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NCAAB News and Notes Saturday 4/4

NCAAB News and Notes Saturday 4/4

North Carolina-Villanova Preview
by Robert Ferringo

For the North Carolina Tar Heels, this weekend's assault on Ford Field marks the end of a long journey. Not a journey through this tournament, but a three-year quest that has led to this exact place and this exact moment in time.

The next step in the journey takes place at 8:50 p.m., on Saturday, April 4 at Ford Field in lovely downtown Detroit. The top-seeded Tar Heels, conquerors of the South Region, will take on Villanova, the champions of the East. North Carolina has been instilled as a 7.5-point favorite and the total is set at 160.0.

In 2007 the Tar Heels were stunned by Georgetown on the cusp of the Final Four. North Carolina blew an 11-point second half lead - making only one of their last 23 shots - en route to an overtime loss in the Elite Eight. Then in 2008 UNC actually did reach the Final Four in San Antonio. However, after running roughshod through the first four rounds they were bum-rushed by the eventual champions, Kansas. So this year is the last attempt by Ty Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington to carve their names into the annals of Tar Heel lore along with the other UNC greats that won national championships.

North Carolina was the clear-cut No. 1 team in the country through the first two months of the season. It seemed like they started every game with a 16-point lead, and that included a 35-point mauling of fellow Final Four participant Michigan State on this very same Ford Field court. At one point there was talk of a potential undefeated season and the question was often asked as to whether anyone could take the court with the Tar Heels and stay within double digits.

Then January hit. The Heels lost a stunner to Boston College and then just a week later fell again to Wake Forest. And as the season progressed their victories became less and less impressive, as evidenced by a 7-17 run against the spread that reached a low point with an early exit from the ACC Tournament. Granted, part of that run coincided with an injury to point guard and ACC Player of the Year Ty Lawson. But late in the season it looked like the Heels had lost their edge and that this group was due for another season of unfulfilled promise.

Then we hit Tournament Time. Ty Lawson came back healthy and now the Tar Heels are focused, determined, and clicking on all cylinders. They have won all four of their tournament games - all of them against very, very skilled teams - by an average of 22.5 points per game. It has been an absolute bloodbath and right now North Carolina can't be stopped.

Or can they?

Villanova is not some just-happy-to-be-hear participant in Detroit. This is yet another talented team from the mighty Big East and is loaded with pit bulls and pythons from the toughest conference in the country. Here's a quick lesson for you: if you ever come across a team from Philadelphia, no matter what sport, that is an underdog in a Big Game, bet on them, and bet on them hard. Those boys from Philly are all heart and are always a tough out.

The key to Villanova's success this year has been that toughness and heart, along with tremendous balance on both ends of the court. The Wildcats have four talented guards, led by the perennially underrated (except by me!) Scottie Reynolds. This kid is a stud. And although he's battled injuries all tournament long he has still been the undisputed linchpin for this team, and Reynolds was the one who sunk the shot to beat in-state conference rival Pittsburgh in the Elite Eight.

Villanova also has four outstanding forwards that are all big and strong, but also skilled. That group is topped by the team's leading scorer, forward Dante Cunningham, and this group has battled against some of the best big men in the country while navigating the Big East. And like the backcourt players, these guys are absolute pit bulls.

The Wildcats advanced to this position after dominating UCLA and Duke and then surviving that game against Pitt. To back up my previous statement, this team has been an outstanding underdog, winning five of their last six games as a dog outright and covering nine of their last 14 games as a puppy dating back to last year.

So we've established that Villanova can play. But are they up to the task of taking down the Tar Heels? North Carolina has a huge edge in experience, as they have played in and won many of these types of games over the last few seasons. Over the past two years North Carolina has won 11 of 13 games against teams rated in the Top 15. Villanova is just 5-8.

North Carolina will attempt to bludgeon Villanova with its interior force. While all of the ink has gone to the return of Lawson from injury, getting Tyler Zeller back from a preconference wrist injury has allowed the Heels to throw three talented players 6-11 or taller (Hansbrough and Ed Davis are the others) at opponents. With three other starters between 6-5 and 6-8, UNC is simply enormous. And when you consider the lightning-quick assault that they unleash on opponents they are simply bigger, stronger, faster, and more experienced than any team in the field.

