NCAA Tournament Picks: Back Oklahoma In Final Four Clash With Villanova

Jason Lake

Thursday, March 31, 2016 9:32 PM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 31, 2016 9:32 PM UTC

Who does No. 2 work for? The No. 2 Villanova Wildcats are 2-point favorites over the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday's NCAA Basketball odds board. Sounds about right.

Jason's 2015-16 record as of Mar. 31: 26-17 ATS, 1-4 Totals

Apparently we need some oxygen here at the home office. When we did our preliminary look at the National Semifinals of this year's March Madness tournament, we told you the No. 2 Villanova Wildcats were 2-point underdogs against the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners. Wrong. It's the other way around; despite enjoying up to 60-percent consensus in early betting, the Sooners opened at +1.5 and moved as high as +2.5 before settling back down to +2 as we go to press.

Well, phooey. That takes what would have been an easy NCAA Basketball pick and throws it into confusion. The lines for Saturday's game (6:09 p.m. ET, TBS) are tighter than a drum now, and the consensus at press time has narrowed to 52 percent for Oklahoma. Is there any betting value left on the Wildcats? We need some of that oxygen. No, Jeeves, the other mask. Thank you.


I'm Not Your Buddy, Friend
Let's start with the usual hoop nerd suspects and their projections for this matchup:

FiveThirtyEight (Elo): Villanova –1.5 to –2
Sports-Reference (SRS): Villanova –1.95

Yup, tighter than a drum. And as we might expect in a game without a clear public favorite – although we definitely think the Sooners fit reasonably well in that bucket. They've got brand-name recognition, and they've got senior guard Buddy Hield (28.7 PER, +11.9 BPM) draining 46.5 percent of his 3-pointers. Hield has already been named Sporting News College Player of the Year. The Wooden Award will almost certainly be next.


Pearl Harbor Job
If the betting public isn't going to provide us our profit margin against the NCAA Basketball odds, we'll just have to look at the matchup itself. These two teams met in the Pearl Harbor Invitational back in December, with Oklahoma routing Villanova 78-55 as a 5-point underdog. The 'Cats shot just 4-of-32 from behind the arc; the Sooners were 14-of-26, with Hield canning four of his nine attempts.

Saturday's game probably won't be as lopsided, but the Sooners do present the same matchup problems. Villanova loves to jack up the 3, but their volume (No. 7 in Division I) is more impressive than their 35.4-percent accuracy (No. 139). Oklahoma has both qualities in spades, ranking No. 19 in 3-point attempts and No. 2 in accuracy at 42.8 percent.

At the other end of the court, the Sooners have at least some stopping power at the perimeter, holding opponents to 33.1 percent shooting (No. 96). The Wildcats don't offer quite as much jam at 33.7 percent (No. 132). Villanova will probably have to do its damage inside to win this NCAA Tournament game, but again, the Sooners match up well defensively – maybe even better than they do outside. We'll recommend a tiny bet on Oklahoma given the clash of styles, and as always, may the sphere be with you.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Oklahoma +2.5 
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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