Villanova favored by 5 vs. Kansas as Final Four complete

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN City newsletter) 

Malik Newman was the hero for Kansas with 32 points in an overtime victory over Duke.
© USA Today Sports Images

Villanova and Kansas fill out the Final Four. Plus, an in-depth “box score breakdown” from the WHOLE tournament unlocks the secrets to advancing. Always something new for you in VSiN City. And, no resort fees!

Elite 8: Villanova tosses Texas Tech aside to finish easy trek through East

It takes four wins for a #1 seed to reach the Final Four of an NCAA Tournament. Villanova won all four of its games in the East Region by double digits, including two 12-point wins over Big 12 powers West Virginia and Texas Tech. That conference’s regular season and tournament champion awaits the Wildcats in San Antonio. Some worrisome news awaits the rest of the Final Four in Sunday’s box score.  

Villanova (-6.5) 71, Texas Tech 59

Two-point Pct: Texas Tech 38%, Villanova 41%

Three Pointers: Texas Tech 5/20, Villanova 4/24

Free Throws: Texas Tech 14/18, Villanova 29/35

Rebounds: Texas Tech 33, Villanova 51

Turnovers: Texas Tech 9, Villanova 12

Estimated Possessions: Texas Tech 67, Villanova 65

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Texas Tech 11-11-11, Villanova 1-1-1

Market Watch: A pretty solid -6.5 since the number first went up late Friday night. Some stores tested seven, which brought in sharp money quickly. Over/Under rose from 144.5 to 146, then never had a chance of getting there with poor three-point shooting from both teams. 

If you just skimmed over the numbers, don’t miss the big story that Villanova won by double digits despite going just 4 of 24 on treys! The Wildcats had been running away and hiding from opponents thanks to big numbers from long range all season. Sunday, they couldn’t throw a shot in the ocean, but won because of great defense and an ability to attack the basket and earn free throw attempts. 

Villanova was plus 17 in free-throw attempts, thanks largely to grabbing TWENTY offensive rebounds that created additional opportunities inside. That helped the Wildcats win scoring on “1’s and 2’s” by a count of 59-44. 

Credit to Texas Tech for its hustling defense that created so many first-look misses. If you’ve been watching a lot of basketball this season, you know how hard it is to disrupt Villanova to that degree. But getting a hand in a shooter’s face often takes defenders out of rebounding position. Villanova took advantage, particularly in the second half when the game hung around the market price for several minutes. 

Great run for the senior leadership of Texas Tech. Villanova will try to complete a historic run of Dance dominance in San Antonio. 

Elite 8: The best matchup of the tournament became the best game when Kansas edged Duke in OT

Not necessarily a historically great game. Too many first-half air balls for that. But man that second half was something to see. Fantastic athletes on both sides of the floor. The right mix of attacking when opportunities availed themselves, but being patient otherwise (though Duke became mistake-prone very late). Very tough to separate the two through regulation, meaning Duke just as easily could have been the #1 seed and Kansas the #2…but it was hard to make the case that Duke should have been favored by this much. The highest combination of team Power Ratings so far created a showdown fans and bettors will remember for a long time. 

Kansas (plus 3.5) 85, Duke 81 (in overtime)

Regulation Score: Duke 72, Kansas 72

Two-point Pct: Duke 56%, Kansas 52%

Three Pointers: Duke 7/29, Kansas 13/36

Free Throws: Duke 14/18, Kansas 12/15

Rebounds: Duke 32, Kansas 47

Turnovers: Duke 11, Kansas 18

Estimated Possessions: Duke 80, Kansas 78

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Duke 3-2-3, Kansas 9-4-7

Market Watch: A opener of Duke -3.5 was bet down to -3, and then as low as -2.5 temporarily. Chalk hit hard below the three. Game-day public interest brought the game all the way back to the opener. Similar story on the total, as an opener of 155.5 went down initially to as low as 154.5 before rising all the way to 157 Sunday before tipoff. Some stores saw some late Under buy back, dropping the close to 156.5.  

Pace factor was 69.6 according to the widgets that turn box scores into advanced box scores. That stat is pro-rated to 40 minutes, so we can assume a brisk 70 possessions per team in regulation. Both offenses put pressure on the refs by attacking the rim when they weren’t launching treys. Duke would win two-point baskets by a count of 23-17, on the way to a “1’s and 2’s” victory of 60-46. But, another awful three-point shooting night would ultimately doom the Blue Devils (just 5 of 26 vs. Syracuse, so 12 of 55 in Omaha).

We said in our preview yesterday that the most certain factor seemed to be that Kansas would lose rebounding. The Jayhawks had dropped that category to both Seton Hall and Clemson. Duke was #5 nationally in rebound rate. That’s about as certain as it gets. Nothing is certain in handicapping! Kansas owned the boards to the tune of 47-32, which turned a lot of those missed Duke treys into virtual turnovers. 

Whoever won was going to be an underdog to Villanova…giving us until Saturday to prepare for another potential barnburner just like this. We’ll save our expanded preview for the end of the week. Kansas has to be aware that running at this speed will play right into the hands of Villanova, who has more shooters…all due to bounce back from their worst long-range game of the tournament. 

Early Lines:

Villanova -5 over Kansas, total of 155.5

Michigan -5 over Loyola, total of 128.5

That creates this set of “market” Power Ratings for the Final Four…

NCAA Tournament Estimated “Market” Power Ratings

89: Villanova

84: Kansas, Michigan

79: Loyola-Chicago

Limited tweak from yesterday’s guess…as Loyola is now plus 5 in the betting markets instead of plus 6, pushing them to 79 on this scale. Hard to raise Michigan off a tight win over FSU. Makes more sense to lift Loyola up from 78 to 79. That would suggest Villanova would be about -5 over Michigan (pending changes in perception from Saturday action), or -10 over Loyola. Kansas and Michigan would be a pick-em, Kansas -5 over Loyola. 