I have been on record all year saying that when North Carolina is playing well there are only about 10-12 teams in the country that can take the court and not get embarrassed. If you are going to make a move on the gritty underdogs from Villanova you have to ask yourself: are the Wildcats one of them?

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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Saturday 4/4

Michigan State-Connecticut Preview
by Robert Ferringo

If might equals right then Michigan State and Connecticut have been two of the most "right" college basketball teams in the country this year.

The No. 2 Spartans, winners of the Midwest Region, will take on the No. 1 Huskies, victors of the West Region, at 6 p.m., on Saturday, April 4, in the first national semifinal. This game will be played at Ford Field in Detroit and the Huskies have been instilled as a four-point favorite. The total sits at 133.5.

Michigan State and Connecticut have advanced to the Final Four on the muscular backs of their dominating frontcourts. These are two rough, rugged teams and they both rely on smothering defense and powerful rebounders to overwhelm their opponents. And the philosophy of this game is simple: the team whose forwards and center are able to exact their physical will on the interior is going to advance.

The Spartans advanced to the Final Four on the strength of their upset win over Louisville, the Big East regular season and conference tournament champions. However, I have always felt that Connecticut was the best team that The Beast had to offer this season. And while Michigan State was able to win a tempo game against the Cardinals - controlling the ball and clock, and limiting Louisville's transition game - they are facing a Connecticut squad that doesn't have such an obvious weakness.

In fact, the Huskies actually did the same thing to Louisville in their only meeting this year, winning 68-51 in Freedom Hall back in early February.

If you don't know by now that Connecticut relies on center Hasheem Thabeet and forward Jeff Adrien on the block then you need to stop reading this and go watch "Baseball Tonight". But what you might not know is that the keys to the Huskies advancing to their third national championship game in the last decade might rest in the hand of swingman Stanley Robinson. Robinson is a 6-9 swing forward that can handle, pass, and get to the rack. He has scored in double digits in his last five games (17.4 points per game) and is someone that Michigan State cannot matchup with.

Also, freshman Kemba Walker - who I predicted last week in my Sweet 16 preview would have a breakout weekend - is coming on strong and gaining confidence. However, we'll see how the fearless freshman performs in the bright lights of the Final Four. A.J. Price is the Money Man for the Huskies, but Connecticut will need Walker to help relieve the pressure Price will most assuredly face from the Spartans.

Michigan State really relies on a consortium of players to produce their points. Guard Kalin Lucas is the leading scorer and clear go-to guy for Sparty. But he is definitely not the type of guy that's going to single-handedly take over a game with his skill. And besides slow-footed, but skilled, center Goran Suton the Spartans don't have anyone else that averages more than 10 points per game. Instead, they have seven total players that average between 5.2 and 14.6 points, four players that make 39 percent of more of their three-pointers, and four players that shoot 71 percent or better from the free throw line. Their strength is in their balance.

The Spartans have had success this year in nonconference games against teams that were equally strong on the interior. They beat Kansas' size twice this season and the Spartans managed to win as an underdog on the road against Texas. They also held down Louisville and USC in the NCAA Tournament, and each of them had at least one NBA-level player in the post.

Connecticut really did not do that much in the nonconference that is comparable to Michigan State (although the Big East was a far superior conference to the Big Ten this year). They beat Miami and Wisconsin by double digits, as well as a 12-point win against a Purdue team that compares favorably to Michigan State and a 26-point win over Texas A&M and its frontcourt. Also, Connecticut's victory over red-hot Missouri has to be considered one of its two best wins of the year.

Finally, Michigan State will have a tremendous advantage of playing in front of a pro-Spartans crowd because Ford Field is just a short drive away from East Lansing. Particularly for underdogs, having the crowd on your side is not only gives a huge lift in confidence but, as I've often noted, it also seems to draw a more favorable reaction from the officials toward the Mighty Mite. However, MSU has played just once at Ford Field this year: and they were beaten by about 100 by North Carolina.

As I handicap this game I don't truly see a strong edge on either side. Connecticut is a better team from a better conference. However, they aren't a much better team. Michigan State plays exceptional man-to-man defense and their overall approach and demeanor is actually very similar to what Pittsburgh - the team that dealt Connecticut two of its four losses this season - does on the court. Michigan State is just solid, steady, and well coached. They execute, they can shoot just enough, and they have experience in close games.

