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November 29, 2022

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NCAA Tournament by the Odds: Vegas picks for the Final Four and potential championship game spreads

Bill Self tournament

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Kansas head coach Bill Self is followed by reporters after a news conference in New Orleans, Thursday, March 29, 2012. Kansas is scheduled to play Ohio State in an NCAA tournament Final Four semifinal college basketball game on Saturday.

2012 NCAA Tournament

What's the best bet of the Final Four?
Kansas +2.5 — 30.5%
Ohio State -2.5 — 25.1%
Kentucky -9 — 23.2%
Louisville +9 — 21.2%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Both underdogs need to prevail in Saturday’s Final Four games to get the most competitive NCAA championship matchup possible, according to Las Vegas sports books.

Lucky’s sports books — locations at the D, the Plaza, Terrible’s and the Riviera — released potential national championship lines this week and only one game had a spread of less than three points. Lucky’s favors Kansas by 1 ½ points over Louisville.

The Jayhawks are 7-point underdogs in a potential rematch with Kentucky Monday night and the Cardinals would get three points against favored Ohio State.

If Kansas and Louisville fail to upset Ohio State and Kentucky, respectively, the line in the national championship game would be 4 ½ in favor of the Wildcats.

But let’s not look too far ahead. The two moneymaking opportunities on Saturday’s national semifinal games are too intriguing.

Lines on both games appear incredibly tight, but we’ll stick to the blog’s obligation of picking every NCAA Tournament contest against the spread. So far, we’ve gone 31-29 overall and 8-1 on top-confidence plays.

Check back on Sunday for one final pick on the championship game.

No. 1 Kentucky (-8.5) over No. 4 Louisville If this line would have posted a month ago before the end of the regular season, sports books would have listed Kentucky a point-and-a-half or two higher. Yes, Louisville has looked terrific in reeling off eight straight postseason covers. But what about Kentucky? Haven’t the Wildcats looked even better and a hairline away from unstoppable? Focus and motivation will reach an all-time high against a bitter in-state rival. The Wildcats should win going away — just like the last time the two teams faced off. Don’t let the 69-62 final score fool you. As pointed out in this story, Kentucky led by 13 with 10 seconds to go before Louisville grabbed a backdoor cover. Louisville’s defense certainly contributed to Kentucky shooting 29 percent that day, but it wasn’t the only reason. The Wildcats played poorly and still won easy. A better performance will spell a bigger victory in New Orleans.

No. 2 Kansas (+2.5) over No. 2 Ohio State Talk to those in sports betting circles about important factors in evenly-matched NCAA Tournament games and one topic is bound to come up — coaching. The lines posted by sports books don’t always accurately reflect the edge in coaching one team may have over another. Kansas’ Bill Self is a level above Ohio State’s Thad Matta. Self is the only reason the Jayhawks have made it this far in the tournament. It took in-game defensive adjustments against both No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 10 seed Purdue to survive. When Self switched to a triangle-and-two defense in the Elite Eight, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams couldn’t even identify it. Matta is no slouch, but trusting in Self to make one small tweak could be the difference Saturday. Some believe this game is truly a pick’em. I’d take points with either team, and so would at least one other prominent Las Vegas oddsmaker. “I think this is one of those games where no one ever leads by more than five or six,” Red Rock Race and Sports Book Director Jason McCormick said. “Anything more than a point looks valuable to me.”

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

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