Early Tournament Picks As Final Four Betting Lines Hit The Market

Kevin Stott

Monday, March 28, 2016 12:43 PM UTC

Monday, Mar. 28, 2016 12:43 PM UTC

NCAA basketball odds have Big East’s Villanova & the ACC’s North Carolina made Point Spread favorites in their Final Four games against Oklahoma & Syracuse respectively on Saturday.

So did the oddsmakers get it right? Let’s offer up a Final Four 1st Half and Moneyline pick and look into these two enticing matchups, examining any recent Trends, Streaks and seeing if these four teams in the Final Four have played each other enough to even use those numbers or if just trying to figure out what these current Rosters will do against each other this coming weekend is the best handicapping approach.


And Another Four and Another Four and Another Four Bite the Dust...
The World is a Vampire. On Saturday, the NCAA Tournament’s overall top-seed Kansas found that out as did the West Region’s #1 seed, Oregon, a team I had so much (blind) Faith in that I decided to place a stupid, small $10 recreational bet fairly early on in Pac-12 play on Oregon when the Ducks starting running good again and when the NCAA tournament odds seemed way out of whack (100/1, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) and when there was some perceived value. Well that recurring lesson that all value is all “perceived” until someone—and only one team—wins a Futures bet by winning that sport’s championship game, was learned once again this weekend when #2-seed Oklahoma ousted Oregon in the West Regional Championship Game in Anaheim. So $10 go poof. It’s okay brother, just join the mini-pile with Duke ($20, 12/1, June 22), West Virginia ($10, 30/1, Jan. 29) and Texas A&M ($5, 40/1, Jan. 29). We’re used to it o’er here.

The SuperBook has $45 more that it can apply to paying off one of those big-ass, new half-acre TVs it now has. My pleasure, Jay. And I shall be back again next NCAA Basketball season to back probably another four or more losers, but not Xavier, as after backing the Musketeers in this market probably five or six times in the last decade has left me bitter-er than I was before learning as a teenager that we have mites living in our eyebrows and that they are having more sex than we are. The little bastards. Making a Futures Book bet in the Men’s College Basketball market is almost always a good situation for the House and usually just a recreational novelty or small share of stock for the Sports Gambler holding that beloved and quite often emotional iticket. And Futures betting (and its popularity) is growing immensely. “People just love to have that ticket in their pocket,” South Point legend Jimmy Vaccaro said on Las Vegas radio last week when talking about the popularity of Futures bets adding that he thought there could be a record amount bet on this particular NCAA Tournament. And those were the sentiments on a TV interview from the SuperBook also. Another record. Until next year. And with the Apps, Mobile Wagering and In-Game Wagering all adding to the pot and making Sports Betting easier and more accessible, this is is all good progress for the House, so us players need to get smarter and more disciplined and realize when we’re betting a game just because it’s on TV, because we are chasing a loss or because we are just simply bored. Easier said than done, right?

And in all honesty, the Sweet Sixteen overall was pretty boring but the Elite Eight, although lackluster in terms of overall entertainment value had its moments with the Kansas-Villanova South Regional Championship Game from the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville on Saturday providing some pretty good College Basketball theater at times as did the Syracuse-Virginia Midwest Regional title tilt from Chicago on Sunday which saw the Orange use a massive 27-8 2nd Half rally to oust the Cavaliers and shock the world and make the Final Four and make all us so-called experts look really dumb. Syracuse has three Regular Season Losses to Pittsburgh? Off with their orange-bleeding heads—not you Boehner—and off to the NIT Tournament...except the Midwest Region #10-seed Syracuse and seniors Michael Gbinije and Malachi Richardson can now win the National Championship now (33/1 to win NCAA Championship, Ladbrokes). Nothing big. But despite their importance and the names of the teams in the games, some of these NCAA Tournament games (from Thursday to Sunday) were less March Madness and more March Drabness and without gambling, some of those Sweet Sixteen matchups would end up unwatchable although the Elite Eight sort of made up for it all. You never know. It’s almost impossible to figure out which games will thrill and which games will require pills as they usually all look pretty darn good on paper (or your Computer, Wireless Device or Smartphone) beforehand. Quite often sports gambling becomes the Salt, Pepper and A-1 Sauce that ends up making the steak edible and actually appetizing. And in the end, it seems the winner of the Big Dance always ends up coming from east of the Mississippi River and from either one of the ACC, Big East, SEC or Big 12 conferences. And so it goes.


Final Four Game 1 – Saturday, April 2, 2016, NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas

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Oklahoma Sooners vs. Villanova Wildcats. Two #2 seeds in the first of the two Final Four matchups with the West Region-winning Oklahoma Sooners (29-7 SU, 14-20-0 ATS) taking on the South Region-winning Villanova Wildcats (33-5 SU, 19-17-0 ATS). Sportsbooks currently have Villanova as 2- (Pinnacle) to 2½-point favorites (South Point) here with the game’s Total (Points) set at 147½ (South Point). In the Money Line (Winner) marketplace, Villanova is -145 favorite (bet365) with Oklahoma priced at +125 as the Underdog and this is one of those games where Sports Gamblers and Radio personalities could make a decent case for this being closer to a Pick ‘Em game with neither side having that much of a discernible edge and if anyone would, it should probably be the Sooners who arguably played in the toughest overall Conference this year (Big 12) and who have possibly the nation’s best overall player (Buddy Hield). The Villanova Wildcats Total Team Points has been set at 74½ (Under -137, Paddy Power) while the Oklahoma Sooners Total Team Points is at 72½ (Over -125, Paddy Power). The 1st Half line has Villanova as tiny 1-point chalks (-115, William Hill) with the 1st Half Total at 68½ (at William Hill). Heading into the Final Four, the highest Futures Book price on Villanova is +270 (10Red) with the best number on Oklahoma to be found (for now) at Euro-operators Ladbrokes and Paddy Power who both currently have the Sooners priced at +333 to win the NCAA Basketball National Championship next Monday.


Oklahoma Will be Seeking a Faster Pace, Villanova Will Want a Chess Match Type Slugfest
If there are voices wondering how Villanova is a 2½-point favorite in this game, count mine as one of them. The oddsmakers have the Computers and the and can run a game a million times (Science) and have all the Human Personnel, but it seems a matchup between these two teams at this point in time is a dead-even thing. And it’s not that the 2 or 2½ points will even probably matter in the end—the winner will likely cover ATS—but it’s that Oddsmakers have chosen to make Villanova (3/1 to win South Regional, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) the distinct favorites that seems to stand out. On the surface—and as mentioned—it seems Oklahoma played in the stronger overall conference (Big 12) and played the tougher schedule, will have the best player on the court (Buddy Hield) on its side and may have some sort of a Geographical Advantage with the game being played at NRG Stadium and in the nearby city of Houston and just a hop-skip-and-a-jump-shot away in the Lone Star State, meaning that more fans for Oklahoma (80-5 AF-70.4 AA) should be there and that it will be much easier (and cheaper) for Sooners fans to attend on Saturday.

And the Syracuse fans in attendance may be so ingrained to dislike Villanova through the years that they will naturally be pulling for the Sooners. Just a thought. Or maybe they pull for their own Conference-mates? Either way, the Point Spread seems dumb and nobody should really be favored. Therefore, seeking out the best Moneyline price on Oklahoma (2-7 L9 ATS, W2 ATS) and Mr. Hield and making a move early on seems like the best advice. And the best available Moneyline price from the Don Best, Oddschecker and VegasInsider screens right now (early Sunday evening) is the +130 showing at 5Dimes and at Bookmaker. If there is Villanova money and this line does move to 3 in the week (6 days) there is to bet on this Final Four affair, expect those 3’s to be gobbled up quickly. Villanova (77.5 AF-63.6 AA) will try to slow the pace down and make it a physical game and limit second-chance opportunities for the Sooners underneath and to try to make Life hard for Hield, as Kansas sparkplug DeVonte' Graham effectively did against him earlier this Regular Season. But Hield (25.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg) seems to be feeling it these days and has some Stephen Curry touch going for him and with fellow backcourt mate Jordan Woodard (13.0 rpg, 3.0 rpg, 3.4 apg), the sky’s the limit for Oklahoma (9/4 to win West Regional, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook).

