Final Four Betting Trends for the NCAA Tournament
by Trevor Whenham - 3/30/2011
We may be about to witness the strangest Final Fours of all time. Two mid-majors that only barely made the field are in this year and one has played an extra game to get where they are. Two iconic major conference programs that overcame midseason struggles to get hot in time for their conference tournaments, and have managed to carry that momentum forward this far will face off in the other side of the bracket. We have two coaches consistently mentioned among the greats of the sport, and two so young that Jim Calhoun had five years of head coaching experience under his belt before either was even born. It’s only the second time in the 64-team era that no No. 1 has advanced this far, and the first time ever that neither a one nor a two has made the final weekend. Strange, strange times.
To help decode this most unlikely of quartets here’s a look at the Final Four betting trends of each of the remaining squads in the NCAA Tournament:
Connecticut Huskies - At 21-12 ATS the Huskies are far and away the class of this field in terms of overall betting performance on the season. They are, though, the only team that comes into the Final Four having failed to cover their last game -- they only beat Arizona by two while favored by 3.5. That game was the first time since their incredible postseason run started that they didn’t cover, so they are 8-1 ATS since the end of the regular season. Aided largely by these two tournament runs, the team is an amazing 11-1 ATS on neutral courts this year. As it stands now they are slight underdogs against Kentucky. That’s a comfortable role for them as they are 9-3 ATS as underdogs during the year, and have not just covered but won in their last four tries. They have favored going ‘under’ slightly against the total - 14 ‘over’s compared to 18 ‘unders’ and a push. The ‘over’ has a 5-4 edge in the postseason, though the ‘under’ is 4-1 in the last five. They last played Kentucky on Nov. 24 in Hawaii in a game they won very easily -- 84-67 -- as 4.5-point underdogs.
Kentucky Wildcats - At 16-15-1 ATS on the season the Wildcats have not been a profitable betting team overall. They are a much better 7-4 ATS on neutral courts, though, and are 5-1 ATS in their last six games, and 5-0 ATS over that stretch against major conference teams (Princeton and their bizarre schemes almost tripped Kentucky up in the opener). Kentucky was an impressive 4-0 ATS as an underdog this year, so if they remain favored in this one then they would be working against an underwhelming 12-15-1 ATS mark as favorite, and just 3-5 ATS as favorites of less than five points. All three of those latter covers have come since March 6, though, so have seemingly turned the corner in these tight situations. The ‘under’ has a big edge on the season -- the ‘over’ is 11-18-3. Defense has really stepped up in the month of March as the ‘over’ is just 1-7-1 since the end of February.
Butler Bulldogs - The Bulldogs were respectable for bettors this year -- 19-13-2 ATS. That’s impressive given the run they had last year and the expectations and attention that created combined with the loss of their best player. They have really picked it up in the postseason, sporting a perfect 6-0 ATS mark that certainly makes the overall season look better. They are 9-3-1 ATS during their current well publicized 13-game winning streak, and had failed to cover five straight before that streak started. They are currently favored against VCU and are likely to stay that way, but many wish that the tables would turn -- they are an impressive 8-1-1 ATS as underdogs on the season including 4-0 ATS during this tournament, compared to just 11-12-1 ATS as favorites. They are 3-4 ATS as favorites of less than five points. The ‘over’ is 19-14-1 on the season, though just 3-3 on the postseason, and 3-7 in their last 10.
VCU Rams - At 18-20 ATS on the season the Rams have the distinction of being the worst betting team remaining. They have covered all five games during this ridiculous tournament run, though, so they have clearly and obviously found their form -- and they are the first team to ever have a chance -- no matter how unlikely -- of covering seven games in one tournament. They were a terrible 7-16 ATS as favorites during the year, so remaining the underdog here would be a good thing for them -- especially considering that their 11-4 ATS record as an underdog, including 5-1 ATS in their last six, is actually pretty impressive. They were perfectly split on the season on totals -- 18 ‘overs’ and 18 ‘unders’. That consistency has continued recently as well -- they are 4-4 in their last eight, and 2-2 in their last four.
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