2015 Final Four Betting: Kentucky still Big Favorite to win

kentucky-number-one-2015When the 2015 NCAA Tournament began, undefeated Kentucky was the overwhelming favorite to win it all. And as we enter 2015 Final Four betting, nothing has changed in this regard.

Based on our GTBets.eu line on which team will win the Final Four, Kentucky (38-0) is sitting at 2-to-3 odds, meaning you must risk $3 to win $2. Below you can see a full list of the odds and teams:

Kentucky – 2-to-3 odds of winning
Duke – 3-to-1 odds of winning
Wisconsin – 4-to-1 odds of winning
Michigan State – 8-to-1 odds of winning

Individual Matchups

Okay, so it’s pretty clear that the Wildcats are still the favorites to cut down the nets in Indianapolis. But what about the individual matchups? Here’s a look at all of this info, along with game times/dates:

Michigan State (7) vs. Duke (1) — Saturday, April 4th at 6:09 p.m. EST on TBS
Michigan State (-110)
Duke – 5 (-110

Kentucky (1) vs. Wisconsin (1) — Saturday, April 4th at 8:49 p.m. EST on TBS
Wisconsin (-110)
Kentucky -5 (-110)

frank-kaminsky-wisconsinAs you can see, both games are expected to be somewhat close. This is interesting in Kentucky’s case when considering how dominant they have been. But Wisconsin is a great team that’ll no doubt be out for revenge. After all, the Badgers lost to Kentucky 74-73 in last year’s Final Four – thanks to an Aaron Harrison three-pointer. So this will certainly be an emotionally charged game for Wisconsin.

On the other side of the bracket, elite NBA prospect Jahlil Okafor and Duke face off against the Michigan State Spartans. The Blue Devils are seeking their fifth national title, and they’re favored to advance in this game. And it’s little surprise when considering that Michigan State is by far the lowest-seeded team involved in the Final Four. But head coach Tom Izzo has a national title of his own and another strong group again this year, so don’t count out the Spartans.

Still chasing History

Back to Kentucky, most fan interest will be dedicated to seeing if they can become the first undefeated men’s college basketball team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. Once again, the 2015 Final Four betting odds seem to indicate that they will.

However, with three out of four No. 1 seeds making it to the semifinals, this is one of the toughest Final Fours in recent memory. So Kentucky will certainly have their work cut out for them if they are to complete history.

The last chance to see an unbeaten team came in 1991, when Larry Johnson and the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels made it to the semifinals. But they couldn’t finish the job after losing to Duke. So the ultimate question remains, will Kentucky end up like UNLV, or will they join Bobby Knight’s ’76 Indiana Hoosiers in the record books? Find out for yourself this weekend, and be sure to place your Final Four bets at GTBets.

March Madness Betting: Wisconsin vs. North Carolina Sweet Sixteen

frank-kaminsky-wisconsinWisconsin and North Carolina meet in the Sweet Sixteen this year in what’s a marquee game from a March Madness betting perspective. The Tar Heels have been a very attractive wager in nine Sweet Sixteen trips since 1996 – going 9-0 straight-up and 6-3 ATS in these appearances. But will they be able to keep up this impressive record against the mighty No. 1 seed Badgers?

It’s tough to say, but the No. 4 seed Tar Heels do have a realistic opportunity to cover the spread at GTBets.eu. Here’s a look at our line heading into the game on March 26th (Thursday) at 5:45pm ET:

No. 4 North Carolina (-110)
No. 1 Wisconsin -6.5 (-110)

Aside from the outstanding Sweet Sixteen betting performances in recent times by North Carolina, they are also 7-2 SU and 6-3 ATS in their last nine games this year. One of their ATS losses came via a 67-65 first-round victory over No. 13 seed Harvard, while North Carolina’s second-round matchup was much easier as they earned an 87-78 win over Arkansas.

However, there are also a couple of factors working against the Tar Heels, with the first being that starting power forward Kennedy Meeks isn’t expected to play against Wisconsin. He sprained his knee against Arkansas and will likely leave North Carolina with 11.6 PPG and 7.4 RPG worth of production that needs filling. Another reason to worry about North Carolina in this contest is that they are 0-5 SU and ATS when being an NCAA Tournament underdog since 2000.

kennedy-meeks-ncAs for Wisconsin, they haven’t fared well ATS during 2015 March Madness. The Badgers beat Coastal Carolina 86-72 after being favored by 20 points, and they made it past Oregon 72-65 despite being a 12.5-point favorite. In their last 19 contests, Wisconsin is 18-1 SU and just 8-10-1 ATS.

