First Look At The Final Four

Another Tourney Winner Wash. St (+1) 67, Pitt 66

2-1 overall in Sunday's Elite-8 as Kansas (-1) over N. Carolina and Baylor loses to Kentucky, (Over 148) wins.

IT'S THE FIRST LOOK AT THE FINAL FOUR

A QUARTET OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL HEAVYWEIGHTS GET READY TO TAKE CENTER STAGE THIS WEEKEND IN N'ORLEANS ...CATCH OUR NCAA TOURNAMENT POINTSPREAD BREAKDOWN CHART

PLUS THE NIT SEMIFINALS TAKE SHAPE TUESDAY NIGHT AND HERE'S THE QUICK-HITTER PREVIEWS

By Jim Hurley:

College Basketball royalty, you say?

Yeah, that's one way of putting it when it comes to this year's NCAA Tournament Final Four teams:

Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio State and Louisville have a long and rich history in this tourney - although it's interesting to note that not one of 'em has won it all since 2008 (see Kansas) and even heavy-duty favorite Kentucky has gone 14 years since lifting its last championship trophy - and take note that this heady quartet of teams has combined for 128 wins this year with all of the above having won 30-or-more games now in this 2011-12 hoops season.

Sorry, the likes of VCU and Butler (see one half of last year's Final Four) won't be part of the part this Saturday's action in New Orleans where it's a #1 seed, two #2 seeds and a #4 seed who comprise this little gathering and we'll share some "first look at the Final Four" thoughts in just a moment while ranking the teams in order of their odds to win it all.

First, let's do a little paperwork here and let you know that heading into Saturday's games in "The Big Easy" that NCAA Tournament Betting Favorites are 30-31-2 ATS (against the spread) with one pick 'em game overall and as you'll note below in our team-by-team pointspread standings the one-and-only Final Four squad that's still perfect spreadwise in this tourney is Louisville ... and did you realize this quartet is 12-4 vig-wise overall this tournament (a scintillating .750 winning rate).

Now, here's to the past weekend winners and how we rank 'em odds-wise to win it all this next week ...

KENTUCKY (36-2) - The South Regional champ and #1 overall seed in this year's NCAA Tournament puzzled lots of folks (including CBS analyst Clark Kellogg) by sticking with F/C/ Anthony Davis deep into Sunday's never-in-doubt 82-70 win/cover against 8 ½-point pup Baylor and the kid sure took a licking with knee, hip and lip injuries but he did steer clear of foul woes (for once!) and really let his ball-hawking mates take care of business as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (19 points) was fabulous especially in the first half.

If John Calapari - a/k/a Coach Cal - really wants to win his first-ever national crown than both Gilchrist and Terrence Jones (12 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists versus Baylor) need to continue showing that physical toughness that goes along with this club's overall mental tenacity and to point how just how dominant the 'Cats have been thus far in this year's tourney than note they have won these games by 15, 16, 12 and 12 points and not a one of 'em was close with three or four minutes left on the clock.

Our Jim Sez Odds to Win it All - 1-to-2

OHIO STATE (31-7) - Want the magic formula for the Buckeyes to win it all this year?

Keep big man Jared Sullinger on the floor and off the bench for most of the first half without foul woes the next game (or two) and get normally silky-smooth scorer William Buford cranked up ... that's it!

Sullinger rode the pine for a chunk of the first half with two fouls in that 77-70 win/cover against 2 ½-point pup Syracuse last Saturday night while Buford was bummin' with a 3-of-12 shooting line (see 13 points in 40 minutes of action). No doubt the 'Eyes play better man defense than anyone gives 'em credit for and so take a bow, Thad Matta, but sometimes it's tough to get all five pieces working in unison on offense although PG Aaron Craft (5 points and 4 assists against the 'Cuse) probably needs to take and make a couple of trifectas in order to keep opponents honest.

The Buckeyes are a sound outfit that met all the challenges in their first four tourney games but their margin of error is slim should Sullinger pick up two quickie fouls and blue-collar guy Deshaun Thomas (14 points on 14 FG tries last Saturday night) somehow can't get his hands on the ball.

Our Jim Sez Odds to Win it All - 3.5-to-1

KANSAS (31-6) - Okay, so maybe the Jayhawks were "fortunate" in their run through the Midwest Region as Bill Self's club didn't have to play #7 seed Saint Mary's or #3 seed Georgetown en route to Sunday's hard-fought 80-67 win against 2-point underdog North Carolina (and we told you two weeks ago the fact that Carolina might have to play a regional final against Kansas in St. Louis was gonna be a problem for the #1 seed Tar Heels) and that latest win came against an ACC powerhouse without ultra-talented PG Kendall Marshall.

Hey, it's the way the cookie crumbles and Kansas survived-and-advanced through some ugly basketball to get here to Final Four-land and you just know the Rock/Chalk/Jayhawk Nation is super-happy that PG Tyshawn Taylor busted out of his funk with a game-high 22 points against UNC and let's not forget his five key steals to boot. If Kansas seven-footer Jeff Withey (15 points with 8 rebs and 3 blocks against North Carolina) and frontcourt sidekick Thomas Robinson (18 points and 9 boards versus the Heels) are not gassed at game's end, than the Jayhawks can beat anyone.

