Each Final Four Team has a Flaw That Could Be Their Downfall


The NCAA Tournament’s Final Four will tip off on Saturday. Each of the four teams has won its four games to reach this point and fans know the strengths of each team, but what weakness or weaknesses could spoil their national championship dreams.

Duke defeated Gonzaga despite big man Jahlil Okafor having an off night. The Blue Devils played tough defense and only had three turnovers in the game.

Kentucky is likely the best defensive team to ever play college basketball. Willie Cauley-Stein can play defense as well as anyone and alter shots. Add in another 8 or 9 players capable of staring for any other team and you have a recipe for success.

Michigan State has a mental toughness better than any of the other teams. Even though Travis Trice was cold and Denzel Valentine’s made a few too many errors, the Spartans over came that by leaving it behind and moving on.

Wisconsin is the consummate “team” in this Final Four. Everyone seems in sync and everyone knows where everyone should be and usually is, on the floor.

The four head coaches – Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan,  Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Kentucky’s John Calipari and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo – are four of the best in the history of college basketball. Each will have his team properly prepared for their Saturday game.

Even though all four are superb teams, just one will win the national championship.

Duke has great freshmen, of which three start, but take one of them out of the equation or neutralize Quinn Cook the team’s star senior guard and Duke has a huge problem on its hands.

Kentucky was lucky no to have Karl-Anthony Towns double-teamed by Notre Dame. Because of that, the Wildcats were 10 of 12 late in the game from the field. Towns shot 50%. If there is one slight crack in Kentucky’s armor, it is from the outside. The best possible way to beat them is sag on the inside and make them hit the outside shot all night. Oh, and if you can get Cauley-Stein in foul trouble it would help as well.

Michigan State knows it has its shortcomings. Izzo’s group of Trice, Valentine and Branden Dawson has its flaws, but their fighting spirit cannot be measured. The team is a terrible free throw shooting team and has little overall depth, which could hurt late in games.

Wisconsin, with Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, has two players that were preseason All-American selections. Traevon Jackson the sixth man is coming into his own after being sidelined with injuries.

The backcourt for Wisconsin is likely its weakest link with Josh Gasser and Bronson Koenig. Kentucky’s Harrison twins along with Tyus Ulis are all former McDonald’s high school All-American and a much more dynamic set. If they are able to have their way against the Badgers, Wisconsin will once again lose another national semifinal.


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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New Indiana Law Troubles the NCAA Ahead of the Final Four

Final Four
Final Four

The Final Four could find itself at the center of a political debate in Indiana.

The State of Indiana is due to host the NCAA’s Final Four next weekend in Indianapolis and suddenly, there will be a lot more discussion about it than just basketball. The NCAA is extremely concerned about a new law passed this week and signed by the governor allowing businesses in the state to discriminate against gays, lesbians and transgender persons.


NCAA boss Mark Emmert is none to pleased about Indiana's new law.

The last thing I want to do is make this blog into a political op-ed piece so I won’t. Instead, the NCAA can speak for me. President Mark Emmert voiced concerns in the hours after Indiana Governor Mark Pence signed the bill into law.

“We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill,” Emmert said. “Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

Where Emmert has to be most concerned is with the image of his organization looking as though they support the new measure by keeping the Final Four in the state capital. Logistically of course, moving the Final Four to another city so close to the event would be extremely difficult and very unlikely. Therefore it isn’t going to happen.

What could happen however could be much more substantial. The NCAA is headquartered in Indianapolis there would be intense pressure from many people to move the operations out of the Hoosier State. We’ve seen this type of thing before in Arizona when that state was refusing to recognize the national holiday celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Several professional sports leagues and the NCAA threatened to no longer come there for their major events. Eventually, the measure passed in Arizona and the state has hosted Super Bowls, World Series games and NCAA tournament games in the years since. In other words, money usually can trump political discourse and if the NCAA chooses to leave they could become the pied piper leading other businesses and corporations out of town.

An Ode to Dean Smith

While I was never a fan of late North Carolina Coach Dean Smith mostly because I thought he should have won more titles, he proved to me what a class act he was when I saw what he left for his former players yesterday. Smith left behind about $36,000 in $200 increments for all of his former players. From Michael Jordan to James Worthy each former Tar Heel received a check from Smith’s estate with a letter.

The gist of the letter was basically to say “thank you” and to go spend the money on a nice dinner. While Smith certainly made plenty of money during his time running the Tar Heels’ program, he left the game right about the time when the massive contracts for collegiate coaches were really becoming the norm. Still, this was a very honest and caring thing for Smith to do and I certainly wanted to give props to him for it.