Connecticut has a little more talent and has been more dominant this season. And when it comes down to it I simply don't see this Michigan State team as a serious national title contender. They play good basketball, but the overall skill and ability of the NBA-ready guys that the Huskies trot out there could trump that. It's not as if the Huskies are some flaky run-and-gun team. Connecticut relies on defense, rebounding and grinding teams down through physicality and intimidation - just like Michigan State.

In the end, the Huskies get the nod from me for the win and against the spread they might be right. But this number is only going to move to give more points to the Spartans as the week goes on. And in what should be a tight, lower-scoring game the points could hold up and the Spartans might be right.

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Michigan State vs. UConn
By Brad Young

There are always obstacles for teams en route to the Final Four, and Michigan State and Connecticut are no different. Now both schools are just two wins away from securing a third title, but the Spartans might have a slight homecourt advantage.

Detroit’s Ford Field is just 90 miles away from East Lansing.
   
UConn entered the NCAA Tournament as the West Region’s top seed, but was blindsided with news of possible recruiting violations last week. The Huskies also started the tournament against Tennessee-Chattanooga without head coach Jim Calhoun, who was hospitalized due to dehydration.

Michigan State was installed as the Midwest Region’s second seed, but most pundits never figured on the Spartans getting past high-flying Louisville in the regional finals. Big East schools have been blitzing opponents this tournament, boasting three top seeds and now two teams in the Final Four. Michigan State also had to dispatch of defending champion Kansas in the Sweet 16.

UConn is now playing in its third Final Four in school history, winning both of its previous trips to this stage back in 1999 and 2004. The Huskies path to those championships also began in the West Region.

Michigan State is now in its fifth Final Four the past 11 seasons, the most of any school during that span. The Spartans claimed their first championship 30 years ago behind Magic Johnson, are won their second title in 2000. Michigan State is now 9-0 when playing in the NCAA Tournament as a second seed.

UConn opened the NCAA Tournament as a 5/1 selection to cut down the nets in Detroit, but has since seen its odds improve to 2/1. Michigan State opened as a 25/1 selection to win the whole thing, and is now currently 4/1.

Caesars Palace installed UConn as a four-point ‘chalk’ over Michigan State, with the total set at 134. The line has remained constant throughout the week, but the total opened at 135. The Huskies are also -185 on the money line, while the Spartans entertain a +165 status. CBS Sports will provide coverage of this Final Four contest beginning Saturday at 6:05 p.m. ET from Detroit’s Ford Field.

Michigan State (30-6 straight up, 19-14 against the spread) booked its trip to Detroit by upending top-seeded Louisville Sunday as a seven-point underdog, 64-52. That marked the third game in a row that coach Tom Izzo’s team covered.

The Spartans broke open a three-point game at halftime, 30-27, by outscoring the Cardinals in the second half, 34-25. Michigan State also won the rebounding battle, 35-27, while shooting a solid 46 percent (24-of-52) from the field and 50 percent (8-of-16) from behind the arc.

Center Goran Suton stepped up with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while guard Kalin Lucas added 10 and five assists. The Spartans defense was really the story of the game, holding Louisville forward Terrence Williams to just five points on 1-of-7 shooting and forward Samardo Samuels scoreless.

Michigan State sports an 18-3 SU and 12-7 ATS road record, winning those affairs by an average score of 70-64.

UConn (31-4 SU, 17-14 ATS) stormed through the West Region as the top seed, winning its first three games by a combined 94 points. The Huskies then knocked off third-seed Missouri Sunday as a 5 ½-point ‘chalk,’ 82-75. UConn has won and covered all four of its NCAA Tournament games during its run to Detroit.

The Huskies jumped out to a six-point halftime advantage, 44-38, and finished the contest by dominating the boards, 45-26. UConn connected at a stellar 51 percent (27-of-53) from the field, but was a dismal 17 percent (2-of-12) from 3-point land. The Huskies won the game despite making just eight baskets after halftime.

Freshman guard Kemba Walker led all scorers with 23 points on 7-of-9 shooting, while forward Jeff Adrien added 12 and 10 rebounds. A.J. Price accounted for 18 points in the victory, while center Hasheem Thabeet accounted for five and 13 boards.

