Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, March 26, 2018 at 10:41 AM
Network 22-9 (71%) in the NCAA's Going Into the Final Four
3-0 In the First Four
6-4 In Round 1
5-2 in Round 2
5-2 in the Sweet 16
3-1 in the Elite 8
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT - THE FIRST LOOK AT THE FINAL FOUR:
MICHIGAN, 'NOVA ARE SOLID BETTING FAVS FOR SATURDAY'S BIG GAMES
Hey, whoever first coined the phrase "March Madness" really knew what they were talking about! It's gonna be a great week of b-ball build-up as we zoom in on Saturday's Final Four twin-bill ... that's Loyola-Chicago versus Michigan and Villanova vs. Kansas -- as college basketball's premier event hits center stage deep in the heart o' Texas.
One of the wildest NCAA Tournaments in memory finally will come to a sure-to-be memorable conclusion next Monday night in San Antonio but not before we hear lots more about Loyola-Chicago's Sister Jean and three power conference studs that are all super-equipped to win it all ... Michigan, Villanova and Kansas all have flaws (of course) but hats off to 'em all for showing true grit in the face of danger this past Saturday/Sunday in Elite 8 games and what about aforementioned Loyola which played the best game of any team just to get into this weekend's Final Four bash!
The table is set but we have some loose ends to tend to first:
Let's start off our first of many Final Four-oriented columns with the fact that NCAA Tournament Betting Favorites are a collective 27-35-1 ATS (against the spread) with one Pick 'Em game tossed into the mix. Folks, that's a not-so-hearty .435 winning rate for chalk sides in this man's tourney and remember that underdogs covered eight of the dozen games played in the Sweet 16 / Elite 8 rounds.
Also - as you can see from our accompanying Pointspread Chart - the Power 6 conferences consisting of the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and the SEC will enter this weekend's Final Four with a cumulative pointspread mark of 39-41 ATS while non-power conference clubs are 24-22 spreadwise in this NCAA Tournament ... interesting!
Finally, you can see the NCAA Tournament game-by-game look below for Loyola-Chicago, Michigan, Villanova and Kansas but take note this quartet is a sweet 12-4 versus the vig (a .750 winning rate) in this year's "Big Dance". Both Loyola-Chicago and Villanova - in fact -- are a perfecto 4-and-oh spreadwise in this tourney so far ... again, interesting!
Get the NCAA Tournament Final 4 and Championship Game winners plus all the other College Basketball Tournies including Tuesday night's NIT double-header (that's Western Kentucky vs. Utah and Mississippi State vs. Penn State) and the NBA too as Jim Hurley's Network of Handicappers and Bloggers keep ripping it up on the hardwood. Check it out right here online or 1-800-323-4453.
Now, let's get you quick-hitter profiles on each of the Final Four teams. In the first game on Saturday, it's ...
LOYOLA-CHICAGO vs. MICHIGAN - 6:09 p.m. ET, TBS
#11 LOYOLA-CHICAGO (32-5) - The champion of the South Region truly rode the wave of emotion (and team-first ball) all the way to the Alamo City where the Ramblers are currently 5.5-point underdogs against mighty Michigan. Hey, Loyola's been the pup in each/every one of these tourney games but if G Ben Richardson (career-best 23 points against a shell-shocked Kansas State squad) can light it up from deep here than we might be re-living 1963 all over again. Richardson's 6-of-7 shooting from downtown was the headline-grabber last weekend but what the inside-outside ball movement between C Cameron Krutwig and steely G Clayton Custer? Let's see if Sister Jean can bless this bunch for one more winning weekend.
#3 MICHIGAN (32-7) - As it turned out, the Wolverines were the "best in the West" as John Beilein's crew exited Los Angeles with a blowout/laugher win against Texas A&M along with a hang-on-for-dear-life four-point win against Florida State ... true, the maize-and-blue shot a woefully bad 4-of-22 from beyond the arc in that Elite 8 non-cover win against the FSU Seminoles but that oft-overlooked Michigan defense held the 'Noles to 16-of-51 FG shooting and unsung star G Charles Matthews scored 17 points and played 39 minutes against an in-shape Florida State crew. Gotta believe that the full week off between games will help "Big Blue" more than anyone else ... plus Beilein's classic coaching is always worth 2 or 3 points, minimum.
In the Final Four nightcap this Saturday, it's ...
VILLANOVA vs. KANSAS - approximately 8:49 p.m. ET, TBS
#1 VILLANOVA (34-4) - Say this for the 'Nova Wildcats who ran roughshod over the East Region of this here-and-now NCAA Tournament: They can beat you - and beat you up—in a number of ways. In Sunday's 12-point win against 6.5-point dog Texas Tech, there was Jay Wright's club playing some bully-ball against a four-guard attack - 'Nova wound up winning the board battle 51-28 as swingman Eric Paschall snagged 14 rebounds to go along with his dozen points plus the in-the-paint defense by Jay Wright's crew was just dandy. Obviously, the numero uno key heading into Final Four play is PG Jalen Brunson (only two turnovers in 36 minutes against T-Tech) who is the conductor of this ever-patient offense that loves hurling up corner threes and isn't afraid to wait out the shot clock and get something juicy inside late.
#1 KANSAS (31-7) - It's safe to say that Sunday's epic 85-81 overtime win against 3.5-point fav Duke was one of the two or three most important wins ever by Jayhawks' head coach Bill Self ... while ranking as one of the Dookies' most painful losses in school history. Self really needed G Malik Newman (32 points including all 13 of his team's OT points) to step up his game in light of the fact G Devonte Graham was being held to 11 points in 45 torrid minutes but looking ahead the J-hawks (who owned a 46-to-24 rebounding advantage against Duke) must make more in-the-paint points happen ... or else. P.S., it's starting to look as if C Udoka Azubuike (fouled out in 19 minutes versus Duke) just doesn't yet have the stamina to go for long stretches and that could be a major problem against Villanova.
NOTE - Much more NCAA Tournament News in the next Jim Sez.