The 2018 Final Four is set, with Villanova, Kansas, Michigan, and Loyola Chicago all playing in San Antonio. It’s almost a surprise that No. 1 seeds Kansas and Villanova made it when considering the slew of upsets.
This includes No. 1 Virginia being the first top seed to lose to a No. 16 seed, and No. 1 Xavier losing in the second round. Another No. 1 seed will go down before the championship, given that the Jayhawks and Wildcats face off on one side of the bracket.
No. 3 Michigan isn’t such a surprise inclusion, given that they’re a legitimate tournament team with a 13-game winning streak. But No. 11 Loyola Chicago has truly crashed the party and will play the Wolverines this weekend. The Ramblers are tied with LSU (1986), George Mason (2006), and VCU (2011) as the lowest seed to ever make the Final Four.
We have some interesting matchups heading into the Final Four. But which one is offering the best betting value? Find out as we look at the 2018 Final Four futures and discuss each team.
2018 Final Four Futures from GTBets
- Villanova -115
- Kansas +350
- Michigan +250
- Loyola Chicago +950
Top Value: No. 1 Kansas at +350
You stand to win four times more by betting on the Jayhawks. Meanwhile, Villanova’s line looks like but you’d see from a moneyline favorite – not a Final Four futures favorite.
The only reason why Kansas doesn’t have great odds is because they have to play the Wildcats right away. If Kansas wins, they’d undoubtedly be favorites to also win the championship too.
This squad has a strange look for a top-tier team. They play for guards and one big man, making them seem more like a quirky mid-major team, rather than a college basketball powerhouse. But the lineup has worked well so far, and the Jayhawks can really run and shoot the ball.
Devonte Graham leads this team as a passer and playmaker. He doesn’t possess incredible athleticism, but Graham does have tremendous skill, especially when throwing lobs to Kansas’ big guys.
Udoka AzubuikeIs is a great athlete who can overpower players. But he also has the tendency to be out of position on defense and turn the ball over. He’ll have to remedy this against Villanova.
As a team, Kansas runs a methodical offence that creates a lot of open shots for teammates. That said, Villanova’s best chance to win is to force the Jayhawks to beat them one on one, rather than chasing the ball around the perimeter.
Second Best Value: No. 1 Villanova at -115
Villanova is great at exploiting opponent’s weaknesses, using a combination of skill, passing, outside shooting, and posting up. This team plays like they have 3-4 years more experience than they actually do.
Mikal Bridges is a future NBA lottery pick, thanks to his length and outside shot. He’s also versatile enough on defense to defend positions 1-5. It’s bad enough that teams have to worry about Bridges. But Jalen Brunson is yet another elite player on the Wildcats. Brunson leads the team with 19.2 PPG and 4.6 APG.
Eric Paschall gives his team a nice presence down low. His 6’9″, 255-pound frame makes him a strong post player, and he also has energy to chase after offensive rebounds.
Perhaps the only weakness to this team is that they don’t have tremendous athleticism from top to bottom. Instead, Villanova relies on efficiency, good team defense, and a strong night-in, night-out effort. Kansas’ best chance to win will be to force the Wildcats out of position on defense and open up the perimeter for three-point looks.
Third Best Value: No. 11 Loyola Chicago at +950
Of course, doing so means that the Ramblers would have to supplant the 1985 Villanova team as the lowest seed (No. 8) to win the title. But it’s also important to realize how underrated the Ramblers are.
Loyola Chicago is a mid-major dream, playing as good of an all-around game as anybody in the country. They don’t take bad shots, all of their main players are solid passers, they can shoot the ball, and they’re good at closing out on defense.
Speaking of the latter, Loyola checks in with the fifth-best scoring defense the country, holding opponents to 62.1 points per game. They also force opponents into 41.4% shooting, which ranks them 41 nationally. The strength of the Ramblers’ defense is their players’ abilities to guard multiple positions.
Clayton Cluster is the leader of this team. He possess strong playmaking ability and can shoot. It’s no surprise that the Ramblers run their offense through him. Cluster paces this team with 13.2 PPG while shooting 45.4% from the three-point line.
One key for Loyola will be keeping Cameron Krutwig out of foul trouble. If the freshman can’t keep from fouling, then Michigan has a clearer shot to win this game.
Worst Value: No. 3 Michigan at +250
I know that the Wolverines are hot right now, but this doesn’t justify them having better Final Four odds than Kansas. Furthermore, they’re not even a lock to beat No. 11 Loyola. But on the other hand, they also have a strong chance to win their first game.
Michigan excels at the pick and roll, putting opposing teams in awkward positions when trying to defend this. They create open shots again and again with this simple play, much like an NBA team.
Moritz Wagner leads this team on offense with 14.3 PPG. The 6’11” big man is hard to cover, because he shoots almost 40% from three-point range. However, he’s going to need to be more selective than he was against Florida State from outside (0 for 7 on three’s).
Michigan’s big men as a whole are susceptible on defense. Wagner, Duncan Robinson, and Isaiah Livers have all had their struggles on defense at times. But the Wolverines should make up for this with their physical style, which can force a normally methodical opponent off their game.
The Wolverines have run through both the Big Ten Tournament and 2018 March Madness (so far) by forcing teams to play their game: a gritty, defensive style. And this should serve them well if they play against Villanova or Kansas. But they’ll have to survive Loyola first, which won’t be any picnic.