The Huskies sport a 17-2 SU and 13-6 ATS road record, winning those affairs by an average score of 79-67.

Both schools played in football stadiums during their regional finals, but the setup at Ford Field might be difficult for some of the outside shooters. Traditionally, the basketball court is set up on one side of the football field in the end zone, going from sideline to sideline. However, the setup for this Final Four will have the court in the middle of the football field, so more fans will be able to watch at the stadium. A crowd of 72,000 is expected for all three games.

Michigan State already played at Ford Field this season, falling to fellow Final Four participant North Carolina December 3 as a 10-point underdog, 98-63. The 35-point beatdown was the Spartans’ worst setback of the season.

UConn center Hasheem Thabeet (finger) and forward Jeff Adrien (knee) are ‘probable’ against the Spartans.

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UNC vs. Villanova
By Brian Edwards

For the first time since its historic run to the national championship in 1985, Villanova is back in the Final Four. Ironically, the school it beat in the Elite Eight in ’85 (North Carolina) will be its opponent in Saturday’s prime-time game at Ford Field in Detroit.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened North Carolina (32-4 straight up, 15-19 against the spread) as a 6 ½-point favorite with a total of 162. As of early Friday afternoon, most books had the Tar Heels as 7 ½-point ‘chalk’ with the total lowered into the 158 1/2-159 1/2 range. The Wildcats are plus-300 on the money line (risk $100 to win $300)

Villanova (30-7 SU, 19-14 ATS) won the East Region finals in Boston by beating Pittsburgh 78-76 on Scottie Reynolds’ game-winning shot with 0.5 seconds left. The Wildcats took the cash as two-point underdogs, hooking up money-line backers with a plus-120 return.

Dwayne Anderson scored a game-high 17 points to go with six rebounds and four steals. Reynolds finished with 15 points, while Reggie Redding tallied five points, six rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots, two steals and one bad pass that’s he’s off the hook for since ‘Nova eventually prevailed.

Before knocking off the top-seeded Panthers, the Wildcats eliminated American (80-67), UCLA (89-69) and Duke (77-54). They covered the number against the Bruins and Blue Devils but failed to cashed tickets as 15-point favorites in the opening-round comeback victory over American.

Many, including myself, felt like North Carolina had the toughest draw of the No. 1 seeds last week. In the South Region, there was Gonzaga, Syracuse and Oklahoma. In Mark Few’s team, you had a nucleus of players that had beaten the Tar Heels two seasons ago and a point guard in Jeremy Pargo that could offer Ty Lawson plenty of resistance.

In the ‘Cuse, we had a red-hot team whose only recent loss came to Louisville in the Big East Tournament finals in a game the Orange led by eight at intermission even though it had played three games and seven overtimes in the previous 72 hours.

With Oklahoma, UNC would have to deal with the nation’s premier player in Blake Griffin and one the streakiest 3-point shooters from out of the Big 12 in Willie Warren.

After winning and covering against Radford and LSU, UNC’s quest continued with Friday’s late-night showdown against Gonzaga. Unlike the game played at MSG in November of 2006, it was all Carolina from the get-go. The Tar Heels led by 11 at intermission and never allowed the Bulldogs to get within single digits the rest of the way. For most of the second half, UNC led by 16-22 points, eventually capturing a 98-77 win as a 7 1/2-point favorite. The 175 combined points jumped ‘over’ the 163-point total.

Tyler Hansbrough paced the winners with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Lawson had 19 points and nine assists, while Wayne Ellington added 19 points and seven rebounds.

After Oklahoma thumped Syracuse in a similar fashion as UNC’s spanking of the ‘Zags, many felt the Sooners had a puncher’s chance due to the presence of Griffin. But that was not the case, not even close.

Like I said in my Final Four primer earlier this week, I’ve never seen a team play as lethargic as Oklahoma did in a game of Elite-Eight magnitude. The Sooners played listless and with zero sense of urgency for the first 35 minutes.

By the time they made a late run, it was way too late to matter, even for our purposes. North Carolina punched its Final Four ticket with a 72-60 victory as a seven-point favorite. Lawson was marvelous once again with 19 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Danny Green added 18 points and Deon Thompson was also in double figures with 10 points.

