Final Four 2012: 10 Things You Need to Know for the NCAA Tournament's Conclusion

Jeff GrantContributor IMarch 30, 2012

Final Four 2012: 10 Things You Need to Know for the NCAA Tournament's Conclusion

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    The 2012 NCAA tournament is coming to a close, and four teams still have realistic hopes of cutting down the nets in New Orleans. 

    Las Vegas oddsmakers have established the Kentucky Wildcats as 8.5-point favorites against the Louisville Cardinals, while the Ohio State Buckeyes are favored by 2.5 points over the Kansas Jayhawks.

    Let's take a look at the 10 things you need to know before wagering on the Final Four this weekend.

Kentucky Wildcats Offense

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    The Kentucky Wildcats have been nearly unstoppable on the offensive end since opening the tournament with an 81-66 victory over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on March 15.

    Kentucky has managed to score 80 or more points in all four games in the Big Dance, averaging 88.0 points per game over that span.

    It's important to note that the program had just one other such stretch during the 2011-12 campaign, which occurred in four games from Dec. 17 to Dec. 28.

    Ironically enough, the streak ended when capturing a 69-62 victory over the Louisville Cardinals as 10-point home favorites on Dec. 31, which also went under the posted total of 136.

    The Wildcats have gone "under" the total in their two meetings with Big East Conference opponents this year.

Louisville Cardinals Record Versus No. 1 Seeds

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    The Louisville Cardinals have covered all four of their games during the NCAA tournament, including an impressive 57-44 victory over the Michigan State Spartans as 5.5-point underdogs in the Sweet 16.

    That win improved the program's record to 4-10 when taking on top seeds in the Big Dance.

    Don't underestimate the powers of Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino in this spot.

Ohio State Buckeyes Frontcourt

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    The Ohio State Buckeyes have a legitimate chance of winning it all if the frontcourt of Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas continues to play at a high level.

    Over the past seven postseason games, which includes the Big Ten Tournament, the formidable duo is averaging a combined 40.9 points per game.

    Sullinger leads the way in scoring 20.6 points a contest, as he's shooting 52 percent from the field.

Kansas Jayhawks Success as a No. 2 Seed

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    The Kansas Jayhawks will be the least talked-about team heading into the Final Four in New Orleans, but that could be an advantage after knocking off the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Elite Eight last weekend.

    Head coach Bill Self has guided the program to an outstanding 17-4 record when playing as a No. 2 seed, while also posting a 4-3 mark when taking on such an opponent in that role.

    The Jayhawks haven't been a neutral-court underdog of three points or less in the last two-plus seasons, while going 4-6 in that role since the 1997 season.

Revenge

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    Revenge is one of the biggest motivating factors in sports when channeled in a positive way, which could be an advantage for the Louisville Cardinals and Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday.

    Louisville is 9-0 over the last two-plus seasons when seeking revenge from a road loss. They ended up on the short end of a 69-62 contest against the Kentucky Wildcats as 10-point underdogs on Dec. 31.

    The Ohio State Buckeyes dropped a 78-67 affair to the Kansas Jayhawks as 1.5-point road underdogs on Dec. 10. They played that contest without the services of star Jared Sullinger.

    From a betting perspective, it's important to point out that teams with revenge are 2-8 against the spread in their last 10 opportunities in the Final Four.

    Tread carefully.

Kentucky Wildcats Dominance on the Defensive End

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    The Kentucky Wildcats have posted a dominating 76-1 record during the John Calipari era when holding opponents to 67 or fewer points during his time in Lexington.

    That's an important number when facing off against Saturday's opponent, with the Louisville Cardinals averaging just 64.5 in posting an 8-0 against-the-spread record in eight neutral-court games this season.

    Kentucky has a great chance to improve its record to 31-4 on a neutral court over the last two-plus seasons on Saturday.

Rick Pitino's NCAA Tournament Record

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    All four remaining teams in this year's tournament have outstanding coaches, but the Louisville Cardinals definitely have an advantage with Rick Pitino on their bench.

    He has registered an outstanding 42-15 career record in the Big Dance, while also guiding this program to a 41-17 overall record during the month of March since the start of the 2005 campaign.

    Plenty of action will land on the Cardinals at the sports book due to Pitino's big-game experience on the sidelines.

Ohio State Versus the Big 12 Conference

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    The Ohio State Buckeyes are definitely worthy favorites against the Kansas Jayhawks in New Orleans, but they've also tallied a lackluster 18-21 all-time record against current teams that make up the Big 12 Conference.

    Sports bettors also need to be wary of the Buckeyes being 2-8 against the spread as NCAA tournament favorites of 6.5 or fewer points.

Big 12 Conference Teams in the Final Four

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    The Kansas Jayhawks have tallied a 2-2 against-the-spread record (ATS) in their four games of the tournament thus far, but that number could get worse on Saturday.

    Big 12 Conference teams are 1-4 ATS in their last five games in the Final Four.

    It's important to note that the Jayhawks were the last team to represent the conference at this stage during the 2008 NCAA tournament, capturing an 84-66 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels as 3.5-point underdogs.

    Kansas went on to win the championship two days later, coming away with a 75-68 overtime victory over the Memphis Tigers on April 7, 2008.

Kentucky Wildcats Have Won the Most NCAA Tournament Games

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    Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari has landed in the right situation in hopes of capturing his first college basketball championship.

    The Wildcats lead all Division I college basketball programs with 109 wins in the NCAA tournament, breaking a tie with the North Carolina Tar Heels after last weekend's 82-70 win over the Baylor Bears in the Elite Eight.

    He has tallied an impressive 20-3 record while at Kentucky when playing as the top-ranked team, while going 61-8 overall in that situation over the course of his career.

    I believe that record has a great chance of being 63-8 when the final buzzer sounds on Monday night.