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CBB ♦ ''Final Four'' ♦ Saturday • 4/2/16

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    Final Four Opening Line Report: Books weigh in on NCAA Tournament semifinals
    By Colin Kelly

    Since the NCAA Tournament’s round of 64 began March 17, we’ve seen a flurry of 60 games in 11 days while watching the field whittled down to the Final Four. Now, there’s only one No. 1 seed standing, along with a pair of No. 2s and a stunning No. 10.

    No. 10 Syracuse vs. No. 1 North Carolina (-9.5)

    Syracuse is the odd man in and will face No. 1 North Carolina on one side of the bracket in next Saturday’s Final Four in Houston.

    The Orange rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit against No. 1 Virginia to post a shocking 68-62 victory as an 8-point underdog in Sunday’s Midwest Region final. Trailing 54-39, the Orange (23-13 SU, 20-15 ATS) outscored the Cavaliers 29-8 over the final 9½ minutes.

    Syracuse is the first No. 10 seed to reach the Final Four, and the Orange will be prohibitive underdogs to the Tar Heels, who opened as 9.5-point favorites.

    North Carolina pulled away from No. 6 Notre Dame 88-74 as a 9.5-point chalk in Sunday’s East Region final. It was the ninth consecutive SU win for the Tar Heels (32-6 SU, 19-18-1 ATS), who are also on a 7-1 spread-covering streak.

    Jay Kornegay, executive vice president for race and sports at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook: there wasn’t much debate on the opening line.

    “We had a 9, a 10, a 9.5, so we were all really close. It wasn’t a long discussion,” Kornegay said. “I’m sure the public will be on the favorite. The guessing game is where the big money will come in at. The numbers are so good that you don’t see the big money sometimes.”

    It’s a rare instance that an NCAA semifinal has a spread approaching double digits.

    “It’s a pretty big number for a Final Four game, so I’d suspect we’ll see a little Syracuse money,” Kornegay said. “We think 9.5 is a good number for the sharps. If the public drives it up to double digits, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a bigger play on the underdog.”

    The Golden Nugget didn’t post a number on Sunday night, but oddsmaker Aaron Kessler was a little surprised the early line wasn’t a little higher.

    “Notre Dame is no worse than Syracuse, and North Carolina has been nothing but impressive at every stop,” Kessler said. “We’ll probably be on the high side of that number. I’ve got to anticipate a lot of public money on Carolina in this one.”

    Kessler said he sees a lot of similarities between Notre Dame and Syracuse – which bodes well for the Tar Heels.

    “It’s a good matchup for them, kind of like the Notre Dame game,” he said. “North Carolina is the bigger, stronger team, by a lot. Carolina’s just got great athletes at every position.”

    John Lester, senior lines manager for Bookmaker shared concerns about the hefty underdog.

    “I’m not sure how we’re going to attract Syracuse money on this game,” Lester said. “The line will be inflated, and we’ll still be heavily one-sided on North Carolina. The Tar Heels are as complete a team as we’ve seen in a while, and they can simply turn it on when needed, which you can’t say about many NCAA teams in history. However, the Orange have been defying odds since the outset of the tourney. So why not one more time?”

    No. 2 Villanova (-2) vs. No. 2 Oklahoma

    Villanova advanced with a 64-59 victory as a 2-point underdog against overall No. 1 seed Kansas in the South Region final Saturday. Oklahoma was a 1-point pup in Saturday’s West Region final against Oregon, but rolled to an 80-68 victory.

    The ‘Cats (33-5 SU) are barely above water against the oddsmakers, at 19-17 ATS this season, though the Sooners (29-7 SU) are just 14-20 ATS, which rates 317th in the nation. However, this game is a rematch of a Dec. 7 regular-season meeting on a neutral floor in Hawaii, where the Sooners, catching 5 points, boat raced the Wildcats 78-55.

    Kessler was a bit surprised with where the line sits at this point.

    “Oklahoma has been a very public team this year, so I think Villanova’s upset of Kansas has already come into play,” Kessler said. “I tend to think the line might come down a little bit. I’m not sure we’ll see a flip, but I think it will go lower before it goes higher. If it goes up to 3, I’ll probably be in line!”

    To Kessler’s point, the line actually did drop at – but then it rebounded all the way to 2.5.

    “Most of the action in the first half hour was on Oklahoma, but when we dropped Villanova from -1.5 to -1, we saw an influx of money on the favorite,” Lester said. “Some of the sharps were just waiting to see where the opener went, and once it was basically a pick ’em, they pounced on the Wildcats. We quickly moved to -2 and then -2.5.”

    The matchup of No. 2 seeds is the more interesting one, according to Kornegay, who said the Superbook opened at Villanova -1.5 but has since moved to 2.

    “I expect this one to be pretty solid, and the more popular game to wager on,” he said. “This is a more intriguing matchup. There’ll be support for both teams here.”


    Essential betting stats and trends for the Final Four and NCAA Championship
    By Marc Lawrence

    It’s onward to Houston for the Final Four games. To put the wraps on the 2016 NCAA Tournament, listed below are some interesting trends and angles to consider as our Fab Four heads off to H-Town this weekend.

