NCAA Finals Dream Match Up: Kentucky vs. Duke

March has arrived and that means the NCAA Tournament more appropriately called March Madness. Sitting at the top of the odds chart to win the National Championship are the Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky is 29-0 and can move to 30-0 on Tuesday with a win over the Georgia Bulldogs.

Looking down the road if we may, odds makers through their crystal ball or algorithms whichever you believe, see Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin and Arizona as the teams with the best odds of winning the national championship.

Many believe it could be a battle between Duke and Kentucky with Kentucky sitting at 39-0 in the national championship game against the Duke Blue Devils and Coach K.

Duke would be the only team that could beat Kentucky and they are peaking just at the right time. The Blue Devils have won 9 straight games after losing back-to-back games to North Carolina State and Miami.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski said his team has played well all season with the exception of a few games where they did not shoot well. He added that you do not beat teams like Wisconsin, Stanford, Michigan State and Notre Dame unless you are good. He claims his players have also matured since the season started.

Duke has Jahlil Okafor as well, arguably the best player in the nation, just ask Coach K, he will be more than happy to tell you that.

That would mean the year’s best player would be against the country’s best team, what other matchup would anyone really want to see.

Since 1984-85, when the tournament was expanded to 64 teams, just four national championship games have had two No. 1 seeds. Some of the best final games came from the matchups, including Duke vs. UConn in 1999, North Carolina vs. Illinois in 2005, Florida vs. Ohio State in 2007 and Kansas vs. Memphis in 2008.

With Kentucky vs. Duke, you will also have the most hated and most loved teams in the nation in the eyes of college basketball fans. This matchup might not reach the 24.1 rating and 35 million viewers that the Indiana State/Larry Bird vs. Michigan State/Magic Johnson drew but it could especially if Kentucky reaches the final at 39-0.

Mike Krzyzewski is 8-1 at Duke against Kentucky. Kentucky coach John Calipari is attempting to reach his third Final Four in the past three years and his second national title in three years.

It might be a long shot, but that is what sports betting is all about, long shots. Let’s hope the Basketball Gods are looking down upon college basketball and the NCAA Finals feature Kentucky vs. Duke.

My First Saturday Bullets of the “Football-less” Period

I don't feel like Chris Paul meant anything sexist in his comments but I get why some feel that way.

In the old days, this weekend was the one where there was that last taste of football for basically a half a year. The NFL Pro Bowl for many years in my lifetime anyway was always played the Sunday following the Super Bowl. That tradition no longer exists as the Pro Bowl is now played the week prior to the Super Bowl.

Therefore for my football-loving friends, we are stuck without our favorite sport for the foreseeable future. Then again, the NFL Combine is in just a few weeks…

On to the bullets.

-While I think Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers could have chosen his words more carefully Thursday night, I really don’t believe he was attacking referee Lauren Holtkamp. In her first season as an NBA official, Holtkamp T’ed up Paul during the game against Cleveland. Afterwards, Paul felt the technical foul was undeserved and added “If that’s the case, this might not be for her.” Many felt Paul was criticizing her because she was a woman and I don’t think that’s the case here. He was clearly frustrated and I feel his shot was more at her inexperience than anything else.

Tiger is breaking down at an alarming rate and I'm not sure it's just coincidence.

-There was a time when I really enjoyed watching Tiger Woods play golf but now I’m really starting to wonder if we weren’t duped a bit by the 14-time major winner. Woods withdrew this week from a tournament at the very course he won his last major in 2008. This is now the sixth time Woods has WD’ed and in every case it was due to injury. Not surprisingly, he was also out of contention on each occurrence as well. As his body breaks down I can’t help but wonder if Woods was in fact a user of PEDs. Ironically, it was July of 2008 when the PGA started drug testing. Take it for what you will.

-Fresh off the heels of his thoughts on banning the defensive shift in baseball, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has added that he’d like to see a bidding process take over as the way to find All-Star Game locations. For the previous 82 years, the game has rotated between National and American League ballparks but this year and next, the game will be in National League parks. By moving towards a Super Bowl-like bidding process, I can’t help but imagine we’ll be seeing All-Star Games in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles on an annual basis.

