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What Michigan must do to upset Villanova

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

April 1, 2018 09:49 PM

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Moe Wagner (left), Charles Matthews and the rest of the Wolverines are going to have a near-perfect game to beat Villanova.
© USA Today Sports Images

We still don’t know…can anybody beat Villanova?! Michigan gets the last chance tonight in the National Championship showdown in San Antonio. A Saturday recap and a Monday preview…plus futures prices for this week’s Masters golf tournament right now in VSiN City.

Let’s start our analysis by studying key boxscore stats from Saturday’s Final Four matchups. We’ll take the games in the order they were played. 

Final Four: Michigan struggles into the second half, but explodes with 38-16 finish to lock out Loyola
With just under 14 minutes to go, Loyola’s Cinderella story was enjoying a new chapter and a 41-31 lead. Michigan was out of sorts, as were backers who had either laid the points, bet UM on the moneyline, or had a million dollars riding on a futures ticket. 

Michigan would surge ahead keyed by a 23-6 blitz, then coast home as Loyola fell apart under late-game pressure. 

Michigan (-5.5) 69, Loyola-Chicago 57
Two-point Pct: Loyola 51%, Michigan 58%
Three Pointers: Loyola 1/10, Michigan 7/28
Free Throws: Loyola 12/14, Michigan 12/18
Rebounds: Loyola 32, Michigan 36
Turnovers: Loyola 17, Michigan 11
Estimated Possessions: Loyola 69, Michigan 68
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Loyola 31-56-43, Michigan 7-9-11
Market Watch: An opening line of Michigan -6 dropped down to -5 quickly. It would then jump between -5 and -5.5 for days. The opening total of 128 was bet up to 130 before sinking back to 129 or 129.5 near tipoff. 

Methodical game because both teams prefer running set offenses and don’t mind gobbling up clock. Both struggled from long range until Michigan finally hit a few treys when it started pulling away. Loyola never seemed comfortable from distance under the spotlight. This was a continuation of Michigan’s woeful 4 of 22 performance on treys in the prior round. Each did score inside though…Loyola off great passes and Michigan from offensive rebounds. 

If you watched, you know that Loyola self-destructed with turnovers when the game started getting away from them. You can see above they lost the ball SEVENTEEN times even though it was a half-court battle. If you read our “Holy Trinity” preview back on Friday, you’ll remember that the Ramblers ranked a poor #225 nationally in turnover avoidance entering the weekend. Let’s do a quick cut-and-paste from that preview…

“The biggest strike against Loyola could be that turnover-prone offense facing the #4 defense. We’ve seen that blow up in some team’s faces this postseason. Loyola HAS to shoot well on treys to make up for that. We already know that Michigan doesn’t “need” treys to advance, though the Wolverines may need treys to win comfortably.”

Loyola imploded with turnovers and couldn’t make up for that with a 1/10 performance on treys. Michigan was only 25% themselves from long range…but a 7-1 win on made treys is plus 18 points in a game the Wolverines won by only 12. Would have been a bigger rout if Michigan was something closer to 10 of 24 on treys. The superior team won and covered. Forty minutes were enough to give the inferior team time to shrink in the moment. 

Was the shooting backdrop in the dome an issue on treys? It was easier to make that case before Villanova set an all-time record with 18 made treys later in the evening!

Final Four: Villanova’s historic three-point onslaught makes it five straight point spread covers and double-digit victories in the 2018 Big Dance
Nobody has a chance against Villanova when the treys are falling like THAT. Bomb…after bomb…after bomb. Kansas led 2-0. Then it was 11-2 Villanova after three quick treys. Kansas made it 11-4. Then it was 22-4 Villanova after three more. Seven minutes in, the game was all but over.

Villanova (-5) 95, Kansas 79
Two-point Pct: Kansas 51%, Villanova 72%
Three Pointers: Kansas 7/21, Villanova 18/40
Free Throws: Kansas 16/20, Villanova 5/7
Rebounds: Kansas 33, Villanova 33
Turnovers: Kansas 9, Villanova 10
Estimated Possessions: Kansas 71, Villanova 72
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Kansas 9-4-7, Villanova 1-1-1
Market Watch: A fairly solid Villanova -5 all week, so some spots closed at -4.5 with late money on Kansas. Total hung around 155 all week. 

There are no defensive options when Villanova is nailing treys like that. If defenders rush out to protect the arc at peak intensity, it creates big openings underneath. You can see that Villanova shot 72% on two’s! Actually, the Wildcats made 18 of each kind of field goal. Villanova was 18 of 25 on deuces, 18 on 40 on treys (where 45% is the equivalent of 68% on two’s). 

