Final Four: Tickets Punched
Aaron Harrison’s game-winning three-pointer closed out the Elite Eight portion of the NCAA tournament in style on Sunday, securing the final berth in the Final Four for the Kentucky Wildcats.
Dismissed for much of the season, the Wildcats are now two wins from securing a second national championship in three years, but a net cutting ceremony will only come after a lot of hard work.
With the final participants booked, BettingSports.com brings you an early overview of some of the storylines going into this final stanza.
Leading online sportsbook Bovada has the side from Gainesville listed at 10/11 to take home the trophy in the wake of this weekend’s action.
The Gators ran their unbeaten streak up to 30 games in the process but will know anything less than a 32-game winning streak this season will be considered a failure.
For Billy Donovan, there’s confidence to be taken from the first four games of the tournament. The Gators earned double-digit wins in each contest and rarely looked troubled through 160 minutes of basketball. But it’s the next 40 minutes that really count and, as if scripted by the basketball gods themselves, the Gators must now topple the last team to hand them a loss: Connecticut.
If – and from this vantage point it’s a very definite if – the Gators get past the Huskies, they could be in line for a rematch against the only other team to beat them this season: Wisconsin.
- Last Final Four appearance: 2007
- Last National Championship: 2007
- Current odds to win championship: 10/11
Connecticut (30-8) defied all the odds on Sunday afternoon, knocking off the almost-unanimous favorite amongst TV analysts, Michigan State.
The 60-54 victory at Madison Square Garden in the East Regional Final sent a message to the college basketball world, one it probably should have heard two rounds earlier when the Huskies felled Villanova.
Aside from Kentucky, UConn has arguably the best in-tournament resume of all four teams taking to the hardwood in North Texas this weekend. They also have a whole heap of experience and an NBA-ready backcourt. If you’re looking for the dark horse, here it is.
But the bookies don’t like the Huskies’ chances against Florida this weekend, and have installed Kevin Ollie’s team as the remaining underdog going forward.
- Last Final Four appearance: 2011
- Last National Championship: 2011
- Current odds to win championship: 7/1
Both teams have fond memories of their last Final Four appearance, having each walked away with a championship the last time they made it this far.
The Gators opened as a 6.5-point favorite when the line was released for this game. The total opened at 125.
If you remember back to the preseason, Kentucky (28-10) was the bookmakers’ favorite to win a national championship. A bumpy season meant bettors taking those 7/2 odds back then have been uncomfortable for about four months. That uncomfortable feeling could be coming to an end shortly.
After defeating Michigan in the closing moments of Sunday’s finale in Indianapolis, the Wildcats head to Dallas with a whole lot of momentum on their backs. John Calipari’s side has run a murder’s row-type schedule just to get this far, and will now be confident it can go a step further.
The Wildcats are currently listed at 5/2 to win a national championship, putting them behind only Florida. While they might not admit it, you have to believe Julius Randle, the Harrison Twins, and company would be only too happy to beat Florida at a third time of asking. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
- Last Final Four appearance: 2012
- Last National Championship: 2012
- Current odds to win championship: 5/2
Wisconsin (30-7) is the only team entering Saturday’s national semifinals that didn’t win a championship in its last trip to the Final Four. Don’t expect that to bother Bo Ryan’s side.
Appearing in the Final Four for the first time in 14 years, the Badgers will be looking to end a 73-year drought and take a national title back to Madison next Monday. To do so, it’s going to take more of the same.
The Badgers advanced to the Final Four with a 64-63 overtime win over top-seeded Arizona on Saturday. Once again, defense played a huge part for Ryan’s side, which has allowed more than 63 points just once this tournament. With Kentucky sporting an impressive offense, the Badgers will need to make defense count double when they meet on Saturday.
At 13/4 to win a national title, the Badgers may not be favored this weekend, but they’ve not been favored much all season. Of the four teams remaining, they had the longest odds to win a national title at the beginning of the year (50/1), as they ranked joint-16th in the nation.
- Last Final Four appearance: 2000
- Last National Championship: 1941
- Current odds to win championship: 13/4
The Wildcats opened as a 2-point favorite when the line opened for this game. The Badgers will look to get the better of that number and shock the world.
The total opened at 140. Early indications are that the under looks a smart bet, particularly with what Wisconsin has done defensively so far this tournament.
BettingSports.com will have continued coverage of the Final Four in the lead up to Saturday’s semifinals, before bringing you all the information you need to get ready for next Monday’s national championship game.
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