Bettors Win Big on UMBC Over Virginia – Kansas State Up Next

umbc-virginia-winWe’re still in the first round of 2018 March Madness, and we may already have the story of the tournament. In fact, it’s one of the greatest stories in NCAA Tournament history…

On Friday night, University of Maryland, Baltimore County became the first No. 16 seed in March Madness history to beat a No. 1 seed. And they didn’t just win – they blew out Virginia by a score of 74-54.

The way that the Retrievers ran UVA out of the gym, it looked like they were the tournament’s top seed. In fact, Vegas had the line almost completely in reverse, with the Cavaliers entering as a 20.5-point favorite on the spread. This game was supposed to be so lopsided that some Vegas and online sportsbooks didn’t even have a line for it.

Amazingly, some bettors actually wagered money on UMBC winning this contest. One sportsbook took 134 bets on UMBC’s moneyline, with 6 bettors risking as much as $100. These lucky winners were rewarded with a $2,500 payday.

The biggest win of the night belonged to a bettor at CG Technology, who risked $800 on UMBC’s moneyline. This same person walked away with a $16,000 payout afterward.

Genius Bet or Dumb Luck?

I haven’t seen any calculations on what the Retrievers’ odds were going into this contest. But given that Virginia was considered the top overall seed of the tournament, I have to put UMBC’s true odds at somewhere around 500:1.

Sportsbooks obviously don’t offer odds this high, especially since they already drew betting action on the Retrievers at 20:1. But No. 16 seeds were 0-135 all-time against No. 1 seeds heading into this game. And UMBC was the unlikeliest of teams to break this trend, because they were considered the 68th-best team in the field.

Ken Pomeroy had the Retrievers at No. 188 in his rankings. And the talent level was miles from Virginia, which had the second-highest defensive ranking in the last 17 years.

This is also the same team that lost a January 21 contest to Albany by a score of 80-39. They’d later avenge this loss in February, but still…

Given everything going against UMBC, it seems silly that anybody risked money on them. But the sports betting equivalent of filling out a perfect bracket came to fruition. That said, expect more bets on No. 16 seeds in 2019.

UMBC vs. Kansas St. Odds

The Retrievers might have made the Cavaliers look second-rate on Friday. But they’re by no means expected to topple another higher seed.

Their opponent, No. 9 Kansas State, stands as a 10.5-point favorite on the spread. Here are the odds, courtesy of GTBets:

  • Gametime at 7:45pm on March 18 (Sunday)
  • Maryland Baltimore County 10.5 (-110) / +445 moneyline
  • Kansas St. -10.5 (-110) / -570 moneyline
  • Over/under 136 (-110)

UMBC Facing More than Just a Talent Disparity against Kansas State

Everybody likes an underdog story. This is why everybody will continue rooting for UMBC as they face the Wildcats.

umbc-vs-kansas-stateBut just having the crowd behind you isn’t enough when you’re at the kind of talent disadvantage Maryland Baltimore is facing right now. They shocked Virginia in the 20-point victory. However, the element of surprise is gone, and they face a more-prepared K-State that has the Sweet 16 on their minds.

If UMBC is to have any chance of extending their tournament run, they can look towards the University of Florida Gulf Coast as inspiration.

Florida Gulf Coast had an improbable run to the Sweet 16 in 2013. The Eagles beat No. 2 seed Georgetown and No. 7 seed San Diego State that year. They even earned a cool nickname along the way – “Dunk City.”

Only 29 teams with a No. 14 seed or worse have won in the first round. Of these, Florida Golf Coast is one of just three schools to advance to the Sweet 16. The other 26 have lost by an average of 11.8 points per game.

The numbers explain the obvious in that you can surprise a first-round opponent. But your second-round opponent is going to take you more seriously after a big upset.

Another challenge that UMBC will face is the flood of media attention they’ve received within the last 24 hours. Anthony Evans, who coached No. 15 seed Norfolk State to a March Madness victory in 2012, discussed this dilemma.

“The toughest thing is to get 18, 19, 20-year-old guys to focus and give a consistent effort,” said Evans.

