Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 at 11:12 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
So, who's gonna wind up cutting down the nets inside the Alamodome right 'round 11:45 p.m. ET come Monday night?
Ahh, the smart alecks who thought that blueblood teams such as Duke or North Carolina or Kentucky would snatch up the 2018 crown were all dead-wrong … but did you know that the story-of-this-tournament Loyola-Chicago entered the "Big Dance" at 300-to-1 odds to win it all and according to one web site story we checked out the largest pre-tourney bet placed on the Ramblers to win it all was a mere $150 (to win a neat sum of $45,000). Hmmm.
The other three teams?
Well, Villanova was priced at 4-to-1 at the start of this tourney; Michigan was 8-to-1; and Kansas was set at 10-to-1 so there is - indeed - just one true Cinderella still dancin' these days.
In a few moments we'll bang out a Plus and a Minus for each of the Final Four teams as we inch closer to Loyola-Chicago vs. Michigan and Villanova vs. Kansas but first this quickie reminder …
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THE FINAL FOUR - A LOOK INSIDE
#11 LOYOLA-CHICAGO (32-5)
Plus - The Ramblers swing the ball around unselfishly and they're not afraid who scores and gets the plaudits but Loyola's most effective when the ball goes inside/out with center Cameron Krutwig getting his share of "touches".
Minus - Porter Moser's club really doesn't want to play at 78 rpm and that's a real concern here against Michigan. If this game gets in the high 70's/low 80's than Loyola-Chicago will be out of its normal comfort level.
#3 MICHIGAN (32-7)
Plus - The team whose tourney slogan is "Do More, Say Less" has done lots more on defense than anyone could have dreamed and now John Beilein's self-described "pit bulls" will be siccin' a Loyola-Chicago team that prefers a free-flowing/ half-court offensive style.
Minus - Michigan's star G Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rakhman runs a little too hot-and-cold for our tastes and his tepid 9-point showing against Florida State last weekend was a downer in that tight win.
#1 VILLANOVA (34-4)
Plus - Maybe you couldn't tell by last Sunday's performance from downtown, but this year's Nova Wildcats are on the verge of setting a single-season record for "3's" and PG Jalen Brunson is the conductor who sets up most of the team's triple tries - and he's brilliant in this role.
Minus - There's times when Jay Wright's club can get a tad rattled when Brunson isn't handling the ball and so any presses/traps by Kansas this Saturday night could be harmful to the Big East squad.
#1 KANSAS (31-7)
Plus - The Jayhawks were a crummy rebounding team this year but last Sunday's OT win against Duke featured a 47-to-32 board advantage and you could see Bill Self's squad making rebs a plus here as long as do-it-all veteran G Svi Mykhailiuk (10 rebounds versus the Blue Devils) is doing his share. The real biggest "plus" for Kansas is PG Devonte Graham who simply finds ways to win even when he's not scoring 20 points a game.
Minus - Okay, so we touched on board work as a potential plus or minus for the J-hawks but right now gotta say C Udoka Azubuike simply can't be counted on for more than 15-to-17 effective minutes per game.
Here's our NCAA Tournament Pointspread Chart listing here only the conferences still alive as we head towards this Saturday's Final Four:
Editor's note … In case you were wondering about the other College Basketball Tournaments going on these days, here's a Favorites vs. Underdogs Breakdown while heading into Tuesday's NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden:
So, as you can see the month of March has been a boon for the Underdogs - take note that Tournament Betting Favorites are a collective 54-65-3 ATS (against the spread) in these four tournies and the chalk guys don't have a winning record in any of the above-mentioned gigs.
NOTE - Much more NCAA Tournament News in the next Jim Sez.