Duke, Wisconsin Meet for the Title Tonight

Badgers, Blue Devils
Badgers, Blue Devils

Wisconsin and Duke meet in what should be a great National Title game tonight.

Wisconsin (-1) vs Duke (O/U 140) – We’ve finally arrived at the National Championship game after 62 crazy tournament games (and four ridiculous play-in games) and we have Duke and Wisconsin fighting it out. These two played each other way back in early December in Madison in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Duke shot the lights out and handed the Badgers a rare home-loss by the score of 80-70.

Here’s my breakdown for tonight’s match-up.


How effective will Frank the Tank be tonight against Duke?

Duke on Offense/Wisconsin on Defense

There’s no question Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff will watch a lot of Wisconsin’s tape in their win over Kentucky. What they’ll be focused on is just how did the Badgers defend in the paint. The Blue Devils’ Jahlil Okafor might be just a freshman but he has a better inside game than most of the bigs for Kentucky so Wisconsin will have to vary when they double and when they don’t.

The Badgers are incredibly long and make moving the ball around the court difficult. Quin Cook will need to use his speed and quickness to create passing lanes and he’ll need to be the catalyst. Along with Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow, the Badgers will have their hands full because Duke holds an advantage in rebounding on the offensive end of the court.

Wisconsin on Offense/Duke on Defense

Duke hasn’t played defense this well in years. I’d go so far as to say that if they had played this well defensively in past tournaments then Coach K would have another title or two. The task will not be easy however because the Badgers can get scoring from so many different places. Obviously it starts with Frank Kaminsky, the National Player of the Year, who can score from inside or outside.

If Duke puts Okafor on Kaminsky, look for “The Tank” to take Okafor away from the basket at times and down in the post at times as well in an effort to get him into foul trouble. The other key for Wisconsin is Sam Dekker who is as difficult a match-up as there is on the court tonight. Dekker has the ability to both drive to the basket and shoot the three-ball as well. At 6′ 9″ Dekker makes it very tough on defenders who have to be careful not to give him too much room or he will pop the deep ball before you know it.

Where the Game May Be Decided

Badgers’ guard Bronson Koenig will need to play well. He’s going to be dealing with guards quicker than he is on both ends of the court. What that means is that the senior will have use his experience to find open shots and direct the offense to high-percentage opportunities. I think you’ll see Bo Ryan go with fellow guard Traevon Jackson as a change up because he gets to the basket better than Koenig does. Keep an eye on this combination. It the Wisconsin guards struggle, that favors Duke in a big way.

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in six of Duke’s last seven games… Wisconsin is 21-17-1 against the spread this season… Duke leads the all-time series with Wisconsin 2-1 (all three games since 2007). The Blue Devils are 23-14-1 against the spread in the 2014-2015 season.

The Pick: This is basically a pick’em game. There’s a lot to like about both team’s chances and we know that Coach K has won two of his four titles in Indianapolis. Wisconsin faced the highest seed possible in every game of the tournament and only three other one seeds have ever accomplished that on the way to the title. As much as I’ m thinking the Blue Devils will win this, I can’t help but take Wisconsin who has seemingly been on a mission all season. Take the OVER as well.


Favorites Help Public to Big Win Last Weekend


The NCAA Tournament’s second weekend was much kinder to the public bettor. It might take some time before bettors can recuperated all they lost during the first Thursday of March Madness to the sportsbooks but this past weekend bettors were able to win some of their monies back thanks to an array of favorites winning and covering.

The results from the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight helped recoup some losses, as the favorites helped the bettors hit back at the books on both Friday and Sunday when the favorites were an impressive 6-0 against the number.

One sportsbook said the weekend was the publics and Duke was their jackpot. He added that he knew what the books were looking at after Michigan State’s overtime win over Louisville that covered 2-5-point chalk.