The reality of UNC’s four-game run to Detroit is that it has only been challenged once. That came against LSU in the second round in Greensboro, where the Heels had a decided homecourt advantage in their home state. With UNC leading by nine at halftime, the Tigers scored on their first seven possessions of the second half and surged into a pair of separate five-point leads.

At the under-12-minute TV timeout, the Tar Heels were trailing and staring elimination in the face. But that’s when Lawson took over and he’s probably been the best player of the Tournament since then. The junior point guard had missed three consecutive games with turf toe and was making his initial return to the lineup against LSU.

When he left the game midway through the first half and appeared to be in agony on the sidelines, you thought he might be done for the day, if not the rest of the Tournament. And had that been the case, LSU might have advanced two Saturdays ago. Instead, Lawson erupted for 21 of his 23 points in the second half and UNC not only marched on, but it found a way to turn a nail-biter into a spread cover in the 84-70 triumph as a 12 ½-point ‘chalk.’

Roy Williams’ team is 3-5 ATS as a single-digit favorite this year, but we should note that UNC has cashed tickets in back-to-back such situations during this NCAA Tournament. As for ‘Nova, it owns a 6-4 spread record in its 10 games as an underdog this season.

I mentioned earlier that Villanova beat UNC on its way to the 1985 championship. In another small stroke of irony, the Tar Heels also knocked off ‘Nova en route to their last national title in 2005. In the Sweet 16 at the Carrier Dome, UNC edged Villanova 67-66 in a game that had several controversial calls go Carolina’s way in the final minute. The Wildcats took the cash that night as 11-point underdogs.

UNC has seen the ‘over’ hit at a 19-15 overall clip this year, but the ‘under’ is 4-1 in its last five games. Villanova has watched the ‘over’ go 17-16 overall, 5-2 in its last seven outings.

For what it’s worth, this won’t be UNC’s first trip to Ford Field this season. In fact, the Tar Heels went into Motown and absolutely destroyed Michigan St. by a 98-63 count back on Dec. 4. They easily took the cash as 10-point road favorites, but we should note that Goran Suton was not available for the Spartans due to an injury at the time.

Assuming the UConn-Michigan St. game doesn’t go to overtime(s), tip-off is scheduled for 8:45 p.m. Eastern on Saturday.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Villanova has out-rebounded each of its last six opponents.

--Lawson is 21 years old and thus legally able to gamble in a Detroit casino. Some journalists are making a fuss over Lawson saying he won $250 playing craps for about an hour Wednesday night. Who cares? It is not a violation for a student-athlete to bet on craps, blackjack or other casino games. They are only required to refrain from betting on college and pro sports.

--If you’re interested in future odds, most books have UNC as the minus-150 ‘chalk’ (risk $150 to win $100). Most spots have UConn at around plus-230 (risk $100 to win $230), while Michigan St. is in the plus-450 range and ‘Nova is at least as generous as plus-500.

--I had plenty of other Final Four thoughts in Friday's live chat on VI if you want to check it out.

--After missing the NCAA Tournament two straight seasons despite records of 23-10 and 21-11, Florida appears poised to beef up its non-conference slate in 2009-2010. The Gators will start a two-year, home-and-home series with Xavier when the Muskateers come to the O-Dome next season. Also, the Charleston Daily Mail reported this week that Bob Huggins is exploring the option of adding a UF series to West Virginia’s schedule. Keep in mind that Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin becomes eligible for UF next year after sitting out this past campaign.

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MICHIGAN ST (30 - 6) vs. CONNECTICUT (31 - 4)
Top Trends for this game.
CONNECTICUT is 8-2 ATS (+5.8 Units) in road games after scoring 80 points or more this season.
CONNECTICUT is 12-5 ATS (+6.5 Units) in road games when playing against a team with a winning record this season.
MICHIGAN ST is 14-4 ATS (+9.6 Units) in all neutral court games over the last 2 seasons.
MICHIGAN ST is 12-4 ATS (+7.6 Units) in road games after a non-conference game over the last 2 seasons.
MICHIGAN ST is 14-4 ATS (+9.6 Units) when playing on a neutral court over the last 2 seasons.
MICHIGAN ST is 18-7 ATS (+10.3 Units) in non-conference games over the last 2 seasons.
MICHIGAN ST is 12-5 ATS (+6.5 Units) in road games when playing against a team with a winning record this season.