Our Jim Sez Odds to Win it All - 5-to-1

LOUISVILLE (30-9) - No team played late in their Elite 8 win with more desperation than these U of L Cardinals who now famously outscored Florida 23-8 to close out that 72-68 West Regional Final win in Phoenix. Reserve guard Russ Smith (19 points) made all the big shots to climb Louisville back into the hunt and than frosh forward Chase Behanan made the key go-ahead bucket with 1:06 left and who knew that a Rick Pitino team that nailed only six triples and saw its point guard foul out would come from way back to beat a quality Gators team that hoisted up too many quick shots in the second half and that - as much as anything - doomed the "pupil" Billy Donovan.

Now, the stakes get really high as one-time national championship-winning coach Kentucky coach Pitino gets a crack at his old school for the right to play in Monday's title tilt (somebody please strap in Dick Vitale over there on those silly ESPN shows!) and no doubt the Redbirds will need PG Peyton Siva (9 points and 8 assists in just 26 minutes against Florida) to stay on the floor for 36-plus minutes while handling Kentucky's pressure.

Still, there's been something special with this 'Ville bunch that allowed Florida to shoot 50 percent from the floor (that's 24-of-48) and still beat 'em at the finish line and consider this is a classic example of the sum being better than the parts.

Our Jim Sez Odds to Win it All - 6-to-1
 

NCAA TOURNAMENT POINTSPREAD BREAKDOWN CHART

As per our usual Jim Sez custom, below we run all the College Basketball Conferences/Leagues that have a minimum of two ATS (against the spread) verdicts during this NCAA Tournament. Here's the lowdown while heading into Saturday's Final Four:

CONF/LG WON LOST TIED PCT
Mid-American 3 0 0 1.000
Colonial 2 0 0 1.000
Atlantic 10 6 1 0 .857
SEC 7 3 1 .700
Big 10 10 6 0 .625
West Coast 3 2 0 .600
Big East 12 10 0 .545
America East 1 1 0 .500
MEAC 1 1 0 .500
Ohio Valley 1 1 0 .500
Patriot 1 1 0 .500
Sun Belt 1 1 0 .500
ACC 5 6 0 .454
Big 12 5 8 1 .385
Pac-12 1 2 0 .333
Mountain West 1 4 0 .250
Missouri Valley 0 2 1 .000
Conference USA 0 2 0 .000
MAAC 0 2 0 .000

Take note that the "power conferences" - of course, that's the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC - are now a combined 40-35-2 spreadwise in this year's tourney for a .533 winning rate while the non-power conferences finished up a collective 22-27-2 spreadwise for a .449 winning rate but did you notice that the Atlantic-10 wound up covering six-of-seven tourney games this year and so that ought to earn them the benefit of the "bubble" doubt next year ... right?

Now hear this ... Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have roared through this 2012 College Basketball post-season with NCAA Tournament, NIT, CBI and CIT winners and there's more to come in all of these post-season tournies plenty there's plenty of NBA Winners on tap too when you sign up today and be sure to check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the winning selections. Note that the check-in times are anytime after 1 p.m. ET for all the NBA and College Basketball weeknight action. We'll have Final Four Side & Totals Winners this Saturday after 10 a.m. ET and get all weekend winners after 10 a.m. ET on Saturday/Sundays

FINAL FOUR POINTSPREAD STANDINGS
Here's a look at how the NCAA Tournament's Final Four teams stack up spreadwise in this year's "Big Dance":

TEAM

WIN

LOSS

TIE

PCT

Louisville

4

0

0

1.000

Kentucky

3

1

0

.750

Ohio State

3

1

0

.750

Kansas

2

2

0

.500

NIT SEMIFINAL GAME PREVIEWS

The NIT semifinals come to Madison Square Garden in New York City on Tuesday night and here's our quick-hitter previews:

MASSACHUSETTS (25-11) vs. STANFORD (24-11 - 7 p.m. ET, espn2
Hats off to the Umass Minutemen and their ultra-hyper head coach Derek Kellogg for navigating their way through three NIT road wins (in double-overtime at Miss State, at Seton Hall and at Drexel) to get here and maybe it's high time the national media recognized stellar G Chaz Williams (16.9 ppg) who loves to cut-and-slash his way to the hoop but may be facing some gimmicky zone defenses from Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins here. The Pac-12 Cardinal - which bested Cleveland State, Illinois State (in overtime) and Nevada all in Palo Alto in this year's NIT - has been getting some starry performances lately from frosh G Aaron Bright who has been taking on a bigger role lately but keep a close eye here on F/C Josh Owens who might be a future slam dunk champ.

MINNESOTA (22-14) vs. WASHINGTON (24-10) - approximately 9:25 p.m. ET, espn2
Hey, UMass isn't the only NIT Final Four team that won all tourney games on the road as Minnesota's won at LaSalle, Miami and Middle Tennessee State and Tubby Smith's club has won these games by a per-game average of 11 points ... wow! If Rodney Williams and Andre Hollins - each of whom scored 24 points in last Wednesday's 78-72 win at Middle Tennessee State - can play at 78 rpm here against go-go Washington than this clash figures to be a real wire job. Note that Lorenzo Romar's Huskies - NIT home game winners against UT-Arlington, Northwestern and Oregon - are averaging nearly 83 points per game in this tourney - have lots of firepower but keep a close eye here on stat-sheet stuffing guard Abdul Gaddy who registered 11 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds in last week's 90-86 quarterfinal round win against archrival Oregon.

NOTE: Lots more NCAA Tournament Final Four coverage all week long right here at Jim Sez.

22
Nov

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