderella Wichita State on Saturday in the NCAA Tournament in Atlanta. The Shockers had a surprisingly easy run to the Final Four, knocking off top-seeded Gonzaga in the third round and running out to a big lead before holding off second-seeded Ohio State in the Elite 8.

The Cardinals will bring Kevin Ware with them to Atlanta and will draw inspiration from their fallen teammate, who encouraged his teammates to win even as his tibia was coming through the skin in the first half of the Elite 8 win over the Blue Devils. Ware is out of the hospital and is making his way around on crutches. Wichita doesn’t have that type of story to capture the media’s attention, but it does have a solid defensive team that will try to throttle the Cardinals’ high-octane offense. The Shockers have a balanced offense and is a strong rebounding team that will try to keep Louisville from getting out on the break.

ABOUT WICHITA STATE (30-8): The Shockers are the first Missouri Valley Conference team to reach the Final Four since Larry Bird’s Indiana State team in 1979 and will be trying to become the first ninth seed to reach the National Championship game. Wichita State has played two Big East teams this season and easily handled them both, knocking off DePaul 75-62 on Nov. 20 and coasting by Pittsburgh 73-55 in the NCAA Tournament opener. Shockers guard Tekele Cotton shut down Panthers point guard Tray Woodall in that matchup and will be trying to do the same against Peyton Siva and Russ Smith on Saturday. Wichita led by as many as 20 points in the second half against Ohio State before holding on down the stretch. Cotton hit a key 3-pointer in the final minutes and Malcolm Armstead led the way with 14 points in the 70-66 triumph. The Shockers limited the Buckeyes to 31.1 percent from the field and will need a similar defensive effort to stick with the Cardinals.

ABOUT LOUISVILLE (33-5): The Cardinals, who are the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, have done nothing to suggest that the lofty ranking is anything but accurate. With Ware out, the main issue will be keeping starting point guard Siva out of foul trouble Saturday. Siva runs the break and leads a team with more speed than any other remaining squad. Smith has used his speed to evade defenders and score 20 or more points in each of the four NCAA Tournament games. The Ware injury robs Louisville of some of its depth, but the Cardinals will still go eight or nine players deep to keep the full-court press and transition offense fresh. Louisville center Gorgui Dieng has added a different element to his offensive game with a 15-foot jump shot and has gone 20-for-24 from the field in the Tournament to go along with 30 rebounds and 10 blocked shots. Coach Rick Pitino is making his seventh Final Four appearance - second straight - and will be trying to win the National Championship for the first time since guiding Kentucky in 1996.

TRENDS:

* Shockers are 4-0 ATS in their last four NCAA Tournament games.
* Cardinals are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 games overall.
* Over is 4-1 in Shockers’ last five overall.
* Over is 8-0 in Cardinals’ last eight overall.

TIP-INS

1. Louisville has won 14 straight games and needs one more to set a school record for wins in a season.

2. Wichita State is in the Final Four for the first time since 1965.

3. The Cardinals have shot at least 50 percent from the field in each of their four NCAA Tournament games.

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Re: Final Four Betting News and Notes

Michigan vs. Syracuse: What Bettors Need to Know
By Covers.com

Michigan Wolverines vs. Syracuse Orange (1.5, 131)

Syracuse’s zone defense has caused plenty of problems for opposing offenses during the NCAA Tournament. Trey Burke and Michigan will try to solve that zone when the schools meet in the Final Four in Atlanta on Saturday. Burke against Orange point guard Michael Carter-Williams is a matchup that should have NBA scouts salivating, and the two have put together some of their best performances while guiding their teams in the NCAA Tournament.

Burke carried his team back from a 14-point deficit in the second half and hit an NBA-range 3-pointer to send the game to overtime against Kansas in the Sweet 16 before settling for 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in a surprisingly easy victory over Florida in the Elite 8. The Orange will put Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche at the top of its zone and try to force Burke and the rest of the Wolverines to settle for jump shots. Syracuse held a team that was familiar with that zone - Big East foe Marquette - to 22.6 percent shooting in the Elite Eight victory and has limited three of its four NCAA Tournament opponents to 50 or fewer points, including two to fewer than 40.