-The Atlanta Falcons admitted this week that they were piping in artificial crowd noise to make the Georgia Dome louder. Therefore, the environment would be tougher for opposing teams. This same claim has been leveled many times against Indianapolis but has never been admitted to or proven. My question is this; if this is illegal, then why were the Seattle Seahawks allowed to build a stadium that creates more natural noise than any other?

-I have to admit it’s pretty cool to look at the standings in the NBA see teams up there that we aren’t normally used to seeing. In the Western Conference, you have Golden State and Memphis while in the East you have Atlanta and Toronto. As much as I like to see the Boston’s, LA’s and Chicago’s of the NBA up there it’s nice that these other cities get a chance to shine and feel the air of a top basketball team.

-Believe it or not, March Madness is just around the corner.

Kentucky Remains No. 1 on NCAA National Championship Futures Board

The NCAA men’s basketball regular season has entered its stretch run as conference play continues. Most teams have another half dozen conference matchups before playing in their conference tournaments to end the regular season before March Madness begins.

Odds makers released this week an updated futures board for the 2015 NCAA tournament. Three teams now have the same odds in second place. Arizona and Duke were joined this week by Wisconsin with the second best odds for the national title at 8 to 1.

All three trail Kentucky the odds on favorite at 4 to 5. The Wildcats have been at the top of the futures board since the start of the season thanks to such a deep lineup of talent, and remain the only undefeated team in the top 25.

Wisconsin however has won five consecutive games including wins on the road at Iowa and Michigan. The Badgers are 13-1 over their past 14 games overall, with the only blemish an embarrassing loss to Rutgers. Their only other loss of the season was in early December against Duke.

Duke has been on an emotional rollercoaster of sorts. On January 25, the Blue Devils defeated St. John’s to hand their coach his 1,000 win. Since, they have blown a second half lead of 10 points to lose to Notre Dame, kicked Rasheed Sulaimon their sixth man off the team and hand the Virginia Cavaliers their first loss of this season.

In the eyes of odds makers such as Bovada and topbet it has been just a wash, as the Blue Devils odds remained unchanged from this same time last week.

On the other hand, the loss to Duke pushed the Virginia odds for the national title higher to 10 to 1 from last week’s 8 to 1.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs continue to get very little respect in the eyes of odds makers. On most national polls, the Bulldogs are ranked No. 2 with just one loss on the season. However, odds makers such as betonline and have Gonzalo no higher than tied for fifth with odds of 10 to 1 to win the national title.



Kentucky Laying 2.5 against UConn in National Championship Tilt

March Madness concludes tonight when the national champion of college basketball will be crowned in Arlington. Texas. The Kentucky Wildcats take on the Connecticut Huskies in what should be a very closely contested game from start to finish.

Kentucky is a No. 8 seed, while Connecticut is a No. 7 seed. Bovada and have Kentucky as short chalk, but UConn has thrived as the dog in this NCAA Tournament.

According to data taken from topbet and betonline, UConn becomes the first No. 7 seed to reach the final, while it is the fourth time a No. 8 seed has reached the final.

In another first, Kentucky will look to become the first college team with five starters who are all freshmen to win a national championship. That would surpass the Fab Five from Michigan who were losers to Duke 71-51 in the championship game of 1992.

The Huskies have a great deal more experience in their backcourt with Ryan Boatright a junior and senior and top player Shabazz Napier.

Bovada currently has Kentucky at -2.5 with the over/under point total sitting on 134.5. The number has gone as high at 3 and as low as 2, but seems to have settled on 2.5.

Connecticut versus Kentucky all time is 3-1 straight up and 2-2 against the spread. Connecticut defeated Kentucky in the Final Four in 2011. In that game, UConn was a dog by 2 points but won 56-55.

Three of the top players on the Huskies played in that game as freshmen, although the stars of the game were Jeremy Lamb and Kemba Walker.

Connecticut has won three NCAA national championships, while Kentucky has won eight. Only UCLA has won more national titles (11) than the Wildcats.

Kentucky’s most recent national championship was in 2012 when they started two sophomores and three freshmen.

In its past 8 games, Kentucky has covered the spread in 7. In each of the past four games Kentucky has played, the OVER has cashed with an average combined score of 147.8.

