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

Elite Eight Betting: UNC vs. Kentucky

justin-jackson-uncThe 2017 Elite Eight is full of good matchups, but one stands out above the rest : North Carolina vs. Kentucky. Not only is this a storied rivalry between two of the winningest teams of all time, but it’s also the toughest matchup.

As we’ve discussed all along, we believe that UNC is destined to win the tournament based on their experience and talent. But with three potential NBA lottery picks on their team, Kentucky is certainly capable of winning this game and the entire tourney.

Who will move on to the Final Four? Which team should you bet on? Let’s find out by looking at the betting line along with why each team can cover the spread/win the game.

No. 2 Kentucky (32-5) vs. No. 1 UNC (30-7); Sunday (Mar 26 @ 5:05pm) Betting Line: UNC -2.5 (-110); Kentucky +2.5 (-110)

Why the Wildcats will Cover the Spread

de-aaron-foxEarlier this week, we thought the Kentucky vs. UCLA game would go differently, with the Bruins winning again¬†thanks to their uptempo style. But the Wildcats picked apart UCLA’s defense with their own uptempo attack, while also stopping their opponent in an 86-75 victory.

A big reason why the Bruins lost is the play of Kentucky freshman guard De’Aaron Fox. Perhaps fueled by the mock drafts and scouts considering UCLA’s Lonzo Ball to be the better point guard, Fox exploded for 39 points. A virtual lock as a top-5 draft pick, Fox hit 13-of-20 from the field on an assortment of floaters and running jumpers. He’ll need to showcase this kind of talent again if Kentucky is going to beat a more-experienced North Carolina team.

Also critical to the cause are fellow future NBAers Malik Monk and Edrice “Bam” Adebayo. Monk, a 6’3″ freshman shooting guard, made 8-of-17 shots en route to 21 points. He and Fox are hitting their stride at the right time and nearly beat UCLA by themselves.

malik-monk-march-madnessBam was neutralized, scoring just 2 points and grabbing 4 rebounds. Given that he’s averaging 13 points and 8 rebounds on the season, Kentucky needs the 6’10” forward to step up against the Tar Heels.

Luckily for the Wildcats, senior forward Derek Willis had a solid game with 8 points, 8 boards, and 4 assists. He only shot 3-of-11 from the field, but still did enough as a role player to aid Fox and Monk.

Summarizing Kentucky’s chances, Fox and Monk will be the most-talented players on the floor Sunday. If they’re hot again, then John Calipari’s squad will reach their fourth Final Four in the last seven years.

From a betting perspective, Kentucky is only 4-7 against the spread (ATS) in their last 11 games.

Why the Tar Heels will cover the Spread

While Butler has been a giant slayer in recent years, they weren’t able to keep up with North Carolina in a 92-80 loss.

The team’s offensive stars, F Justin Jackson and G Joel Berry III, came through with 24 and 26 points, respectively, on a combined 17-of-31 shooting. Both players are juniors who’ve been through the tournament grind before and won’t be rattled in a close game.

While Jackson and Berry are great players, what makes the Tar Heels so good is their depth. This was put on full display with Kennedy Meeks grabbing 11 rebounds, Isaiah Hicks scoring 9 points on 4-of-5 shooting, and Luke Maye coming off the bench to score 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

This represents the biggest problem for the Wildcats in that North Carolina is a complete team with multiple players who can step up. If Jackson and/or Berry are off, like they were against Arkansas in the second round, other players like Meeks, Hicks, and Maye rise to the occasion.

Of course, we can’t overlook the experience of this team either. North Carolina is led by juniors and seniors who played on last year’s runner-up squad. A narrow 77-74 championship loss to Villanova has fueled Roy Williams’ team all season.

Assuming UNC can contain Kentucky, their upperclassmen will push this team another step further towards a title.

As for betting, UNC is 7-3-1 ATS in their last 11 contests.

Final Thoughts on Kentucky vs UNC

This is a true wildcard game due to the Wildcats’ three freshman. As Fox and Monk showed in the Sweet Sixteen, they’re capable of great things when hitting shots. Adebayo is also capable of big games – both from a rebounding/shot-blocking and scoring perspective.

North Carolina, on the other hand, is a known quantity. We know that they’re going to play with poise and look for good shots. Furthermore, they’re a deeper team than the Wildcats. While we can see Fox, Monk, and/or Adebayo getting hot and propelling Kentucky to the win, the safe money is on North Carolina covering -2.5.

Final Score Prediction: North Carolina wins 82-77