Even though some sharp money came in over the weekend on the Gonzaga Bulldogs, that made it appear the action was more balanced, once the bettor popular Michigan State Spartans won by 6 to cover, all the action on live parlays swung to Duke.

On Friday, both Michigan State and Duke hurt the books as well. However, for the books there could be some relief. This weekend Duke plays Michigan State so the public will only be able to choose one.

On Sunday evening, Duke opened as the favorite by 4.5 points against Michigan State at most books both in Vegas and online with Bovada and topbet. However, that number was bet up with early Duke money to -5 in just two hours.

Kentucky on Saturday opened as 6-point chalk on books such as betonline and sportsbook.com. However, early money on Wisconsin pushed the line for the Wildcats down to just -5. The shortest spread the Wildcats have had the entire season was against Louisville on December 27 when the line was -5 to -5.5 and Kentucky covered with a 58-50 win.

One bookmaker believes that with all the close games that have been played that both of the Final Four games could be blowouts. He feels that Kentucky was given their biggest scare by Notre Dame on Saturday and will respond with two huge games over Wisconsin on Saturday and either Duke or Michigan State on Monday in the national championship game.

The public needs another strong Saturday and Monday if they hope to make back what they lost on opening Thursday. That will not be that easy since two of the most popular teams are facing off against one another when Duke plays Michigan State.

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Things to Know about the Sweet 16


The Sweet 16 lineup is complete following the first four-day weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Of the 16 teams, five are from the ACC, but surprisingly missing in that group of five is Virginia.

Most of basketball insiders have said all season that the Big 12 was the country’s top conference, but that likely is no longer the case. With five teams heading to the Sweet 16 from the ACC, the conference now can claim the prize of the best in the nation.

There is even a possibility of having a Final Four that is all ACC.

Four of the best Sweet 16 will be:

  • Wichita State vs. Notre Dame  - While Notre Dame is an excellent offense, Wichita State is strong at both ends. Fred VanVleet vs. Jerian Grant is one of the best point guard matchups you will find. The Shockers are lower seeded which is further proof they did not get any respect on Selection Sunday.
  • West Virginia vs. Kentucky – In 2010, the Wildcats were top seeded in the tournament and were bounced out prior to the Final Four and Bob Huggins, the coach of the Mountaineers devised the plan that eliminated Kentucky. Just because of that this matchup will be a must see.
  • Utah vs. Duke – Both the Utes and Blue Devils are solid offensive teams and suggest that this could be the game that will be the closest of all of the Sweet 16 matchups. With a strong guard on both teams and a dominant big man on both, this will not be an easy game for Duke.
  • North Carolina vs. Wisconsin – Both these teams were preseason top 10 schools, making it the only game of the 8 in the Sweet 16 between two preseason top 10 teams. Wisconsin was third while the Tar Heels were sixth.

All four of the top four teams in the preseason top 10 – Kentucky, Arizona, Wisconsin and Duke remain in the tournament and six of the 10 – North Carolina and Louisville remain overall.

Defense has been called what wins championships, but this game is all about putting the ball in the hoop and six of the top seven teams in the nation at scoring remain in the Big Dance.

The best offensive team is Wisconsin that remains and they are No. 1, the worst is Louisville at No. 74. The best defensive team is Kentucky at No. 1 and the worst Notre Dame at No. 103.


Three Intriguing Round of 32 Matchups


For only the first time in the past 8 seasons, there were no upsets in the matchup between No. 5 and No. 12 seeds in the round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament. That in turn helped set up round of 32 matchups between No. 4 seeds and No. 5 seeds for the opportunity to play in next week’s Sweet 16 to the winner.

For the first time in the past 8 seasons, Louisville seeded No. 4 will be an underdog during the round of 32. The Cardinals face Northern Iowa the No. 5 seed in Seattle on Sunday in the West Region. The Panthers were 1-point favorites to open according to Bovada and betonline. However, they were bet up and currently are 2.5-point favorites to beat Louisville, which was nearly upset in the round of 64 by UC Irvine the No. 13 seed as 8.5-point chalk on Friday.

