The Final Four Previews
OUR NCAA TOURNAMENT FINAL FOUR GAME PREVIEWS
By Jim Hurley
The looooong wait is over - the Final Four finally has taken center stage.
You know how the week between the Elite 8 games and these highly-anticipated Final Four tilts always seems to take forever-and-a-day to get here but it's time to lace up the high tops, bounce those basketballs and get it on!
They jump it up 'round 6:09 p.m. - give or take yet another commercial - on this first Saturday in April and no doubt there's a heavy-duty favorite in this quartet -- here's the up-to-the-moment "Odds to Win it All" based on $100 per-play wagers:
|Wichita State||+ 900|
Hey, remember what we wrote last weekend that this collection of Final Four teams is a combined 14-2 ATS (against the spread) in this year's NCAA Tournament and as you can see from our accompanying charts both Wichita State and Michigan are perfect 4-and-ohs spreadwise in this year's tourney. Just sayin'!
NCAA TOURNAMENT - FINAL FOUR
Georgia Dome - Atlanta, GA
(#9 WEST) WICHITA STATE (30-8) vs. (#1 MIDWEST) LOUISVILLE (33-5) - 6:09 p.m. ET, CBS
It's truly difficult to decide what's been the single-best part of this NCAA Tournament run by the Louisville Cardinals: Is it the fact that guard Russ Smith (26 points per game this tourney) has taken over the show and proven to be one of America's top five college b-ball players ...
Or is that big man Gorgui Dieng (11 ppg and 7.5 rebound per-game) has become both a shot-maker and a shot-blocker extraordinaire just in time to make this one of Rick Pitino's most complete tourney teams this side of his 1996 Kentucky club that won it all?
May we suggest the fact that lost amongst all the talk of injured G Kevin Ware (broken leg) the Redbirds are missing a solid on-the-ball defender who adds critical depth to the lineup but the reality is this 'Ville bunch is - still - eight players deep and no one should be surprised here if/when key reserve Montrezl Harrell makes his presence felt here both in the paint and as a defensive force.
The Cards - a heady 10 ½-point betting favorite here in this Final Four tilt - have all the key components to win here and than wrap things up with the school's first men's hoops championship since 1986 come Monday night but consider that PG Peyton Siva can't get into any of his mini-funks and he must continue to drive it hard to the hoop as both he and the aforementioned Smith did quite successfully in last Sunday's explosive 85-63 win against Duke. If Smith and Siva combine for 35 points and 12-to-15 assists here, than W-State will barely stand a chance!
Still, the underdog Shockers have their own ammo and - as we discussed in an earlier-week Jim Sez column - Gregg Marshall's crew enters Final Four play with four double-digit scorers in this tourney -- that's PG Malcolm Armstead (15.5 ppg), F Cleanthony Early (14. 2 ppg), frosh Ron Baker (11 ppg) and F Carl Hall (10.8 ppg) and the amazing thing here is that all of these guys save for Hall have increased their points-per-game scoring average in the tourney as compared to regular-season play. Note that this quartet has drained a combined 18 triples in this NCAA Tournament and probably needs to nail 10-or-more here to stay with Louisville right to the proverbial finish line.
WICHITA STATE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-21||Pittsburgh||- 4.5||Wichita State||Wichita State 73-55|
|3-23||Gonzaga||- 6.5||Wichita State||Wichita State 76-70|
|3-28||Wichita State||- 4.5||La Salle||Wichita State 72-58|
|3-30||Ohio State||- 4.5||Wichita State||Wichita State 70-66|
LOUISVILLE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-21||Louisville||- 26.5||North Carolina A&T||Louisville 79-48|
|3-23||Louisville||- 10.5||Colorado State||Louisville 82-56|
|3-29||Louisville||- 11||Oregon||Louisville 77-69|
|3-31||Louisville||- 3.5||Duke||Louisville 85-63|
Wichita State vs. Louisville (-10.5, 133)
3-1 Last Year - Split the sides, swept the totals
It's Final Four time and the Jim Hurley Network has dominated this level of play over its 28 years. From our first year in 1985 when Villanova upset Georgetown in the final game, through last year's 3-1 with the sides and totals in the National Semi-Finals, a winning performance by Jim Hurley is as much a Final Four tradition as the playing of "One Shining Moment."