Not much of a stat breakdown is needed beyond that. Villanova was awesome. It wasn’t much of a game after that 22-4 opening salvo. We talked about that possibility in Friday’s preview in our sub-section on three-pointers. A quote from there will actually lead us into our Monday preview. 

“Villanova is super-dangerous because it attacks with the trey and makes them. Though, we saw last week vs. Texas Tech that the Wildcats can create points elsewhere if the bombs aren’t falling. Villanova was 4 of 24 vs. Texas Tech, but 29 of 35 on free throws with a 51-33 edge in rebounds.”

Why does what happened vs. Texas Tech matter vs. Michigan? 

NCAA Championship Preview: New Cinderella Michigan must own the arc to derail Villanova’s scoring juggernaut
Michigan has a great defense…one that has a much better chance of slowing down Villanova from long range than Kansas did. A week ago, we saw that Villanova can have trouble from the field vs. a great defense.

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency Rankings
Michigan #3
Texas Tech #4

Those national rankings are from Ken Pomeroy’s great statistical website kenpom.com. Defensive efficiency is points allowed per possession. Pomeroy makes additional adjustments to reflect strength of schedule. Michigan is currently third best nationally out of 351 Division I teams. Texas Tech is fourth best. 

Villanova vs. Texas Tech in the Elite 8
4 of 24 on three-point attempts (17%)
15 of 37 on two-point attempts (41%)

Though it looked awesome at the time if you’re a fan of defense, what Texas Tech accomplished in that game looks even more impressive now. The Villanova offense that just toyed with talented Kansas only made about a third of its shots vs. Tech!

Of course, Tech’s defensive aggressiveness did put Villanova on the free throw line all game. As we mentioned above, the Wildcats were 29 of 35 from the charity stripe. Plus, you have to assume that an all-out emphasis on defense hindered Texas Tech’s own offensive performance. The Red Raiders were just 5 of 20 on treys, 15 of 40 on two-pointers themselves. 

So…that’s all you have to do, Michigan! Scramble all over the floor defensively to deny any open looks…do that without fouling…then also shoot much better from long range on your own than the 7 of 28 and 4 of 22 you just posted the last two times out.

At least it’s possible to visualize how Monday’s title tilt can be a thriller if Villanova does regress from long range. Let’s see what the Holy Trinity shows. 

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. Michigan only outrebounded Loyola 36-32 (it felt like more), lost that category to Florida State 36-33, and even lost it to Texas A&M 33-28. 

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. Balance and quality in the Holy Trinity…enough to win a title…and this approach doesn’t even mention treys. The networks don’t talk about it much because college coverage tends not to emphasize the NBA. Villanova has spent a few years bringing the essence of Golden State style basketball (ball movement, trey-makers, better defense than is realized) to the college level. Not as much pace. Otherwise, “new age” ball movement to create open looks beyond the arc. 

Can Michigan spring the upset, as it did in the Big Ten tournament vs. both Michigan State and Purdue? We’ve outlined the near-perfection the Wolverines will need to pull that off. Possible, but a tall task. Can Michigan cover? That’s more achievable. Matching Texas Tech’s defensive effort can be done. Maybe the refs aren’t as tight with the whistles. Maybe Michigan shoots better than Tech’s 5 of 20 (turn that into 7 of 20, and Tech loses by six instead of a dozen).

Villanova still seems to be in the most control of its destiny. In fact, the Monday point spread hopping between -6.5 and -7 has forces us to nudge ‘Nova up to 90 in our estimated “market” Power Ratings. Rarefied air for this sport. This group has achieved a historic level of performance in this event.  

NCAA Tournament Estimated “Market” Power Ratings
90: Villanova
83: Michigan

It’s certainly possible that 91 and 84 are better rungs on the ladder too. Michigan isn’t some fluke given it stellar form of the past month. Enjoy the game!

Sports Betting: The hedge grows taller for Derek Stevens
If you’ve been watching VSiN in recent weeks, you know Las Vegas casino and real estate magnate Derek Stevens has a $25K ticket to win $1 million on Michigan to win the National Championship. He hedged a portion of that Saturday with $25K on Loyola on the moneyline, and $25K on Loyola plus the points. Neither of those worked out, so, now Derek is looking at:

*Michigan loses to Villanova: Minus $75K
*Michigan beats Villanova outright: Plus $950K

It was $25K out of pocket to win a million initially. Fifty thousand gets subtracted from both. 

Villanova is currently -320 on the moneyline at most sites. If Derek wants to lock in a profit, here are a few of his betting options before Monday’s tipoff. 

