Final Four Tips
Published on March 30 at 11:59 a.m. Eastern.
By Brian Edwards
**Louisville vs. Kentucky**
–As of Friday afternoon, most books were listing Kentucky (36-2 straight up, 15-21-1 against the spread) as an 8 ½-point favorite. As for the total, it was as low as 136 ½ (LV Hilton) and as high as 138 ½ (Caesars). U of L is plus-400 on the money line (risk $100 to win $400).
–Louisville (30-9 SU, 22-13-1 ATS) has won eight straight games both SU and ATS, including this past Saturday’s 72-68 come-from-behind win over Florida. Russ Smith scored 19 points in just 22 minutes off the bench to spark a 12-1 run that helped the Cardinals overcome an 11-point deficit with 8:14 remaining. Chane Behanan added 17 points, including several key buckets in the lane at crunch time.
–Rick Pitino has U of L in its ninth Final Four and its first since 2005. The Cards won the Big East Tournament at MSG in NYC and then rolled off wins over Davidson (69-62), New Mexico (59-56) and Michigan St. (57-44) before beating the Gators.
–Kentucky has taken the cash in three consecutive games since failing to cover the number in an 81-66 win over Western Kentucky in its NCAA opener. The Wildcats blasted Iowa St. by an 87-71 count as 12-point favorites and they followed that up by avenging a regular-season loss at Indiana with 102-90 win. John Calipari’s team covered the number as a 10-point favorite against the Hoosiers in their Sweet 16 showdown at the Ga. Dome in Atlanta.
–In the South Region finals against third-seeded Baylor, Kentucky fell behind 10-5 in the early going. However, it was all ‘Cats after that as they cruised to an 82-70 win in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated. Davis enjoyed another day at the office against the Bears, producing 18 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots. Kidd-Gilchrist paced UK with 19 points, while Terrence Jones had 12 points, nine boards, six assists and three blocked shots.
–These teams met on New Year’s Eve in Lexington at Rupp Arena with UK capturing a 69-62 victory as a 10-point ‘chalk.’ The 131 points stayed ‘under’ the 136-point total. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist exploded for 24 points and 19 rebounds. Anthony Davis added 18 points, 10 boards, six blocked shots and three steals, while Doron Lamb was also in double figures with 10 points. Russ Smith was the only U of L player in double figures, scoring a game-high 30 points.
–Louisville owns an 8-3 spread record with six outright wins in 11 games as an underdog this season.
–UK has compiled a 5-6 ATS record in 11 games as a single-digit favorite.
–The ‘under’ is 21-15 overall for Louisville, 10-2 in its last 12 games.
–The ‘under’ is 19-16-2 overall for the ‘Cats, who have seen the ‘over’ hit in four consecutive games.
–The ‘under’ is on an 11-2 roll in the last 13 head-to-head meetings between these bitter rivals.
–Tip-off is scheduled for 6:09 p.m. Eastern on CBS.
**Kansas vs. Ohio State**
–As of Friday afternoon, most spots had Ohio St. (31-7 SU, 20-13 ATS) installed as a 2 ½-point favorite with a total of 136 ½. Bettors can take KU to win outright for a plus-130 return (risk 100 to win $130).
–Thad Matta’s team is back in the Final Four for the first time since 2007, when it lost to Florida in the national-title game. The Buckeyes earned their 10th Final Four berth in school history with last Saturday’s night’s 77-70 win over Syracuse as 2 ½-point favorites. Jared Sullinger was the catalyst with 19 points and seven rebounds. Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 18 points and Deshaun Thomas finished with 14 points and nine boards.
–Kansas (31-6 SU, 18-17-1 ATS) advanced to the national semifinals thanks to an 80-67 win over banged-up North Carolina in the Elite Eight. The Jayhawks hooked up their backers as two-point favorites, utilizing a triangle-and-two defense for a good chunk of the second half to stymie the Tar Heels. Tyshawn Taylor snapped out of a scoring slump to drop 22 points on UNC. Taylor also had six rebounds, five assists and five steals. Thomas Robinson finished with 18 points and nine rebounds.
–Ohio St. senior William Buford knocked down 6-of-8 free throws against the ‘Cuse to get into double figures with 13 points. However, we should note his prolonged shooting slump going into this weekend. Buford, who averages 14.4 points per game, has scored below his average in six of the Bucks’ last seven games. He went 3-for-12 from the field against the ‘Cuse, 1-for-8 against Cincy and 4-of-13 against Gonzaga.
–These schools met in the regular season in Lawrence with KU winning by a 78-67 count as a 1 ½-point home favorite. But Sullinger was injured and did not dress out against the Jayhawks, who got 21 points and seven rebounds out of Robinson. Taylor dished out 13 assists, while Elijah Johnson chipped in with 15 points. Buford scored a team-high 21 points for the Buckeyes, who got 19 points from Deshaun Thomas.
–KU has been an underdog four times this year, posting a 1-2-1 ATS record with one outright win at Baylor (68-54).
–Ohio St. has compiled a 7-9 spread record in 16 games as a single-digit favorite.
–The ‘over’ has been a huge money maker in Ohio St. games recently, cashing at a 10-1 clip in its last 11 outings. For the season, the ‘over’ is 20-11-2 overall.
–The ‘under’ is 21-13-2 overall for KU.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
–South Carolina made a brilliant hire when it plucked Frank Martin away from Kansas St. According to multiple reports, K-St. AD John Currie didn’t make much effort to keep Martin, who took the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament four times in five seasons. That’s a good thing for the Gamecocks, who won just two SEC games this year. Martin will change the hoops culture in Columbia fast.
–Even if Bradley Beal bolts for the NBA after his freshman season, Billy Donovan and UF will return the entire roster with the exception of Erving Walker and Beal, who is expected to be a lottery pick. Beal is returning home to St. Louis this weekend to discuss his future with his family. ESPN.com’s Chad Ford has Beal as the No. 4 pick in the first round in his latest mock draft. However, Beal’s father Bobby told the Gainesville Sun, “I know it’s going to be a hard decision for him. Some people say (leaving) is a no-brainer, but I know that he loves college, loves the atmosphere down there. He’s the kind of kid that when he starts something, he likes to finish it.”
–Kansas assistant Danny Manning has been named the new head coach at Tulsa. Manning, a superstar player who led the Jayhawks to the 1988 national title, paid his dues and went about becoming a head coach the right way. Congrats and best of luck to him.