Final Four Gameday

Final Four Gameday

Final Four Gameday

History will be made on Saturday when for the first time ever, the Top 4 seeds in the NCAA Tournament will all be playing in the Final Four. The Madness started with 64 teams just two weeks ago, but only UCLA, Memphis, Kansas and North Carolina are left standing. Only two teams will remain when the final horn sounds on Saturday night.

UCLA (1) vs. Memphis (1)

The Bruins have made it to the Final Four for the third year in a row. Now Bruins' fans are hoping the third time really is the charm and UCLA can take home the national championship that has eluded them the last two years. The difference maker this time around may be freshman forward Kevin Love. Love has been a monster for the Bruins through the tournament so far, averaging 21.8 points and 11 rebounds per game. In UCLA’s Elite 8 win over Xavier, Love scored 19 points and added 10 rebounds. It’s highly unlikely, but if the Final Four pressure does get to Love he’s got plenty of support from Darren Collison, Russell Westbrook and Josh Shipp, who have been here before.

The Bruins Tournament run:
(16) Mississippi Valley State 70-29 (-31.5)
(9) Texas A&M 51-49 (-9.5)
(12) Western Kentucky 88-78 (-13)
(3) Xavier 76-57 (-6)

The Tigers have their own freshman that has been burning up the court throughout the Tournament. Freshman guard Derrick Rose is averaging 20.5 points per game in the tourney, which included 21 points, six rebounds and nine assists in the Elite 8 versus Texas. Memphis will also rely heavily on leading scorer Chris Douglas-Roberts to keep pace with the Bruins, while Joey Dorsey will be key on the boards after grabbing 12 rebounds versus Texas.

The Tigers Tournament run:
(16) Texas Arlington 87-63 (-26.5)
(8) Mississippi State 77-74 (-9)
(5) Michigan State 92-74 (-5.5)
(2) Texas 85-67 (-3.5)

Kansas (1) vs. North Carolina (1)

The Jayhawks may have the most balanced offensive attack out of all the teams in the Final Four. Four Kansas starters average double-digits points, and that doesn’t include big man Sasha Kaun who delivered 13 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting versus Davidson in the Elite 8. Even though the Jayhawks boast such a balanced offensive attack, Brandon Rush or Mario Chalmers can still break out for big points when needed to secure a victory.

The Jayhawks Tournament run
(16) Portland State 85-61 (-21)
(8) UNLV 75-56 (-13.5)
(12) Villanova 72-57 (-12.5)
(10) Davidson 59-57 (-10)

The Tar Heels put up a ton of points during their tournament run, which included topping the 100-point mark twice. Tyler Hansbrough has been huge for the Tar Heels, averaging 21 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Hansbrough was especially strong versus Louisville in the Elite 8 when he had 28 points and 13 rebounds.

The Tar Heels Tournament run
(16) Mount St. Mary’s 113-74 (-25.5)
(9) Arkansas 108-77 (-10)
(4) Washington State 68-47 (-8)
(3) Louisville 83-73 (-6)

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Role players are key
Doc's Sports

All this week ESPN has been re-running recent NCAA Championship Games. And, since I haven’t been doing much other than changing diapers and watching baseball during the day I found myself watching some sweet games.

As I observed these teams – specifically Connecticut in 1999, Michigan State in 2000, and Syracuse in 2003 – the thing that stuck out to me is how even though the money men all showed up and played fantastic championship games it was the way that the game was determined in the fringes by the role players on each eventual title team.

I know what makes a good basketball team. And I know what makes a champion. There are certain indicators and requisites that most title teams have had since I’ve been old enough to follow the NCAA Tournament. There are intangibles that you can feel. There are mismatches that you can see. And there are certain things that a title team needs to have. And besides a sharp coach, plenty of NBA talent, and an ice-in-his-veins go-to guy, the main thing that an NCAA champion has to have is role players.

That’s what makes winners. In that 1999 upset of Duke, it was Ricky Moore’s defense on Trajan Langdon that secured the victory. In 2000 it was A.J. Granger’s hot shooting that gave the Spartans confidence and helped them build a big first-half lead. And in 2003 guys like Josh Pace and Billy Edelin just made play after play on both ends of the floor to keep Kansas at bay.