“For them, it was like we had won the championship after we beat Missouri. We hadn’t beat a team like that all year. You get a big win like that on a big stage, and sometimes it’s hard to get your kids to refocus and come back and do the same things.”

Can UMBC Beat Kansas State?

UMBC will try to overcome this dilemma when they play ninth-seeded K-State on Sunday night. The Retrievers are already dealing with tons of attention via both mainstream media outlets and social media. Their Twitter account has gained over 80,000 followers in the aftermath of the victory.

florida-gulf-coast-university-georgetown“We’ve got to encourage our guys, and I already have, to kind of turn the page,” said Ryan Odom, UMBC’s head coach.

“The biggest thing is, do you want to be done now or do you want to try to put your best foot forward and continue on? We’re playing an excellent team, all right, that easily could dismantle us. We’ve got to do a great job of focusing, just like we have every other game that we’ve played.”

The Retrievers will have to channel Florida Gulf Coast in order to ignore the distractions and focus on the task at hand. The Eagles were able to put their big upset of Georgetown behind them as they faced San Diego State days later.

Former Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield encouraged his team to play with zero fear and use exact same approach they did against the Hoyas.

“We were the underdog, but Coach Enfield did a terrific job of reiterating the idea that, ‘Hey we’re just as good as these guys. We can win this game’” said former Florida Gulf Coast assistant Marty Richter. “Our guys felt that Coach Enfield believed in them, and that went a long ways. They didn’t think it was just lip service.”

virginia-wins-umbcEnfield repeatedly told his team that they needed to stay within striking distance so that they could gain a psychological edge when the favorite realized they can possibly lose. Meanwhile, Florida Gulf Coast would continue to play as if they have nothing to lose, which was exactly the case.

“At that point, if they were able to keep playing carefree, confident basketball, they have a chance to win,” Enfield explained. “If you get conservative at that point as an underdog and start to play differently, then often that will cost you.”

UMBC will reprise its role against Kansas State, as the team that everybody expects to get throttled and have their carriage turn back into a pumpkin. But if their 20-point victory over Virginia is any indication, this Cinderella team still has a chance against anybody.

2018 March Madness Odds – 7 First Round Bets You should Make

The first rule in sports betting is that there’s no such thing as a guarantee. This is especially the case with March Madness, where teams from all over college basketball are matched up against each other.

But I see a few 2018 March Madness bets that are definitely worth making. Keep reading as I cover 7 first-round wagers you should consider. And don’t forget to check out the odds of all the games right here at GTBets.

1. No. 10 Oklahoma (+2) Covers against No. 7 Rhode Island (Thursday, 12:15pm on CBS)

The Sooners aren’t exactly coming into the 2018 NCAA Tournament with a head of steam. The’ve lost 11 of their final 15 games, dropping them to a double-digit seed.

But make no mistake about it, this bubble team is still rather dangerous. Furthermore, Trae Young will be the best player on the court for either team. Combine this with how Rhode Island hasn’t played well since their 16-game winning streak earlier in the year, and I see Oklahoma winning by at least 3.

2. No. 3 Tennessee (-12) Covers against No. 14 Wright State (Thursday, 12:40pm on truTV)

It’s never easy to cover 12 points in a March Madness contest, especially when it’s not a No. 1 vs. 16 matchup. But I still like the 3-seeded Vols to blow out Wright State.

When Tennessee wins, they win big. 10 of their 25 victories were by 12 points or more. These include wins against teams that were better than the Raiders.

3. No. 5 Kentucky (-5.5) Covers against No. 12 Davidson (Thursday, 7:10pm on CBS)

gilgeous-alexanderBetting on the No. 12 seed is always a popular move. This is especially the case when dealing with a familiar high seed like Davidson. But the Wildcats also get priced higher than they deserve due to their famed 2008 Elite Eight run with Steph Curry.

John Calipari hasn’t lost a first-round game since taking over as the Kentucky coach in 2009. He’s not going to lose this one either, and I look for the victory to be by double digits.

4. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago (+1.5) Covers against No. 6 Miami (Thursday, 3:10pm on truTV)

loyola-miami-oddsLoyola-Chicago is one of the hottest teams in 2018 March Madness, because they’ve won 10 straight games. They’ll be facing a Miami team that’s missing their top all-around player in Bruce Brown.

I’m a bit worried that sportsbooks have already priced in these factors, meaning Loyola isn’t being given a true underdog spread. But I’m still confidently putting money on the Ramblers.

5. No. 4 Arizona (-8.5) Covers against No. 13 Buffalo (Thursday, 9:40pm on CBS)

deandre-ayton-arizonaBuffalo has never seen the likes of DeAndre Ayton, a 7’1″ freshman who can do virtually anything on the court. The future top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft will decimate the Bulls early and often.

The Wildcats also have a motivational factor going for them, after ESPN reported that the FBI is investigating head coach Sean Miller. He denied all charges, and his team has used when they see as a major slight to fuel five straight wins.

6. No. 16 Penn (+13.5) Covers against No. 1 Kansas (Thursday, 2pm on TBS)

Kansas is looking to avenge the past two years, when they had title-worthy squads that came up short of the Final Four. But their first opponent will be trickier than most think.

Penn trailed Harvard in the Ivy League Championship by a score of 30-17. They went on a 28-2 run afterward to grab a commanding lead. This come-from-behind victory was all due to the Quakers’ ability to shoot the lights out.

Kansas is certainly different than playing Harvard. But I like Penn’s chances of keeping this one under 13 points due to their shooting touch.

7. No. 10 Butler (-1.5) Covers against No. 7 Arkansas (Friday, 3:10pm on truTV)

kelan-martin-butlerThe Bulldogs have been to the Big Dance six times since 2010. And not once have they failed to get at least one victory in their tournament appearances.

Despite the thin spread here, Butler would likely have to lose to avoid covering. That said, I recommend wagering on the Bulldogs notching another tournament win and extending their streak.

5 March Madness 2018 Upsets to Look for

new-mexico-state-clemson-oddsThe most-exciting thing about March Madness is the big upsets. Every year a No. 15, 14, 13, and/or 12 seed knocks off a giant in the first round. And if you can pick these upsets, then you’re going to win some big bets.

If you’re looking for some quality 2018 March Madness upset bids, then keep the following five games in mind. Also note that you can find all of the odds on these games and other 2018 March Madness contests at

1. No. 12 New Mexico State over No. 5 Clemson

  • New Mexico State & Clemson Odds
  • Clemson -4.5 (-110)
  • Clemson moneyline -215
  • New Mexico State moneyline +185
  • Over/under 133 (-110)

The Tigers played a brutal ACC schedule. And while this prepared them well for the tournament, it also resulted in the loss of second-leading scorer Donte Grantham in late January.

New Mexico State, meanwhile, has all of their main contributors healthy. Perhaps more importantly is that they also notched impressive wins over Illinois, Davidson, and Miami.

Zach Lofton is a very good scorer who could carry his team to victory over Clemson. The Wildcats also feature Jemerrio Jones, the nation’s top defensive rebounder per possession (37.1%).

Last year, many tabbed Middle Tennessee to beat Minnesota in a No. 5 vs. 12 matchup. And that came to fruition. Don’t be surprised if this year’s likely upset pick also happens.

2. No. 11 Loyola over No. 6 Miami

  • Miami & Loyola Chicago Odds
  • Miami -1.5 (-110)
  • Miami moneyline -125
  • Loyola moneyline +105
  • Over/under 132.5 (-110)

loyola-miami-oddsThis is another game where the favorite comes in with a major injury. Miami has been struggling ever since losing Bruce Brown, who’s their best to all-around player with 11.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 4.0 assists. Brown suffered a left foot injury in late January, and the team has been 7-4 without him on the floor.

Perhaps the Hurricanes’ talent would still shine through against a normal No. 11 seed. But Loyola is anything but this.

Currently on a 10-game winning streak, they’re really good at sharing the ball. Case in point, the Ramblers have five players who are averaging double figures.