UConn has covered the spread in each of its five games in this NCAA tournament. The Huskies have won the past four outright as underdogs.

Kentucky has won its past four games in this tournament by a combined 11 points. They defeated a tough Wisconsin team 74-73 in their Final Four. The results were a push as Kentucky had been favored by 1 point.

It was the second straight game Aaron Harrison knocked down a three pointer in the final seconds. It was just the fifth three-pointer the Wildcats had attempted in the entire game.

UConn has the more talented individual player in the backcourt with All-American Napier. However, twin brothers Andrew and Aaron Harrison will have a decided height advantage and can get into the lane and take advantage of that size.

This game in the minds of many bookmakers is a tossup. While some believe Kentucky should be favored by 3 to 4 points, others see great value in the Huskies as the underdog.

Kentucky had just 4 turnovers versus Wisconsin and has learned to become disciplined with what is working for them at the time.

There is definite relationship with the total points regardless the team you like. Kentucky bettors will like the OVER, as the Wildcats will push the pace. A win by UConn likely will mean an UNDER as 24 of the previous 37 games Connecticut has posted a total it was UNDER.

Pick: Kentucky 74-67

Low Seeds, Big Names Meet in the Championship Game

Harrison Twins
Harrison Twins
The Harrison twins will need to both play well for Kentucky to win the title.

The NCAA Tournament is down to its’ final two participants and while they may be relatively low seeds, they are well-known to the college basketball world. In the first semi-final game last night, the UConn Huskies defeated the tournament’s top overall seed Florida 63-53. In the second game, Kentucky once again got a last second shot from Aaron Harrison to defeat Wisconsin 74-73.

What we have now is the largest combined total in terms of seeds for title game in the history of the NCAA Tournament. UConn is the first-ever seven seed to make the title game while the youthful Kentucky Wildcats are an eighth seed. I called Kentucky’s win over Wisconsin but missed on Florida who disappointed me but a lot of that had to do with the Huskies. Let’s see what I can come up with for Monday night.

Daniels will need another monster game in order for the Huskies to win the title.

Kentucky (-2.5) vs. UConn – They often say that freshmen are no longer freshmen by the end of a long season but let’s be real here, the Kentucky freshmen weren’t exactly ‘typical freshmen’ when they arrived in Lexington in the first place. They have certainly grown up in a short amount of time under John Calipari but now they will be tested against an experienced group of Huskies from UConn.

How the Wildcats Win…. It really is a simple formula for Big Blue heading into the title game tomorrow night; they must win the battle of the boards and they must defend the tandem of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. Sounds easy right? Not so fast my friends…

Despite hitting the game-winner, Aaron Harrison didn’t play very well and neither did his brother Andrew. They weren’t bad by any stretch but they both admitted they need to play better. Calipari was constantly screaming at them to drive to the basket last night rather than take jumpers and not surprisingly Calipari was correct.

While that worked against the Badgers, Kentucky will have to be able to knock down those jump shots because UConn is a much different animal in the paint than was Wisconsin. While the Harrison twins must up their game I still believe UK’s fate will ride on the shoulders of Julius Randle. If the Wildcats can mix some outside shooting with Randle’s inside presence then I like their chances.

How the Huskies win… Well, well, well… Let’s see. How about just give the ball to Shabazz Napier and let him take over? Easier said than done to be sure but there is some truth to it. Napier will not necessarily need to score the basketball looking for 25 points or so, but he will need to be a catalyst. Both Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels could be beneficiaries of Napier’s play-making.

Daniels became the first player to have at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in a semifinal since Carmelo Anthony in 2003. That’s pretty good company to be associated with and Daniels will need to have a similar game for UConn to win.  The size that the Huskies pose in the paint also includes Amida Brimah who can block shots and pass the ball very well for a big man.

If UConn can keep Kentucky out of the paint and force them to shoot outside jumpers then I believe the Huskies will once again be the champs.

The Verdict… The coaching match-up heavily favors Calipari over Kevin Ollie who is in his first NCAA tournament as a head coach. That said, let’s not forget that Ollie’s ear will be getting a mouthful from former UConn coach Jim Calhoun. Either way, the edge is to Calipari. That said, I think the inside-outside game of UConn will be just enough. Take the Huskies getting the 2.5 points.


