We’ve finally made it folks. The Final Four. It’s been a brutally long week with no March Madness. I’ve had to bet NIT, CIT, and MLB all week (which actually has gone shockingly well), but we are finally back to the real deal. There are only 3 college basketball games left in the season, which means if you’re down a couple units on the season this is your last chance to crawl back towards even. Since the Sweet 16 when I started doing these previews I have gone 18-7! That is a ridiculous number, especially for me. All I can do is keep giving you my best effort and hope we can keep it rolling.
So this is a really weird betting weekend for me. I bet futures on Kansas +2500 and Villanova +500 before the tournament started and I bet Loyola +5000 to win it all before the Sweet Sixteen. So for me it’s gonna be a weekend of hedging with Michigan and Villanova. BUT, I am going to give you my picks for the semifinal games as if they were my own bets.
11 Loyola Chicago vs. 3 Michigan (-5.5, 129.5)
This is the matchup of the two hottest teams in college basketball. MY Ramblers have finally made it to the big stage. Loyola has won 14 games in a row, including their conference tournament, and Michigan has won 13 games in a row, including the Big 10 tournament. Loyola has been the Cinderella team of the tournament that has captured America’s heart with Sister Jean. However, when you look at the numbers they really aren’t that much of a Cinderella. They may not have a superstar player or elite talent, but the way they play as a team is as good as any team in college basketball. They score the ball very efficiently and play great team defense.
Michigan was not a highly ranked team all year, but played their best ball at the end of the season with an incredibly impressive Big 10 tournament run. Both teams won their Elite Eight matchups pretty convincingly and I think this will be an awesome game. My key to the game is gonna be Michigan center Mo Wagner. Loyola could really struggle to match up with him defensively, and to score the easy layups they’ve had in the tournament with him protecting the rim. Loyola will have to work to drag him out to the perimeter on both ends of the court. This is gonna be an awesome game and I really don’t think Loyola is afraid of this big stage. I think the Ramblers can keep the magic alive and reach the National Championship game.
I’m at the Final Four at a press conference featuring a 98-year-old nun. The world is an amazing place. pic.twitter.com/HNzuGfc302
— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) March 30, 2018
Yeah I’m not gonna bet against that.
Loyola +5.5, o129.5 (this seems like a sucker bet for the over because the number is so low, but I’m gonna bet it like the sucker I am)
1 Kansas vs. 1 Villanova (-5, 154.5)
Despite the madness that March has brought us, on the right side of the bracket we still have the two 1 seeds matching up. Villanova has won more convincingly than any team in the tournament so far. They have won every game by double digits, covering every spread with relative ease. Kansas has been much more under the radar with their tournament run, but it is not any less impressive. Their last 3 tournament games have all been decided by exactly 4 points. Normally I would say that would give them an advantage over Nova having played close games, but this experienced Nova team is ready for anything. A lot of the players have won a National Championship already in their career and are poised to return. At the end of the day Kansas’ only shot is if they are absolutely on fire from three, but I think Nova’s defense will not allow them to do that. The Jayhawks may have used up all their juice in their OT win over Duke and Nova has covered every spread of the tournament so far so I don’t see them stopping now.
Nova -5, u154.5
BONUS BET: Because of the hedging that I’m doing my only non-total bet of the semi-finals will be a parlay of Michigan -225 and Villanova -250 for a +102 payout. You don’t often find spreads this big in a semi-final so if you like the favorites but that 5 number scares you this isn’t a bad bet to go for.
BONUS AWESOME STORY:
Udoka Azubuike's father died when he was in 7th/8th grade. His mom sent him to U.S. 6 years ago. Haven't seen each other since; she'll be at Final Four. Bill Self: "Can you imagine, you've never seen your son play basketball & the 1st time you do it is in front of 70,000 people?"
— Reid Forgrave (@ReidForgrave) March 29, 2018
That’s the best reason I’ve seen to bet on Kansas. Awesome for Udoka, who seems like a great kid.
So good luck to everyone. I hope this hot streak can keep riding for just three more games. I’ll have a full National Championship preview up either Sunday night or Monday morning to give you everything you need to know for the game. For now, let’s ride and keep the money flowing.
P.S. If you have any futures on one or more of these teams and aren’t sure how to hedge it, tweet or DM me @BlakeKrass on Twitter and I can help.