Obviously this is a pretty grim proposition to Wisconsin betting enthusiasts like Phil Hellmuth. However, it is worth mentioning that the Badgers are 2-0 ATS in their last two games against the Tar Heels and 5-2 ATS in their last seven Sweet Sixteen games.

Another advantage for Wisconsin regarding their ability to beat the spread is that, assuming Meeks can’t play, Badgers star Frank Kaminsky will be matched up against backup PF Isaiah Hicks (6.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG). The latter is serviceable, having started three games, but this is also Kaminsky (18.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG) that we’re talking about – one of the best college players in the nation.

From an overall standpoint, No. 1 seeds are 22-8 SU over the last 30 contests against No. 4 seeds. However, it should be added that they’ve only gone 3-2 SU in the last five games against the fourth seed.

There are certainly a lot of factors at play here on both sides. Wisconsin figures to get by North Carolina and on to their second-straight Elite Eight. However, the Tar Heels are a quality team that’s definitely capable of beating the favored Badgers.

Poker Champ Phil Hellmuth makes 2015 March Madness Betting Picks

phil-hellmuth-march-madnessIt turns out that poker isn’t the only thing that 13-time WSOP champ Phil Hellmuth plays. He’s also into sports betting, specifically March Madness betting, and he discussed some of his picks for the 2015 NCAA Tournament with FOX Sports.

So who does he like to win it all? It’s little surprise that Hellmuth has tabbed Kentucky as his odds-on favorite to cut down the nets in Indianapolis. The poker pro has put $20,000 on undefeated Kentucky (35-0), which carries 6-5 odds of winning the Tournament. As for the rest of his sports-betting bankroll, well, it seems like the “Poker Brat” is putting some cash on his favorite team.

“I have to bet the Badgers,” said Hellmuth, who’s a Wisconsin native. “I’m a big Badger fan, I have been forever. I’ve been to like four Rose Bowls, so I’ll always bet the Badgers…and they’re a deep team. I mean (Frank) Kaminsky is great, but…everybody that knows anything about college basketball knows that basically, it was Kentucky that hit a three on us last year in the Final Four! I was like, ‘Miss the shot and we go on!”

Hellmuth adds that he can see Wisconsin making another deep run in 2015 March Madness since they have the experience and depth to do so. And the 50-year-old says that he has no problem betting on the Badgers, whether they’re at 7-1 or 8.5-1 odds (not so much at 6-1, though).

phil-hellmuth-march-madness-1But beyond his home-state team, who else is Hellmuth looking to put money on? He didn’t give many specifics, but his plan is to start “hedging” bets around the Elite Eight in case Kentucky doesn’t win.

“Some time around the Elite Eight, I’ll start hedging,” he told FOX. “Teams in general will be 3-1 to 4-1 underdogs so I’ll bet $2,000 on that team. I they win that game, if Kentucky wins, I’m still alive, I only lose $2,000. If they lose a game, I get $8,000 of my money back. So I’m gonna try and hedge it up and put myself in a position where I’m gonna win $10,000 the final game no matter what happens – and that’s sweet.”

Judging from Hellmuth’s 2015 March Madness betting strategy, it definitely looks like he’s not only putting a lot of faith in Kentucky, but also whatever team he chooses to lay $2k on in the Elite Eight. But then again, this is a guy who’s won 13 WSOP gold bracelets, so it’s a good bet that he knows what he is doing.

Speaking of which, Hellmuth did add that he got the 8.5-1 odds on Wisconsin that he was looking for through an online sportsbook. So we have to toot our own horn here and say that you can get some of the best NCAA Tournament betting odds at GTBets.eu. That said, check out our college basketball betting section during March Madness and place some wagers on your different picks each round.

Arizona vs. Ohio State – 2015 March Madness Betting

dangelo-russell-ohio-stateTomorrow evening, freshman sensation D’Angelo Russell and the Ohio State Buckeyes will take on fellow freshman phenom Stanley Johnson and the Arizona Wildcats. This matchup pits two future NBA lottery picks against each other, as well as two of the better teams involved in 2015 March Madness.

