Should I Bet on Villanova in the College Basketball National Championship Game?
Let me boast for a minute, will you? I am in a pretty sweet position no matter what on Monday night. If Michigan wins then the team I have been cheering for my entire life wins an unquestionably clean title, and life will be truly grand. But if they lose then I will win two different pools and will have more than enough extra cash on hand to drown my disappointments. I'm openly cheering against my own brackets, but people have faced worse worst-case scenarios. But that's not what matters here. What matters is the one question bettors are asking themselves - Should I bet on Villanova in the College Basketball National Championship Game?
Those 95 freaking points: I mean, I shouldn't really have to say too much here. Villanova was up against a No. 1 seed in the tournament - one that had just beaten Duke - and they scored 95 points and made winning look incredibly easy. Kansas was down by more at the half than they had ever been in the tournament in school history. And Villanova shot 13 3-pointers. In the first half! This is an absolutely terrifying offensive team, every bit deserving of their No. 1 ranking for adjusted offense nationally. What stood out so much in the semifinal game particularly, but all season in general, was how well this team spaces the floor. They plant themselves in positions, and then they move the ball so well without cheating on those positions. Inevitably, it seems, they wind up with a wide-open shot to hit. Against Kansas it was almost laughable how open the team was - over and over and over again. Now, that offensive tour de force came against a dramatically weaker defense than they will face in the championship game - Kansas ranked 40th nationally in adjusted defense heading into the game, while Michigan ranks third and has outplayed that ranking for a month now. But this offense is so good, and so disciplined, that they are going to get their chances.
Experience: Five guys on this current Villanova squad were on the roster when the team won their title in 2016. And two of the three assistant coaches were there as well. There is a whole lot of experience on this team when it comes to how to handle the pressure in this game. Michigan doesn't have the same. John Beilein has coached in the game once, but he lost. Two of his three assistants joined the program this year, and one has been there for one year. None of them have made a deep tournament run like this before, and none of the players have, either. They have a definite experience disadvantage.
Dialed in: 26-23-12-12-16. Those probably aren't winning lottery numbers - buying a ticket with two of the same number is even more of a sucker's bet than just buying a ticket at all is. Those are the margins that Villanova has won their five tournament games by. They haven't even broken a sweat to make it this far. It's been a total cruise, and that has been against a No. 5 seed that should have been a 3, a No. 3, and a No. 1. Now they are facing a No. 3 that should have been a 2, but given how well they have done so far it's hard to get too worried about them now. We know Villanova can beat a team seeded like Michigan because they have already done it twice. What has Michigan done? Aside from making a 98-year-old nun cry, they haven't had to face a lot of great opposition - never mind the best team in the country.
Oddsmakers: The line opened with Villanova favored by 6.5, which is the highest number in the Championship Game since Duke opened as seven-point favorites over Butler in 2010. And given the respect Villanova gets, it is very likely that that number will only grow. Three of the last four times we have had a favorite of 6.5 points or more in the Championship Game the favorite has covered. The fourth time Duke didn't cover, but they did win. If the oddsmakers are respecting Villanova, then it isn't a bad idea to do the same. And Villanova has covered every tournament spread, and eight of their last nine, so it's not like the oddsmakers have been giving them too much credit, either.
So, ask it again - Should I bet on Villanova in the College Basketball National Championship Game? It kills me to say it, but yes, you probably should. They have the two best players in the game, they have plenty of experience to draw on, their offense is flying, their defense is strong, too, and they are clearly the better team. I won't be betting on them - there are times when the heart has to rule the head - but I certainly wouldn't blame you if you did.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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