NCAA Basketball Expert Betting Advice: Three Interesting Opening Lines 3/23/2018
This is my last 3-Point Play story of the 2017-18 NCAA basketball season, so let's cut to the chase and give you my Final Four and National Championship pick. Entering the Sweet 16, I have lost one team from my original four in Arizona; why did I ever trust Sean Miller? Odds from BetOnline : South Region - Kentucky (-110), West - Gonzaga (+150), East - Villanova (-120) and Midwest - Duke (-140). Yeah, pretty chalk, I know. But three of those I had previously. It will be Kentucky vs. Duke in the national title game, with the Blue Devils prevailing. Duke is currently +350 at BetOnline to win it all vs. the field (-500).
No. 5 West Virginia vs. No. 1 Villanova ( -5)
East Region game from Boston at 7:27 p.m. ET on TBS with the winner facing either No. 3 Texas Tech or No. 2 Purdue on Sunday. I came close to picking Villanova to win it all above; if the Cats were on the other side of the bracket, which is utter chaos with the lowest-seeded team No. 3 Michigan, then I'd be nearly certain they would make the title game for the second time in three seasons. The Wildcats have won seven straight, all but one by double-digits. Their two tournament wins were by 26 and 23 points. They look fantastic.
This will be a fun matchup because Bob Huggins is going to unleash Press Virginia, that vaunted 40-minute full-court pressure defense, on the nation's top offense. Two things usually happen from that: turnovers or easy baskets. Yet knowing the Wildcats, they'd prefer to pull up for 3-pointers rather than drive for layups. Villanova also ranks 14 th best nationally in turning it over just 10.4 times per game. West Virginia has someone who can protect the rim in Sagaba Konate, who likely would have been Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year … if it didn't go to teammate and national steals leader Jevon Carter. Konate's 3.3 blocks per game rank third in the country, and the Mali native is only 6-foot-8. For what it's worth, Huggins and Jay Wright faced off six times when the schools were both in the Big East. They split.
Key trends: WVU is 3-8 against the spread in its past 11 vs. the Big East. The Cats are 8-1 ATS in their past nine neutral-site games.
The pick: Villanova.
No. 11 Syracuse vs. No. 2 Duke (-11.5)
Midwest Region game from Omaha at 9:37 p.m. ET on CBS with the winner facing either No. 1 Kansas or No. 5 Clemson. I'm presuming that will be KU as it will have a huge fan advantage with Omaha only about 200 miles from Lawrence. Although, if Clemson wins we are guaranteed at least one ACC school in the Final Four. No. 9 Florida State is the only other one standing but probably loses Thursday night to Gonzaga. This is the worst possible matchup for Syracuse, for a couple of reasons. First off, if anyone knows the zone defense nearly as well as Jim Boeheim, it's Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. He and Boeheim have been friends for decades, and Coach K had Boeheim on his U.S. Olympic staff. In addition, Coach K has shifted to a version of that 2-3 zone this year, and Duke has taken off since. So, the Blue Devils players are used to practicing against it. They also already faced it, beating Syracuse 60-44 in Durham on Feb. 24. That game was brutal offensively on both sides.
Lastly, Duke had all week to prepare for the Orange. I believe Michigan State was upset Sunday because it had just one day to prepare for the zone - and, boy, were the Spartans unprepared. I just don't see how SU can score enough to pull the upset here. Its point total has dropped from 60 in the First Four vs. Arizona State to 57 vs. TCU to 55 vs. Sparty. SU's Big 3 of Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard must stay out of foul trouble or this won't be close. Howard fouled out against MSU. I'm going to take the points only because the Orange can manage to lose by just under 10.
Key trends: The Orange are 7-1 ATS in their past eight neutral-site games. Duke is 7-2 ATS in its past nine vs. the ACC.
The pick: Syracuse.
No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 2 Purdue (-2)
East Region game from Boston at 9:57 p.m. ET on TBS with the winner likely facing Villanova. Are you aware that this is the lone chalk matchup in the Sweet 16? Crazy. The only other ones close are No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 5 WVU and No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 5 Clemson. Frankly, this is the least entertaining game of the Sweet 16 on paper, in my opinion. I've thought Purdue was overrated all season, and I'm more down on the Big Ten than I was previously with regular-season champion Sparty laying such a big egg and tournament champion Michigan lucky to be in the Sweet 16. What does fascinate me about this one, though, is if some smart engineering students at Purdue, which is what that school is known for, are able to design some sort of elbow brace that the NCAA would approve for Boilermakers center Isaac Haas to wear.
Haas fractured his elbow in the Round 1 win over Cal State Fullerton and tried to play in Round 2 vs. Butler, but the NCAA wouldn't clear whatever brace he had on. Purdue's sports medicine program has reached out to a group of mechanical engineers on campus. I think that's awesome and what makes college sports great. I hope it works out, although coach Matt Painter has been on record saying he doesn't expect Haas back in this tournament. Frankly, if he could just stand near the basket with his opposite hand up and protect the rim, that would be very helpful. Most teams don't have one 7-footer; Purdue has two. Freshman backup Matt Haarms started vs. Butler and had seven points, six rebounds and two blocks in 29 minutes. Texas Tech finished 2-5 in its seven games before the NCAA tournament, so I'm surprised its here. However, star Keenan Evans looks recovered from his toe injury and is averaging 22.5 points in the Big Dance. This one should be a defensive slugfest.
Key trends: The Boilermakers are 3-12-1 ATS in their past 16 games. The Red Raiders are 1-7-1 in their past nine.
The pick: Texas Tech.
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