    *Note: all stats are ATS (Against The Spread) unless noted otherwise.

    NCAA Final Four Round notes

    • No. 1 Seed favorites of 4-points or greater are 1-4 ATS since 2012. North Carolina is the lone team remaining that fit this situation.

    • No. 2 Seed favorites are 3-7 ATS. Villanova is favored in the no. 2 vs. no. 2 matchup against Oklahoma.

    • No. 8 or lower seeds are 2-4-1 ATS. Syracuse, obviously, fits into this trend.

    • Favorites off a win of 14 or more points are 3-7 ATS. North Carolina draws this scenario after beating Notre Dame by 14 points in the Elite 8.

    • Favorites of four points or greater who scored 80 or more points in the Elite 8 round are 7-14 ATS. North Carolina fits this trend.

    • Teams who are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games are 11-15-2 ATS. Both Syracuse and Villanova have covered their last four games.

    • Teams with revenge are 4-11 ATS. Both Syracuse and Villanova are in revenge spots after losing to their Final Four opponents earlier in the season.

    • Teams off back-to-back double-digit wins are 8-15 ATS. North Carolina and Oklahoma both fit this spot.

    • ACC favorites of more than 5 points are 1-4 ATS. Oklahoma is the lone Final Four team to fit this scenario.

    • Big East favorites are 1-3 ATS. Villanova fits this trend very nicely.

    NCAA Championship Game notes

    • No. 1 Seed favorites are 14-4 SU and 11-7 ATS.

    • No. 2 Seeds are 3-7 SU and 4-6 ATS (0-5 SU & 1-4 ATS vs. no. 1 seeds).

    • No. 5 or worse seeds are 1-6 SU & 2-5 ATS.

    • Favorites of five points or less are 12-3 SU and ATS.

    • Teams with a win percentage of .850 or greater are 12-6 SU and ATS since 1998.

    • Teams with a win percentage of .810 or less are 3-7 SU and ATS since 2000.

    • Favorites who scored 80 or more points in the Final Four round are 5-1 ATS.

    • Dogs who allow 60 or more points in the Final Four round are 2-13 SU and 4-11 ATS.

    • Dogs of three points or more off a SU dog win are 1-6 ATS since 1998.

    • ACC teams are 5-1 SU and 4-2 ATS versus no. 2 or lower seeds.

    • Big East teams are 6-1 SU and ATS.

    • Big 12 teams are 1-3 SU and ATS.

    Coach Me Up

    North Carolina’s Roy Williams is:

    68-22 SU and 50-39-1 ATS in NCAA tournament.
    191-79 SU and 132-131-7 ATS vs. ACC.
    21-5 SU and 16-10 ATS vs. Big East.
    112-32 SU and 72-71-1 ATS vs. Big 12.
    4-4 SU and 3-5 ATS vs. Boeheim.
    3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS vs. Kruger.
    3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS vs. Wright.

    Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger is:

    16-12 SU and 13-15 ATS in NCAA tournament.
    9-10 SU and 12-7 ATS vs. ACC.
    14-7 SU and 12-7 ATS vs. Big East.
    0-0 SU and 0-0 ATS vs. Boeheim.
    1-3 SU and 2-2 ATS vs. Williams.
    1-0 SU and 1-0 ATS vs. Wright.

    Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim is:

    39-18 SU and 32-23-2 ATS in NCAA tournament.
    47-29 SU and 34-39-3 ATS vs. ACC.
    12-6 SU and 12-6 ATS vs. Big 12.
    294-164 SU and 221-231-5 ATS vs. Big East.
    0-0 SU and 0-0 ATS vs. Kruger.
    4-4 SU and 5-3 ATS vs. Williams.
    9-12 SU and 9-12 ATS vs. Wright.

    Villanova’s Jay Wright is:

    18-10 SU and 14-14 ATS in NCAA tournament.
    4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS vs. ACC.
    2-3 SU and 3-2 ATS vs. Big East.
    3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS vs. Big 12.
    12-9 SU and 12-9 ATS vs. Boeheim.
    0-1 SU and 0-1 ATS vs. Kruger.
    0-3 SU and 1-2 ATS vs. Williams.

    There you have it, trends and notes for teams and coaches involved in the NCAA Tournament Final Four in games played over the last 25 years.

    I hope you’ve enjoyed the tournament as much as I have. I’ll return during the NBA playoffs with an overview of some Good, Bad, and downright Ugly stats and trends at that time. Until then enjoy the rest of the ‘Dance’.


    #2 Oklahoma takes on #2 Villanova in Final Four
    By Dave Schoenholt

    NRG Stadium – Houston, TX
    Tip-off: Saturday, 6:09 p.m. ET
    Line: Villanova -2

    In a battle of No. 2 seeds, Villanova and Oklahoma will play for a shot at a national title in Saturday night’s first game at NRG Stadium in Houston.