One more good thing that Loyola does well is shoot, hitting 40% from three-point range as a team. If they can keep the shooting touch against Miami, then it’s very possible that the Ramblers will be going to the second round.

3. No. 13 Charleston over No. 4 Auburn

  • Auburn & Charleston Odds
  • Auburn -9.5 (-110)
  • Auburn moneyline -500
  • Charleston moneyline +400
  • Over/under 148 (-110)

The Midwest Regional has a high pedigree, with Duke, Kansas, and Michigan State all in this stacked bracket section. The rest of the region leaves something to be desired, though, including Auburn.

Obviously the Tigers did something right to earn a No. 4 seed. And they’re a large favorite on the betting lines right now. But I have my doubts that they’re the strongest fourth seed in the tournament.

They’re really good at defending the rim, thanks to Anfernee McLemore (2.7 blocks). However, they’ve also struggled to mesh as a team down the stretch, losing four of their last six games.

In comes Charleston, which plays a frustratingly slow pace that directly contrasts Bruce Pearl’s style. Given how good the Cougars are at limiting game possessions, Auburn won’t have much room for error here.

4. No. 10 Providence over No. 7 Texas A&M

  • Providence and Texas A&M Odds
  • Texas A&M -3 (-110)
  • Texas A&M moneyline -155
  • Providence moneyline +113
  • Over/under 138 (-110)

Providence is getting hot at the right time, making it to the Big East Final, where they lost to the potential championship team in Villanova. Nobody will fault them for the Villanova loss, and this was an excellent final opponent to prepare them for the rigors of March Madness.

The SEC seems overrated, which doesn’t give me much confidence in No. 7 Texas A&M. I feel like these two teams are on more equal footing than the seeding suggests.

The Aggies are only 4-7 on the road and 3-2 when playing on neutral courts. This doesn’t bode very well for an upcoming road game in the tournament.

A&M built their reputation through tough defense. But based on their road record, the Aggies’ defensive abilities seem to take a downturn away from the home crowd.

5. No. 10 Butler over No. 7 Arkansas

  • Arkansas & Butler Odds
  • Butler -1.5 (-110)
  • Butler moneyline -123
  • Arkansas moneyline +103
  • Over/under 133 (-110)

kelan-martin-butlerHere’s another SEC school that I’m not so sure about. Arkansas is good at applying pressure and forcing turnovers. But I can’t see them being able to rattle this Butler team.

The Bulldogs have good guard play and strong post players, led by Kelan Martin (20.8 PPG). Guard play will come in handy, because Butler ranks 28th in turnover percentage and should be able to beat the Razorbacks’ pressure.

But can we really call this an upset if Butler wins? After all, GTBets and other sportsbooks have shifted the line in their favor after heavy betting action on the Bulldogs.

12 Teams that can Win 2018 March Madness

top-2018-march-madness-teamsMarch Madness starts out with 68 schools that want to hoist the championship trophy. And each school – big and small – dreams of cutting down the nets at the Final Four.

But let’s be honest: only about a dozen or so teams have a realistic chance at winning college basketball’s most prestigious title. And some of these schools, like Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, and Villanova, are in the title hunt year after year.

Which teams have the best chance to emerge the champ in the April? Let’s find out by looking at the 12 best contenders. Also keep in mind that we’ll have odds on all of these favorites and other schools throughout the tournament at GTBets.

1. Virginia (1 Seed)

The Cavaliers haven’t lived up to their tournament expectations in recent years. And here we are again, with them having a high seed and already drawing doubters.

But this doesn’t feel like the same Virginia team that’s come up short in the past. There are few reasons to believe that this squad is the one that’ll make a breakthrough.

They have a methodical offense that uses every second of the shot clock to get highly efficient looks.

Opponents also use every second against Virginia, but only because they’re hounded into doing so.

Virginia’s defense is the second best in college basketball in the last 17 years (0.002 adjusted points per possession). They’re also really good at forcing turnovers, which is a lethal combo for opposing schools to deal with.

