It took two absolutely gut-wrenching weeks filled with highs and lows to get here, but we've finally reached the Final Four. With just two games remaining before Monday's NCAA Men's National Championship, all eyes will be on Houston this Saturday. Here are five burning questions for you to sort out your own Final Four betting picks.
WILL BUDDY HIELD HAVE ANOTHER HUGE GAME?
It's become common place for us to expect Buddy Hield to have absolutely dominant performances in March Madness. He has been an absolute terror, posting a brilliant 29.3 points per game average that's included a high of 37 points against Oregon in a blowout.
The game that's more important to remember, however, is the one against VCU where the surging Rams took over in the second half despite a monstrous deficit to fill. Hield had just 9 points in the first-half (mostly because he didn't need to do much) but exploded for 27 points in the second as VCU did everything in their power to stop them. It's not like VCU was a bad defensive team either, ranking 21st in adjusted defensive efficiency.
Villanova is technically a much stronger defensive unit, but the Rams were sheer toughness personified. Hield blasted through them and around defenders to pick up those 36 points and will his team to victory. So there's no telling what he's capable of at his college apex. This guy has risen to the moment in every game so far in the tournament.
If you're looking for Final Four betting advice in this game, the simplest help I can provide is to believe in Buddy. He hasn't given us any reason to stray from backing him so far.
WILL OKLAHOMA RUN AWAY WITH ANOTHER FIRST
You have to measure the probability of Oklahoma cracking this game open in the first twenty minutes, because that's been their modus operandi for their entire run in March. The Sooners have averaged an astounding +14.5 point differential in four first-halves during the tournament. The only team that came close to tightening the gap was VCU.
So you have to wonder if Villanova has some sort of defensive game plan to prevent Oklahoma from taking complete control of the scoreboard from the onset. This is probably a good time to remember that the Sooners beat Villanova 78-55 the last time they played in December.
I'm not sure that Villanova can prevent Hield and point man Isaiah Cousins from going off, because if they've had any sort of weakness, it's against terrific backcourt duos. Villanova has been felled by Marquette, Oklahoma, Seton Hall, Providence and Xavier. What do all those teams have in common? They all have fluid backcourts that execute at an extremely high level.
That spells big trouble from Villanova in the Final Four, even though the oddsmakers have them as two-point favorites. I'd shade that line pretty hard if I were you. There's just no evidence that Villanova has figured out how to shore up its biggest weakness, and they were helpless the last time they played the combination of Hield and Cousins to begin with.
DOES SYRACUSE HAVE ANY MAGIC LEFT IN THE
A lot of people believed that Syracuse was gift wrapped an entry to the Sweet Sixteen after Middle Tennessee stunned Michigan State. They laid those thoughts to rest pretty quickly by stifling Gonzaga and then pressing Virginia into a burnt panini. These were two terrific and unexpected wins.
A lot of people will also hang their hats on the fact that Syracuse played UNC recently and lost 70-75. That would more than cover the -9.0 point line set out by the oddsmakers against UNC. It's very hard from a handicapping perspective to lobby a pick for Syracuse using traditional convention. All metrics indicate that this going to be an outright slaughter.
If you're going to back Syracuse in the Final Four, it's simply because you believe in the power of upsets and underdogs. Star player Michael Gbinjie might also have something to do with it. They're the first Final Four team to make it as a #10 seed. Imagine if they continued to defy the odds and won the whole damn thing. Madness, I tell you.
WHY IS THE LINE SO BIG IN THE UNC-SYRACUSE
Part of the reason that UNC is getting such a loaded Final Four betting line is because they've averaged a +16.0 point differential throughout the tournament, and are playing a tenth seed that they're entirely familiar with.
You can also subscribe to the idea that Syracuse has shown all their tricks. Boeheim's 2-3 defensive scheme hasn't really stopped UNC this year in the slightest. A full court press will get picked apart by the Tar Heels as well, especially if they see it coming.
Sometimes oddsmakers set lines that don't seem like they make any sense. Then when you go against them, it turns out that they made complete sense. This is one of those betting lines.
SO WHO SHOULD YOU TAKE IN FINAL FOUR
If you've made it this far, then the obvious choices are Oklahoma +2.0 over Villanova and UNC -9.0 against Syracuse. History repeats itself as the regular season winners of these matchups repeat with victories here, booking an immense showdown between UNC and Oklahoma for Monday, April 4th's NCAA Men's National Championship.