Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 7:00 PM
Prior to just hours ago, it was almost impossible to imagine that the BEST seed in an NCAA Championship game would be a #7 seed. Even with all the Cinderella stories over the years…there are usually a few powers that survive until the Final weekend…and then at least one is playing for the title. This year, it’s #7 Connecticut facing #8 Kentucky in the most shocking final ever!
It’s hard to call UCONN and Kentucky Cinderella’s in the traditional sense because of their storied traditions. Kentucky just won a national title two years ago. Connecticut has a great Dance history too. But, THIS YEAR, something like this just wasn’t supposed to happen. But, game by game, both the Wildcats and Huskies dispatched with higher seeded threats.
#1 seed Wichita State
#4 seed Louisville (who the computers had rated as a #1 seed)
#2 seed Michigan
#2 seed Wisconsin
#2 seed Villanova
#3 seed Iowa State
#4 seed Michigan State (who the market had priced as a #2 seed)
#1 seed Florida
A lot of pundits and fans had Louisville facing Michigan State for the championship. The underdogs who knocked them out will be doing the honors instead. Let’s run through our key indicator data to see how things are likely to play out.
Kentucky: #9 in Pomeroy, #5 in Sagarin
UCONN: #10 in Pomeroy, #9 in Sagarin
Both teams have been rising up throughout this event. College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy now has the teams as virtually dead even in his top 10. Jeff Sagarin of USA today gives Kentucky a bit of a nod, nudging them up into his top five.
Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
Kentucky’s been an offensive power all season, as their star talent relentlessly attacks the basket out of halfcourt sets. Connecticut has really found its form in the tournament. They’re working harder to get good shots. They’re MAKING those shots. And, they’re clinching victories with great free throw shooting that maximizes offensive efficiency with late leads. Connecticut’s playing better than a #37. Kentucky’s a legit top 10 offense when you adjust for pace and strength of schedule.
Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
If you believe that defense wins championships, then you might be looking at Connecticut as a small dog Monday Night. They completely disrupted Florida’s offense in Saturday’s semifinal, continuing the high level of play on this side of the floor that they’ve showcased all season. The media loves talking about their guards. UCONN’s stellar defense may be the most underreported story of the postseason. Kentucky tends to back off inside when foul trouble could come into play, which keeps them out of the top 40 defensively. They will have strings of possessions where they play like a top 10 defense…but then a few minutes where they lose focus.
Both offenses are below average. UCONN’s slowed down even more in the tournament because they’ve had good success on offense running clock and then finding a great look in the final 10 seconds of the possession. Kentucky doesn’t run this year because they’re best players are one-on-one guys who can score or draw fouls out of sets. Expect a slow game…but not necessarily a very low scoring game given Kentucky’s recent flow. They’re scoring, but also allowing points in a way that might scare Under bettors.
Against the Spread
Kentucky could only push the closing line on Saturday. Some Wildcat backers took a loss because they bet earlier in the week. Connecticut’s hot run now has them seven games over .500 for sports betters, clearly in the black profit wise.
Vegas Line: Kentucky by 2.5, total of 134.5
The very first numbers up offshore and in Vegas were Kentucky by -3.5 or -3. First money was on Connecticut at those prices…so later places opened up at either Kentucky -3 or -2.5. As we write this, the number has settled on 2.5. Monitor the market on game day to see what develops. The public tends to bet favorites in big games. But, New York money also finds its way to Las Vegas…and New York money has been cleaning up with UCONN this tourney.
JIM HURLEY sure plans to clean up with a GAME OF THE YEAR caliber release Monday Night! You can purchase the final word for the NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP (with options for bonus baseball) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call our handicapping office Monday morning or afternoon at 1-888-777-4155. This is a great day to talk to a representative about the rest of basketball through the NBA Playoffs or our Major League Baseball program.
Back with you Tuesday to preview to look at the huge NBA matchup featuring the red hot Brooklyn Nets and the Miami Heat. Brooklyn has the best record in the East since January 1, while Miami is once again trying to lock down the #1 seed. Could this be a playoff preview? More on that Tuesday.
For now…the focus is on college basketball’s national championship. When championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!