Today's the day. With both Final Four games being played this evening, it'll be our last major day of leans on college hoops. We'll probably still bet the national championship game on Monday, but for now, consider this our last major gasp for the 2017-18 college basketball season. We've got a great card of three picks for you.
A lot of people are betting with their heart in this spot instead of their head. Nearly 60% of all tickets at one online sportsbook I follow are backing Loyola to cover, though I have seen other books in Vegas with numbers trending hard in the other direction. Yes, the Ramblers are a feel-good story, but that warm fuzzy feeling isn't going to prepare any of the Loyola kids for Michigan's defense and streaky shooting abilities.
Truth-telling time: Loyola deserves a lot of credit for making the Final Four, but they didn't exactly have to play Murderer's Row to get to San Antonio. In the first week, they beat Miami and Tennessee on late jump shots; last weekend, they beat a No. 7 seed and a No. 9 seed. Michigan is the best team they'll play in this tournament by a wide margin.
When you couple the reality with the historical idea that No. 11 seeds don't make it past the fifth game of the tournament, John Beilein's team is the clear play. I do have a slight lean on the over here as well, but I'll leave that on the table.
This total opened at 155, which is a crazy high number for a Final Four game, but the books have to hang it high out of respect for the shooting abilities of both teams.
Here's the thing, though. You have to go all the way back to the 2005 NCAA tournament, when North Carolina beat Michigan State 87-71, to find a national semifinal game that goes over 155 points. It just doesn't really happen. The teams have all week to lock down their defenses, and as a result, the scores stay in the 130s and 140s.
It's fair to expect some defense from Kansas and Villanova in this spot. Both shoot a lot of threes, but they're also both really good at running the other team off the three-point line. Per KenPom, Villanova ranks 29th (32.2%) in 3-pt defensive FG percentage, and Kansas (32.7%) isn't far behind. Both teams hit shots, but they stop other teams from hitting shots as well.
My lean here with the point spread is on Kansas, as I think it should be a tight game. But the picks I'm recommending are both under plays — bet under the posted total, and take a look at the 3-pointers prop bet as well. Right now, the total for that prop is a whopping 20 three-pointers. With these two teams, it could definitely happen, but the sharp play is to bet that it won't.
Pick: Kansas/Villanova Under 154.5
Pick: Kansas/Villanova Under 20 three-pointers made
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