The No. 8-seeded Kentucky Wildcats began this season as the No. 1 team in the land, but they soon lost favor and entered this NCAA tournament almost as an afterthought.
Suddenly, though, after three straight victories, the talented young Wildcats find themselves one win away from the Final Four. To get there Kentucky will have to get by last year's national runner-up, the No. 2-seeded Michigan Wolverines, in the Midwest Region final on Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis.
In a rarity, a No. 8 seed is favored against a No. 2 seed for the first time since 1996, according to the Madness database at Odds Shark.
Spread and total points scored betting line
The Wildcats opened as an even odds, but Kentucky was favored by two points late Saturday. The total was 140.5. (Compare lines and consensus on the Odds Shark matchup report)
Odds Shark computer pick
Why pick Kentucky to cover the spread
This team began the season as the top-ranked team in the land, but at one point they fell all the way out of the rankings. We all knew the talent was there; it apparently was just a matter of getting enough time to mesh.
The Wildcats lost three of their last four regular-season games, and it probably should have been four out of five. However, they showed life in the SEC tournament, losing by a single point to No. 1 Florida in the title game. Historically, they have a knack of beating No. 2 seeds (4-1 past five times).
Then, as the No. 8 seed in the Midwest, the 'Cats beat Kansas State, previously unbeaten Wichita State and, most recently, defending national champion Louisville on Friday night to reach Sunday's game.
Why pick Michigan to cover the spread
The Wolverines won the Big Ten's regular-season title, going 15-3, which is no small feat in a conference with three teams in the final eight of this year's NCAA tournament. Michigan then began its run to Sunday with solid wins over Wofford and Texas, and then it out-fought a tough Tennessee team on Friday night to win 73-71.
So Big Blue finds itself one win away from a second straight Final Four appearance. Michigan is being told it's under-talented and undersized for this matchup, but the Wolverines heard some of that going into their wins over the Longhorns and the Volunteers.
Coach John Beilein knows what he's doing, as he's one of the best in the business.
Smart betting pick
Kentucky looks like it's finally come together, with the athleticism being matched by the intensity. However, Michigan just seems to play through almost anything, including perceived mismatches.
The Wolverines have won 10 of their last 11 games with their only loss coming against rival Michigan State, which is also still alive in this tournament.
In a tough call (the computer has this as a 73-73 dead heat), take the team that's been hot longer and go with Michigan.
Kentucky Wildcats: No. 86
Michigan Wolverines: No. 49 (per Odds Shark power ranks)
March Madness betting trends
- Kentucky is 4-1 SU and ATS vs. 2 seeds
- UNDER is 9-3 past 12 games when KU is favored
- First time since 1996 that an 8 seed has been favored vs. a No. 2 seed
- The total has gone OVER in six of Michigan's last eight games