These two met earlier this season at Villanova and Oklahoma won 78-55 as 5-point underdogs—another reason to like the Sooners here. The Total was 145, so the 133 actual points scored went Under the Total and the 147½ up for this game is similar to that Regular Season meeting. Villanova is 2-1 ATS in 3 games lifetime with the Under 2-1, being the L2 in a row. And, all three SU wins in this series have been by double-digits (23, 16 and 11). But all that is meaningless now. Trend-wise, the Under is 8-1 in the L9 Villanova games against the Big 12 and the Under is 12-2 ATS in the L14 Oklahoma games overall but the Over is 10-3 in the Wildcats L13 games overall. Side-wise, the Sooners are just 2-7 ATS in their L9 overall while Oklahoma is a dismal 4-13 in its L17 games played on on a Saturday. More meaninglessness.


Final Four Game 2 – Saturday, April 2, 2016, NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas

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Syracuse Orange vs. North Carolina Tar Heels. The second Final Four matchup sees the Midwest Region-winning Syracuse Orange (23-13-0 SU, 20-15-0 ATS) taking on the East Region-winning North Carolina Tar Heels (32-6 SU, 19-18-1 ATS) at NRG Stadium in Houston on Saturday. Offshore Sportsbooks currently (late Sunday night) have North Carolina installed as 9- (Heritage) to 9½-point favorites (Sportsbook.ag) favorites here with the game’s Total (Points) set at 144½ (at Heritage). In the Money Line (Winner) marketplace, North Carolina is priced at -490 with Syracuse at +306 on the takeback (at Pinnacle). The 1st Half and Team Totals markets hadn’t opened yet at press time. Heading into the Final Four, the highest Futures Book price on #10-seed Syracuse is 12/1 (Ladbrokes, Stan James) with the best number on North Carolina to be found (for now) at British operator Ladbrokes and at William Hill who both have Brice Johnson and North Carolina currently priced at +120 to win the NCAA Championship.


Syracuse Will Be Able to Believe No Matter What the Potential Deficit
Syracuse was 30-1 to win the Midwest Regional (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) and the team many thought shouldn’t have even made the Field of 68 in favor of other deserving schools like Monmouth, St. Bonaventure, Valparaiso, South Carolina and San Diego State, now has a chance to send Head Coach Jim Boeheim off into the orange Sunset as a champion, just like the NFL’s Denver Broncos did with QB Peyton Manning if the 114-year-old Tennessee product is indeed retired. Good QBs are hard to find these days and game managers are acceptable in some, if not many quarters these days. As Gasoline was in the Mad Max movies, so are QBs in the NFL. But we’re talking Hoops here and not Pigskin and the truth is it will be hard for the Orange to get Jimmy his silverware as a North Carolina, Oklahoma-Villanova winner path is a bitch, but if Syracuse somehow gets to Monday’s Championship Game (April 4) and Villanova awaits, the familiarity of the foe will be a big advantage for the team for upstate New York who at that point can’t help but think that Destiny is on their side. The Total seems low, but you know Boeheim will try to slow it down and hope his shooters are on instead of having a track meet evolve where the team with the loaded Roster should roll by 10+. And no matter what the potential deficit to North Carolina (10/11 to win East Regional, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook), Syracuse will know it can come back because of what it has already been through in this prestigious Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament that most people thought they shouldn’t even be in... until now. And they have that funky Orange mascot thing always doing laps. That should be worth ½ a point itself on the NCAA tournament picks of the day.

But if the Tar Heels play the type of lockdown Defense like they did against Virginia in the ACC Conference Championship Game, then Syracuse may have trouble topping the 57-point mark and NC should get 70 one way or another. But like most competitive Basketball, it’s usually a game of runs and with Michael Gbinije (17.8 ppg), Machi Richardson (13.0 ppg) and Trevor Cooney (12.8 ppg) all well-versed in popping the 3, this will be tough game for bettors to back the Tar Heels knowing that if the Orange are on, they can fill it up quickly and rally from a 10-point (and more) deficit in the blink of an eye. This is a gritty team and logic dictates that Monmouth or St. Bonny’s wouldn’t have reached the Final Four. Not even close. This one is a tough handicap which may require more Time, information, critical thinking and specific niche markets to open up but it seems that either laying off and just watching it or banking on the athletic team from the ACC with star Johnson, Marcus Paige, Justin Jackson, Joel Berry III and Kennedy Meeks—all in double-digit scoring against the Fighting Irish on Sunday night—in one way or another is the best idea and early money may actually come in on the underdogs Syracuse who have W7 of the L8 ATS heading in here on Saturday. Woof?

Free NCAAB Final Four Picks
Oklahoma 1st Half +1 -105 at William Hill
Oklahoma Moneyline +130 at 5Dimes 

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