    Dec. 7th on a neutral court (Pearl Harbor) is where Oklahoma put on arguably its best performance of the season. Their opponent, Villanova, had perhaps its worst showing of the year. The Wildcats get to even the score as two-point favorites for the right to move on to Monday’s championship game, but have they figured out how to stop Buddy Hield and the Sooners? While December is a long time ago, the Sooners (14-20 ATS) established themselves as a force to be reckoned with – especially on the perimeter – with that 14-26 performance from deep. Oklahoma’s 78-55 trouncing of Villanova (OU +5) would springboard the Sooners into serious discussions about who would contend for a national title this season. Showing their true grit, Villanova (19-17-1 ATS) wouldn’t let that December loss to Oklahoma deny them a Big East regular season title, taking only two losses in regular season conference play before losing in the conference tournament semifinals. Villanova is 9-1 over its last 10 games. The Wildcats are 4-0 ATS in the NCAA Tournament, covering comfortably as favorites over UNC-Asheville, Iowa and No. 3 Miami (92-69, Nova -4), before gutting out a 64-59 (‘Nova +2) win last Saturday night over the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, Kansas. Villanova was out-shot and out-rebounded in the win over the Jayhawks, but rode 11 steals (including the key last-second turnover forced by G Ryan Arcidiacono) and 18-19 from the charity stripe to advance to Houston. Oklahoma has now covered twice after failing to do so in their seven previous games. They defeated Cal-Bakersfield and Virginia Commonwealth in the opening rounds before getting past No. 3 Texas A&M (77-63, OU -2.5) and most recently No. 1 Oregon (80-68, OU +1), 80-68, last Saturday night. The Sooners are 8-1 (4-5 ATS) at neutral sites and 4-3 (5-2 ATS) as underdogs. Villanova is 8-2 (6-4 ATS) at neutral sites and 23-4 (9-18 ATS) as favorites. This is Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger’s second appearance in the Final Four, as 22 years ago (1994) he took Florida this far. Oklahoma last made the Final Four in 2002. Villanova’s Jay Wright is also going to his second Final Four, having taken the Wildcats this far in 2009.

    College basketball continues to get treated to the brilliance of Oklahoma G Hield (25.4 PPG, 50% FG, 46.5% 3PT). Hield continues to outdo himself. His 37 points against Oregon on 13-20 FG (8-13 3PT) — marking his 12th 30+ point performance of the season — propelled the Sooners into the Final Four. Hield now has 117 points through four tournament games, second all-time in that span only to Stephen Curry’s run at Davidson. G Isaiah Cousins (12.8 PPG, 4.6 APG) showed what he could do when given the keys to the Oklahoma offense as point guard, putting up 19 points and 10 assists against Villanova while going 4-4 from three. What’s scary for Villanova is that Hield was only pedestrian in the blowout win over the Wildcats in December, scoring 18 points on 6-17 shooting. Overshadowed in that win was how solid Oklahoma is on defense, as they held Villanova to 31.7% FG (4-32 3PT). The Sooners’ season-long defense showed up to the tune of 40.5% FG (35th NCAA) and Oklahoma’s defense did a similar number against Oregon (4-21 3PT) to advance this far. Villanova is very capable of throwing up another offensive dud, having shot 40% FG against Kansas after slicing up their first three opponents. F Ryan Spangler (10.3 PPG, 9.2 RPG) was equally impressive against Villanova with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists, helping the Sooners to a 41-33 rebounding edge. Spangler’s production has dropped off in NCAA Tournament play to 6.3 PPG and 7.3 RPG, partially due to matchups. G Jordan Woodard (13 PPG, 3.4 APG, 44.9% 3PT) had been lost in the latter part of the regular season, but seems to have regained his perimeter touch during NCAA Tournament time, as he’s scorching the nets at a 57.9% clip from three (16.8 PPG).

    Villanova’sall-around play (82.3 PPG NCAA Tournament, 54.1% FG in last three games) should give the Wildcats tons of confidence with an opportunity to show Oklahoma that the December blowout was just an aberration. This newfound offensive brilliance was highlighted by a 62.7% FG (10-15 3PT) performance against No. 3 Miami, a solid defensive club in its own right. The Wildcats would be well-advised to work closer to the basket on Saturday night, as their horrid three-point shooting was a big downfall in the December meeting between these two clubs. Villanova shoots two-pointers at a 56.8% clip, good for 3rd in the nation, led by senior C Daniel Ochefu (10.1 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 62% FG). Ochefu is also one of five Wildcats averaging more than 1.3 SPG in the NCAA Tournament, as he’ll have more chances to get takeaways against Oklahoma’s generous ball handlers (7.1 SPG against, 301st NCAA). One can’t talk about steals without mentioning Villanova freshman F Mikal Bridges (6.3 PPG), the lanky hero of Saturday’s win over Kansas with five steals, including the game-clinching hustle play after Arcidiacono (12.3 PPG, 4.3 APG) knocked the ball loose from Kansas guard Frank Mason III. A four-year starter, senior Arcidiacono has had an incredible tournament, averaging 16 PPG on 62.5% FG and 57.9% 3PT while going 13-14 from the free-throw line. Villanova’s regular season scoring leader, G Josh Hart (15.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 50.3% FG), has had a more low-key tournament (13.8 PPG) and went only 6-17 in the win over Kansas. The Wildcats’ long-range specialist, F Kris Jenkins (13.5 PPG, 2.5 3PM), will look to erase memories of his 0-6 performance from three in the loss to Oklahoma, and his 1-7 from three most recently against Kansas. Jenkins did have 21 points on 8-10 FG (5-6 3PT) in the win over Miami. Given Oklahoma’s lack of rim protection and Villanova’s earlier failures against the Sooners, don’t be surprised to see coach Wright put the ball in the hands of the slashing Hart and towering Ochefu to generate easier scoring chances with a spot in the national title game on the line.