Over its past 21 games played Northern Iowa is 20-1 straight up and 14-4-3 against the spread. In the round of 64, the Panthers routed Wyoming the No. 12 seed 71-54 as 6.5-point favorites.

Louisville has covered just 2 of its past 9 games overall and have performed well the past three weeks.

Another big game will take place in the Midwest Region, when Kansas No. 2 in the region will play Wichita State the No. 7 seed. The Jayhawks are currently a favorite by 1.5 points after it opened at -2 and was bet up at one point to -2.5.

Kansas has struggled the last part of the season before routing New Mexico State by 19 points to cover it 9.5-point favorites line.

Wichita State had won 9 straight before losing to Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Conference semifinals, but returned to win in the round of 64 over Indiana on Friday.

Another great matchup and possibly the most intriguing of all is Virginia the No. 2 seed play Michigan State the No. 7 seed. Last season the two met in the Sweet 16 in which the Spartans, seeded No. 4 defeated the No. 1 seeded Cavaliers.

Virginia currently is favored by 5 points. The Cavaliers defeated a valiant Belmont team 79-67 in its first game as 16-point chalk, while Michigan State beat Georgia 70-63 to cover as a 6-point favorite.

According to basketball odds makers at topbet and sportsbook.com, neither team played that well in their round of 64 games, but that is hard to go by as teams find ways to survive bad games and turn things around the next game. Those who can overcome bad shooting, foul trouble and turnovers to still win often times turn out to be the national champion.


Favorites Strong Run Cannot Slow Sportsbooks Down


The favorites were able to close out the NCAA Tournament round of 64 on the run, but the slew of underdogs that came out on top in Thursday’s 16 games helped sportsbooks keep smiling as the tournament headed into the round of 32 this weekend.

During the round of 64, the favored team was victorious in 25 of the final 26 games including winning 15 of the 16 games played Friday. That run started when Xavier who was favored, defeated Ole Miss on Thursday and continued on until Friday’s last game when Dayton an underdog defeated Providence.

The favorites are winning, but not always by enough to cover the number. Underdogs were 8-8 against the number Friday and 20-12 against the number over the two first days of the NCAA Tournament.

Thursday was a huge day said one sportsbook. According to some, the day was the biggest single day win for the sportsbooks in memory.

Including the Tuesday and Wednesday First Four matchups, the underdogs covered the number in the tournament’s first 10 games. Favorites were 4-12 ATS on Thursday. Two No. 14 seeds UAB and Georgia State won straight up over No. 3 seeds as double-digit dogs, damaging the brackets and ripping apart moneyline parlay across the board.

According to Bovada and topbet, the sportsbooks did not make a clean sweep of the boards but they came darn close.

The public bettor is not the most sophisticated during March when celebrations of spring break collide with basketball’s March Madness. The public usually will fancy the favorites and the parlays at long odds. However, when a run of underdog covers takes place, as they did on Thursday, the books are the big winners.

Even Hampton, the No. 16 seed, the largest tournament dog in the NCAA in the past 16 years has its believers. Hampton lost as the great majority of the betting, sharp money and basketball fans in general figured they would.

However, they were 35-point dogs and lost by just 23. It was the biggest spread in the NCAA Tournament since 1999 when Duke was a favorite by 47 points over Florida A&M.

There were a number of moneyline bets for Hampton at 150 to 1 odds and all that money stayed with the sportsbooks.

The tournament continues on Saturday with eight games and another eight on Sunday to whittle the field to just 16 for the start of the Sweet 16 next Thursday.

There are sure to be many more upsets and dogs covering before this tournament has concluded.


NCAA Tournament Lines Will Start Moving Today


With the Round of 64 starting Thursday, the real March Madness begins for online sportsbooks and casinos throughout Nevada. Thousands of college basketball bettors are sitting at computers or in casino sports salons looking to find the best value for their bets for Thursday’s first 16 games followed by another 16 on Friday.