ABOUT SYRACUSE (30-9): The Orange got run off the floor by Louisville in the Big East tournament but have successfully controlled the pace during each of their four NCAA Tournament games. Carter-Williams and Triche have formed a wall at the top of the zone that has allowed James Southerland and C.J. Fair to close out on shooters while big men Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita stay home in the middle. Syracuse allowed the Golden Eagles to make 12 field goals in the Elite Eight and Carter-Williams has racked up nine steals in the last two games. Offensively, Carter-Williams has picked his spots to shoot or distribute. The sophomore went 3-of-6 from 3-point range en route to 24 points against Indiana in the Sweet 16 but focused more on his distribution responsibilities in the 55-39 Elite 8 win over Marquette, handing out six assists while scoring 12 points. Fair was Syracuse’s leading scorer in the regular season and has averaged 13.8 points in the Tournament.

ABOUT MICHIGAN (30-7): The Wolverines are making their first trip to the Final Four since the Fab Five took the college basketball world by storm with back-to-back championship game appearances in 1992 and 1993. The 2012-13 edition of the team bears a small resemblance to the Fab Five, with athletic wing players, strong outside shooting and a big man in Mitch McGary that is willing to do the little things. McGary’s hard screens won’t be as effective against a zone defense that will likely avoid chasing Burke and company off screens, but the Wolverines will still count on McGary’s rebounding to start the break or clean up the misses on the offensive end. Should the game turn into a jump-shooting contest, Michigan guard Nik Stauskas went 6-for-6 from 3-point range against Florida and has connected on 44.9 percent from beyond the arc in a strong freshman campaign. The Wolverines have averaged 78.8 points in the Tournament and can turn to Tim Hardaway Jr. or Glenn Robinson III if Stauskas struggles from the perimeter or Burke can’t get into the lane against the zone.

TRENDS:

* Wolverines are 4-0 ATS in their last four NCAA Tournament games.
* Orange are 1-5 ATS in their last six Saturday games.
* Over is 5-1 in Wolverines’ last six games following an ATS win.
* Wolverines are 4-0 ATS in their last four games vs. a team with a winning percentage above .600.

TIP-INS

1. Syracuse is in the Final Four for the first time since the Carmelo Anthony-led 2003 team won the National Championship.

2. Michigan is 17-0 against non-conference opponents but coach John Beilein, who spent five years as a coach in the Big East with West Virginia, is 0-9 all-time against Syracuse.

3. The winner will face Louisville or Wichita State in the National Championship game Monday.

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Final Four Action
By Sportsbook.ag

MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (30-7) vs. SYRACUSE ORANGE (30-9)

A pair of No. 4 seeds with 30 victories apiece will play in Saturday's Final Four when Syracuse takes on Michigan at Georgia Dome.

The Wolverines hit the wall at the start of February, finishing the regular season 1-9 ATS (5-5 SU) and then losing to Wisconsin in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. But they have been outstanding in the NCAA Tournament, beating their four opponents by an average score of 79 to 63, including three wins of 15+ points. The Orange have also dominated in their four NCAA wins, with three double-digit victories and a +20.0 PPG margin, prevailing by an average score of 66 to 46. The Wolverines are 8-1 (SU and ATS) on a neutral court this season, outscoring these teams by 11.7 PPG. Syracuse is now 7-1 SU (5-3 ATS) in the postseason and 8-2 SU (6-4 ATS) on a neutral court this season. Michigan is just 2-5 ATS as a non-home favorite this season, while the Orange are 4-3 (SU and ATS) in the underdog role. These teams last met two seasons ago on a neutral court in the Legends Classic in Atlantic City, resulting in a 53-50 Syracuse win.