Tony Bennett’s pack-line defense has even been smothering against elite opponents like Clemson, Duke, and UNC. The Cavaliers played 16 teams that made the NCAA Tournament this season, holding 12 of 16 of these squads to less than a point our possession (including the three mentioned above).

Virginia hasn’t been to a Final Four since 1984, and they don’t have any future NBA lottery picks on their roster. But this is the ACC champion, and they have the country’s best defense. You can’t do any better in picking a potential winner.

2. Duke (2 Seed)

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Michigan State vs DukeIf we’re basing everything on pure talent, then the Blue Devils would be the odds-on favorite to win it all. They boast a starting five that’s filled with NBA first-rounders, including Grayson Allen, Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter, Trevon Duval, and Marvin Bagley

The only problem with this lineup is that they’re inconsistent at times. Allen is the only senior, and he’s scored 20 points or more 10 times this year. But he’s also been held below 10 points on eight different occasions. The underclassmen haven’t fared any better in the consistency department.

Duke utilizes a zone defense, which is an improvement from when they were trying to play man to man. But it’s still nowhere on par with Virginia right now.

3. Villanova (1 Seed)

The Wildcats come into 2018 March Madness with a top-2 seed for the fifth straight year. It’s obvious that as long as Jay Wright stays here, his team is always going to be a contender.

jay-wright-villanovaWright won the title a couple of years ago. The team stumbled as a top seed last spring. Which Villanova squad are going to see this year? My bet is one that wants to avenge last year’s disappointing tournament appearance.

Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges were role players on the 2016 national championship squad. But now they’re the top options and looking for the second championship of their college careers.

4. Kansas (1 Seed)

The Jayhawks have entered each of the past two tournaments as a potential champ. They lost a close contest to Villanova in 2016 before the latter went on to win the title. Kansas also had the misfortune of running into a red-hot Oregon team last year.

I don’t think that this year’s Jayhawks squad is exactly as talented as the two teams that recently lost. But they’ve got to be due for better luck with opponents in 2018.

And the talent is still here of course, including star point guard Devonte Graham. Kansas can also rely on the sharp-shooting Svi Mykhailiuk and all-around talent Udoka Azubuike.

5. Michigan State (3 Seed)

cassius-winstonThe Spartans may not have a top-2 seed. But they do have the potential to rise from being a three seed to cutting down the nets in San Antonio.

Cassius Winston offers excellent guard play, Nick Ward is a load down low, and Jaren Jackson and Miles Bridges are future lottery picks.

The problem with Michigan State’s bid is that they’re just 2-4 against NCAA tournament qualifiers. They’re no doubt going to need a more-complete effort against the top seeds to have any hope at winning. I’m still high on their talent, though.

6. Arizona (4 Seed)

Arizona forward DeAndre Ayton has had a stellar freshman season with 20.3 PPG and 11.5 RPG. The 7’1″ phenom has likely played his way into being the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

deandre-ayton-arizonaThis means that the rest of the team has been lacking, given that they’ve only achieved a No. 4 seed. Sure, Arizona won their conference. But the Pac-12 was down this year, and the Wildcats didn’t exactly dominate the conference, despite what their title suggests.

The biggest problem for Arizona is that they don’t play great defense. They also have an ugly out-of-conference loss to Purdue (25 points) on their resume.

Despite the drawbacks, Arizona has a chance mainly because of Ayton’s greatness. He can shoot three’s, score inside, rebound, and block shots. Sean Miller’s team also has a solid starting 5 that can provide Ayton support on most nights.

7. Kentucky (5 Seed)

Kentucky is the biggest dark-horse contender in this year’s crop. And the chief reason why is because Gilgeous Alexander has played much better than his pedigree.

gilgeous-alexanderA four-star recruit in high school, he’s shined over the 5-star recruits on this roster. Gilgeous-Alexander’s play has helped a young team stay in contention. Kentucky especially helped themselves win seven wins in the past eight games.

This isn’t viewed as the same top-5 squad it was to open the season. But they could surprise analysts if their young lineup can finally gel in the coming weeks.

8. North Carolina (2 Seed)

The defending champion punished opponents last year with four big men who owned the paint. Three of these players are gone, and the team is quite different this season. Roy Williams team is now utilizing stretch fours and fives, while the team is shooting more three-pointers than ever before.

The good news for Carolina, though, is that the success hasn’t dropped off amid big changes. Luke Maye, a walk-on who was last year’s Elite Eight hero, is likely the top player on a balanced team.

9. Michigan (3 Seed)

This Wolverines team is playing the best defense in John Beilen’s tenure. They force opponents to work the clock and eventually take bad shots. If Michigan’s Big Ten tournament title run is any indication, they have the goods to compete for a national championship.

10. Gonzaga (4 Seed)

Gonzaga had their best-ever tournament run last season, culminating in a close title loss to North Carolina. But they lost four of their top six players from that squad, including lottery pick Zach Collins. Nevertheless, this four-loss team has played its way into being a Final Four contender once again.

11. Xavier (1 Seed)

Xavier isn’t getting much love here as a top seed. But they’re also the most-vulnerable of the No. 1 seeds, especially since they don’t have much depth. Trevon Bluiett must do his best job to carry this team, especially if they meet Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.

12. Purdue (2 Seed)

Purdue has used a successful formula that includes five different three-point shooters (all 39% or higher) and 7’2″ center Isaac Haas. This inside-outside combo has frustrated opponents all season.

UNC vs Gonzaga Odds & Betting

gonzaga-vs-unc-titleBoth North Carolina and Gonzaga survived close games to advance to the NCAA Championship game. For UNC, this is their 11th national title appearance, and they’re 5-5 so far in the championship. For Gonzaga, this is both their first Final Four and national title appearance in school history.

The Bulldogs punched their ticket here with a 77-73 victory over 7-seed South Carolina. They were winning handily, but had to fight off a second-half surge as the Gamecocks got hot.

UNC’s victory was a 77-76 nail-biter, and they needed two offensive rebounds to prevent Oregon from getting a final shot attempt. This is the second time in the last week that the Tar Heels needed last-second heroics to win, but they’re here in the championship for the second year in a row.

The line at is extremely close for tomorrow night’s game, and the winner will likely cover their 1.5-point spread. Who’s it going to be? Find out as we analyze both Carolina and Gonzaga’s chances of winning, and look at their recent records against the spread (ATS).

No. 1 Gonzaga (37-1) vs. No. 1 North Carolina (32-7); Monday (April 3 @ 9:20pm ET) Betting Line: Oregon +1.5 (-110); North Carolina -1.5 (-110)
Over/Under: 153.5

Why the Bulldogs will Cover their +1.5 Spread

zach-collins-vs-south-carolinaThe Zags are one of the few teams that can match up with UNC from both a size and perimeter perspective. In fact, with 7-footer Zach Collins coming off the bench, one could argue that Gonzaga has the best talent down low.

Collins, a potential NBA lottery pick, is averaging 10.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks on the season. The freshman played an outstanding game against South Carolina, hitting 6-of-10 shots, collecting 13 rebounds, and blocking 6 shots.

Their other big guy is Polish bruiser Przemek Karnowski, a 7’1″, 300-pounder who averages 12.3 points and 5.8 boards. 6’9″ forward Johnathan Williams is also good inside, scoring 10.2 PPG and grabbing 6.5 rebounds. Williams didn’t do much against the Gamecocks, but Karnowski did, making 6-of-12 attempts.

nigel-williams-gossThis team is led by senior point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who averages 16.9 points and 4.7 assists per game. Williams-Goss fueled the win over South Carolina and their star guard, P.J. Dozier, as he scored 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting. This was his best shooting game of the tournament, meaning Williams-Goss is stepping up at the right time.

One more guard who’ll play a big role against UNC is Jordan Williams. The 6’4″ senior scored 12 points against the Gamecocks on just 4-of-11 shooting – with all four makes being three’s. He hasn’t shot well in the tournament, but if he can hit against the Tar Heels, it would be a huge boost.

karnowski-vs-south-carolinaComing into March Madness, depth was one of Gonzaga’s biggest assets. However, Mark Few shortened up his rotation against South Carolina, only playing Collins, junior guard Silas Melson (7.3 PPG), and freshman forward Killias Tillie (4.3 PPG) off the bench. Considering that starting guard Josh Perkins scored zero points in 22 minutes, the Zags didn’t have much firepower outside of Williams-Goss, Collins, Karnowski, and Williams.

