March is a volatile time for bettors.
Sure, there are plenty of opportunities to make some coin given the wealth of matchups that shape the Big Dance, but upsets, Cinderellas and the like make major gains a rare commodity.
With the arrival of the Final Four, it becomes a bit easier. The lengthy wait before the showdowns on Saturday in Dallas gives bettors plenty of time to pick apart each matchup and make the best possible moves.
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|4/5/14||Florida (-6.5) vs. UConn||6:09 p.m.||TBS||Florida|
|4/5/14||Wisconsin vs. Kentucky (-2)||8:49 p.m.||TBS||Kentucky|
NCAA. Odds via Vegas Insider.
(1) Florida Gators vs. (7) Connecticut Huskies
It's rather easy to jump on the Florida train regardless of the spread, as the Gators are the No. 1 overall seed and have lost just two games this year.
Casey Prather and Scottie Wilbekin are elite scorers. Patric Young is a force down low. Billy Donovan is a legendary coach. The list goes on, but the problem here is simple: the Kryptonite known as UConn.
The Gators' last loss came back in December to the very same Huskies—a team that has done nothing but improve over the course of March thanks to the elite play of point guard Shabazz Napier. He's easily been the best player in the tournament, and he'll be the best player on the floor on Saturday, as his 26 points and game-winning shot were the reason the Gators lost on the road to the Huskies earlier in the year.
As ESPN points out, history is not on Florida's side given the circumstances:
Good news for UConn, which plays Florida. Last 4 teams to beat a team in the reg. season and then meet in Final Four all won the rematch.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 1, 2014
In other words, the spread is far too kind here. None of this is to suggest UConn will pull off another freakish win—especially away from home this time—but the contest will be much closer than the spread suggests.
The Gators can't stop Napier, but they can contain most of the other Huskies. Bullying their way around down low won't work—others have tried to do so against UConn this March and have failed—but the Gators remain the more talented team and will squeak into the title game.
The inverse is true for the other dance in Dallas.
(2) Wisconsin Badgers vs. (8) Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky is a sexy pick, for obvious reasons; the Wildcats are absolutely loaded with pro talent and are clearly the more talented team, as opposed to Wisconsin, which relies mostly on star forward Frank Kaminsky for production.
ESPN Radio's R.J. Bell has shocking details in regards to the spread:
Bookmaker @JayKornegay tells me Wisconsin favored by 2.5 ov Kentucky if gm had been played in 1st round (Wisc now 2 pt dogs)— RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) April 1, 2014
How the times have changed. Wisconsin has remained steady, but Kentucky has hit a growth spurt that has the Wildcats on the hunt for a title and finally living up to its preseason No. 1 billing. Coach John Calipari explained the transformation well, via Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
It's a process. Every year it's a process. Some guys get it quicker than others. It took these guys a little longer, and it took me a little longer to figure them out....
So it's not all them. They were trying, loving the grind, learning to work, becoming self-disciplined, counting on one another, being their brother's keeper...losing themselves in the team.
(But) it's hard when all seven of them scored 28 a game in high school to give up something....When they all just settled in and lost themselves in the team the game became easier. They became better. They had more fun. They became more confident.
Inside and out, the Wildcats have hit a stride which no other team may have the goods to stop. The Harrison twins have stepped up defensively on the outside and can continue to score when called upon. Julius Randle, one of the most coveted NBA prospects left in the tournament, can bang with the best down low and is a double-double machine.
Kaminsky will pose a serious problem for the Wildcats thanks to his ability to score down low and also splash consistently from long range, but he can't win the game on his own this time around against a team that is simply more talented at the other four spots on the floor.
Firing on all cylinders as a cohesive unit, the Wildcats are a safe bet to blow the spread out of the water on Saturday.