$320K on Villanova to win $100K
A Michigan win nets $630K, a Villanova win nets $25K

$480K on Villanova to win $150K
A Michigan win nets $470K, a Villanova win nets $75K

$640K on Villanova to win $200K
A Michigan win nets $310K, a Villanova win nets $125K

$800K on Villanova to win $250K
A Michigan win nets $150K, a Villanova win nets $175K

You can see the split point is very near that last $800K wager mark. Derek could stand pat and let it all ride, risking the 75K that’s already out of pocket to earn a profit of $950K. Or, he could lock in a profit near $150K to $175K by placing a bet of $800K.

(Thanks to friend of the newsletter @InsideThePylons for his help outlining the possibilities.)

Masters Golf: Early futures prices show it’s anyone’s tournament
The biggest golf betting event of the calendar year begins Thursday at Augusta. All indicators according to sports book operators across Las Vegas are that this will be the largest betting handle ever seen for this prestigious tournament. 

Jeff Sherman of the Westgate tweeted out futures prices at that locale Sunday evening. 

To Win the Masters (at the Westgate, equivalent win percentages in parenthesis)
10/1: Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy (9% apiece)
12/1: Tiger Woods (8%)
14/1: Justin Rose (7%)
16/1: Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson (6% apiece)
18/1: Jason Day, Jon Rahm (5% apiece)
25/1: Paul Casey (4%)
30/1: Sergio Garcia, Hideki Matsuyama, Henrick Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood (3% apiece)

Sportsbooks create a universe larger than 100% to serve as a house edge. That’s 95% gobbled up by the top 16 favorites. But, certainly some prices that will still drive action on popular betting favorites. 

Among those not listed above are recent winners Danny Willett (2016), Adam Scott (2013), and Charl Schwartzel (2011). Willett and Schwartzel are reminders that even golfers relatively unknown to US viewers can come from off the radar to win this event. Part of why “true odds” are slightly worse than what you’re seeing with the current betting favorites. 

As we discussed a year ago at this time (this is already the second Masters covered in VSiN City!), global betting exchanges do a better job of representing “true” odds for likely outcomes because they allow you to bet that a golfer WON’T win the event. Volume and liquidity work together to create a better sense of “wisdom of informed crowds.” 

You can click here to see the latest from the Betfair exchange overseas. The blue “Back all” column represents betting that player to win the event. The number includes a 1-unit stake. So, if you see Tiger Woods with a 16 in blue, that means you risk 1 unit to win 15 (expressed as 15/1 at Vegas sportsbooks, or plus 1500). There would be a corresponding 16.5 in pink for “Lay all,” which means you’d risk 15.5 units to win 1 that Tiger WON’T win the tournament (or -1550 on a moneyline that anybody but Tiger will win).

The more you play around with it, the easier it is to remember. The BLUE column means you’re backing that guy to win, the PINK column means you’re betting that guy to lose. Prices are keyed to one unit of risk (blue) or one unit of profit (pink).

Here’s what Betfair was showing for the big names as of publication deadlines Sunday evening. If you click on the link provided, you will see updated prices because that’s a live link. 

Rory McIlroy: Risk 1 to win 11.50, risk 12 to win 1 that he’ll lose
Jordan Spieth: Same
Dustin Johnson: Risk 1 to win 13.50, risk 14 to win 1 that he’ll lose
Justin Thomas: Same
Tiger Woods: Risk 1 to win 15, risk 15.50 to win 1 that he’ll lose
Justin Rose: Risk 1 to win 15.50, risk 16. to win 1 that he’ll lose
Bubba Watson: Risk 1 to win 20, risk 21 to win 1 that he’ll lose
Jason Day: risk 1 to win 21, risk 22 to win 1 that he’ll lose
Phil Mickelson: risk 1 to win 22, risk 23 to win 1 that he’ll lose
Jon Rahm: risk 1 to win 28, risk 29 to win 1 that he’ll lose
Rickie Fowler: risk 1 to win 29, risk 31 to win 1 that he’ll lose
Paul Case: same
Sergio Garcia: risk 1 to win 35, risk 37 to win 1 that he’ll lose

McIlroy and Spieth are global co-favorites, with prices fairly close to the Westgate’s. The further down the list you go, the larger the payoffs on global exchanges. 

Be sure you watch VSiN programming all week for the latest updates on futures prices, matchup odds, props, and betting developments from across Las Vegas. Gill Alexander will be talking with golf analytics experts to handicap the field on “A Numbers Game.” You can be sure that every VSiN show will offer its unique take on “a tradition unlike any other.” 

Back Tuesday to crunch the numbers from Villanova/Michigan and get caught up on NBA and MLB developments. Best of luck with your championship picks!

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