You gotta have role players. Specialists. Unique guys that create mismatches or stock characters – the lockdown perimeter defender, the big white guy in the middle, the designated 3-point sharpshooters – are what make the difference in the Final Four, when talent levels are so close it’s maddening. Here are five role players and a coach that I believe will be the keys to who cuts down the nets in Texas:

Joey Dorsey, F, Memphis

Role: Muscular bruiser, rebounder, enforcer on the inside.

Compared to: Chris Wilcox, Maryland, 2002

Last year Dorsey thought it would be a grand idea to call out Greg Oden before Memphis met Ohio State in the Elite Eight here in San Antonio. Bad call. Dorsey managed zero points and three rebounds in 19 minutes of a 92-76 loss, while Oden rocked out for 17-9, a trip to the Final Four, and was the eventual No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.

This year Dorsey is again charged with a one-on-one matchup with the player being hailed as one of the best big men in the country and a potential lottery pick: Kevin Love. Dorsey is a huge X-Factor mainly because he is so foul prone. In fact, Dorsey played less than 20 minutes and either fouled out or had four fouls in each of Memphis’ last four losses dating back to last season. Granted, a lot of this depends on how the officials decide to call this game. But if the senior forward doesn’t have his head right then Love will own the offensive glass and set the tone for the Bruins.

Russell Westbrook, G, UCLA

Role: Defensive stopper and athletic sparkplug.

Compared to: Nate James, Duke, 2001

If he isn’t the most improved player in the college game he is certainly on the First Team. Westbrook is a silly athlete that improved his scoring average from just 3.4 as a freshman to a solid 12.5 as a sophomore, good for No. 3 on the team. Westbrook will be key in part because he will likely end up spending time defending both Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. Westbrook is an uber-athlete

Westbrook isn’t much of an outside shooter and, like so many of the Bruins, his overall contribution will likely depend on how well he is shooting and defending the 3-pointer. Westbrook was a non-factor in all three of UCLA’s losses this season, shooting a combined 10-for-33 and averaging 9.7 points in those Ls. He needs to be an offensive threat if the Bruins are to advance.

Sasha Kaun, F, Kansas

Role: Big, bruising white guy that works around the basket.

Compare to: Jake Voskuhl, Connecticut, 1999

If the Jayhawks are going to win they have to contain Tyler Hansbrough. If they are going to contain Hansbrough they are going to need a big game out of the senior, Kaun. Over the past four years Sasha has banged bodies with some of the best big men in the Midwest. But he hasn’t shut down anyone the ilk of Hansbrough.

Sherron Collins, G, Kansas

Role: Young, cocky, shooter providing offensive pop.

Compare to: Jason Terry, Arizona, 1997

Collins comes off the bench and splits time with Russell Robinson for the Jayhawks. He’s had a relatively quiet NCAA Tournament but if Kansas is going to beat North Carolina it will need every one of its perimeter players to be in top form. That means the sophomore must bring his stroke.

My knock on Kansas this year has been their lack of a true go-to guy. I’m not a believer in Brandon Rush’s ability in the clutch. And it is interesting to note that in one of Kansas’s most important possessions of the year – up two with the ball and 36 seconds left against Davidson in the Elite Eight – Bill Self drew up a play to get Collins an open 3-point shot from the top of the key. He missed. He’ll have to be sharper, and more clutch, than that in order to beat the Tar Heels.

Danny Green, F, North Carolina

Role: Athletic swingman and instant offense off the bench.

Compared to: Toby Bailey, UCLA, 1995

The 6-foot-5 swing forward has been instrumental in the Tar Heels’ run to the Final Four. He’s averaged 13 points in their two wins over Louisville and Washington State and he’s managed to hit double figures in seven of UNC’s last 11 games. Green is a matchup nightmare for Kansas because he runs like a deer and is more comfortable gliding around the perimeter as opposed to mixing it up on the inside.

Green’s length and athleticism will be an asset for UNC on the defensive end of the floor. He can handle himself if he gets caught in a switch on a guy like Darrell Arthur or Sasha Kaun, and he could really bother any one of Kansas’ guards on the perimeter. UNC gets praised for its contributions from the bench. But really, Green is the bench. He is the key guy and has to contribute quality minutes.

Ben Howland, Head Coach, UCLA

Most of the focus this week has been on the Roy Williams-Bill Self matchup on the opposite side of the bracket. And John Calipari has just been pimping himself and his team all week. But the coach that I feel should have the most pressure and is in the most intriguing position in Howland.

