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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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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