While this year’s episode of March Madness has seen some of the most elite programs in NCAA College Basketball get booted unceremoniously from the NCAA Tournament well before their expected time, it is perhaps a bit of a surprise that we’ve come all the way down to the NCAA Basketball Championship game with a #1 and a #2 seed still left standing, and the tournament favorite, the Kentucky Wildcats, looking well-positioned to fulfill their destiny as the team picked to win it all from the get-go. However, with the Wildcats facing a very capable, well-coached, and talented shooting team in the Kansas Jayhawks tonight for a 9:23 PM ET tip-off at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, once again we find ourselves up against an anything goes type of match-up for online sports betting in which by no means does the favored team have a guaranteed road to victory. As such, let’s try to look at some of the key factors for tonight’s game, as well as some key betting lines at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here on our website.
In a game that features some of the elite players in college basketball, the team that can keep the most of their top scorers on the court and out of foul trouble will have a major upper hand in tonight’s contest. This factor, which has been huge for the Kansas Jayhawks in particular all season long, will be especially crucial in what will be a physical, grinding game between two very talented shooting teams that like to push the ball under the basket. For Kansas, their star forward Thomas Robinson has to be as careful as possible on defense to avoid racking up fouls early on. The Jayhawks aren’t deep down low if Robinson gets in foul trouble, and without his efforts (averaging 17.7 points and 11.7 rebounds/game) available at every possible moment, the bigger, deeper Wildcats will have a huge advantage. Finding the most suitable defensive match-up for Robinson will be interesting to watch tonight, as most expect to see Michael Kidd-Gilchrist pairing up with Robinson in the paint. A versatile and extremely talented defender, Kidd-Gilchrist will have to keep Robinson frustrated, and avoid picking up fouls when Robinson clearly has his beat. With so many young Kentucky defenders in the paint, including Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones, Kentucky really has to be careful to avoid banging bodies too much with a stronger Thomas Robinson. However, if they can double team and frustrate Robinson into making poor shots, and force a offensive foul or two, UK has a big upper hand in tonight’s game without a doubt.
Another huge factor in tonight’s game is how the opening minutes play out. Kansas simply cannot afford to be trailing the game from the get-go like they were against Ohio State in the Final Four, and expect to be hanging around towards the end of the game. While Kentucky can use their depth and aggressive defense to overcome a built-up deficit from early in the game, Kansas may not have that luxury, especially considering their talent pool only extends so far. While its’ evident that Kansas’ two top starters, Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, once again have to be shooting well from the beginning, it’s perhaps even more important tonight that the Jayhawks lesser-known contributors get off to a solid early start as well. Jeff Withey, Kansas’ 7-foot center, must be a part of the early scoring discussion, as well as have a huge presence on defense against UK’s Anthony Davis. Kentucky is big in the paint, and will play physical inside, and Withey has to respond with an aggressive game, which has been sorely lacking in this year’s tournament. Aside from 15 points and 8 boards against North Carolina in the Elite 8, Withey doesn’t have another double-digit effort in scoring or rebounding during the Tournament, and was just 2-for-4 for 4 points and 8 rebounds against Ohio State on Saturday. One thing he has done well however, which will pay dividends in the title game, is his blocking ability. Jeff Withey is averaging 5.4 blocks/game during the 2012 NCAA Tournament, and up against Anthony Davis, who is averaging 4.4 blocks/game during the Tournament and is another elite shot-blocker, it will be crucial for Withey to hold his own on defense, and provide enough offense to force Kentucky to pay attention to him as well as Robinson.
Transition offense is once again a huge factor in tonight’s game, especially for Kansas. With both teams playing very well in set, half-court defensive schemes (Kansas averages 61.9 points/game to opposing offenses, Kentucky averages 59.0), the Jayhawks especially have to get out and run with the ball against a more lengthy and athletic Kentucky squad, that has a bigger and more capable defense courtesy of their size and speed at each position. Kansas must push the ball whenever they can, especially on turnovers and by getting quick outlet passes on defensive rebounds. Both Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson have great speed and can shoot the ball well, so getting into transition offense and driving towards the hoop before Kentucky can set up will be a key factor, especially with Kentucky having a size advantage on defense around the perimeter. For Kentucky on the other hand, who is equally adept at transition basketball, they’ll look to have Marquis Teague helping to push the pace, and hope to see good shooting nights from Doron Lamb and Darius Miller in particular. These two players take the most 3-point shots for UK, who shoots at a very solid 38.5 percent from 3-point range collectively (vs. Kansas’ %34.3), so with Lamb getting anywhere near his season average of %46.5 from deep, Kentucky will give Kansas a tough time trying to match 3-point production, and may force the Jayhawks to pull more attention away from bigger threats like Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who will be waiting to be fed the basketball should Kansas push too much towards defending outside.
Betting Lines for #1 Kentucky vs. #2 Kansas at Intertops Sportsbook
For the Championship game in the NCAA Tournament, we head to a champion-caliber sportsbook for the betting lines on tonight’s clash between two of the NCAA’s elite basketball programs. First up on the betting lines is a look at the money line, which finds the Kentucky Wildcats as fairly heavy favorites at -320 odds to win straight up, while the Kansas Jayhawks get +260 odds as underdogs. Although Kentucky has better depth, with Kansas’ solid defense and athletic ability making this match-up likely to go either way, the Jayhawks look to be the best bet for straight up pickers today, provided you’re comfortable backing a heavy underdog.
Against the spread is where things really start to get interesting. Kentucky is favored by 6 1/2 points, a margin which they’ve overcome in every tournament game thus far. For Kansas, a 6.5 point underdog in the title game is once again intriguing, considering that if Kansas can keep their players out of foul trouble, and can push the ball in transition, they’ll be more than in the hunt to cover the spread…they’ll be ready for a possible upset and an NCAA Championship trophy. As sports fans, we all hope to see a championship game come down to the wire, and after seeing Kansas’ remarkable comeback against Ohio State on Saturday, we’ll expect the Jayhawks to at minimum give a valiant effort down the stretch to cover the points spread as underdogs.
To the total points betting lines, the over/under for the final dance stands at 137.5 points. With Kansas knowing that it has to get out in transition to score against a Kentucky team that excels in set defense, expect this game to be fast-paced from the get-go. We know Kentucky can score regardless of what defense is in front of them, so the over/under really comes down to how well Kansas can shoot in the face of the Wildcats. If Kansas can move the ball like they did in transition against North Carolina, and has a hot hand from the onset, this game looks primed to push past the total points mark. If Kentucky can slow the transition offense of Kansas down and avoid turnovers, a defensive game will give the Wildcats an advantage, and will likely keep the points total under the mark.
In the final showdown of the NCAA Basketball season, expect a brilliant game between two of the elite programs in College Basketball, making for an outstanding opportunity for online sportsbook betting at one of the best sports betting sites reviewed right here. Whether you’re backing the favored Kentucky Wildcats or the underdog Kansas Jayhawks, there’s little doubt that the action of the championship game will become even more exciting with a stake in the game placed at a top sportsbook like the one at Intertops!