NCAA Tournament Picks: Best Final Four Lines On Offer

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, March 31, 2016 10:57 PM GMT

Thanks to the Final Four, this year at NRG Stadium in Houston, Saturday is one of the great sports days of the year. But, sadly, it's also the last weekend of NCAA basketball action until November. Here are my NCAA Basketball picks for the two national semifinals.

No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 2 Oklahoma (+2, 145.5)
This spread opened with OU at +1 at many sportsbooks but Villanova is only taking a slight lean. The 'under' is being hammered, however, as that opened as high as 150. That's interesting as it would presume Villanova's stellar defense will be able to contain the star of this tournament, Oklahoma senior Buddy Hield. He is averaging a cool 29.3 points in the four games in this Big Dance, hitting 56.7 percent from the field and 47.5 percent from long range. Hield is also chipping in 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 assist per game. Hield is the +350 second-favorite to win Most Outstanding Player. Could he win it even if the Sooners don't win the title? Only one player, future Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, won MOP on a team that didn't cut down the nets. Olajuwon did so in 1983 when his heavily favored University of Houston team was shocked 54-52 in the national title game by NC State thanks to the greatest ending in tournament history. Hield was named a  unanimous first-team AP All-American this week but lost out on AP Player of the Year honors to Michigan State's Denzel Valentine. Clearly the Villanova defense is going to make Hield's teammates win this game.

Villanova was dominant in the first three rounds of the NCAA Tournament and then took out No. 1 overall seed Kansas, OU's Big 12 foe, 64-59 in the Elite Eight. The Jayhawks were one of the best offensive teams in the nation during the season. The 59 points was a season-low. KU was forced into 16 turnovers against Villanova and shot only 6-for-22 from long range. KU's best player, forward Perry Ellis, had just four points on five shot attempts. Good luck keeping Hield to five shots. Villanova played Oklahoma on Dec. 7 in Hawaii and suffered its worst loss of the season, 78-55. The Wildcats shot 31.7 percent from the field and went 4-for-32 from 3-point range. Hield was largely kept in check that day, hitting just 6-for-17 for 18 points. But four other Sooners had at least 11 points. OU was one of the country's top 3-point teams during the season and hit 14-for-26 in that game. You can beat anyone shooting that well. But it's not happening again.

Villanova has actually been more efficient on offense in this tournament, hitting better than 55 percent from the field and 46 percent from 3-point range. OU is shooting 48.5 percent overall and 44 percent from deep. Nova is far superior defensively so if these teams are even close offensively, the Cats win and cover. And that's the pick. Go 'under' the total with your NCAA Basketball picks. Oklahoma is just 2-7 ATS in its past nine games. The 'under' is 12-2 in OU's past 14.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Under 145.5
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker

 

No. 10 Syracuse Vs. No. 1 North Carolina (-9, 145.5)
This was given the prime-time spot for the Final Four. That makes sense as they are two much  more storied programs than Villanova and Oklahoma, and UNC is one of the three top brands in all of college basketball, probably behind only Duke and Kentucky. In a way, this Final Four matchup is a nightmare for the NCAA, however. North Carolina is still awaiting its punishment from the NCAA for a widespread academic scandal at the school involving athletes. The university found 18 years of academic fraud, in which players were steered toward classes that didn't exist in order to keep them eligible. Coach Roy Williams has never been accused of anything, but you have heard rumors he might retire after this season because of potential impending sanctions and his health. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was stripped of more than 100 wins and suspended nine games earlier this season for serious NCAA violations under his watch. He already has said he would retire in two years. But might Boeheim move that up with an unlikely national title?

I previewed this game in depth here at SBR and recommended taking the points and going 'under' the total at 145.5 NCAA Basketball odds. The 'under' has taken significant lean at books moving from an open of 147.5 to its current number. The spread hasn't really moved as it's been just a slight Syracuse lean, but it's expected all the sharp money will roll in on North Carolina by tipoff so that number could potentially rise by then. One player prop I will address here is on UNC's Brice Johnson, who was named a consensus first-team All-American this week. Johnson has been spectacular in this tournament, averaging 21.0 points and 9.8 rebounds and is the +220 favorite at sportsbooks for Most Outstanding Player. His totals for this game are 21 points and 11 rebounds. If SU is going to win, much less cover, it has to shut him down and that 2-3 zone does clog the middle. Johnson averaged 15.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in two wins vs. Syracuse this season.

'Under' on both for Johnson. Orange will make the Heels win this game from outside.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Syracuse +9.5 & Under 145.5
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker