Early odds on Final Four action aren’t all that surprising, but there are some interesting lines to analyze as Saturday’s matchups draw near.
No. 1 Louisville is an overwhelming favorite over No. 9 Wichita State in the early contest, while No. 4 Michigan has a slight edge over No. 4 Syracuse as a two-point favorite to advance to the championship game.
VegasInsider.com’s consensus over/under for both games is set at 131 points, but only one Final Four clash should top that mark. We’ll break down the best strategy for picking Saturday’s games and evaluate a particularly intriguing tournament prop bet.
*All stats acquired from CBSSports.com.
No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 9 Wichita State: 6:09 p.m. ET on CBS
Betting Lines: Louisville -10.5, over/under 131
Florida Gulf Coast was everyone’s favorite Cinderella story, but Wichita State has been the undeniable low-seeded success story. With wins over No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Ohio State, the Shockers were giant killers in the tournament’s West Region.
Wichita State got it done at both ends of the floor in the first five rounds, but its Final Four matchup with Louisville won’t be an easy task. The Cardinals feature an elite defense, an electric perimeter scorer, a dominant post presence and one of the best coaches in college basketball.
Louisville is a 10.5-point favorite in this game, and it’s hard to imagine the Shockers covering the spread. Anything is possible at this stage in the tournament, but the Cardinals have absolutely stifled some quality offenses in the Big Dance.
Holding opponents to just 59 points per game through five rounds, Louisville has shown the ability to neutralize each team’s best scorers. Duke guards Seth Curry and Quinn Cook couldn’t get much going in the Elite Eight, combining for just 24 points on 6-of-20 shooting from the floor.
Wichita State boasts two terrific scorers in West Region Most Outstanding Player Malcolm Armstead and forward Cleanthony Early, and the Shockers will need big performances from each to have a chance of upending a motivated Louisville squad. If the Cardinals keep them contained, a 15-point victory will certainly be a possibility.
Our Pick: Cardinals and the over (Louisville 76, Wichita State 61)
No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 4 Syracuse: 8:49 p.m. ET on CBS
Betting Lines: Michigan -2, over/under 131
If you can only watch one game on Saturday, make it this one. Michigan and Syracuse will provide one of the most exciting games of the tournament.
The Orange have been the most impressive defensive team in the Big Dance, holding opponents to just 45.8 points per game. With a win over No. 1 Indiana and its No. 2 offense, Syracuse proved it can shut down even the most potent offensive attack.
Luckily for the Wolverines, they too have a terrific offense, led by sophomore guard Trey Burke and a balanced lineup from top to bottom. Glenn Robinson III, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary have all contributed at the offensive end, resulting in a 78.8 points-per-game average in the tournament.
Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone has presented many challenges for each team the Orange have faced, but Michigan is aptly suited for defeating it. With a bevy of high-percentage shooters and a point guard that creates opportunities for everyone on the floor, the Wolverines have a chance of busting the zone en route to a big win.
As well as Syracuse has played at the defensive end, scoring hasn’t come easy through the first five rounds. The Orange are only averaging 65.8 points per game in the tournament, including a 55-point performance against Big East rival Marquette in which Syracuse shot just 38 percent from the field.
If Syracuse is to upset the two-point favorite Wolverines, it will need big performances from C.J. Fair and Michael Carter-Williams. The duo has combined for 26.8 points per game in the tournament.
Our Pick: Wolverines and the under (Michigan 67, Syracuse 62)
Tournament Most Outstanding Player Odds
The tournament Most Outstanding Player award hasn’t been given to a representative of a non-championship squad since 1983. Expect the national championship to produce the Most Outstanding Player this year as well.
Without knowing which teams will square off in the title, it’s difficult to predict the winner of the award, but the odds are also more favorable at this stage in the tournament. Players like Hardaway and Fair won’t present such lucrative betting odds (should their respective team make the title game) following the Final Four.
If you’re looking for a safe pick, Louisville’s Russ Smith is the obvious choice. He has the best odds of winning the award, but the payout is also extremely modest (4/5). As a more rewarding alternative, consider banking on either Burke (4/1) or Hardaway (20/1) as plausible alternatives with a higher payout.
Our Pick: Trey Burke
Betting odds acquired from Bovada.lv and VegasInsider.com.
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