Florida Overvalued at -6.5 versus Connectcut

The Final Four tips off tonight in Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium, as just 4 teams remain from the original 68.

In one of the two games, the Connecticut Huskies take on the Florida Gators.

No. 1 seeded Florida is 36-2 straight up and 17-14-3 against the spread. The Gators will look to avenge the loss they suffered at the hands of Connecticut on December 2.

Connecticut seeded No. 7 is 30-8 straight up and 20-14-2 against the spread.

Connecticut defeated Florida in Connecticut on December 2 when Shabazz Napier hit a shot before the final buzzer to give the Huskies a 65-64 win. In that matchup, the Gators were a 4-point dog.

Napier hit five shots from beyond the 3-point arc in the game to finish with 26 points. Billy Donovan, the Florida head coach called Napier a great scorer who is able to do damage by himself.

Florida played that game without Kasey Hill their point guard who was injured and the final three minutes of the game without Scottie Wilbekin the senior guard who rolled an ankle.

Connecticut is 4-0 ATS while Florida is 2-2 ATS in their four NCAA Tournament games. Connecticut has an all time record in Final Four appearances of 6-1.

Florida is currently favored by 6.5 points on Bovada and, and the over/under point total is on 126.5 at topbet and betonline.

December’s head to head match cashed UNDER the point total of 131. Florida has covered the spread in 20 of its past 29 games played in the NCAA Tournament.

The UNDER has cashed in 14 of the past 18 games for Connecticut and in 23 of 36 this season.

Florida according to Bovada has seen the UNDER cash in 33 of 34 games.

Connecticut has covered the spread in 25 of its past 35 games played on neutral courts.

Florida’s defense is one of the best in the nation. It has held its four opponents in the tournament to an average of 55 points per game. The defense provides the fuel for Florida’s fast break transition offense.

In their Elite Eight matchup, Florida held the potent Dayton offense to just 11 baskets from two-point range. Just 1 of the past 7 opponents of Florida has scored above 60 points.

Napier can play with the best of them and he and two other teammates played on the 2011 national championship team.

Connecticut is deadly from the charity strip hitting 81 of its 92 foul shots taken in their four tournament games.

Connecticut’s defense is no slouch. The Huskies allow just 64 points per game and block 6 shots per game, which is 8th in the nation.

Pick: Florida 62-59

Breaking Down the Final Four Match-Ups

Can Shabazz Napier keep the Huskies' run alive against the Gators?

The Final Four is finally here and I fully expect to see good games that will feature all kinds of swings and back and forth action. Who do I like to advance to Monday night? Read on people!

UConn (+6) vs. Florida – The last time these two teams met UConn defeated the Gators 65-64 in a game that could not have been any tighter than the final score indicates. The Huskies led by one at the half and then the two teams scored the exact same amount of points in the second half of that game. As close as the game was, it was also the very last time the Gators lost a game this season.

Florida comes in with one of the top defenses in the land but we have to give the Huskies credit for their defense as well. What concerns me for the Gators is the size that UConn can bring both in the starting line-up and from off the bench. The Huskies will have a significant height advantage over Florida’s big guys who are around 6’9″ and typically muscle their way to the hoop.

Huskies’ phenomenal guard Shabazz Napier had a 26 point game in that match-up and that’s about what he is averaging so far in the tournament. The challenge for Billy Donovan and company is to not necessarily keep Napier from scoring. They have to make him work for every shot and every point and they also must make him defend at the other end as well.

While Kevin Ollie has done a tremendous job coaching the Huskies, I have to give the coaching edge to Billy Donovan. Guard Scottie Wilbekin is an extension of Donovan on the court and I believe that’s the difference. I love the Huskies getting the six points so take them but I like Florida to advance in a close game.

Can the Badgers handle the athleticism of Randle and the Wildcats?

Kentucky (-2) vs. Wisconsin – Last week while I was watching the Kentucky-Michigan game, I felt either team could have easily won the game and no one could have complained. The one thing I kept coming back to in that game though as it wore on was the overall athleticism of the Wildcats.