    ‘Cuse looks to shock UNC in Final Four clash
    By Dave Schoenholt

    NRG Stadium – Houston, TX
    Tip-off: Saturday, 8:49 p.m. ET
    Line: North Carolina -9.5

    North Carolina, the only remaining No. 1 seed, will face off against ACC foe and No. 10 seed Syracuse in the Final Four. The winner will move on to Monday’s national championship game.

    North Carolina (18-19-1 ATS) and Syracuse (20-15 ATS) meet for the third time this season as the Tar Heels look to sweep the Orange and move on to Monday’s national title game. The Tar Heels were winners over the Orange on Jan. 9 at the Carrier Dome, 84-73 (UNC -7.5), and again in Chapel Hill on Feb. 29, 75-70 (SU +12.5). North Carolina held Syracuse to under 30% 3PT on both occasions. This game pits two Hall of Fame coaches in Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and North Carolina’s Roy Williams. They have faced each other four times as ACC rivals, with North Carolina winning the last three contests (1-1-1 ATS). Boeheim is 2-1 against Williams in the NCAA tournament, all while Williams was coaching Kansas, as now three of Boehiem’s five Final Four trips will be highlighted with Williams on the other sideline. Syracuse defeated Kansas in the Elite Eight in 1996 and in the 2003 National Championship game, while losing to Williams’ Jayhawks in the second round of 2001’s NCAA Tournament. No. 10 seed Syracuse has won and covered each of their NCAA Tournament wins to get here, and will be underdogs for the third straight game on Saturday night (+4 vs Gonzaga, +8.5 vs UVA, +9.5 vs UNC). Winners of nine straight, North Carolina has been favored in every game they’ve played since a road game on Feb. 1 at Louisville. The Tar Heels are an impressive 7-1 ATS in their last 8, only failing to cover at -23.5 against first-round NCAA opponent Florida Gulf Coast (83-67). North Carolina has a 16-point average margin of victory over their four tournament wins so far. The Tar Heels are 32-4 (18-17-1 ATS) overall as favorites and are undefeated (11-0, 8-3 ATS) in neutral site games. Syracuse is 6-9 (9-6 ATS) as an underdog and an impressive 7-1 (7-1 ATS) in neutral site games. In total trends, the UNDER is 14-7 in North Carolina’s last 21 games.

    Syracuse’s improbable run to Houston seemed all but dead multiple times over the last two rounds, and each time — whether it was down 57-48 to Gonzaga or 54-39 against Virginia (two of the more efficient teams in the nation) — Syracuse reached back for a full-court pressure defense that sped up the tempo and got the game back in reach for the Orange. That the Orange were able to pull out their last two wins while shooting worse than 39% FG in both games is all the more impressive. The vaunted Syracuse 2-3 zone, which helps limit opponents to 64.6 PPG (22nd NCAA) and 30.8% 3PT (13th NCAA), hasn’t been bulletproof against better opponents, as both Gonzaga and Virginia have shot better than 40% and each have shot a respectable 38.1% FG. Unfortunately, Syracuse’s zone is beatable inside with only freshman Tyler Lydon (10.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.8 BPG) protecting the rim. North Carolina relies on the three as little as any elite team in the country, and their 84 points on Jan. 9th is the most any opponent has scored at the Carrier Dome this season. Lydon does have 6 blocks in two games against North Carolina and is coming off of a very impressive 11-point, 6-rebound, 3-5 3PT performance against Virginia. As good as that line was, it wasn’t close to being the best freshman performance of the night for the Orange, as G Malachi Richardson (13.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.1 3PT) stole the show against the Cavaliers. Scoring 21 of his 23 points in the second half, Richardson single-handedly willed the Orange offense in the second half to nine straight possessions with a basket. No. 23 in Orange (Richardson) resembled the ghost of a famous No. 23 in Carolina Blue, hitting jumpers and driving in the lane with reckless abandon, and he’ll have to be just as fearless if Syracuse hopes to go where no double-digit seed has gone before – championship Monday. The Orange were paced all season by senior leaders G Michael Gbinije (17.6 PPG, 4.4 APG) and G Trevor Cooney (12.7 PPG), while the heart and soul of this team is in the motor of F Tyler Roberson (9 PPG, 8.4 RPG), who may play the biggest role in Saturday’s game as he tries to keep up with North Carolina’s talented frontcourt. The 6-foot-8 Roberson is averaging 11.8 rebounds per game in the NCAA Tournament.