West Region Sweet 16 Lines


The NCAA Tournament West Region has two intriguing games on Thursday. The region has been dominated by the favorites with three of the top four seeds in the Sweet 16. The current odds have Arizona at 5 to 6 to win the region, with Wisconsin at 8 to 5, North Carolina at 7 to 1 and Xavier at 20 to 1.

North Carolina No. 4 vs. Wisconsin No. 1

The Badgers are favored in this matchup by 6.5 points with the point total sitting on 144. North Carolina defeated Harvard 67-65 in the round of 64 and followed that up with a round of 32 win over Arkansas 87-78.

North Carolina is 5-1 SU and 4-2 ATS over its past six games.

Justin Jackson North Carolina’s freshman guard scored four of his 14 points late in the game to thwart a rally by the Razorbacks. Marcus Paige led the Heels with 22 points.

Kennedy Meeks a power forward for North Carolina is doubtful for the game with a sprained knee.

Wisconsin defeated Coastal Carolina and Oregon to reach the Sweet 16, but failed to cover in both games. Wisconsin is 18-1 SU and 8-10-1 ATS over its past 19 games played.

Frank Kaminsky is the best player on the Badgers and one of the best in the nation. He scored 27 against Coastal Carolina and 16 versus Oregon.

Xavier No. 6 vs. Arizona No. 2

Arizona is favored by 10.5 points in this matchup, with the point total sitting on 135.

Xavier defeated No. 11 Ole Miss and then No. 14 Georgia State both straight up and against the spread to reach the Sweet 16.

The Musketeers are 4-1 ATS over their past 5 games played with the UNDER cashing in four of the five. Matt Stainbrook is the top big man for Xavier, while Jalen Reynolds a sophomore forward has come up big in the first two games of the tournament.

Arizona has been a big roll since mid February. The Wildcats are 13-0 SU and 10-3 ATS over their past 13 games played. In their opener, they defeated Texas Southern, but did not cover a 23.5-point spread. However, in their second game against Ohio State, the Wildcats covered a 10-point spread, winning by 15.

Arizona is No. 6 in the nation in shooting. Its leading scorer is Stanley Jackson a freshman forward.

Xavier is 19-5-2 ATS in its past 26 games in the NCAA Tournament.

Arizona is 14-4 against the spread in its past 18 games after a SU win with the OVER cashing in 7 of their past 10 games against teams from the Big East.


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.


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.


Can Wisconsin Give the Big Ten Another National …


The NCAA Tournament starts on Tuesday with Hampton playing Manhattan and the winner having the honor of facing the Kentucky Wildcats in round 2.

One of the No. 1 seeds in the tournament, the Wisconsin Badgers is the best hope of the Big Ten to end its drought of a national championship that goes back as far as 2000.

Wisconsin might have its best team since Bo Ryan their long time coach has been with the team. Frank Kaminsky leads the Badgers.

How far bettors should take Wisconsin in the tournament is a big question on the minds of many.

The Badgers should be a safe bet to reach the Sweet Sixteen by winning both of their games during the first weekend. Under coach Ryan, the Badgers are 11-2 in their opening games of NCAA Tournaments.

According to Bovada and topbet, Wisconsin is 17-7 over the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament since 2002 and has reached the Sweet 16 three of the last four seasons. For those that play the spread, Wisconsin is 12-11-1 against the number over the two first rounds of the tournament under coach Ryan, including a record of 11-8-1 ATS as the favorite.

Wisconsin however, becomes vulnerable when they reach the Sweet 16. Under Ryan, Wisconsin has a record of 3-6 in the second weekend of the NCAA’s and beyond with two of the three wins coming last season when Wisconsin made it to the Final Four.

In the Sweet 16, Wisconsin is just 1-2 SU when a favorite, which includes straight up losses to Butler in 2011 and Davidson in 2008.

If Wisconsin catches a tough mid-major team during the round, they could be in trouble. Wisconsin against the spread is 5-0-1 when an underdog in the Sweet 16 and beyond. The push was a loss of 1 point to Kentucky in the Final Four game. If the Badgers reach the Final Four, they will be a good bet as an underdog to cover.

According to betonline and sportsbook.com, with seven participants in the Tournament, the Big Ten is a good bet to have one reach the Final Four. The conference has had one or more teams in the Final Four in five of the past six seasons.

Since 2000, six teams from the Big Ten have reached the championship game with the last one winning in 2000.

A question on the minds of fans and bettors supporting Wisconsin is how far they will go.