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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at 7:00 PM

Time to start thinking about this Saturday’s Final Four matchups in Houston as the 2016 NCAA Tournament starts winding to a close. You regular readers know that I can’t post formal selections here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping. That wouldn’t be fair to paying clients. I can work through the handicapping process for you though. Building on the fundamentals we’ve discussed through the season, let’s pin down some keys to each matchup.


NCAA SEMIFINAL #1: Villanova (-2) vs. Oklahoma

You’ve been hearing a lot already about how Oklahoma crushed Villanova earlier this season. Let’s jump into that immediately…

Monday December 7 (at Pearl Harbor): Oklahoma beat Villanova 78-55

Oklahoma made six three-pointers to start the game in this special early season TV attraction…then had a huge second half after Villanova had worked very hard to climb back. Over the full 40 minutes, HALF of Oklahoma’s made field goals were three-pointers! That’s how you win blowouts. And, if that happens again, Oklahoma’s going to win another blowout!

To me, the key to handicapping Saturday’s return engagement is determining how well Villanova will adjust to that first meeting. They’re playing much better basketball now, as the Las Vegas betting market has ‘Nova as a 2-point favorite despite that earlier shellacking. But, that won’t amount to a hill of beans if they don’t guard the 3-point arc!

Keys for Nova:

*Guard the arc!

*Avoid foul trouble

*Keep the game slow and measured

*Attack the basket when opportunities allow

*Frustrate Buddy Hield to force turnovers and bad shots

All that can be easier said than done. But, it’s obviously doable for the superior team in the matchup. Remember, Villanova just frustrated Kansas to no end…and Kansas was better than Oklahoma in the Big 12 this season.

Keys for Oklahoma:

*Don’t assume this will be as easy as the first game

*Don’t think you can coast on defense vs. these Villanova sharpshooters

*Be ready to step WAY up in class from Oregon, Texas A&M, VCU, and Bakersfield

*Let Hield work his magic if he’s still hot

Villanova deserves to be the favorite when you look at the full body of work for each team. But, Oklahoma could certainly be a live dog if Hield continues to carry the team on his back. Many have made the comparison to Danny Manning before. If Villanova comes in flat off the Kansas upset, Hield is fully capable of carrying OU to the championship game.


NCAA SEMIFINAL #2: North Carolina (-9) vs. Syracuse

To me the biggest issue here is whether or not North Carolina will come in overconfident They’re a big favorite. They’re the only #1 seed left in the tournament. And, they already beat Syracuse twice this season. It’s always good to have a healthy respect for that Syracuse defense. Carolina may have an unhealthy disrespect after sweeping the regular season!

A quick review…

Saturday January 9: North Carolina won at Syracuse 84-73

The game was closer than that all night, as NC pulled away very late to create a misleading final score. Carolina only led 64-62 with 4:43 to go. Note that this was Jim Boeheim’s first game back after suspension…so Syracuse really wasn’t in “midseason” form because of that transition from their interim coach. A good 35 minutes for the underdog…but not quite 40 minutes.  

Monday February 29: North Carolina beat Syracuse 75-70

This was Senior Night in Chapel Hill, and it’s possible that the Tar Heels were a bit distracted having already won the first meeting. Syracuse hung tough all night…as only losing by five is a great result at this site! Carolina did jump to an early double digit lead that was mostly erased before halftime. Tight through the second half.

Frankly…that’s about 75 minutes of very competitive basketball…and five minutes of Carolina pulling away late in Boeheim’s first game back. From what we’ve seen so far in the tournament, Syracuse is playing much better now than they were during the regular season. I’d have to admit, though, that North Carolina is as well. Particularly in terms of long range shooting.

To me, it comes down to this. If North Carolina comes in overconfident…then they could easily lose this game OUTRIGHT. Roy Williams is far from level-headed late in close games. Syracuse knows exactly how to mess up their opponents in high pressure situations too (ask Virginia and Gonzaga about that!). On the other hand, if Carolina can successfully shoot over the zone and drain three-pointers…the Heels can cover this spread going away. Syracuse would also become turnover prone if they had to play catch up in an up-tempo game (they were helped that Virginia’s slow pace didn’t create helter-skelter basketball).

I still have some time to finalize my game day releases. I can assure you that I have something very big planned for my clients. KELSO STURGEON’S BEST BETS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. Call during normal business hours this week to ask about the rest of the NBA and the coming Major League Baseball season.

The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance and hard work. Enjoy Final Four Weekend!


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Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

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