    While there’s a not-rooted-in-logical-science argument that “it’s tough to beat the same team three times in a season,” North Carolina is in good position to dispatch Syracuse on Saturday and move into Monday’s national title game. They have a potent interior attack, led by one of the best frontcourt players in the nation in senior F Brice Johnson (17.1 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 61.6% FG). Interestingly enough, when these two teams met in Syracuse it was Johnson’s passing out of the high post (8 assists) that gave the Orange fits. Johnson went back to his standard double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) in North Carolina’s home win. Emerging F Isaiah Hicks (9.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 61.4% FG) had a few eye-opening individual plays versus Notre Dame and put in 13 points and 7 rebounds in the second-round win over Providence. Hicks’ play is key because of his past success this season against the Orange (9-14 FG, 31 points and 14 rebounds over two games). His motor and athleticism mirror that of Syracuse’s Roberson. Williams isn’t afraid to turn to Hicks over starting F Kennedy Meeks (9.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG), who only played 27 minutes over the two games against the Orange. Regardless of which rotation coach Williams goes with up front, the Tar Heels will have a massive rebounding advantage over the Orange, who struggle to keep teams off the offensive glass. At 12.7 offensive rebounds per game, North Carolina is fourth in the nation crashing the boards. While North Carolina on paper doesn’t seem to be the type of team to scare Syracuse from deep, G Marcus Paige (12.3 PPG, 3.7 APG) is having an NCAA Tournament to remember. Finally looking like the all-league guard he was two seasons ago, Paige is 13-27 (48.1% 3PT) over his last four games. If Virginia guard London Perrantes scared the Syracuse zone, then Paige should be forcing the Syracuse coaching staff into a frenzied sweat with the way he’s shooting the ball. Pairing with Paige are steady sophomores in G Joel Berry II (12.8 PPG, 3.6 APG) and G Justin Jackson (12.2 PPG, 2.9 APG). Both are poised with good basketball IQs, combining for 26 PPG in the NCAA Tournament and 6.3 assists to just 1.8 turnovers per game.


    ‘Final Four betting preview’

    No. 2 Villanova Wildcats vs. No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners (+2, 144.5)

    Game to be played at NRG Stadium, Houston, TX

    Buddy Hield has turned the NCAA Tournament into a personal highlight reel and the stage gets bigger Saturday when he leads Oklahoma into their first Final Four game in 14 years against Villanova in Houston. The Sooners’ senior scored 37 points in the Elite Eight victory over Oregon last weekend, is averaging 29.3 on 56.7 percent shooting in the tournament and presents a skill set that will dominate the Wildcats’ pregame preparations.

    “The way people are guarding Buddy and getting into him, it impacts everything,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger told the media. “It helps create opportunities going at the goal and maybe when two guys are on him one guy might roll and we can get a lob. … So how defenses cover Buddy effects everyone.” While Hield is the unquestioned star of the Final Four, Villanova can come at you in waves with four players averaging double figures in the tournament. Three of them – Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins – scored 13 points apiece in the 64-59 victory over Kansas in the South Region final last Saturday which pushed the Wildcats into the Final Four for the fifth time in school history and the second time under coach Jay Wright, who also led his 2009 team to the national semifinals. These teams met Dec. 7 in Hawaii and the Sooners rolled 78-55 behind 19 points from Isaiah Cousins and 18 from Hield.

    TV: 6:09 p.m. ET, TBS


    Villanova – Open 20/1, Current 5/2
    Oklahoma – Open 30/1, Current 7/2

    Oklahoma opened as 1-point pups versus Villanova and the line quickly moved in the direction Wildcats. Villanova move to -1.5, then to -2, before peaking at -2.5. Since then some action has come back on the Sooners moving the line to the current number of Villanova -2. Meanwhile, the total has plummeted down since opening at 150, coming all the down to 144.5. Check out the complete line history here.

    “It will be interesting to see how playing in a big football arena will affect the three-point shooting of both teams, especially since both squads rely heavily on the outside shot and will now be dealing with unusual sight lines. Both teams average 24 three-point attempts per game which equates to 42 percent of Villanova’s total field goal attempts and 40 percent of Oklahoma’s total shot attempts per game. Extreme variance in three-point shooting accounted for Oklahoma’s easy 23-point win on December 7th as a 5-point underdog when they faced Villanova in Hawaii. The Sooners shot 14-for-26 (54%) from beyond the arc, while the Wildcats were just 4-for-32 (13%). Villanova actually held a 52 percent to 41 percent shooting edge from two-point range in that game.” – Steve Merril.

    “We haven’t had to move off our number of Villanova -2 as we are seeing great two way action on both sides of the line with just over 50 percent on Villanova to cover the 2-point spread against Oklahoma. The 145.5 point total has just over 60 percent of the action on the Over.” – Michael Stewart of Carbon Gaming.