Yes, they are a group of freshmen who are doing something we’ve really only seen once before and that was ironically the Fab Five of Michigan 20 years ago. That said, I believe the biggest problem Wisconsin is going to face is the sheer athleticism of Kentucky. I know, I know…. The Badgers face plenty of other athletic teams throughout the season so why is this any different?

I find it different for two reasons; first is the coaching. Love him or hate him, John Calipari can flat out coach and he’s gotten the most out of these kids and then some. The second difference about UK’s athleticism is that these are not weak, scrawny freshmen. These are thick, well-built young men who have weathered the physical storm all season long in the SEC.

The Badgers will counter the athleticism with physicality and precision. While this isn’t one of Bo Ryan’s better defensive teams, this doesn’t mean the Badgers can’t play any D. They will make the Wildcats work on the defensive end and then will play very physical and aggressive man-to-man defense that will challenge Kentucky to take care of the ball.

The fate of UK big man Willie Cauley-Stein is unknown but speculation is that he won’t play in the final four with his ankle injury. I really think Frank Kaminsky and the Badgers will make this interesting but the Wildcats just have too many options and too many athletes. I like Kentucky to cover and advance.

Final Four: Kentucky Short Chalk Against Wisconsin

The NCAA Tournament’s Final Four tips off on Saturday with two national semifinal games. One of those matchups features the experience of the Wisconsin Badgers versus the youth and raw talent of the Kentucky Wildcats.

Kentucky has finally received the respect of odds makers despite being seeded No. 8 in the tournament. Currently on Bovada and topbet, the Wildcats are a short favorite over the Badgers who are a No. 2 seed.

Kentucky will start five freshmen and Wisconsin will have four upperclassmen starting on the court as well as Sam Dekker a sophomore.

Rebounding could be the key to the outcome of the game with Kentucky having a plus-10 margin during the tournament.

The current line on betonline and has Kentucky favored on 1.5 points with the over/under point total sitting on 139.5.

Last Sunday when the line opened, the Wildcats were -2 but the majority of books, including Bovada have adjusted that and it has been 1.5 since midweek.

The teams have played just four games head to head with Kentucky leading the series 3-1. The two have not played since the Sweet 16 in 2003, when Kentucky won 63-57, but did not cover as a favorite by 11 points.

This is Kentucky’s third trip to the Final Four in the last four years. The Wildcats won the national championship in 2012 with a starting lineup of two sophomores and three freshmen. There are just three players, who are seldom used, that remain from that national title team.

Wisconsin was in the Final Four the last time in 2000, The Badgers lost to Michigan State that year 53-41.

Wisconsin is 4-0 against the spread during this year’s tournament and 7-1 against the number over their past 8 games played in the NCAA Tournament.

The UNDER has cashed in 3 of the 4 Wisconsin games in this tournament with Wisconsin averaging 71 points on offense and allowing 55 on defense during regulation.

Kentucky has covered the spread in each of its past 7 games played.

The OVER has cashed in the past three games for Kentucky. The Wildcats are scoring 76 points per game and allowing 72 per game over that stretch.

The size difference Kentucky has over Wisconsin at the guard and wing spots could be a big difference in the game’s outcome. The three should be able to shot easily over their Wisconsin opponents.

Julius Randle the talented freshmen power forward will be crucial for Kentucky. He has averaged double digits in rebounds in all of the tournament games and should have a decided advantage over Dekker down low.

Kentucky defeated three of the four Final Four teams from last season on their road to this season’s Final Four. However, this is a disciplined Badgers team that is well coached and handles the pressure well with few turnovers.

Some odds makers say Kentucky is undervalued and should be at -3 of even -4 in this game.

Pick: Kentucky 78-69 and the OVER

Final Four Props Released by Bookmakers

Odds makers have released a number of props for Saturday’s Final Four. The two NCAA national semifinal games will tip off Saturday with the Connecticut Huskies facing the Florida Gators and the Kentucky Wildcats taking on the Wisconsin Badgers.

The Gators are winners of 29 straight and the top seeded team in the tournament. Connecticut has impressed with guard Shabazz Napier taking over games on his own. Wisconsin has proved just how tough the Big Ten conference is, while the Kentucky Wildcats are finally playing up to their billing as the best recruiting class of all time.