Michigan is a team that matches up well against Syracuse's 2-3 zone, scoring 75.5 PPG (23rd in nation) on 48.5% FG (6th in D-I) and 38.5% threes (18th in nation). And while Syracuse thrives on creating miscues with its long-armed roster, the Wolverines have the fewest amount of turnovers in the country (9.4 TOPG), lead the nation in Ast/TO ratio (1.55) and rebound pretty well too with a +3.1 RPG margin. Michigan's defense is adequate (62.9 PPG, 42.3% FG, 32.3% threes allowed) and is able to stay out of foul trouble (12.7 fouls per game, 2nd-fewest in D-I), by preferring not to take many chances in trying to force turnovers, as evidenced by a mere 2.8 BPG and 6.2 SPG, which rank 245th and 225th in the nation, respectively. The Wolverines' backcourt of sophomore PG Trey Burke (18.8 PPG) and junior SG Tim Hardaway Jr. (14.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG) has carried this team all season. Burke's 3.12 Ast/TO ranks third in the country, and his 6.8 APG places 12th among the nation's leaders. Burke can also score in bunches, averaging 18.7 PPG in his past three games, including 23 points after halftime in the big comeback win over Kansas in the Sweet 16. Although he shoots 38.1% threes for the season, he is just 7-for-27 (26%) from downtown in the NCAA's, something he'll have to improve facing Syracuse's zone defense. Hardaway also shoots a high percentage from behind the arc (38.7%), but is just 2-of-8 in the past two games, and did not shoot well against the Syracuse 2-3 zone two seasons ago, making just 3-of-12 shots (1-of-8 threes) in the loss in Atlantic City. Hardaway Jr. snapped a streak of seven straight double-figure scoring games in the Elite Eight win over Florida, scoring just nine points on 3-of-13 shooting. But this is much more than a two-man team. Six-foot-10 freshman PF Mitch McGary (7.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG) has been phenomenal in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 17.5 PPG on 73% FG with 11.5 RPG and 2.8 SPG. His 25 points, 14 rebounds and three steals were vital to his team's comeback over Kansas. Freshman PF Glenn Robinson III (11.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG) played poorly in the Big Ten Tournament (6.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG), but he has certainly stepped up in the NCAA's with 13.5 PPG on 62% FG and 6.3 RPG. Another freshman, SF Nik Stauskas (11.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG) is the team's best three-point shooter at 45% and busted out of his shooting slump in a big way on Sunday. After averaging just 7.8 PPG on 10-of-31 FG and 2-of-16 threes over his previous four games, Stauskas drained 7-of-8 shots (6-of-6 threes) for 22 points against the Gators.

Syracuse's 2-3 zone has been unbelievable in the tournament, holding opponents to 45.8 PPG on 28.9% FG and 15.2% threes. For the season, the school allows 58.6 PPG (21st in nation) on 36.8% FG (3rd in D-I) and 28.2% threes (3rd in nation). Marquette's 39 points on Saturday were the fewest in the shot clock era for an Elite Eight game, as the Golden Eagles shot 22.6% from the floor (12-of-53 FG) and 3-of-24 threes (12.5%). The Orange are averaging 10.8 SPG and 6.5 BPG in the NCAA Tournament, increasing their season averages to 9.1 SPG (10th in D-I) and 6.2 BPG (5th in nation). But it hasn't just been missed shots for opponents, as they are also turning the ball over at an alarming rate. Syracuse has posted a +22 turnover margin for the tournament, committing just 10.8 TOPG and forcing 16.3 TOPG. For the season, the Orange have a +3.2 TO margin, good for 20th in the nation. This team continues to rally around PG Michael Carter-Williams (12.1 PPG). The 6-foot-6 sophomore ranks third in the nation in assists (7.4 APG) and fourth in steals (2.79 SPG). He's averaged 16.0 PPG in his past three games, and did it all on Saturday with 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals. The only negative for Carter-Williams has been his dreadful foul shooting, as he's made a pitiful 13-of-33 free throws (39%) over the past six games. Senior SG Brandon Triche (13.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.5 APG) has been inconsistent all tourney, but he's still averaging 12.8 PPG despite his 41.7% FG shooting. PF C.J. Fair (14.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG) is team's top scorer and rebounder, and has played very well in the NCAA Tournament with 13.8 PPG (47% FG) and 6.0 RPG. Senior PF James Southerland (13.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG) is the most potent long-range shooter for the Orange at 40.3% threes, and is coming off a 16-point outburst against Marquette. C Baye Keita (3.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG) isn't asked to score much, but has played excellent defense in the NCAA's with 15 rebounds and seven blocks. Triche, Fair, Southerland and Keita all played in that win over Michigan two seasons ago. Triche had six points, four assists and four turnovers, Fair netted just two points in 10 minutes, Southerland didn't take a shot in five minutes and Keita also was 0-for-0 FG, but had nine rebounds and two blocks in his 26 minutes of action.


WICHITA STATE SHOCKERS (30-8) vs. LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (33-5)

The top-seeded school in the NCAA Tournament takes on the biggest surprise team of the tourney in the first Final Four game when Louisville meets Wichita State on Saturday in Atlanta.

