The UConn Huskies are guilty of riding coattails in March Madness betting, and that’s going to catch up with them should you take their side in Final 4 Picks this weekend. Kemba Walker has been nothing short of remarkable, and is proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s the best player in the country. However, Kentucky has a pair of very capable scorers of their own which tips the scales.
To bet on UConn, you’re going to have to trust in a one-man army. I know that Jeremy Lamb has been averaging 18.3 points per game, but a lot of his shots are created because Walker demands so much defensive attention. Lamb is a solid player and produces exactly when his team needs to, while being the only reason that UConn can’t be considered a one man team.
It’s easy to point back to UConn decimating the Kentucky Wildcats at the Maui Invitational where Walker accounted for 29 points in a 84-67 rout. However, it should be mentioned that that game was a hiccup for Kentucky, which went 12-2 SU in their first 14 games. Aside from losing to UConn, they also suffered a two-point loss to UNC during that run which was avenged just last weekend.
Kentucky Wildcats (29-8) vs. UConn Huskies (30-9)
Saturday, April 2 --- Reliant Stadium --- 8:49pm EST
March Madness Betting Line: Kentucky -2.5 (140.0)
Kentucky has had some ups and downs this season, largely because this wasn’t the team they were supposed to have. Calipari has long relied on having a behemoth inside-outside presence and though he landed Brandon Knight, he suffered a serious blow without Enes Kanter this season.
At least it seems that way. The insertion of Josh Harrellson is a reason to make Kentucky the team to bet on in Final 4 picks, rather than a reason to bet against them.
I think Harrellson deserves as much praise as anyone else on Kentucky for stepping up big. Part of the reason that Harrellson’s play is so important is because he’s such a good rebounder. Terrence Jones hasn’t been the player we thought he would be in March Madness betting, averaging a measly 10.3 points per game thus far which dips far below his 15.8 point per game average.
Instead, Harrellson steps up to give Kentucky a definitive edge that UConn doesn’t necessarily have. Harrellson has limited physical tools from an athletic standpoint but has played well beyond his means with 14.8 points per game and 9.0 boards. UConn’s bigs can crash the boards effectively, but they don’t produce offensively like Harrellson has in the tournament. Kentucky’s 6-foot-10, 275 pound center haså been a very productive workhorse and I don’t think UConn’s big men can counter him.
That is the big difference between Kentucky and UConn. Both teams have scoring potential, but Kentucky’s is simply much more diverse. They can pretty much go anywhere on the floor for a bucket when they need one, and any questions about Calipari’s coaching abilities should be washed from the record after he led his team to victories over Ohio State and UNC.
Complete teams have been getting the nod in the tournament this year. VCU and Butler are proof of that. Kentucky had some issues and doubters this year because their 1-3-5 presence wasn’t as strong as people had hoped it would be, but the Wildcats have proven to be a formidable force in the tournament.
That’s why they’re leading the charge as the favorite to win the national title. Though we’ll have to see if they face Butler or VCU, Kentucky is a no brainer in my eyes in Final 4 picks. Expect Knight to have a huge game against Walker, while Liggins steps in to shadow defensively. Kentucky is just too deep for Walker and Lamb to overcome.
Furious Final 4 Picks – Kentucky -2.5 (UNDER)