If they can get just one more player to step up, then they have a real chance of beating North Carolina and winning their first-ever title. The size, perimeter play, and talent is there, especially with Collins. They just need to execute the game plan.

ATS: In the tournament, Gonzaga is 2-2-1. In their last 10 games, they’re 4-5-1.

Why the Tar Heels will cover their -1.5 Spread

kennedy-meeks-oregonFor North Carolina, the goal has been the same all year long: make the championship game. The contest against Oregon was too close for comfort, and the Tar Heels had one of their worst shooting performances (36.8%). But, as has been the case all season, they again have the talent edge.

First off, 6’10” senior forward Kennedy Meeks is playing the best basketball of his career. Against Kentucky, he got the job done with 17 rebounds and 4 blocks. Against the Ducks, he did it with his scoring, hitting 11-of-13 attempts for 25 points. This was much needed because nobody else on the team shot above 50%.

As we’ve discussed throughout March Madness the Tar Heels’ big advantage is that they can keep throwing big guys at opponents. This includes forwards 6’9″ Isaiah Hicks (11.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG), 6’10” Tony Bradley (7.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG), Theo Pinson (6.1 PPG), and Luke Maye (5.7 PPG).

joel-berry-oregonOne reason why the Oregon game was so close is that these four forwards combined for 4-for-25 shooting and 14 points. Hicks was especially bad since the sophomore shot 1-for-12 from the field. But Hicks and the rest of this group are also capable of big things, and they give UNC front-line depth that nobody in the country can match.

Gonzaga will also have to worry about team stars Justin Jackson (18.3 PPG) and Joel Berry II (14.5 PPG). Both are streaky shooters who can win games as a duo. Jackson had a solid game against Oregon, shooting 6-for-13 – with all of his makes being three-pointers. Berry, on the other hand, struggled and made just 2-of-14 shots.

If North Carolina has both Berry and Jackson hitting at the same time, then, combined with UNC’s size, this game will be over. If not, they’re still the better team by a slight margin and capable of winning with their large rotation of forwards.

ATS Record: In the tournament, UNC is the same as Gonzaga, going 2-2-1. In the last 10 contests, they’re 5-4-1, making them slightly better ATS lately.

Final Thoughts on Gonzaga vs. North Carolina Betting

justin-jackson-uncAgain, the Zags are one of the few teams that has the all-around talent to play with North Carolina. We love their size down low with Collins, Karnowski, and Johnathan Williams. They also have a couple of guards in Williams-Goss and Jordan Williams, who can match up well with UNC’s Berry and Jackson.

Nevertheless, the Tar Heels have been more talented all-around than everybody they’ve faced. We’d love to see the story of Gonzaga – a West Coast Conference school – winning the national title game. But we think that UNC is too good, plus they’re on a mission to avenge last year’s championship loss to Villanova.

Final Score Prediction: UNC wins 78-75

Final Four Betting: Oregon vs. North Carolina

The talk heading into the tournament for Oregon is how they lost key forward Chris Boucher (ACL) in the Pac 12 tournament. Many thought that a Sweet 16 appearance was possible, but a Final Four trip? That seemed like a stretch.

But the Ducks have surprised the naysayers, knocking off 14-seed Iona, 11-seed Rhode Island, 7-seed Michigan, and 1-seed Kansas. The Jayhawks were definitely favored against Oregon, but the latter pulled out a solid 74-60 victory. Next up: North Carolina, the tournament’s top-overall seed.

Getting here hasn’t been easy for UNC because they survived 8-seed Arkansas in the second round, and needed a Luke Maye game-winner to knock off Kentucky. Despite the close calls, nothing has changed for UNC, and a championship is still the expectation.

Will they win the school’s sixth national championship? Let’s find out by discussing both teams and also going over betting strategy for this game.

