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Villanova, of course, wins NCAA title

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

Champagne for Super ‘Nova! The Villanova Wildcats make it 6-0 straight up and ATS to complete a historic run through the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Details plus more on the Masters as we throw a bounce pass from one huge sports betting event to the next in VSiN City. 

National Championship: Villanova shakes off slow start to dominate Michigan
For about half an hour, it looked like we might have a ball game. Michigan jumped ahead 14-8, and led 21-16 with 10 minutes left in the first half. The Wolverines effectively kept Villanova from exploding from long range. All that, and Villanova STILL led by nine at the break!

Halftime: Villanova (-4) 37, Michigan 28
Two-point Pct: Michigan 60%, Villanova 56%
Three Pointers: Michigan 2/13, Villanova 4/13
Free Throws: Michigan 4/7, Villanova 5/6
Rebounds: Michigan 14, Villanova 20
Turnovers: Michigan 3, Villanova 5
Estimated Possessions: Michigan 33, Villanova 33

You have to consider it a win if you hold Villanova to four treys in its first 13 attempts. But it wasn’t a win, because Michigan was just 2 of 13 themselves. That off lousy long-range performances of 7/28 vs. Loyola and 4/22 vs. Florida State. You can see both teams scored easily when they worked the ball inside. Neither offense had trouble with turnovers (partly because launching 13 treys apiece lessened the opportunity to make turnovers). Villanova earned a huge edge on the boards for 20 minutes, which wasn’t surprising given Michigan’s mediocre rebound rate performance this season (as discussed in our Holy Trinity preview Monday). This is how good Villanova is…it can shoot poorly from long range, allow 60% on two-pointers and still be on pace for a blowout. 

Villanova would pull away early in the second half, surging its advantage to 18 points on two different occasions in the first 14 minutes. Extended garbage time saw a peak Villanova lead of 22, before settling into these final numbers. 

Villanova (-7) 79, Michigan 62
Two-point Pct: Michigan 66%, Villanova 57%
Three Pointers: Michigan 3/23, Villanova 10/27
Free Throws: Michigan 11/18, Villanova 15/20
Rebounds: Michigan 27, Villanova 38
Turnovers: Michigan 10, Villanova 12
Estimated Possessions: Michigan 68, Villanova 67
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Michigan 7-9-11, Villanova 1-1-1

Michigan would combine to shoot 14 of 73 on three-pointers in its last three games. Perhaps the not-so-hidden negative of devoting so much energy to defense. Texas Tech had a similar problem from long range when it held the Wildcats in check at the arc. Tired legs! Villanova would still manage 10 of 27, which is 37% (56% for a two-point equivalent). Villanova’s rebound differential grew. Wasn’t much of a game once the Wildcats’ lead reached double digits. 

(If you’re new to VSiN City and wondering about “Estimated Possessions,” that’s using a rudimentary formula of shots…minus offensive rebounds…plus one-half free throws…plus turnovers. Widgets that turn box scores into “advanced” box scores showed 67 as the final pace factor.)

Let’s quickly review a few Holy Trinity notes from Monday’s preview. Here’s a cut-and-paste (all in italics)…

Villanova (-6.5/145.5) vs. Michigan (9:20 p.m. ET on TBS)
Michigan #3 defense, #150 rebounding, #2 TO avoidance 
Villanova #14 defense, #59 rebounding, #13 TO avoidance

Though Michigan got some cheapies on put backs vs. shorter Loyola, it’s not a very good rebounding team by Dance standards. That looks to be the tie-breaker, as both are elite on defense, and with offenses that are great at avoiding turnovers because of smart, talented guards…Villanova’s like Golden State in that everybody notices the treys…but this is a COMPLETE team that excels in all sorts of categories once you adjust for context.

