Oh sure some will take long shots and every now and again one will come in, but is that smart betting? Winning a futures wager is knowing what to look for and expect.
Matchups, NBA Talent and the No. 6 is what matters
For a team to reach the Final Four, you have to have certain elements. First and foremost is talent, preferably a NBA quality guard at least 6’3 and one big man who is 6’8 or taller, who also has the ability to play at the next level. Everyone making NCAA basketball picks hears how important guard play is in the tournament, which is true, but you also need a player or players who can score in the paint and protect the basket on defense.
Next in looking over the betting odds is how the matchups play out in trying to figure who can advance. If any top team has a particular weakness which a potential opponent could exploit, this could spell doom for them.
Lastly is the No. 6 (or also No. 4 for this article), what teams have the ability to win four consecutive times and ultimately six straight games to win the national championship. At this time I would not consider anyone from Round 1 (March 18 or 19) as a viable candidate.
The Candidates (includes most recent sportsbook odds)
Florida (+450) – This veteran team is loaded with experience from top to bottom and knows how to win. Scotty Wilbekin is the best two-way guard in the country and Casey Prather and Michael Frazier III make shots when it counts. In the paint Patric Young, Dorian Finney-Smith and Will Yeguete find ways to score and defend furiously. This is a team with offensive shortcomings, but they can lock down any offense and find ways to generate points off the defense. This is a tough-minded group.
Kansas (+700) – After starting 5-0, the Jayhawks lost their way and were 4-4 over their next eight games and drifting. However, since the advent of Big 12 play, Bill Self’s team has regained its confidence and each player better understood their roles. Naadir Tharpe improved as point guard and Andrew Wiggins stopped playing like a freshman and followed the lead of fellow forward Perry Ellis in being consistent. The potential of center Joel Embiid is limitless and this team in second in the country in two-point percentage accuracy, which helps prevent scoring droughts.
Michigan State (+700) – Reports out of East Lansing say there is a good chance the Spartans will be a completely healthy team by next week. If so, Tom Izzo’s team becomes a front-runner to reach the Final Four, with their vast assortment of offensive weapons and no team can move the ball up the floor faster for buckets. The concerns are finally playing together for continuity purposes and the uncharacteristic defense lapses this team has. Every Izzo coach team has seen each four-year class reach the Final Four at least once, will the tradition continue?
Arizona (+100) – The loss of Brandon Ashley took the Wildcats from probably the odds on favorite to a contender. The only question of this squad is can they score enough to come from behind if needed and will their unstable free throw shooting hurt than at crunch time. Defensively, Arizona is No.1 in the country in true field goal percentage and they have tenacious defenders like guard T.J. McConnell and Aaron Gordon.
Louisville (+1000) – The defending champs are lying in the weeds going unnoticed by many. Obviously this squad knows what it takes and players like Russ Smith, Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock are battle-tested. The Cardinals have had problems with size and this could be their downfall.
Syracuse (+1200) – Still a very good team despite recent losses, but guards have to play well and score and they are not as active on the front end of the 2-3 zone as in prior years. The Orange can defend near the rim and for teams not having faced their defense, it is problematic.
Wichita State (+1200) – Made the Final Four last year thanks to a balanced offense and tough defense inside and out. No doubt a threat to return, but you have to wonder not playing Creighton two or three times in water-downed Missouri Valley will ultimately undo the Shockers if they reach the Sweet 16.
Kentucky (+1200) – Is there a team in the country the Wildcats cannot beat? The answer is no, nonetheless, they are inconsistent and on any given day, there is likely 25 teams which could knock off Kentucky.
Final Four Threats
Creighton (+2000) – Only Kansas can match what the Bluejays can do on offense in the tournament and Creighton has better three-point shooters. This is the Bluejays best defensive squad in Doug McDermott’s four years and playing in the Big East makes them more battle-ready. It would not be the first time a hot-shooting squad made the Final Four.
Wisconsin (+2000) – Since the beginning of February, the Badgers have been the best team in the Big Ten, which is not a surprise to those following the college basketball odds with Bo Ryan as head coach. This Wisconsin team might not have the defensive prowess of past Ryan teams, but this is his most versatile offense club with Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky and point guard Travon Jackson is clutch.
Michigan (+2500) – The Wolverines played for the title ago and have moments of sheer greatness allowing one to believe to believe they can return to the Final Four. The downside is they have players who disappear in games and in a one-and-done format that would prove deadly.
My Finals Four Picks – Florida – Arizona – Michigan State – Wisconsin