Odds to Win the Championship

Villanova even money (50% win percentage)

Michigan 5/2 (29%)

Kansas 3/1 (25%)

Loyola-Chicago 12/1 (8%)

Those percentage equivalents add up to more than 100% because sports books create a house edge with their pricing. Michigan is second-favorite ahead of Kansas because it has the softer semi-final. 

More later in the week. A great opportunity now to study some numbers from the tournament as a whole through 64 of the 67 games on the Dance card…

NCAA Tournament: Boxscore Breakdown

Given all the down time Sunday…with pre-game shows, halftime shows, between-game shows, commercials showing too much of a not-as-good-as-it-used-to-be thing with Charles, Samuel L., and Spike, and promos for some special interview on 60 Minutes (the name escapes me)…there was time for a deep statistical dive.

Which box score categories have been most important so far in advancing teams through the brackets? Is it three-point shooting? Two-point shooting? Do winning teams almost always make for free throws than their opponent. Were we right to include “turnover avoidance” in our Holy Trinity? You just read that Villanova and Kansas owned the boards Sunday. Is rebounding the most important stat in the Dance?

We did the math. Here’s a look at win-percentages (dropping “tie” results where both teams had the same number of made treys, or free throws for example). Remember, this is all about STRAIGHT-UP victories. 

Impact on Advancing 

Better 2-point Percentage: 76%

Better 3-point Percentage: 73%

More Made Free Throws: 63%

More Made 3-pointers: 62%

More Rebounds: 59%

Fewer Turnovers: 58%

Through 64 games, winning the battle of two-point shooting has been the most important factor. Making the better percentage on treys is also important. Those two categories are off by themselves, well clear of the field. But even with the gradual evolution to more and more trey attempts, it’s superiority at the rim that still matters most. 

We did separate categories for trey percentage and raw treys. We wanted to see if it was more important to MAKE more treys, or to be sharper percentage-wise on treys attempted. Pretty clear difference here. Winning the volume battle 7-5 doesn’t help if you were 7 of 27 while the opponent was 5 of 13 (exact numbers from Nevada’s loss to Loyola-Chicago). Don’t get us wrong…making more is still the sign of a winner. But the sharper percentage is even more important. 

Rebounds and turnover avoidance lag the field a bit. Those are still connected to winning. Basic fundamentals always are. But you can see how getting good looks inside and out can trump those last two categories. You don’t have to be great at rebounding at turnover avoidance if your shots are falling. Or, being great at those two won’t necessarily help you make up for a bad shooting day. 

In some betting circles, there’s a theory that the posted point spreads generally capture the skill set differential between two teams. Then, the vagaries of three-point shooting will determine who covers. It’s the element of roulette that spins results randomly. A settled line of -7 is the “right” line. If the favorite shoots better than normal on treys (or the dog has a bad day), then chalk gets the money. If the dog shoots better than normal on treys (or the favorite has a bad day), then the puppy gets fed. The nature of that stat has a lot of randomness, ergo…trying to pick college basketball winners ATS has a lot of randomness. This is why some sharps prefer to focus on Over/Unders rather than team sides

Went to check the math on that.

*Teams making the MOST treys went 29-25-10 against the spread (54%)

*Teams shooting the BEST trey percentage went 46-17-1 against the spread (73%)

The “10” in 29-25-10 represents nine times where both teams made the same amount of treys, and one point spread push. You can see that sharper three-point percentage did sway point spread results very dramatically. If God himself/herself told you in advance which team would make the MOST treys, you only would have been four games over 50/50, plus 1.5 units after vigorish. If God told you in advance who would shoot the better percentage, it would have been 29 games over 50/50, plus 27.3 units. 

Certainly should encourage handicappers to see if they can crack the riddle of which teams are most likely to shoot the superior three-point percentage in any given game. If that category is less random than it appears, possibilities for profit exist. 

World Championship of Golf Match Play: Bubba Watson Wins it all

Fun to follow this set of brackets through the past weekend. We left off with the Final Four. Here’s what happened Sunday. 


Bubba Watson (plus 150) beat Justin Thomas (-180) 3 and 2 

Kevin Kisner (plus 130) beat Alex Noren (-150) 1 up

Once again underdogs got the best of it in an event known for any 18-hole sprint being a virtual toss-up. Justin Thomas would have earned a #1 world ranking if he had won this match. 


Bubba Watson (-145) beat Kevin Kisner (plus 125) 7 and 6

Chalk takes the final match. Bubba Watson had been 3/1 to win entering the final day, 10/1 entering the Sweet 16 based on tweeted odds from the Westgate. 

Just a week-and-half away from the start of the 2018 Masters (April 5-8). The return of Tiger Woods to prominence, and the sheer volume of popular betting choices with passionate constituencies guarantees this will be the most heavily bet Masters in Las Vegas history. 

Back with you Tuesday to preview the NIT Final Four. Semifinals will be played Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. The finals are set for Thursday night. Here are lines as of publication deadlines. 

*Western Kentucky pick-em/139.5 with Utah

*Penn State -2.5/134.5 vs. Mississippi State

Updating last week’s estimate of “market” Power Ratings gives us this…

NIT estimated “market” Power Ratings

78: Penn State

77: Utah, Western Kentucky

76: Mississippi State

Teams higher than this were eliminated earlier in the event, including the quarterfinal carnage that sent four home teams packing and advanced four visitors to Gotham. Penn State peaked late in the season, and would be a short favorite over anyone left in the field as best as we can tell. We’ll run the Holy Trinity stats and update the market for you tomorrow.

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