There was some chatter during the day that Villanova was the “offensive” team, Michigan the “defensive” team in this matchup. Michigan does have a fantastic defense. But, a few too many mainstream media pundits weren’t adjusting for pace. Michigan allows low scoring totals because of great defense AND slow pace. Villanova allows more points than Michigan because it plays slightly faster than average (only slightly, Villanova isn't a run-and-gun team). When you focus on points allowed per possession, we were talking about two elite defenses, not one. Villanova held Michigan to less than one point per possession. Hope the Holy Trinity helped drive that point home regarding Villanova through this event. 

Should we make any adjustments to the Holy Trinity next season? While those three categories (adjusted defensive efficiency, rebound rate, and turnover avoidance) were instructive, leaving out three-point shooting doesn’t seem right in the modern game. Villanova deserved more credit than it got for all-around excellent play. But, it was VILLANOVA because it was so aggressive about emphasizing (and making) treys. We’ve got a year to think of a way to capture that. 

Villanova’s level of play in this event was off the charts. It’s easy to forget the Wildcats had to go overtime to beat Providence (ultimately a #10 seed that lost its Dance opener) back in the Big East finals. You can put this run in numerical terms just by adding victory margin to the Power Rating of each opponent. Here’s a quick estimate of that, accounting for how Villanova rose from 88 to 91 in our estimated “market” Power Ratings through the NCAA tournament. An estimate for opponents is in parenthesis. 

Villanova…
Beat Radford (65) by 26 points (level of play: 91)
Beat Alabama (77) by 23 points (level of play: 100)
Beat West Virginia (84) by 12 points (level of play: 96)
Beat Texas Tech (83) by 12 points (level of play: 95)
Beat Beat Kansas (85) by 16 points (level of play: 101)
Beat Michigan (83) by 17 points (level of play 100)

That’s an average of 97.2, with three games in the 100’s. As much respect as the market was giving Villanova in recent point spreads, the Wildcats still ran the table against the numbers because they were performing well clear of the field. 

If you watched VSiN broadcast coverage Monday, you know casino and real estate magnate Derek Stevens hedged some of his huge Michigan ticket to lock in a small profit. Not the end of the world considering the buzzsaw his Wolverines had to face in the championship. 

Hope your bets went well. Congrats to backers of Villanova and the Under (scoreboard total of 141 says under the market price of 145). That wraps up college basketball for the 2018-19 season. Time to focus on THE MASTERS that begins Thursday at Augusta. 

Masters Golf: South Point updates futures as golfing tradition nears
Yesterday we looked at the most recent futures prices from the Westgate. We now have numbers from the South Point. Let’s run those. 

To Win the Masters (at the South Point, equivalent win percentages in parenthesis)
6/1: Justin Thomas (14%)
10/1: Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods (9% apiece)
12/1: Paul Casey (8%)
15/1: Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, Phil Mickelson (6% apiece)
25/1: Sergio Garcia, Thomas Pieters, Tommy Fleetwood (4% apiece)
30/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Henrik Stenson, Daniel Berger, Marc Leishman (3% apiece)

Sportsbooks create a universe larger than 100% to serve as a house edge. The 19 golfers listed at the South Point at prices of 30/1 or better already add up to 124%. And, there’s a lot more than 19 golfers who have a chance to win considering that surprise winners like Danny Willett (150/1 this year) and Charl Schwartzel (100/1 this year) have crashed the party recently. 

The big difference here is that Justin Thomas is only 6/1 at the South Point. That’s likely based on betting that’s already occurred, because other spots around the globe aren’t as optimistic about Justin’s chances.

Chris Andrews put up an interesting prop. At the South Point, you can bet a “big six” of Thomas, Spieth, Johnson, McIlroy, Rose, and Watson vs. the rest of the field (including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and everyone at 12/1 or worse) at -110 pick-em either way (at least as of late Tuesday afternoon). It will be interesting to see if the public decides to go with the big guns or the rest of a loaded field. 

If you add up the percentage equivalents…

Thomas: 14%
Spieth: 9%
Johnson: 9%
McIlroy: 9%
Rose: 9%
Watson: 9%

…you get 59%. Don’t forget that it’s not 60/40 for those guys…because the South Point universe ballparks larger than 150% with current prices. It’s at least 90/60 the other way…meaning “the field” should be more like -150ish vs. the six-pack of Thomas, Spieth, Johnson, McIlroy, Rose, and Watson.

