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August 21, 2014

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NCAA Tournament by the odds: Vegas picks and props for the Final Four

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Louisville guard Russ Smith (2) smiles as he talks to an official during the first half of the Midwest Regional final against Duke in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Indianapolis.

Updated odds to win the NCAA Championship

  • Louisville — 10-to-13
  • Michigan — 3-to-1
  • Syracuse — 5-to-1
  • Wichita State — 12-to-1
  • Source: LVH Superbook

No matter the participants, this year’s National Championship game will be one of the most evenly matched in recent memory.

For only the second time in the past five years, Monday’s final college basketball contest of the season is expected to feature a favorite of less than six points. That’s according to William Hill sports books, which posted lines on all the potential National Championship matchups and opened them for betting earlier this week.

Sports books would prefer to see Louisville in the game. Not only would its status boost the betting handle, but Wichita State’s ouster would kill some liability in scattered future books. To oddsmakers, it doesn’t matter which team the Cardinals play.

Louisville shouldn’t care either based on the point spreads. Louisville is currently a 5-point favorite over Michigan at William Hill, a half-point more than the 5.5 spread against Syracuse.

If Wichita State does continue its rampage on giants against Louisville, the Shockers would take points again on Monday. Wichita State is currently plus-5 against Michigan and plus-4.5 versus Syracuse.

Potential point spreads and other assorted props are always part of the fun of Final Four week in Las Vegas. Every sports book in town will have a long sheet of proposition wagers out Saturday morning before the two national semifinal games.

At the LVH Superbook, bettors can gamble on over/under point totals for 12 players — four from each team.

Louisville’s Russ Smith and Michigan’s Trey Burke, predictably, carry the highest totals with the former at 20.5 and the latter at 18.

After scoring 19 points per game this season, Smith has spiked his average to 26 during the NCAA Tournament. Burke also averaged 19 during the regular season but is down to 15.5 per game in the postseason.

Cleanthony Early earns Wichita State’s highest over/under at 12.5 points, while Syracuse swingmen C.J. Fair and James Southerland are both at 13.5.

The lowest point totals belong to Louisville’s Chane Behanan, eight points, and Wichita State’s Ron Baker, 8.5 points.

Looking for one to bet? How about Michigan freshman Mitch McGary going under 10 points? Before the Wolverines big man caught fire in the tournament with 17.5 points per game, he barely averaged more than seven in the regular season.

Michigan’s game plan doesn’t figure to predominantly focus on getting McGary the ball against Syracuse.

The point of this entry isn’t to pick props, though, so let’s get to the games. With a 29-34-2 record picking every NCAA Tournament game against the spread, respectability is all that’s left on the line for the Final Four contests.

No. 9 Wichita State plus-10.5 over No. 1 Louisville Louisville’s second-half dismantling of Duke — where the Cardinals throttled the Blue Devils by 19 points — was the most impressive 20-minute stretch of the tournament. True. But just two days before, the Cardinals muddled around when they built a large lead against Oregon and ultimately only won by eight. Wichita State is better than Oregon. Look for Louisville to win but for Wichita State to have a great chance to cover — either by virtue of playing another tough 40 minutes or by fortune of Louisville letting off its intensity late.

No. 4 Michigan minus-2 over No. 4 Syracuse Social media rumors spread Sunday that Syracuse’s coaching staff preferred to play Florida over Michigan. Too bad the Wolverines blew out the Gators, rated as the second- or third-best team in the country by oddsmakers. This isn’t a great matchup for the Orange. Michigan has the shooters — Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas especially — to attack Syracuse’s 2-3 zone and shouldn’t be intimidated by it like other teams this tournament. Along with Wichita State, Michigan is 4-0 against the spread in the tournament. The Wolverines have arguably played better than anyone left.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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