GAMBLING GUIDE

2018 Final Four: How to bet the games

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Down to four teams, March Madness takes center stage in San Antonio Saturday evening. After all the dust has cleared from the turmoil of the initial rounds, we find ourselves with some intriguing matchups from a stylistic perspective. Let's jump right in!

Favorites 42-22 Straight up
Favorites  28-35-1 ATS
Over-Under    27-36-1

Odds to win the NCAA Championship
Villanova -102
Michigan +248
Kansas +390
Loyola Chicago +1260

ATS this season
Loyola-Chicago 23-9-1
Villanova 26-12
Michigan 24-12-2
Kansas 20-16-1

Michigan vs. Loyola (Michigan -5 O/U 129.5)

The Sister Jeans have been nothing short of spectacular, giving fans a Cinderella story to get behind. But, just like any good story, everything must come to an end. This Loyola team has pulled off something only three other teams have accomplished, taking an 11 seed to a final four, the only problem is neither of the other teams were able to advance to the championship game. The Ramblers gameplan is simple:

1) Slow the game down
2) Move the ball around
3) Take smart/efficient shots
4) Use the shot clock
5) limit the transition

The gameplan has worked to perfection thus far, the Ramblers are shooting 52.5 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from long range during this incredible run, all while holding opponents to 42.5 percent shooting and 29.9 percent from deep. Loyola has only scored 70+ in 1 game out of the last 9,  playing right into Michigan's trends, where opponents have failed to surpass 70 points on 28 occasions. During this tournament, they have been even more vexatious, limiting opponent shooting to 37.7 percent from the field. With both teams playing at a slow tempo, and both teams struggling in rebounding, I expect this game to be dictated by late opportunities in the shot clock and extended possessions.

The Pick
Conclusively, the Wolverines will prove to be too big on the inside and the presence of Moe Wagner will serve as the deciding factor in a low scoring game. The Ramblers shoot over 40 percent from deep, but they do it by shooting low volume from behind the arch. Instead, they wait for defenses to get overly aggressive late in shot clocks and punish them for overplaying. Luckily for the Wolverine faithful, Michigan is the best team in the entire nation at limiting opponents from 3.

Michigan -5
1st half -3
1st half Under 59.5

Villanova vs. Kansas Villanova -5 O/U 154.5

Villanova leads the way as the favorite and deservingly so. The Wildcats have won all of their tournament games by double digits and are 4-0 ATS. Even more impressive, Villanova is on a nine-game win streak during the last month, blowing out 8 of their 9 opponents by double digits.  On paper, these teams are very similar:
  

                         Offense | Defense  | Tempo | SOS
Villanova          1                    13            160         16
Kansas              5                   41            150           2

What ultimately will be the factor is the ability of the Wildcats to spread the ball out. In the Elite 8 matchup vs. Texas Tech, they played horribly but still managed to win big and cover the line. They did so by doing other things right and limiting their opponent's strengths. Villanova only ran an eight-man rotation and had five players score double digits. Both teams shot under 35% for the game, but the biggest disparity was on the boards, where the Wildcats dominated 51 to 33. When an efficient team is shooting bad, they must do other things right, and the Wildcats also dominated from the free throw line outshooting Tech by 17 from the charity stripe. Thier opponents, the Kansas Jayhawks, come into this game as 5 point underdogs and as of late they have thrived in that role and are 6-1 straight up and ATS in their last 7 games when getting points.

The Pick
This Villanova team is special on the attacking end, and many are saying they are the best team they've ever seen offensively. They have now won 134 games in the last four years surpassing that of the 1997-2001 Duke team. Kansas will need to rebound well and limit the Wildcat second chances, and Udoka Azubuike will be key. The only problem is he has been dealing with foul trouble all tournament long, and that's a bad recipe facing a team that shoots 78% from the stripe, eighth in the nation. In the end, the rebounding and efficient shooting will be enough to get them to win, and free throws will be key to covering the line.

Villanova -5
Over 154.5

Plays

Michigan -5
Michigan 1st half -3
1st half Under 59.5

Villanova -5
Over 154.5

For any questions or comments reach me at @JerryBoKnowz on twitter

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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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