The majority of movement on the lines will take place, as each game gets closer to tip off. Only a few games have seen movements in their lines of 1 or more points but that should change once bettors begin flooding sportsbooks Thursday morning and afternoon.

Some of the sharps have already started to bet picking up numbers, totals and moneylines that look solid to them.

Kentucky, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region and the overall No. 1 seed will take on Hampton who as a 9-point dog defeated Manhattan Tuesday in one of the First Four games between two No. 16 seeds.

Kentucky opened -32 against Hampton early Tuesday, but that was up to -34 within hours, which has been the biggest move of any line to date.

Hampton was under .500 on the season and could be without a top player, but even if he plays, the game will be a struggle for them. Dwight Meikle the team’s leading scorer has had a high ankle sprain. Of course, one worry for John Calipari the Kentucky coach is how will his far more talented team come out to play for this matchup.

What will happen when the Wildcats go up by 20, 30 or more? Will they stomp down on the gas and blow their opponent out or will they back off. It is difficult to call and that is why taking such a high spread is a difficult pick.

Four other games scheduled for Thursday and Friday have seen movement of more than a point, but not anything more than that. Each of the four games will be played on Friday. Amongst them is Kansas a No. 2 seed dropping from -12 chalk to -10 against New Mexico State and San Diego State at No. 8 moving from -1.5 up to -3 against St. John’s a No. 9 seed. Louisville is now -8 as No. 4 seed and UC-Irvine a No. 13 seed and Northern Iowa is -6.5 as a No. 5 against Wyoming the No. 12 seed.


NCAA Tournament: Tips, Trends and Tidbits


March Madness begins in earnest this week as the NCAA Tournament tips off with play-in games prior to half the field playing on Thursday and the second half on Friday.

Before that, bettors are quickly preparing themselves to find the biggest value and best percentages for this season’s Big Dance.

The NCAA tournament continues get more and more unpredictable. Last year’s tournament saw 15 significant upsets during the tournament. A significant upset is when there is a gap between seeds of at least four.

The most balanced teams in the field are Kentucky, Arizona and Villanova. Kentucky is No. 2 in adjusted defensive efficiency and No. 6 in adjusted offensive efficiency. Arizona is No. 3 and No. 11 respectively in the two categories, while the Villanova Wildcats are No. 12 and No. 4.

None of the other teams in the field approaches the balance these two teams have. Duke, a No. 1 seed is No. 3 offensively but a dismal No. 57 defensively. Virginia is No. 1 in defensive efficiency but No. 26 on offense.

Since the field increased in 1985, the No. 16 seeds have an overall record of 0-120, while the No. 15 seeds are a combined 7-113.

One seed that has paid off well is No. 12. The No. 12 seeds over the past two seasons are 6-2 against the No. 5 seeds. At least one No. 12 seed has reached the second round in 13 of the last 14 years. Even more interesting is that the No. 12 seeds have a better winning percentage at 36.7% than do the No. 11 seeds at 34%. This year’s teams at No. 12 are Stephen F. Austin, Wyoming, Buffalo and Wofford.

The big question entering this tournament is if anyone can stop the Kentucky Wildcats. One coach that opposed the Wildcats this season, Bruce Pearl from Auburn said only three of the teams in the tournament have an opportunity to  defeat the Wildcats: Gonzaga, Duke and Wisconsin.

He liked Gonzaga because of its overall size and Kyle Wiltjer their All-American would love the opportunity to play against his former Wildcats coach. Pearl added that teams that want to beat Kentucky must be big, physical and shot well.

This season the Big 12 has been ranked the top conference of the season. However, the Big East, ACC, Big Ten, SEC and the Pac-12 also have strong competitors.

VCU is a No. 7 seed, but will be an underdog of 2.5 points against Ohio State.