The ninth-seeded Shockers have not only won four straight games to make the Final Four, but they have done so in blowout fashion. They have topped their opponents by an average of 10.5 PPG, and have held four NCAA tourney opponents under 36% FG. Louisville also knows a thing or two about defense, winning 14 straight games (11-3 ATS) by holding all 14 opponents to under 70 points, including limiting 10 of those opponents below 60 points. The Cardinals are now 18-1 SU (17-1-1 ATS) in their past 19 games in the month of March over the past two seasons. The Shockers are a stellar 9-1 SU (7-3 ATS) on a neutral court this season, outscoring these opponents by 9.7 PPG, while Louisville is 10-1 SU (8-3 ATS) on a neutral court this season, outscoring its opponents by 16.5 PPG. And while WSU is 5-2 (SU and ATS) in the underdog role, Louisville is 7-3 (SU and ATS) when favored in non-home games.

Wichita State continues to win with a hard-nosed defense that allows only 60.9 PPG on 39.3% FG and 32.1% threes for the season. NCAA Tournament foes have scored 62.3 PPG against the Shockers, but have made just 34.3% of their shots. WSU has outrebounded six of seven opponents in the postseason and now ranks 7th in the nation in rebounding margin (+8.0 RPG). The Shockers offense has been pretty strong as well in the tourney, averaging 72.8 PPG despite a subpar 42.7% FG clip. But three-point shooting has been outstanding over their past three wins, as they are 27-of-60 (45%) from downtown. The Shockers are able to stay fresh and hound opponents on defense because head coach Gregg Marshall gives 11 of his players at least 11 MPG. The three double-digit scorers are junior SF Cleanthony Early (13.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG) and seniors PF Carl Hall (12.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG) and PG Malcolm Armstead (10.9 PPG, 3.9 APG, 3.8 RPG). Early had just 5.0 PPG on 5-of-21 FG in three games leading up to the tourney, but has stepped up his play in the NCAA's with 14.3 PPG on 48% FG and 7.0 RPG. The 6-foot-8 Hall has scored 10.8 PPG (52% FG) and 4.8 RPG in the NCAA Tournament, but his defense has been huge, blocking 12 shots over the past three games, including six against OSU in the Elite Eight. Armstead has scored 15.5 PPG in the four tourney games, but has made just 36% FG and 6-of-21 threes (29%). He has contributed in other ways though with 6.0 RPG and 2.3 SPG over the past three contests. Freshman SG Ron Baker (8.6 PPG) was 0-for-5 against Pittsburgh to start the tournament, but hasn't missed much in the past two games, scoring 14.5 PPG on 9-of-16 FG (56%), including 6-of-10 from three-point range and 14-of-15 from the foul line. Both sophomore G Tekele Cotton (6.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG) and freshman G Fred Van Vleet (4.3 PPG) are coming off double-figure scoring games against the Buckeyes, with Cotton netting 10 points with five boards, and Van Vleet contributing 12 points (4-of-8 FG) and two steals.

Louisville ranks fourth in the nation in scoring margin (+16.2 PPG) with 74.3 PPG of offense (31st in nation) and 58.1 PPG allowed on defense (16th in D-I). The Cards outshoot opponents 45.6% FG to 39.2% FG (28th in nation), but they do not rely on the three-point shot like most Rick Pitino-coached teams do. Louisville makes just 5.6 threes per game (231st in D-I) on a subpar 32.8% clip (217th in nation). This team thrives on full-court pressure, using 10.9 steals per game (2nd in D-I) and a +6.1 turnover margin (also 2nd in nation) to get plenty of easy baskets. This defense has forced 17.8 TOPG in the NCAA's, which is a big reason why the team is scoring a hefty 80.8 PPG on 55.1% FG in the Big Dance. Nobody has been scoring quite like SG Russ Smith (18.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG), who is averaging 26.0 PPG on 54.1% FG in the NCAA Tournament. He's gotten a ton of points by driving to the hoop and drawing fouls, as he's 32-for-40 (80%) from the line in the NCAA's. Smith has also tallied 13 steals in the four wins, to increase his season average to 2.1 SPG. Senior PG Peyton Siva (9.7 PPG, 5.8 APG, 2.2 SPG) is coming off his best NCAA Tournament game against Duke when he scored 16 points (6-of-10 FG) with four assists and zero turnovers in 33 minutes. That was quite an improvement from his four points, three assists and four turnovers in the Sweet 16 against Oregon. This talented backcourt did not play well in last year's Final Four loss to Kentucky though, combining for 8-of-26 shooting (31%) with four assists and six turnovers. However the team's two big men did play well in that lost to UK in New Orleans, as C Gorgui Dieng (10.2 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.5 BPG) scored seven points with 12 boards (8 offensive) and four blocks, while PF Chane Behanan (9.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG) scored 10 points with nine rebounds. In this year's NCAA Tournament, Dieng is averaging 11.0 PPG on 20-of-24 FG (83%), 7.5 RPG and 2.5 BPG. His only problem has been foul shooting, where he's made just 2-of-10 FT in the past two games. Behanan is coming off his best NCAA tourney game this year, netting eight points, eight rebounds and three steals versus Duke. Junior swingman Luke Hancock (7.4 PPG) also had his highest scoring game in the Elite Eight scoring 10 points on 2-of-3 FG and 5-of-5 free throws. The Cards rallied against the Blue Devils after sophomore SG Kevin Ware (4.5 PPG) suffered a horrific broken leg late in the first half, beating Duke 50-31 after halftime, and are using Ware's misfortune as further motivation to capture the NCAA Championship.