    ABOUT VILLANOVA (33-5, 19-17-1 ATS, 19-17-1 O/U):
    Coach Jay Wright knows his team was already manhandled by the Sooners and is well aware of the fact that Houston is not too far from the Oklahoma campus, but he saw his team knock off the favored Jayhawks last week and said he feels he has another positive development on his side. “When we played Oklahoma earlier this season, Jalen (Brunson) was starting for the first time, Kris and Josh were starting for the first time,” Wright told reporters earlier this week. “We were an inexperienced team and it really showed, so I think we are a much more experienced team now.” That trio combined to go 1-of-16 from 3-point range against Oklahoma, but have posted a collective 42.6 percent mark from beyond the arc in the tournament.

    ABOUT OKLAHOMA (29-7, 14-20 ATS, 15-19 O/U):
    Guard Jordan Woodard has been the best of the supporting cast for Hield by averaging 16.8 points, while Cousins has struggled of late with a total of 13 points on 5-of-21 shooting over the last two games. Hield hit 8-of-13 3-pointers versus Oregon and has taken at least 10 triples in eight of his last 14 contests. The Wildcats will need to be on their game early as the Sooners have outscored their four tournament opponents by an average of 14.3 points in the first half.


    * Villanova is 4-0 ATS in its last four neutral site games.
    * Oklahoma is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 NCAA Tournament games.
    * Under is 8-1 in Villanova’s last nine games versus Big 12 opponents.
    * Under is 12-2 in Oklahoma’s last 14 games overall.

    Bettors are giving the slight edge to Villanova in this mathchup of No. 2 seeds, with 52 percent of wagers on the Wildcats. As for the total, 68 percent of wagers are on the over.


    1. Arcidiacono (16 points per NCAA game) and Wildcats C Daniel Ochefu (12.5) have shot 50 percent or better in all four tournament games.

    2. Hield has gone three consecutive games without a steal for the first time in his four-year career.

    3. Villanova shot a season-low 31.7 percent in the previous encounter.

    PREDICTION: Oklahoma 79, Villanova 78


    ‘Final Four betting preview’

    No. 10 Syracuse Orange vs. No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (-9, 144.5)

    Game to be played at NRG Stadium, Houston, TX

    North Carolina makes its record 19th trip to the Final Four and must beat ACC rival Syracuse for the third time this season Saturday in Houston to reach its 10th title game. The Tar Heels are the only top seed remaining in the NCAA Tournament field and upstart Syracuse navigated its way to a sixth Final Four from the 10th seed.

    Seniors Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige lead a North Carolina team that is averaging 89.3 points while winning by an average of 16 in the Big Dance, and has won nine in a row. Paige told reporters: “I think we always thought we were going to be the favorite because in our minds when we’re playing our best basketball, we feel we can’t be beat. So, that’s the mentality I’m sure all four teams have going in.” The Orange had lost five of six games coming into the NCAA Tournament, but have played their best basketball at the right time to move within a victory of meeting Oklahoma or Villanova in the final. “I think we learned lot about each other throughout the whole entire year, and all those things are paying off now,” Syracuse senior guard Trevor Cooney told reporters. “We’re sticking together, believing in each other, and good things happen when you do that.”

    TV: 8:49 p.m. ET, TBS


    Syracuse – Open 100-1, Current 10/1
    North Carolina – Open 8-1, Current 10/11

    North Carolina opened as nine-point faves for their Final Four showdown with Syracuse and have remained at that number. However, the Tar Heels have creeped up to -9.5 at some books. The total opened at 147 and has seen mostly under money since then, moving down to as low as 144.5. It has come back up to 145, where it currently sits. Check out the complete line history here.

    “The current betting odds give North Carolina an 83 percent chance of winning this game straight-up. The bigger question for most bettors is if Syracuse can stay within the large pointspread. The key will be if the Orangemen can slow down the pace of play and force UNC into a half-court game. Syracuse was unable to do this in the first regular season meeting on January 9th, losing by 11 points at home with the game going Over the total (157 points), however the Orangemen played better in the rematch on February 29th at Chapel Hill, losing by only 5 points with the game landing right near on the total (145 points).” – Steve Merril.

    “We have seen good two way action on our -9.5 point spread on North Carolina with with just over 55 percent of the action on the Tar Heels to cover. The 145 point total is also seeing solid two action with over 55 percent of the action on the Under.” – Michael Stewart of Carbon Gaming.

    ABOUT SYRACUSE (23-13, 20-15 ATS, 18-17 O/U):
    The Orange won their lone NCAA title in 2003 and boast a mix of veteran leadership with talented young players to go along with a Hall of Fame coach in Jim Boeheim. Senior Michael Gbinije tops the team in scoring (17.6) and boasts 91 3-pointers while recording double figures in points 37 straight contests and at least 20 in four of the past six games. Freshman Malachi Richardson raised his level of play in the NCAAs, including a season high-matching 23 points in the 68-62 Elite Eight victory over Virginia, and fellow freshman Tyler Lydon (10.2 points overall) is also a threat.

    ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (32-6, 19-18-1 ATS, 20-18 O/U):
    Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams’ Tar Heels began their winning streak with a 75-70 triumph against Syracuse on Feb. 29 and Johnson (17.1 points, 10.5 rebounds overall) has been a consistent force. The 6-10 All-American forward is averaging 21 points, 9.8 boards and shooting 63 percent from the field in the first four rounds while Paige drained 13-of-27 from 3-point range in the same span. Guard Joel Berry II has committed only four turnovers in the last six games while swingman Justin Jackson, a Texas native, is 6-for-13 from behind the arc in the NCAAs.


    * Syracuse is 6-0 ATS in its last six games versus a team with a winning percentage above .600.
    * North Carolina is 5-0 ATS in its last five games versus Atlantic Coast conference opponents.
    * Under is 4-1 in Syracuse’s last five NCAA Tournament games.
    * Over is 5-1 in North Carolina’s last six NCAA Tournament games.

    Bettors are giving the slight edge to Syracuse in this Final Four showdown, with 53 percent of wagers backing the Orange. As for the total, 59 percent of wagers are on the over.


    1. Cooney is 7-for-13 from 3-point range in the last four games and Syracuse F Tyler Roberson is averaging a double-double (10.3 points, 11.8 boards) in the NCAAs.

    2. Johnson, who has a school-record 23 double-doubles this season, is the first Tar Heel to register at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in three consecutive NCAA Tournament games.

    3. The Tar Heels, who are 7-4 all time against the Orange including an 84-73 victory at Syracuse in January, have won five NCAA titles and can break the tie for third-most with Duke and Indiana.

    PREDICTION: North Carolina 72, Syracuse 63



    Syracuse +9.5



    Risked 5 units to win 6
    Oklahoma U +120 vs Villanova

    Risked 5 units to win 4.76
    North Carolina -9 -105 vs Syracuse



    Steam Rot#: 813 Team: Syracuse/North Carolina
    UNDER 147

    Steam Rot#: 811 Team: Villanova/Oklahoma
    UNDER 148


    College Basketball Betting Trends – Sat – April, 2

    Villanova at Oklahoma, 6:05 ET
    Villanova: 12-4 ATS in non-conference games
    Oklahoma: 4-11 ATS after having won 4 of their last 5

    Syracuse at North Carolina, 8:45 ET
    Syracuse: 6-0 ATS as a neutral court underdog or pick
    N Carolina: 13-26 ATS in road games after 8 or more consecutive wins


    Sharp Final Four money on Sooners, books brace for big UNC action
    By Jason Logan

    The NCAA tournament is down to a pair of matchups, with Oklahoma taking on Villanova and North Carolina facing upstart Syracuse in the Final Four in Houston this Saturday. We talk to sportsbooks in Las Vegas and online about the action on both national semifinal showdowns.

    No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners vs. No. 2 Villanova Wildcats – Open: -1, Move: -2.5, Move: -2

    A pair of No. 2 seeds butt heads in Houston, with the high-powered offense of Oklahoma colliding with the lockdown defense of Villanova. Oddsmakers opened this pointspread as low as Villanova -1 and action on the Wildcats tacked on an extra point and a half at some books, which has now settled at two.

    According to John Lester, lines manager for online market Bookmaker, the early money on the chalk dictated the adjustment to the spread but there is push back from the public as tipoff on Saturday draws closer.

    “Still somewhat of a divide here as the sharper players are on Villanova while the public loves Buddy Hield’s Sooners,” says Lester. “The public has brought the line back to -2 and we have around 60 percent of the wagers on that side, but the total handle is slightly favoring the Wildcats.”

    In Las Vegas, MGM sportsbooks opened Villanova -1.5 and watched that line grow to -2.5 before sharp money bought back the Sooners with the half-point hook. That settled the line to -2, where they expect it to stay until game time.

    “They’ve sort of established the parameters that this number is going to bounce within,” Jay Rood, vice president of race and sports for MGM Resorts. “I think the public is going to be on Nova quite a bit.”

    At fellow Las Vegas sportsbook operator CG Technology, the Wildcats opened as 2-point favorites and have stayed there throughout the week. “We’ve taken mainly Nova bets but have not moved the number,” Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology.

    The total for the early Final Four game opened around 150 points and got as high as 150.5 at some online markets before money on the Under dropped the number to as low as 144.5 as of Thursday. In Las Vegas, the Over/Under opened around 146 and has also been bet down.

    No. 10 Syracuse Orange vs. No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels – Open: -10, Move: -9

    Syracuse’s improbable run to the Final Four has garnered a bulky spread for the national semifinals, opening as big as 10-point underdogs against No. 1 North Carolina. However, despite the oddsmakers opinion the early money has grabbed the Orange and trimmed as much as a point off the line.

    “It’s hard to call Syracuse a Cinderella,” says Rood, “but at this point we’re getting a lot of support for them from a parlay and public perspective. But that’s going to change. We’re going to see UNC get their normal backing and we’re going to need (Syracuse coach Jim) Boeheim to stay within the number if not win the game outright.”