Of course, some favor has to be given to Arizona here because they are the No. 2 seed in the West Regional. And on our line at GTBets.eu, the Wildcats are 9-point favorites. Here’s a look at the Arizona vs. Ohio State betting line:

So how did both teams arrive at this game? Arizona made it here via a dominating 93-72 victory over No. 15 seed Texas Southern. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who’s mostly known for his lock-down defense, led the team in scoring with 23 points while also grabbing 10 rebounds. Forward Brandon Ashley, who missed the Wildcats’ Elite Eight run last year with a foot injury, chipped in another 14 points.

Ohio State got to the Round of 32 by eking out a 75-72 overtime victory against No. 7 seed Virginia Commonwealth. Russell was again the big story for OSU as he scored 28 points and made some clutch baskets down the stretch. The team’s senior point guard, Shannon Scott, was instrumental in handling the ball while VCU pressed with their “Havoc” defense for 45 straight minutes.

“They pressed for the whole 45 minutes,” Scott told Cleveland.com. “They weren’t going away from their game scheme. We did a great job of handling that and being able to make plays after the press.”

arizona-stanley-johnsonOhio State might have had an easier time being pressed for 45 minutes than they will in trying to handle Arizona’s size. As we discussed here about Arizona’s 2015 March Madness hopes, they’re one of the biggest and most-athletic teams in the field of 68. Johnson is 6-7, Hollis-Jefferson is 6-7 (w/ 7-foot wingspan), Ashley is 6-9 and Kaleb Tarczewski is 7-feet tall. This could be a problem for the Buckeyes, who have not played well against bigger teams.

In fact, one of the keys to OSU’s success against higher-seeded VCU is that they could go small. 6-4 freshman Jae’Sean Tate played center down the stretch, scoring 12 points and grabbing eight rebounds. That won’t happen against Arizona, and the Buckeyes know this.

So if Ohio State is to pull off a huge upset of a team that some think has the talent to beat undefeated Kentucky, they’ll have to hit the three. Arizona packs their defenders in the lane and mid-range areas, allowing teams to shoot the three without as much contesting. However, OSU is merely an average three-point shooting team, so they’re going to have to get hot.

For the Wildcats, it all comes down to using their size advantage and at least contesting the shots they allow teams to shoot beyond the arc. It’s unlikely that Arizona will allow Ohio State many looks inside. But they also need to use their size and length to make life miserable for the Buckeyes on the perimeter too.

Another interesting element to this matchup is the coaching, which is great on both sides. Thad Matta has gone 2-0 against his best friend and former colleague (at Xavier), Sean Miller, with the most-recent victory coming in the 2013 Sweet 16; LaQuinton Ross nailed a gamer winner to help OSU advance.

But Miller has been pretty stellar coaching his team in the NCAA Tournament. He’s taken Arizona to the Big Dance in four out of his six seasons in the desert, with two of those appearances resulting in Elite Eight trips. Can we expect the same or better in his sixth season at Arizona? OSU won’t lay down, but it’s at least looking like a Sweet Sixteen run could be in the cards for Miller and the Wildcats. However, that still doesn’t mean tomorrow night’s game isn’t worth watching.

Ronaldo wants to play in MLS

Cristiano RonaldoA few years ago, a headline involving Ronaldo wanting to play in Major League Soccer would’ve only been something that you’d find at The Onion. However, things have changed greatly for both Ronaldo and MLS in recent years.

The report comes via Sports Illustrated, which claims “multiple sources” believe Ronaldo wants to come to MLS on a transfer fee in 2018, the year that his contract with Real Madrid ends.

That seems like a long time off and Ronaldo is already 30 years old. Furthermore, he would be 33 at the time of the transfer, which is a year older than David Beckham (32) when he came to the Los Angeles Galaxy. But then again, Ronaldo would still be younger than Manchester City’s Frank Lampard (37) and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard (35), both of whom are set to land in America this summer.

When/if Ronaldo comes across the pond, his preferred destinations are the major-market cities: Los Angeles, New York and Miami. The L.A. Galaxy would be a very interesting destination seeing as how Beckham owns part of the team.

At the moment, the three-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner still has plenty of good years left in La Liga play. Ronaldo has supplied 30 goals and 11 assists in 24 matches, helping Real Madrid to a 21-1-5 record (64 points) so far – just one point behind Barcelona for first place.

ronaldo-real-madrid-trade-1Even still, there have been rumors swirling around the Real Madrid office regarding the star Portuguese striker. The biggest rumor suggests that president Florentino Perez is considering cashing in on Ronaldo while he’s still performing at a high level. This was back in mid-February, when Perez and the rest of the organization weren’t happy about Ronaldo celebrating his 30th birthday after a 4-0 loss to rival Atletico Madrid.