Do you want to root for the six most dangerous stars, or root against them?

There’s also currently a bettable Yes/No prop on whether or not Tiger Woods will win the 2018 Masters. Yes pays back plus 1000 (or 10/1, matching the futures price). No costs you -2000 to lay (or 20/1). 

As we mentioned yesterday, the more liquid international exchanges have a tighter range. At Betfair as of Sunday evening, you could lay -15.50 to win 1 on No, or risk 1 to win 15.00 on Yes that Tiger would win the Masters. Monday evening, that had moved to plus -18.00 to win 1 on No, or risk 1 to win 17.50 on Yes.  

Jordan Spieth is the new global favorite on the Betfair exchange, with a risk if -11.00 to win 1 on No, while risking 1 will win 10.50 on Yes. More on the Masters through the week. 

NBA: No games Monday, so let’s check on the playoff picture
As is tradition, the NBA took Monday off so all basketball lovers could enjoy and celebrate the college championship. That gives us a chance to check on the playoff races. 

Eastern Conference
1…Toronto has a 2-game lead over Boston with six left
2…Boston will be a #2 seed at worst
3…Cleveland has a half-game lead on Philadelphia
4…Philadelphia has a half-game lead on Indiana
5…Indiana is 4 clear of Washington with five to left
6…Washington is a game ahead of both Milwaukee and Miami
7-8…Milwaukee and Miami are both 41-36, 3.5 games clear of #9 Detroit

Toronto is no longer feeling safe for the top spot after going 3-4 straight up its last seven games (0-7 ATS as favorites in all seven). Tonight, the Raptors visit Cleveland. Wednesday, they host Boston in what might be a HUGE game. Lose that, and things get interesting very fast in front of vs. Indiana, vs. Orlando, at Detroit, and at Miami to close things out. Win these next two…THEN relax.

That race amidst the 3-4-5 spots is still fascinating. Whoever finishes 4-5 will have a heckuva series. And the ultimate semifinals in the East are going to be fun to watch, handicap, and bet even if this conference is destined to finish runner-up to the Western champs. 

Marquee East clashes this week:
Tonight: Toronto at Cleveland, Boston at Milwaukee
Wednesday: Boston at Toronto
Thursday: Washington at Cleveland
Friday: Cleveland at Philadelphia, Indiana at Toronto

Western Conference
1…Houston has clinched the #1 seed
2…Golden State has clinched the #2 seed
3…Portland is 3 clear of San Antonio with five to play
4…San Antonio is a half-game ahead of Oklahoma City
5…Oklahoma City is a half-game ahead of Utah
6…Utah is a half-game ahead of Minnesota
7…Minnesota is a half-game ahead of New Orleans
8…New Orleans is 1 game ahead of Denver with five to play

Denver (#9) and the LA Clippers (#10, a game behind Denver) could still crash the party. Houston is well clear of the field, and still positioned to give defending champion Golden State a run for its money. Portland is starting to get some distance for the 3-hole. Still a massive toss-up for the rest of the ladder. Obviously finishing fourth is prime real estate because of home court advantage in the first round. Finishing sixth could prove MUCH better than seventh because you don’t want to open at Golden State even if Steph Curry is going to miss the first round.  

Marquee West clashes this week:
Tonight: Golden State at Oklahoma City (big for OKC)
Thursday: LA Clippers at Utah, Minnesota at Denver (also, Portland visits Houston, but it’s a meaningless game for the Rockets)
Saturday: Denver at the LA Clippers, Portland at San Antonio 

Back Wednesday as we transition toward what will be a heavy NBA/NHL/MLB slate the next few months. Thanks to all of you who rode with us daily through the thrills of college basketball this winter. Have a sip of champagne yourself. Then it’s back to the grindstone because the work never stops in VSiN City!

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