    The moneyline for this game – odds to win the game outright – have been an interesting dynamic. MGM sportsbooks are predicting plenty of moneyline wagers on North Carolina, which is priced around -550, but over at CG Technology shops (which include The M, Cosmopolitan, and Venetian) the Orange have been the popular play to win outright, with their outright odds paying plus money.

    “We’ve taken Cuse moneyline bets but not enough to move the number off +380,” says Simbal.

    A similar lean toward the underdog Orange is happening online, where just about all early action is scooping up the pile of points with Syracuse. However, much like in their Nevada counterparts, offshore sites are bracing for big Tar Heel support come Saturday.

    “As the weekend rolls around, we anticipate booking a ton of action on North Carolina,” says Lester. “The spread percentage is fairly split, with 55 percent of money on the underdog.”

    The total for this No. 1 versus No. 1 matchup has also seem interesting action, with the number opening at 147 points and dropping to 144.5 as of Thursday. According to Lester, it’s been all Under money banking on the Syracuse zone to slow up the talent Tar Heels.

    “The total has been lopsided with the under garnering almost 70 percent of the action,” he says.



    *Final Four Triple (3*) ‘GOM’
    OVER – Syracuse vs North Carolina



    10* Villanova -2


    NRG Stadium producing insane totals trend heading into Final Four betting
    By Jason Logan

    The NCAA tournament Final Four and National Championship Game will call Houston’s NRG Stadium home for Saturday and Monday’s contests, pitting the surviving semifinalists in a hardwood battle in the middle of a football stadium.

    That shift in venue should pique the interest of anyone betting the Over/Under during the Final Four, with games inside NRG Stadium producing a 2-8 Over/Under record since 2010 – an 80 percent winning rate for the Under.

    Every year, the Final Four gets bigger and with that increased popularity comes an increase in venue size, leaving college basketball teams to struggle with strange sight lines and depth perception. The 71,500-seat stadium in Houston is a huge change from the smaller arenas and fieldhouses college programs are used to playing in, and that can make life rough on teams that rely on perimeter scoring.

    Shooters have a tough time gauging the distance to the rim with a distant backdrop toying with their depth perception, and it’s something that has shown up in past games held at NRG Stadium – formerly Reliant Stadium.

    According to KenPom, teams have shot just 32.2 percent from beyond the 3-point arc in games inside NRG/Reliant Stadium since it opened in 2002, which is four percent lower than their average shooting clip from distance. And in those past 10 games since 2010, teams shot a collective 33.9 percent, making 59 of a total 174 3-point attempts. Those 20 teams combined for an average total score of 123.6 points per game versus an average closing total of 136.2. That’s a difference of nearly 13 points, staying well below the number.

    The Final Four was last at NRG Stadium in 2011, with the three games (two Final Four, one championship) going 1-2 Over/Under. That included a historically bad shooting performance from the Butler Bulldogs – a team used to playing in small gyms – who shot just 18.8 percent in a loss to the Connecticut Huskies in the championship final, which played Under 131.5-point total.

    Since that game, there have been four college basketball contests hosted inside NRG Stadium and all four have gone Under. Those games averaged 125.5 total points against an average closing total of 138.5.

    The stadiums effect on outside shooting could be the driving force behind early action on the Under in both Final Four matchups Saturday. Oklahoma-Villanova opened with a total as high as 150.5 and that has been trimmed to 144.5 points. The Syracuse-North Carolina matchup has watched its total fall from 147 points to 144.5 since opening last weekend.

    And speaking of the Tar Heels, many media outlets expect the change in venue size to benefit the No. 1 seed due to their reliance on inside shooting rather than perimeter scoring. North Carolina attempts just 17 3-pointers per game, which ranks 302nd in the country. The other three contenders – Villanova (24.4/T-35th), Oklahoma (24.4/T-35th), and Syracuse (23.6/T-52nd) – all pend on taking and making a lot of outside shots.

    North Carolina is a 9-point favorite over No. 10 Syracuse at NRG Stadium, which has also been kind to favorites since 2010. In that 10-game span, teams giving the points are 9-1 SU and 8-2 ATS. Villanova is currently a 2-point favorite versus Oklahoma in the early semifinal showdown.


    NEWSLETTER College Basketball Prediction From Alan Harris

    Take ‘Over’ 145.0 Syracuse vs. North Carolina (8:45 p.m., Saturday, April 2)
    Two teams that have been trending to the over will meet when the Syracuse Orange take on the North Carolina Tar Heels at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX in the second of the two Final Four games taking place on Saturday night. The Orange have posted a 4-1 record to the over in their last five games where they were listed as an underdog of 7-12 points and they have gone an excellent 5-1 to the over in their last six neutral-site games where they were listed as an underdog by any number. The Tar Heels have been an over team as well in the spot they are in here tonight as they have posted a 5-2 record to the over in their last seven games following an ATS win and they have gone over the total in four of their last five NCAA Tournament games where they were listed as the favorite. Throw in the fact that these two teams have gone over a combined 35-14-1 in their last 50 neutral-site games and that’s where we’ll have our play in a game where we expect both teams to get up and down the court on Saturday night in Houston.

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