This season promises more of the same. We won in the Sweet-16 with Marquette stunning Miami-Fla and had Wichita State to blow by LaSalle. We won in the Elite Eight, pegging Syracuse and Wichita State again. Now we're set to do the same on both Saturday's Final Four matchups.
Wichita State trys to keep the dream alive vs. #1 overall seed Louisville (6:10 ET, CBS) to start Saturday night off. The Cardinals look tough, but the Shockers have lived up to their name every step on the Tourney. Then traditional heavyweights, Syracuse and Michigan meet in the nightcap (approx 8:45 ET, CBS) for the other berth on Monday night.
From studying game tape, to crunching numbers, to running sophisticated simulation software, and checking with our sources close to the scene, Jim Hurley's Network has all the information necessary to make this a 2-0 Saturday Night, like we have in 7 of the last 13 years.
I'll also be looking at the totals to see if there's easy money there. Last year we scored on both Unders. This Saturday is easy money, take your share. Just $50 CLICK HERE
(#4 SOUTH) MICHIGAN (30-7) vs. (#4 EAST) SYRACUSE (30-9) - approximately 8:49 p.m. ET, CBS
Is this Final Four game a referendum on whether or not the Big 10 was - as most folks suggested this season - the best conference in the land or might we be headed to a Louisville vs. Syracuse Part IV game come Monday evening in Hot-lanta?
No question the Michigan Wolverines have a little magic working for 'em after that come-from-way-behind Sweet 16 win against Kansas that was followed by last Sunday's wire-to-wire 79-59 triumph over favored Florida but dig a little deeper with this John Beilein-coached crew and you'll see five double-digit scorers in this tourney with "late-bloomer" G Nik Stauskas now joining the crowd after a fabulous 6-of-6 trifecta performance against the not-so-mighty Gators.
Let's just say here that the other starters - Mitch McGary (17.5 ppg), Trey Burke (15.5 ppg), Tim Hardaway, Jr. (13.5 ppg) and Glen Robinson III (also 13.5 ppg) can get near their normal tourney numbers here against this vaunted 'Cuse 2-3 zone - yes, a huge assumption, we admit - than anything Stauskas can add will be gravy but his ability or inability to nail those when-open corner jumpers could well be the key here for the maize-and-blue who live-and-die with the outside jump shot and now have to see just how far out it has to go against the lengthy Syracuse defenders.
On the flip side, the Orange will be glad to have this one go down as a low-scoring affair - Jim Boeheim's crew has held three of its first four tourney foes this spring to 50 points or less - but where will the Big East get its scoring should Michigan have the answer for shutting down key frosh PG Michael Carter-Williams? Note that Williams is averaging 13 points and nearly 5 assists a game in this tournament and you can see he's been gaining confidence fast in the last couple of games but if Michigan commits a player (or two) to shadowing Carter-Williams here than fellow G Brandon Trice has to help with ball-handling responsibilities and that takes away from his usual two-guard roles.
Gut feeling here?
The Orange - a two-point underdog at press time - need smooth-stoking James Southerland (7-of-19 triples this tourney) to get hot even if it's for just a three- or four-minute spurt or else this game will become a real half-court battle and you might be surprised what teams' offense will suffer more in that style.
MICHIGAN'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-21||Michigan||- 12||South Dakota State||Michigan 71-56|
|3-23||Michigan||- 3.5||VCU||Michigan 78-53|
|3-29||Kansas||- 1.5||Michigan||Michigan 87-85 (ot)|
|3-31||Florida||- 3.5||Michigan||Michigan 79-59|
SYRACUSE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-21||Syracuse||- 13.5||Montana||Syracuse 81-34|
|3-23||Syracuse||- 7||California||Syracuse 66-60|
|3-28||Indiana||- 5||Syracuse||Syracuse 61-50|
|3-30||Syracuse||- 4.5||Marquette||Syracuse 55-39|
NCAA TOURNAMENT CONFERENCE-BY-CONFERENCE POINTSPREAD BREAKDOWN CHART
Here's an update on the tourney chart with a reminder that here we bring you only the conferences/leagues that are part of the Final Four action:
Note: NCAA Tournament Betting Favorites enter Final Four play at 30-33-0 with one pick 'em game - so that means the chalk sides are hitting 'em for just a .476 winning percentage in this year's "Big Dance".
NOTE: More Final Four Notes in the next Jim Sez!
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