But assuming these remain just rumors and Ronaldo gets to move on to MLS in three years, then he won’t be alone regarding other stars playing there. Once considered a league where old timers watch their careers fizzle out, Major League Soccer seems to be attracting more and more international talent each year. Italy’s Sebastian Giovinco, Spain’s David Villa and Brazil’s Kaka are some of the biggest names that have come to the United States recently.

Kaka, who plays for the expansion team Orlando City, sees big things for MLS in the future. “A lot of players are looking for this league now,” he said. “[In] five, 10 years it will be one of the biggest in the world.”

As the L.A. Times reported, a big reason why these international players look to America is because they’re tired of battling for playing time on crowded European rosters. Here’s one excerpt from the article:

Two decades ago Italy’s Serie A was the top league in the world. But its teams were so deep with talented, veteran players that stars such as Ruud Gullit, Gianfranco Zola and Gianluca Vialli jumped to England in search of playing time, starting a foreign invasion that eventually aided in making the English Premier League the world’s most popular and lucrative soccer league.

“It seems like it’s taking the same form,” Bradley Wright-Phillips, who played mainly for lower-division clubs in England before joining the New York Red Bulls in 2013, said of MLS. “A lot of legends — people’s favorite players — go to a league … and they end up staying. I think we might be on to something.”

Of course, this isn’t to say that MLS will soon dethrone La Liga or the Premier League as the world’s top soccer league. However, when aging stars keep coming to MLS, and somebody like Ronaldo wants to play his final years in America, then that’s definitely saying something.

Arizona could stand in Way of Kentucky’s Quest for Perfection

kentucky-2015-undefeatedIs 2015 March Madness merely the last formality in the Kentucky Wildcats’ quest for perfection? It seems that way to many after Kentucky rolled through the SEC Tournament to improve their record to 34-0. Of course, while the Wildcats have already established themselves as one of the greatest college basketball teams ever, there are plenty of really good teams sprinkled throughout the field. And one of these is no doubt another Wildcats squad – the Arizona Wildcats.

After grabbing the No. 2 seed in the West, Arizona has their work cut out if they’re to get by No. 1 seed Wisconsin. However, judging purely on future pro talent, there may be no school more capable of ruining Kentucky’s quest for perfection – a team they could potentially meet in the 2015 Final Four.

“They’re the one team that could take out Kentucky,’’ a veteran NBA scout told Forbes writer Mitch Lawrence. “They should have gotten the No. 1 seed in the West, not Wisconsin. They have the kind of team that can beat Kentucky.’’

This talented Arizona team is led by freshman Stanley Johnson, who should easily be a lottery pick next June, despite averaging just 14.1 PPG this year. “He’s a man-child,’’ the NBA scout said. “He’s 6-6 or 6-7, 245 pounds, and he’s built like a linebacker. But here’s the deal. He’s got a lot of skills. He can shoot it and he can handle the ball. He rebounds. If he comes out, he’s going to be a top lottery pick.”

arizona-stanley-johnsonThen there’s 6-7 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who has a 7-foot wingspan that creates nightmares for opponents on offense. Even top players in the Pac-10 have only averaged 12 PPG and shot 35% against the rangy Hollis-Jefferson, who’s also chipped in 10.8 PPG and 6.8 RPG.

6-9 junior forward Brandon Ashley is also key to Arizona’s chances of beating Kentucky, or anybody else. The big man is averaging 12.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG and almost one block. Veteran point guard T.J. McConnell, who averages 6.4 APG, will be directing these players through both his passing and leadership. Add in 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski and this is one very well-rounded team.

Of course, the problem with playing Kentucky is that they have insane depth and loads of talent, beginning with potential No. 1 overall NBA-Draft-pick Karl-Anthony Towns. Willie Cauley-Stein, whom some have projected to go in the top 10, is another player who creates huge matchup difficulties. There are plenty of other excellent players on John Calipari’s squad, but the problem is that with such a deep team, Calipari has the option of rotating players in like hockey substitutions.

Few teams can either prepare or match up with Kentucky, but Arizona at least has an opportunity to do the latter. Once again, they have the kind of range and length that can disrupt shots, even from a bunch of first-rounders like what KU boasts. And their coach, Sean Miller, has the experience to take his team deep in the tournament, even if it means going through Kentucky in the Final Four. “He’s a really good coach,’’ the NBA scout explained. “His kids respond to his coaching and he knows what he’s doing. He’s not getting out-coached by anybody.”