Sites such as Bovada, topbet, betonline and all have a number of different offerings for the Final Four. By browsing through the different sites, certain props might catch the eye or specific odds might jump out at you.

Props available include which of the teams in each game will score 20 points first. If you were to choose that bet in the Florida versus Connecticut matchup, Florida is currently sitting at -155 on some sites, while on others they are at -175.

However, if Connecticut is to your liking the Huskies at plus money are sitting at +155 on some sites and +135 on others to score 20 points first in the contest.

Other props that interest many bettors are those related to players. For the Final Four, those types of props are also available. The OVER/UNDER for point total for Shabazz Napier for Connecticut sits at 18.5.

Another prop is the total points, rebounds and assists Napier will have in the game. That prop is currently sitting with the OVER/UNDER on 29.5

The choice is yours as there are a number of different props to choose from for the four teams playing and for the individual players playing in the two games on Saturday.

These are a list of some of the props available for the two National Semifinal games on Saturday.

Connecticut vs. Florida (-6.5)

Connecticut -110

Florida -110

First team to Score 20 points

Florida -155

Connecticut +135

Total 3-point shots made – 12.5

OVER –-110

UNDER – -110

Shabazz Napier total points, rebounds, assists – 29.5

OVER – -110

UNDER – -110

Kentucky (-1.5) vs. Wisconsin

Kentucky -110

Wisconsin  -110

First to 20 points

Kentucky -115

Wisconsin -105

These props, with the exception of the one for the winner of the National Championship, will be available just for Saturday’s two Final Four contests, with new props released on Sunday for the National Championship game on Monday April 7.

Kentucky Short Chalk in Elite Eight Matchup with Michigan

The NCAA Tournament continues its path toward the final four with two more Elite Eight games on Sunday. In one of those games, the Kentucky Wildcats meet the Michigan Wolverines.

Kentucky was the preseason AP No. 1 pick but has not lived up to its label of best recruiting class of all time in college basketball.

However, the Wildcats seem to have awoken from their season long snooze and are a team that cannot be overlooked. Kentucky could very well be lifting the national championship trophy in just 8 days.

Fresh from defeating Louisville the defending national champions for a second time this season, Kentucky is small chalk on Bovada and in their matchup against the talented Michigan Wolverines.

Kentucky has been inconsistent this season with his squad laden with freshmen. However, with wins over talented teams such as Louisville and the previously unbeaten Wichita State Shockers, the Wildcats are a legitimate threat to win and move on today.

However, they might have to play without one of their frontcourt players.

Michigan is in the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season after a win against Tennessee in the Sweet 16. Head Coach John Beilein is now 20-5 against the number in NCAA Tournament games for his coaching career.

Kentucky will have a huge advantage on the boards, but Michigan counters that with sharpshooters from 3-point territory.

The current line on topbet and betonline has Kentucky -2 with the point total sitting on 140.5.

John Calipari the Kentucky head coach is 7-1-1 ATS in March Madness. Kentucky lost 78-74 to Michigan State this past November, which was their only game versus a member of the Big Ten.

Michigan defeated Michigan State 2 out of 3 times they have played this season. Kentucky is 6-0 ATS over its past 6 games overall. The OVER has cashed in 6 of the past 8 games the Wolverines have played overall.

Willie Cauley-Stein a sophomore forward for Kentucky injured an ankle against Louisville. He did not return after the first half injury and his status for this game is still unknown.

Cauley-Stein is a big reason the Wildcats have the second best rebounding margin in the nation.

Kentucky starts five freshmen including twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison and Julius Randle one of the nation’s best frontcourt players.

Michigan relies on its outside shot. The Wolverines have hit 32 of their 65 three point shots during their three games thus far in the tournament.

Michigan is 13-0 SU in their past 13 games decided by 9 points or less.

Kentucky might be loaded with freshmen, but they have finally realized what it is to play like a team. The Wildcats will be tough on the boards and will look to shut down the Michigan perimeter offense.

I like the Wildcats less the points to win and move on to their third Final Four in four seasons.