Final Four Primer

Published on Friday, 4/5/13, at 11:53 a.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

For the first time since 2007, the Final Four returns to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta this weekend. Louisville is the only team that was in New Orleans last year, losing to eventual champ Kentucky in the semifinals.

Michigan is back for the first time since 1993, joining Syracuse which last won four NCAA Tournament games on its way to the 2003 title. Wichita St. is the sleeper squad, becoming the first No. 9 seed to ever make the Final Four (Boston College was the only other previous #9 to make a regional final, losing in 1994 to Florida in Miami after Craig Brown hit three straight corner 3’s late in the second half.).

Rick Pitino is making his seventh career Final Four appearance, joining North Carolina’s Roy Williams for the fourth most in NCAA history. Only John Wooden (12), Mike Krzyzewski (11) and Dean Smith (10) have more.

This is Pitino’s third Louisville team in the Final Four. The Cardinals are looking for their first national championship since beating Duke in the 1986 finals behind the play of freshman center Pervis ‘Never Nervous’ Ellison.

U of L will have to go through Wichita St. to get to Monday night.

As of Friday morning, most betting shops had Louisville (33-5 straight up, 23-15 against the spread) as a 10.5-point favorite with the total in the 132-133 range. Gamblers can take the Shockers to win outright for a +500 return (risk $100 to win $500).

In Saturday’s nightcap game, Michigan and Syracuse will collide. Most spots have installed the Wolverines as two-point favorites with a total of 131. has proposition wagers galore for both semifinal matchups. The website has Michigan star guard Trey Burke with an ‘over/under’ of 18.5 points that’s shaded to the ‘under’ at a -130 price (even-money for ‘over’ bets). Burke’s total for assists is seven (-115 either way) and rebounds is 3.5 (‘over’ -130).

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s total for points is 13.5 (‘over’ -120), rebounds is 4.5 (-115 either way) and assists is three (-115 either way).

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–Wichita St. has held all four of its NCAA Tournament foes to shooting percentages of 35.7% or worse. The Shockers allowed Ohio St. to make just 5-of-25 shots from 3-point range.

–I like the prop for Hardaway’s points to go ‘over’ 13.5. Also, I like ‘over’ 11.5 points (-130 price) for Michigan freshman center Mitch McGary, who has averaged 17.5 points per game during the NCAA Tournament. McGary scored 21 against VCU and dropped 25 on Kansas.

– has Louisville as the -150 ‘chalk’ on the futures board (risk $150 to win $100). Michigan has +325 odds (risk $100 to win $325), followed by Syracuse (+400) and Wichita St. (12/1).

–Sportsbook has Russ Smith as the -125 favorite to win Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors. The next-shortest odds belong to Peyton Siva and Trey Burke (+300), followed by C.J. Fair (+800), Gorgui Dieng (+800), Tim Hardaway Jr. (10/1), Michael Carter-Williams (12/1,), Nik Stauskas (15/1), Brandon Triche (15/1) and Cleanthony Early (25/1).

–William Hill released lines for the four potential national-title matchups earlier this week:

Louisville -5 vs. Michigan
Louisville -4.5 vs. Syracuse
Michigan -5 vs. Wichita St.
Syracuse -4.5 vs. Wichita St.

–On Thursday afternoon, Darren Heitner of Forbes reported that Michigan’s Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. will be turning pro next week.

–Has anybody had a better week than Rick Pitino? The U of L head coach has been selected to the Hall of Fame and his son, Richard, was hired as the new head coach at Minnesota at the age of 30. Pitino can cap an incredible week if his team can cut the nets down on Monday night.

–Iowa’s incredible 10-0 ATS run came to a halt Thursday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Baylor won its first NIT Championship in school history by spanking the Hawkeyes 74-54 as a 2.5-point underdog. Pierre Jackson was the catalyst with 17 points and 10 assists for the Bears. Jackson finished his stellar collegiate career with a fourth straight double-double. Baylor hooked up money-line supporters with a +125 return.

–After cashing an easy winner with Baylor last night, my college hoops picks are on an 11-3 run since March 28 for 8.92 units of profit. Dating back further to Feb. 21, I’m on a 57-35 (62%) run for 19.72 units of profit. Check out my two picks for Saturday by clicking here.

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