College Basketball: March Madness Preview – The Championship Game

march madnessWe’ve arrived at the moment of truth – the Final Four have played and only two teams remain to vie for the national championship. It may be the most predictable conclusion to the least predictable tournament in recent memory. Despite a slew of upsets with top seeds being knocked out in each region throughout March Madness, in the end it comes down to two of the favorites ever since tournament selections were announced. Michigan State had one heck of a run as the #7 seed in East, but it all came crashing down against the South’s #1 seed Duke, getting roundly thumped both halves en route to an 81-61 victory for the Blue Devils. It may not be a surprise that there are two #1 teams playing for the title tonight, but the thing that may be surprising is that the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats finally fell, although I thought they were ready for a loss after Notre Dame. Senior Frank Kaminsky delivered big again for the Badgers, dropping 20 points against Kentucky and leading his team down the stretch to get Wisconsin across the finish line. A lot of people who picked Kentucky to go all the way just lost their final hope of a winning bracket, but if you had Duke and Wisconsin going all the way now’s the time to pat yourself on the back. How do you make a pick in the championship game with two such dominant teams? There are some clues in the betting lines. The money line should probably be ignored for this one as it’s a virtual coinflip at -118 for Wisconsin and -102 for Duke. It’s also clear that the oddsmakers think this one is going down to the wire, possibly even the final shot of the game, but a trend does emerge as you look at the odds on the point spread. The bigger the margin of victory is on the spread, the bigger the favorite Wisconsin is to beat the spread. On +4 Wisconsin is -195, on +5.5 Wisconsin is -270, and on +7.5 Wisconsin is -380. That may be a lesson learned from Kentucky, where the Wildcats got frantic late and made errant shots trying to make up the difference, whereas the Badgers stayed calm and composed to the end. I’m not saying I’d personally bet on Wisconsin covering a 8 point spread, but if they have a good lead with 5 minutes to go they seem to have the resilience to hold onto it. Duke’s freshman standout Jahlil Okafor finally woke up against Michigan State, doubling up on his performance against Gonzaga by dropping 18. His accuracy also improved as he went from 40% to 63% on field goals. The Badgers can’t simply double up on Okafor and hope to shut him down again, because senior Quinn Cook dropped 17 against the Spartans. It’s the balanced attack of Duke that coach Mike Krzyzewski will hope to use to shut Wisconsin down, and few men in college basketball history know more about winning in the spotlight, with four national championships dating back to the early 1990’s. As always remember that these previews are for entertainment purposes only, and if you decide to wager on live sporting events, please bet only what you can afford.

Written by Stevie J

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