No. 3 Oregon (33-5) vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (31-7); Saturday (April 1 @ 8:35pm) Betting Line: Oregon +5 (-110); North Carolina -5 (-110)

Why the Ducks will Cover their +5 Spread

tyler-dorsey-vs-kansasThe one big area where Boucher’s loss hurts is depth. Luckily for the Ducks, though, they have enough good players to make up for his absence.

This team is led by the energetic Dillon Brooks (16.3 PPG), a 6’6″ forward who shoots 41% from beyond the arc. Sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey (14.5 PPG) also shoots well from three-point range, hitting 42.3% of his attempts. Dorsey has been the key in March Madness, averaging 24.5 points while making 17-of-26 three-pointers (65.4%) in four games.

6’9″ junior forward Jordan Bell (10.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.2 BPG) is a reason why Oregon is one of the few teams that can contend with North Carolina’s size. Coach Dana Altman will probably use the 6’11” Kavell Bigby-Williams more in this game too. Bigby-Williams plays less than 10 minutes a game, but he also averages nearly 1 block in this limited time.

jordan-bell-vs-kansasDylan Ennis (10.7 PPG) is one more player to watch in this contest. The 6’2″ guard helps Dorsey with the ball-handing duties and also provides good leadership.

Much of the Ducks’ hopes rely on Dorsey staying hot, and Brooks/Bell/Bigby-Williams being able to contain UNC’s front line. If they can do this, then they have a realistic shot at moving onto the school’s first national championship game since 1939.

Regarding betting, Oregon is 3-1 against the spread (ATS) in the tournament. In the 11 games leading up to March Madness, the Ducks were 7-4 ATS.

Why the Tar Heels will cover their -5 Spread

kennedy-meeks-vs-kentuckyNorth Carolina avenged an earlier loss to Kentucky by winning 75-73 in dramatic fashion. The close game wasn’t totally surprising, given that the Wildcats had three potential NBA lottery picks on their roster. But UNC survived the test and are in their second-straight Final Four.

Leading scorers Justin Jackson (18.2 PPG) and Joel Berry III (14.6 PPG) struggled against Kentucky, hitting 11-of-29 shots, including 1-for-10 from three-point range. Lucky for them, 6’10” Kennedy Meeks (12.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG) was a beast, grabbing 17 rebounds (5 offensive) and blocking four shots.

Meeks is joined on the front line by 6’9″ Isaiah Hicks (12.1 PPG, 5.4 PPG) and 6’6″ Todd Pinson (6.0 PPG, 4.2 RGP). Hicks will need to step up against Oregon since he had 4 points and zero rebounds against Kentucky; but he did help the defensive effort, blocking 3 shots.

What makes UNC even harder to defend is the fact that they can bring the 6”8″ Maye off the bench. Although the sophomore is only averaging 5.8 points during the season, he’s scoring 12.5 PPG in March Madness, including 16.5 points over the past two games.

The Tar Heels have multiple forwards that they can employ at any time. Plus, Jackson is a 6’8″ forward who plays like a shooting guard. There’s a very good chance that North Carolina can impose their will on the shorter and less-deep Ducks.

UNC is 2-1-1 ATS in March Madness, and 5-2-1 ATS in their eight games before the tourney.

Final Thoughts on Oregon vs. North Carolina Betting

It’s not hard to see why the Ducks made the Final Four when you consider that Dorsey has stepped up big-time, averaging 24.5 points during March Madness and shooting a blistering 65% from beyond the arc. Add in the usually strong play of Brooks, Bell, and Ennis, and this is a legitimate Final Four squad.

The problem, though, is that Oregon’s front line will get wore out competing against the likes of Meeks, Hicks, Pinson, Jackson, and Maye. Bell is a very good rebounder and shot blocker, while Bigby-Williams will provide shot blocking off the bench. However, the Ducks can’t rotate forwards in and out of the game the entire time like UNC. That said, we expect the Tar Heels to have big rebounding and paint-scoring advantages.

Final Score Prediction: North Carolina wins 85-77