Two teams that spent time during the regular season as the No. 1 team in the country and just upset the top seeds in their respective regions will square off in the Final Four on Saturday, as the second-seeded Villanova Wildcats (33-5) from the South Regional take on the second-seeded Oklahoma Sooners (29-7) from the West.
The Wildcats and Sooners were each ranked as the top team in the nation for three weeks. However, Villanova is a consensus betting favorite versus Oklahoma after knocking out the top-ranked team heading into the NCAA tournament, the Kansas Jayhawks, 64-59 as two-point underdogs in the Elite Eight.
Point spread: The Wildcats opened as one-point favorites; the total was 149.5, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).
March Madness pick, via Odds Shark computer: 74.5-64.7 Wildcats
Why pick Oklahoma to cover the spread
The Sooners have college basketball’s best player in Buddy Hield, who continues to score at will against opponents. Through the tournament's first four games, Hield is averaging 29.3 points and shooting 48 percent from three-point range (19-of-40) following a 37-point effort in an 80-68 victory against the top-seeded Oregon Ducks as one-point underdogs in the West Regional final.
However, Oklahoma has also proved it can win if Hield is held in check, defeating the third-seeded Texas A&M Aggies 77-63 as 2.5-point chalk in the Sweet 16. Hield had a tourney-low 17 points versus the Aggies, but teammate Jordan Woodard picked up the slack with his best performance of the Big Dance by scoring a team-high 22. Head coach Lon Kruger has done a fine job riding his star as much as possible while also ensuring others retain enough confidence to make plays if needed.
Why pick Villanova to cover the spread
The Wildcats are 7-1 straight up and against the spread in their last eight games as favorites of two points or fewer. They are also 6-1 ATS in their previous seven after winning as an underdog. While Hield is a great player, so was another member of the All-Big 12 first team in Perry Ellis, who was held to a season-low four points with four turnovers and three fouls against the Villanova defense in the South Regional final.
The Wildcats showed they could come through in clutch situations defensively and offensively versus the Jayhawks, as they had two critical steals in the last minute and nearly perfect free-throw shooting (18-of-19). If anybody can stop Hield, it’s a Villanova team that was able to overcome 40.4 percent shooting from the field to beat Kansas. The Wildcats do not count on any one player to carry them consistently either, so that balance could benefit them greatly.
Smart betting pick
The numbers speak for themselves in favor of Villanova, while other trends suggest fading the Sooners in this spot. Oklahoma is just 3-11 ATS in its last 14 games against foes with winning records and 2-5 SU and ATS the previous seven times the team has been an underdog of two points or fewer. The Sooners did beat the Wildcats 78-55 as five-point dogs back on December 7 in the Pearl Harbor Invitational, but look for Jay Wright's best team ever to avenge that loss with a solid win and cover the spread, advancing to its first national title game since winning it all in 1985.
March Madness betting trends
Villanova is 6-1 ATS in its last seven games after winning as an underdog.
The total has gone over in 10 of Villanova's last 13 games.
The total has gone under in 12 of Oklahoma's last 14 games.
Oklahoma is 3-11 ATS in its last 14 games against teams with winning records.
All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, and all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app for iOS or Android.