Even though there is only a single No. 1 seed in the Final Four, it’s a pretty chalk group with Kentucky (the lone top seed), Ohio State, Kansas and Louisville. It’s a far cry from last year when we had No. 8 Butler and No. 11 VCU crash the Final Four party.
So let’s get right to my final college basketball props story of the 2011-12 season. Here I will provide some NCAA Final Four props odds along with some predictions for betting.
Saturday’s opening game in New Orleans is Kentucky vs. Louisville in the biggest basketball game in the history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I am willing to bet you could rob any store in town other than a sports bar during the two hours or so that game is on (obviously I am not condoning doing that!) because you won’t see a soul anywhere on the streets.
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I would argue the matchup to watch there is between two lean centers with huge wingspans: Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, the 2/1 Bovada favorite to win the Final Four Most Outstanding Player Award, and Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng (20/1 to win the MOP award). Both are rails: Davis is 6-foot-10, 220 pounds and Dieng is 6-11, 235.
We all know how good Davis, the National Player of the Year and lock No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, is. But if Dieng can somewhat even out Davis’ impact then the underdog Cards can win. In the Sweet 16 against a big, physical Michigan State team, Dieng blocked seven shots (tying Pervis Ellison's single-game Louisville tournament record) and had nine rebounds as Louisville put on one of the most impressive NCAA tourney defensive performances in years. In the Elite Eight win over Florida, Dieng didn’t have quite the same numbers, but his block of Florida guard Bradley Beal with 2:05 remaining was huge during Louisville's late comeback.
So let’s look at some Davis/Dieng props. Total points, rebounds, blocks and for Dieng: 19.5; who will record more blocks, Davis or Dieng: Davis the -.5 favorite; total points, rebounds and blocks for Davis: 29.5; total blocks for Davis: 4.5; total rebounds for Davis: 10.5.
On the season, Dieng averages 9.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks. Davis is at 14.3/10.0/4.6 (blocks are highest in nation). In the four Big Dance games, Dieng has exceeded that 19.5 total only once, in that game against the Spartans. Davis has gone ‘over’ his total three times. He has exceeded the rebounds total in three games and the blocks in two.
When Kentucky beat Louisville on New Year’s Eve, 69-62 at Rupp Arena, Davis finished with 18 points, 10 boards and six blocks, while Dieng had five points, five boards and six blocks. But Dieng is a very different player since then – he’s still learning the game of basketball as a native of Senegal. I would take over on Dieng’s total, but take Davis on the blocks as well as all his overs.
And that first game leads me to two historical props involving Davis: which will be higher, his 18 points from the first matchup or Saturday’s game, but at plus/minus three points, with -3 the -140 favorite. And which will be higher, Davis’ six blocks from the first game, but at plus/minus two blocks, with both at -120. I think it’s a lock that Davis gets at least 16 points and no chance he gets to 22 (I’m throwing out pushes), so take the -3 favorite there. And I also think it’s a lock he gets at least four blocks, so at worst you push there if you take the -2.
You can also bet on a prop on which Final Four game has more points: UK-Louisville at -125 or Ohio State-Kansas at -115. I think this one is easy: Buckeyes-Jayhawks. In that the first matchup, Kentucky and Louisville combined for 131 points, while in the first OSU-KU game those teams combined for 151. Louisville is vastly better on defense now – the top defensive team in the tournament – while the Buckeyes get to add Jared Sullinger to an offense that didn’t have him in the first meeting with Kansas because he was injured. Jump on that OSU-KU matchup here.
Speaking of Sullinger, he’s the big story in Saturday’s nightcap because he missed the first meeting and because he could have potentially been the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft but decided to return for his sophomore year (a mistake from a draft perspective). Sullinger is at 6/1 to win the Final Four MOP award and that seems like tremendous value because I believe OSU does advance.
Sullinger’s ‘over/under’ on points against the Jayhawks is 18.5 and his rebounds 9.5 (both overs are -130 favorites). He averages 17.6 points and 9.3 boards this season and has gone over those listed totals in two NCAA games each (the points the past two games). I love the over rebounds but I would go ‘under’ the points – I think KU collapses on him with frequent double-teams by Thomas Robinson and seven-footer Jeff Withey, who has become a shot-blocking machine in the Big Dance.
And that’s the best individual matchup of the Final Four: Sullinger vs. Robinson (8/1 to win Final Four MOP). It’s a ‘pick’em’ on who will score more points between the two first-team all-Americans – jump on Robinson big-time. OSU has several guys who can score, but Robinson is the clear go-to guy on the Jayhawks. Robinson has struggled somewhat in this tournament, hitting just 15-for-45 from the field the past three games. But he was a bit nicked up and the week off will do him wonders. You can also bet on Sullinger vs. Robinson in total rebounds, with Sullinger a +1.5 slight underdog at -115 (Robinson at -1.5 and -125). Robinson has been good on the boards in the tourney but I go with Sullinger there.
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