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College Knowledge

Louisville's backcourt is thin without injured Ware (leg), but can Wichita handle their pressure, or gets shots inside vs dominating big man Dieng? Cardinals force turnovers on 27.5% of possessions (#2 in country), are 14-0 since losing in five OTs to Notre Dame Feb 9; their tourney wins are by 31-6-8-22 points. Wichita State beat Pitt by 18 in its only game vs Big East team; they won at VCU by 2, a team that also presses a lot. Louisville is 2-0 vs MVC teams this season, beating Northern Iowa by 5, Illinois State by 3. Shockers are 5-2 vs spread as an underdog; six of their last eight games went over total, as did last eight Louisville games. Cardinals covered ten of their last eleven games.

Syracuse blocks 19.4% of opponents' shots (#1), allow only 28.2% on arc (#3 in country), as rangy, great athletes make vanilla 2-3 zone a nasty defense. Inexperienced Michigan (#342 in experience, #334 in minutes off bench) lost twice to Wisconsin, team that slows game to a halfcourt game, lot like Syracuse will, but Beilein is great tactician who will have talented players prepared here. Wolverines are 3-2 vs spread as a dog; they beat Pitt by 5, in only game vs Big East opponent. Orange upset Indiana 61-50 last week, its only game vs Big Dozen opponent. Five of last six Syracuse games stayed under the total. Michigan makes 37.9% of its 3's (#25 in country), turns ball over less than anyone in country.

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Re: Final Four Betting News and Notes

Final Four picks – Las Vegas Experts Offer Their Saturday Selections
By: The Linemakers   
Sportingnews.com

The Linemakers on Sporting News asked sports book managers around Las Vegas for their picks for Saturday’s two Final Four games, Wichita State vs. Louisville and Michigan vs. Syracuse.

As of 9:00 a.m. ET Saturday morning, the Cardinals are between a 10- and 10.5-point favorite over the Shockers, with a total of 132.5 or 133. The point spread in the second game is Wolverines is -2 , and the total ranges from 130.5 to 131.5.

Here are the selections from the Vegas oddsmakers, as well as from our own crew.

John Avello, Wynn Race & Sports, executive director
Wichita State plays Michigan in the final. Michigan wins

Chris Bennett, LVH SuperBook, assistant manager
Michigan 67, Syracuse 66
Louisville 70, Wichita State 60

Jay Kornegay, LVH, executive director
Michigan 68, Syracuse 61
Louisville 72 ,Wichita St 63

Jay Rood, MGM Race and Sports, vice president
Syracuse 61, Michigan 52
Louisville 69, Wichita State 62
Final: Syracuse 58, Louisville 55

Ed Salmons, LVH, assistant manager
Michigan 63, Syracuse 62
Louisville 73, Wichita State 60

Jeff Sherman, LVH, assistant manager
Michigan 66, Syracuse 61
Louisville 72, Wichita State 64

The Linemakers’ plays:

Richie Baccellieri
Took Wichita State at +11
Small play on Syracuse +2
Bigger bet on Syracuse-Michigan UNDER

Rick Herron
Best bet is Wichita-State-Louisville OVER
Lean on Wichita State
Lean on Michigan

Micah Roberts
Laying 10 with Louisville
Going OVER on Louisville-Wichita State
Likes Syracuse
Also a play on Syracuse-Michigan UNDER

Kenny White
Heavy lean on Wichita State
Likes Syracuse, who he believes should be laying a point
“Loves” Syracuse-Michigan UNDER

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