Ben has been good enough to get the Bruins to the Final Four in each of the past two years and scored them a berth in the championship game two years ago. However, both of his losses to end the season were complete blowouts. Some people have said that if it weren’t for Florida he would have two rings right now. Well, Florida isn’t around this year so Howland doesn’t have any excuses. He loves to use his timeouts early and often, and if Memphis comes out firing and gets an early lead you have to wonder if the “here we go again” mentality will start to kick in.

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BEHIND THE LINES

Kansas just might surprise bettors in Final Four game

Jayhawks have done well as underdogs.

Today's Final Four game between North Carolina and Kansas will feature a matchup of two of the nation's most athletic college basketball teams, who are not expected to have any trouble scoring points,

The Tar Heels (36-2), who average nearly 90 points, are favorites by three points over the Jayhawks, who average 80.3 points.

But after four easy victories to advance to the Final Four, North Carolina has emerged as the betting favorite, according to various sportsbetting boards.

At Wagerline.com, North Carolina had gained 70.8% (1,457-601) of the bets against the spread as of Friday morning and an early week report at VegasInsider.com had the Tar Heels getting a whopping 95% of the bets against the spread.

Although North Carolina -- which has won each tournament game by at least 10 points -- has been getting plenty of love with bettors, Kansas could be primed for an upset.

The Jayhawks are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven games as an underdog and 4-1 against the spread in their last five neutral-site games.

The difference maker for the Jayhawks may well be on defense. With a versatile group of hard-working defenders setting the pace, the under has won six consecutive under/over totals in Kansas' NCAA tournament games.

Here are several interesting proposition bets regarding today's UCLA vs. Memphis Final Four semifinal, available at Sportsbetting.com: First team to score 10 points: Memphis (-120) or UCLA (-110); First team to score 20 points: Memphis (+125) or UCLA (-105); Largest lead of the game: (either team) over 12.5 points (-115) or under 12.5 points (-115); UCLA total points: Over 66.5 points (-115) or under 66.5 points (-115); Memphis total points: Over 68.5 (-115) or under 68.5 (-115).

Memphis' Derrick Rose total points: Over 17 (-115) or under 17 (-115); UCLA's Kevin Love combined total points and rebounds: Over 29 (-125) or under 29 (-105); Will UCLA's Darren Collison miss a free throw: Yes (+135) or No (-170).

latimes.com

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Tips and Trends 2008 NCAA Final Four - Alamodome

#1 UCLA vs. #1 Memphis

UCLA: The Bruins are back in the Final Four for the third year in a row, and head coach Ben Howland believes this appearance will finally yield something that was missing in the previous 2 trips - a national title. “I think this is, by far, the best team in the last three years,” Howland said. UCLA lacked a big-time post player the last 2 years and has added the missing link in freshman phenom Kevin Love, who is looking to follow in the footsteps of Louisville's Pervis Ellison and Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony as notable first-year players who led their teams to a national championship on their virgin Final Four run.

UCLA is 7-7 ATS during its 14-game winning streak.
UCLA is 2-4 ATS in its last 6 games overall.
The OVER is 7-2 in UCLA's last 9 Saturday games.

Key Injuries- NONE

PROJECTED SCORE: 66

Memphis (-2, O/U 134.5): The Tigers are 1 win away from setting the NCAA record for most wins in a season despite ranking as one of the worst free-throw shooting teams. They hey have shot very well from the charity stripe in the last 2 games combined (56-of-71 for 79 percent), but they will need to do so again against a UCLA team that applies outstanding pressure defense. In fact, Xavier head coach Sean Miller came away very impressed after losing to the Bruins last Saturday. "They have sometimes four players on the court who are 6-7 or taller and they don’t foul," Miller said. "I’m telling you, if you play as hard as they do and have the size that they do and the strategy and that offensive team can’t put fouls on them, it is really, really hard to score."

Memphis is 4-7 ATS during its 11-game winning streak.
The OVER is 4-0 in Memphis' last 4 games overall.

