The NCAA tournament reaches its pinnacle this weekend when Michigan faces Loyola-Chicago, and Kansas battles Villanova in the Final Four. The two national semifinal games will be among the most-bet college basketball contests of the season, and while most are turning their attention to the pointspreads for these two games, the totals could hold the true betting value.
Here’s some free handicapping selections and a look at the Over/Under numbers, the teams and the best ways to tackle the totals for Saturday’s Final Four contests.
No. 11 Loyola-Chicago vs. No. 3 Michigan (Open 126, Now 129.5)
This total is on the rise, already jumping three points up from its opening stand of 126 points. That may not seem like much, but when oddsmakers have these two teams pegged at this point in the tournament, a 3-point adjustment is very significant.
This Final Four matchup is a battle between two of the top defenses in the country, with Michigan allowing only 59 points per NCAA game and sitting third in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency – a telltale stat when it comes to national title winners.
The Ramblers have allowed only 63.5 points during their four tournament tilts and rank 19th in defensive efficiency. But while Michigan limits foes with their length and quickness, the Ramblers play a methodical pace on offense – 66.6 possessions per game – to limit their opponents’ touches on the other end of the floor.
There’s good reason for this uptick in the total, especially when you look at what Michigan can do versus Loyola-Chicago. The Wolverines have scoring options inside and out, making them very tough to stop. If they can jump ahead early on the scoreboard, that would force the Ramblers to play a quicker pace than they’d like.
What could kill the Over play is the 3-point shooting from Loyola-Chicago, which is hitting at almost 43 percent for the tournament and picks up over 33 percent of its total points from beyond the arc. This Final Four game is being held in the Alamodome which seats 72,000 – a huge jump from the small gyms and arenas the Ramblers are used to. The field of depth is very different inside these domed stadiums and mid-major teams have struggled to shoot well in such cavernous confines in past Final Fours.
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 1 Villanova (Open 154.5, Now 155)
Two of the top-scoring teams in the country look primed for a shootout in San Antonio. The Jayhawks post more than 81 points per game on the season and have hit about that average during the NCAA tournament, while the Wildcats are posting 82.25 points during the Big Dance and picking up the bulk of those buckets from beyond the arc.
Both squads, Villanova and Kansas, are hot from beyond the 3-point line. The Wildcats have buried their opposition in a barrage of 3-point looks, outside of a poor shooting effort versus Texas Tech in the Elite Eight. Kansas has increased its 3-point production in each tournament game and is coming off a 13-for-36 effort from distance in the win over Duke.
Kansas and Villanova have multiple scoring options, with the Jayhawks running a six-name rotation and five of those guys putting up at least 12 points per game on the season. Villanova also have a surplus of scoring options, with five players regularly hitting double figures on the scoresheet.
Defensively, there is much to desire from both sides. Kansas allowed just under 72 points per game in regulation over four NCAA games – 3-1 Over/Under – and struggled on that end of the floor at times this season. Villanova hasn’t been tested much in terms of top-tier scoring attacks but did go Over the number in seven of their eight games versus foes with offenses ranked in the Top 30. The Wildcats are 2-2 O/U during the NCAA tournament.