Here we are, the last college hoops weekend of the season. So let’s shut down.
There are four top-flight programs battling to net New Orleans in the Final Four with Kansas and Villanova battling for the second time in four tournaments and arch-rivals Duke taking on North Carolina in the Swan Song by Mike Krzyzewski.
How should we bet them? I got you. Here are my two game previews as well as three bets I have on Final Four matches.
Odds courtesy of WynnBET sports betting:
Let’s start with the big news around this game: Villanova goalkeeper Justin Moore injured his Achilles tendon in the final minutes of the Elite 8 team’s victory over Houston. Predictably, he will be out for this game, generating a ton of line movement in this game. Was the market change too big?
With or without Moore, the Kansas defense is possible. The team can be 17th in defensive efficiency adjusted by KenPombut is 47th in ShotQuality’s Adjusted defensive efficiency, which means that the team allows a good look at the opponents and should be much worse than its record indicates.
KU doesn’t force rotations (191st in rotation rate) and does well on defensive glass (159th in DREB%). Gillespie can create effective looks for this offense against a leaky defense that was ripe for regression throughout the tournament.
Moore’s loss will hurt on the perimeter against a sweet Kansas team, but the Jayhawks don’t allow a ton of 3s to start, the opponent’s 74th-lowest 3-point rate this season, and the Wildcats can use their reverse attack with Gillespie in the post to take advantage of the Jayhawks’ backcourt and finish inside. While Nova isn’t a big team by any means, they compare well to a small frontcourt rotation of David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot given their game zone defense that keeps teams out of the paint.
The Wildcats may have been mediocre on the glass this season, but they’ve shown they’re more than capable of hanging on the glass against an elite rebounding team in Houston on both sides of the court.
I’m not concerned about Villanova’s attacking top 10 finding answers on this side of the ball, but I still believe this line is an overreaction due to the stark contrast in styles.
Kansas wants to run, as it posted the 40th-fastest average possession length in the nation, but Nova posted the ninth-slowest. The team is great at limiting transition opportunities and if they can force the Jayhawks into a half court, I’ll be happy to have Villanova with the points.
If Wright and the Cats find a way to slow this game down to a half-court game, they can stay in that number. Yes, Moore’s loss is significant, but with Nova’s deliberate pace and Wright’s excellent game planning, I’m going to consider them a valuable underdog given there will be few possessions and I’m not confident in the KU Defense exposing Moore’s loss.
Most advanced metrics sites have ranked the Jayhawks as a 1-point favorite, including KenPom and Haselmetry. Even taking into account that the Wildcats closed as 3-point underdogs against Houston in the Elite 8, I don’t believe Kansas is 1.5 points better than the Cougars or that Moore is worth more than 1 point.
Let’s look at the other side, with Kansas closing as 6-point favorites against Miami in the Elite 8. Miami and Villanova without Moore aren’t separated by 1.5 points, which leads me to a Big East bet. Fields.
Also, I mentioned Nova’s deliberate pacing and how they’ll be looking to slow this game down. The team is running a very short rotation, so losing Moore is going to hurt in a way, but I think we see the Wildcats execute their terms early before Kansas adjusts. With limited possessions, in a football stadium (which always helps the unders), I would also lean towards the 1H Under.
PICK: Villanova +4.5 (2U), play at +4.1H Under 61.5
While I was skeptical of Duke’s prospects of making a Final Four, we saw them play at their absolute best, a level that cannot be matched by the remaining field.
The Blue Devils have never had to worry about talent, but they’ve had execution issues on both sides of the ball throughout the season, but in wins over Michigan State, Texas Tech and Arkansas, we’ve seen Coach K’s team set everything up. and look like the national championship contender they were meant to be.
As for this game, North Carolina thrived crushing their foes on the offensive glass and from the perimeter. The Blue Devils have the size to match Armando Bacot on the glass and also allow the 51st-lowest 3-point rate in the nation. So, can the Tar Heels take offense on the inside? The team is 128th in 2-point percentage over the past month.
On the other side, I will side with the overwhelming talent of Duke who can score both inside and outside around Paolo Banchero. While Banchero has become a monster in isolation situations, Duke has become the No. 1 offense in Ken Pom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating, Jeremy Roach and AJ Griffin’s play out of the likely top 3 will also be huge. Roach has scored in double figures in all but one game this tournament (9 in Elite 8’s win over Arkansas) and provided five assists twice. Roach has done a great job facilitating the offense so far, and the Blue Devils are posting the 13th-highest effective field goal percentage since March 1.
North Carolina likes to gang bounce and create second chances, but that can be a problem against a Duke club that can match the size of the Tar Heels on the glass. If UNC fails to win on the offensive glass, the Blue Devils’ elite transition offense can take over.
Coach K’s team are the elite at finishing on the rim and can also generate their own second chances with their size. Duke center Mark Williams will be key to Bacot on both ends of the court, but I’ll side with Duke’s perimeter threats to survive the Tar Heels’ aberrant fire during this tournament. The Tar Heels are shooting 35 percent from deep on 113 3-point tries in the tournament.
I alluded to it, but I love having Duke cover this game. I see them as a team that has fulfilled their potential, but also undervalued given the season gaps this season.
The first meeting ended with Duke -3.5 on the road and then -11 at home in Coach K’s final home game who had increased home court advantage factored in. Yes, UNC won that game and had a huge run in the tournament. as the No. 8 seed, but how much are we improving on the Tar Heels and how much are we neglecting Duke’s success in March?
If you subtract 4 points for home court in the last game between the two, you have Duke at -7. This game will be very competitive between two conference opponents, but I think the Blue Devils are undervalued in the betting market given the closing gaps of both teams and the cap on this roster compared to their main rivals. I can see them walking away late at the free throw line and covering.
CHOICE: Duke -4 (2U)
Get all the best Final Four bets from BetSided here!
You can find all of Reed’s bets HERE!