Key Injuries- NONE

PROJECTED SCORE: 68


#1 Kansas vs. #1 North Carolina

Kansas: The Jayhawks are in the Final Four for the first since 2003 when they lost to Syracuse in the national championship game. They will be looking to capture their first NCAA title in 20 years, which is ironically also when they won the Midwest Regional crown in Detroit. The key will be how Kansas handles North Carolina All-American center Tyler HanXXXough, who proved to be the difference against Louisville. The Jayhawks have slightly more depth inside and will be able to use up to 4 different players on HanXXXough in an effort to contain him.

Kansas is 7-4 ATS during its 11-game winning streak.
The UNDER is 4-0 in Kansas' last 4 games overall.

Key Injuries- NONE

PROJECTED SCORE: 78

North Carolina (-3, O/U 159.5): The Kansas questions can't help but be a distraction for Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams, who coached the opposition for 15 years before leaving for his alma mater. “If I was ever going to play Kansas again, this is the only way I would want it to happen,” Williams said. “In fact, I wish it would happen on Monday night (for the title) instead of Saturday.” Still, Williams is an emotional person, and sophomore Deon Thompson said his coach would "probably get irritated" during the week leading up to Saturday's game.

North Carolina is 8-7 ATS during its 15-game winning streak.
The OVER is 4-1 in North Carolina's last 5 games overall.
The OVER is 8-3 in North Carolina's last 11 non-conference games.

Key Injuries- NONE

PROJECTED SCORE: 81

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MEMPHIS (37 - 1) vs. UCLA (35 - 3)

Top Trends for this game.
UCLA is 61-43 ATS (+13.7 Units) in all games over the last 3 seasons.
UCLA is 61-43 ATS (+13.7 Units) in all lined games over the last 3 seasons.
UCLA is 28-15 ATS (+11.5 Units) when the total is 130 to 139.5 over the last 3 seasons.
UCLA is 13-4 ATS (+8.6 Units) as an underdog over the last 3 seasons.
MEMPHIS is 70-48 ATS (+17.2 Units) after scoring 80 points or more since 1997.
MEMPHIS is 140-98 ATS (+32.2 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record since 1997.
MEMPHIS is 86-55 ATS (+25.5 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record after 15 or more games since 1997.

Head-to-Head Series History
UCLA is 1-1 against the spread versus MEMPHIS over the last 3 seasons
UCLA is 1-1 straight up against MEMPHIS over the last 3 seasons
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons


KANSAS (35 - 3) vs. N CAROLINA (36 - 2)

Top Trends for this game.
KANSAS is 1-7 ATS (-6.7 Units) versus good offensive teams - scoring 77+ points/game this season.
N CAROLINA is 23-10 ATS (+12.0 Units) in all games this season.
N CAROLINA is 23-10 ATS (+12.0 Units) in all lined games this season.
N CAROLINA is 19-10 ATS (+8.0 Units) when the total is 150 to 159.5 over the last 2 seasons.
N CAROLINA is 22-10 ATS (+11.0 Units) as a favorite this season.
N CAROLINA is 19-8 ATS (+10.2 Units) on Saturday games over the last 3 seasons.
N CAROLINA is 15-2 ATS (+12.8 Units) after a non-conference game this season.
N CAROLINA is 15-1 ATS (+13.9 Units) in non-conference games this season.
N CAROLINA is 17-8 ATS (+8.2 Units) after scoring 80 points or more this season.
N CAROLINA is 21-6 ATS (+14.4 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record this season.
N CAROLINA is 8-2 ATS (+5.8 Units) in road games when playing against a team with a winning record after 15 or more games this season.
N CAROLINA is 26-11 ATS (+13.9 Units) in road games versus good defensive teams - allowing <=64 points/game after 15+ games since 1997.
N CAROLINA is 12-0 ATS (+12.0 Units) versus good defensive teams - allowing <=64 points/game this season.

Head-to-Head Series History
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.


NCAA Tournament
Final Four
San Antonio, TX
Memphis vs. UCLA, 6:05 ET

Memphis:
13-6 Over vs. non-conference teams
8-2 ATS after scoring 75+ points BB games

UCLA:
13-4 ATS as an underdog
12-4 Over off BB Overs


NCAA Tournament
Final Four
San Antonio, TX
Kansas vs. North Carolina, 8:45 ET

Kansas:
11-1 Under playing with 5 or 6 days rest
22-11 Under vs. non-conference teams

North Carolina:
15-1 ATS vs. non-conference teams
9-2 ATS off BB covers as favorite

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