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


VILLANOVA (30 - 7) vs. N CAROLINA (32 - 4)
Top Trends for this game.
N CAROLINA is 23-11 ATS (+10.9 Units) after a non-conference game over the last 2 seasons.
N CAROLINA is 8-2 ATS (+5.8 Units) in road games in non-conference games this season.
N CAROLINA is 13-4 ATS (+8.6 Units) after allowing 60 points or less over the last 3 seasons.
N CAROLINA is 44-27 ATS (+14.3 Units) in road games in all tournament games since 1997.
N CAROLINA is 8-1 ATS (+6.9 Units) in a NCAA tournament games over the last 2 seasons.
N CAROLINA is 34-21 ATS (+10.9 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record over the last 2 seasons.
VILLANOVA is 13-5 ATS (+7.5 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record after 15 or more games this season.
VILLANOVA is 10-1 ATS (+8.9 Units) versus good offensive teams - scoring 77+ points/game after 15+ games this season.
VILLANOVA is 11-2 ATS (+8.8 Units) versus good offensive teams - scoring 77+ points/game this season.

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

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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Saturday 4/4

Michigan State vs. Connecticut

Michigan State:

19-8 ATS as neutral court underdog
18-7 ATS vs. non-conference

Connnecticut:
12-2 Over on neutral court
2-5 ATS playing with 5 or 6 days rest


Villanova vs. North Carolina

Villanova:

19-7 Under when the total is 150 to 159.5
21-8 Under as an underdog

North Carolina:
12-3 ATS off BB Covers as a favorite
8-1 ATS in NCAA Tournament games


MICHIGAN STATE vs. CONNECTICUT
Michigan State is 6-1 ATS in its last 7 games
Michigan State is 10-1 SU in its last 11 games
Connecticut is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games
Connecticut is 20-3 SU in its last 23 games

VILLANOVA vs. NORTH CAROLINA
Villanova is 14-7 ATS in its last 21 games
Villanova is 7-1 SU in its last 8 games
North Carolina is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games
North Carolina is 18-2 SU in its last 20 games

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Michigan State Spartans vs. UConn Huskies

The Michigan State Spartans and the Connecticut Huskies will both be trying to pick up a win on Saturday when they battle at Ford Field in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.

Oddsmakers currently have the Huskies listed as 4½-point favorites versus the Spartans, while the game's total is sitting at 134.

Michigan State defeated Louisville 64-52 as a 7-point underdog in the Elite Eight. The combined score fell UNDER the posted over/under total (137.5).

Goran Suton scored 19 points and added 10 rebounds for the Spartans, and Durrell Summers delivered 12 points in the win.

Kemba Walker had 23 points to help Connecticut hold off resilient Missouri 82-75 in the Elite Eight. Connecticut managed to cover the 5.5-point spread, and the combined 157 points made it OVER the day's posted total of 152.

A.J. Price added 18 points, and Stanley Robinson chipped in with 13 points in the win for the Huskies.

Team records:
Michigan State: 30-6 SU, 20-13 ATS
Connecticut: 31-4 SU, 17-14 ATS

Michigan State most recently:
When playing on Saturday are 6-4
After playing Louisville are 1-1
After a win are 8-2

Connecticut most recently:
When playing on Saturday are 8-1
After a win are 8-2

A few trends to consider:
Michigan State is 10-1 SU in its last 11 games
Connecticut is 20-3 SU in its last 23 games
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Connecticut's last 5 games
Connecticut is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games


Villanova Wildcats vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

The Villanova Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels will both be trying to pick up a win on Saturday when they battle at Ford Field in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.

Oddsmakers currently have the Tar Heels listed as 7½-point favorites versus the Wildcats, while the game's total is sitting at 159.

Villanova poured in 46 points in the second half and pulled out a hard-fought 78-76 upset victory over Pittsburgh in the Elite Eight. Villanova won the game as a 2-point underdog, while the combined score made it OVER the posted total of 141.

Dwayne Anderson tossed in 17 points from 5-for-10 shooting, and Scottie Reynolds added 15 points in that win for the Wildcats.

North Carolina defeated Oklahoma 72-60 as a 7-point favorite in the Elite Eight. The combined score fell UNDER the posted over/under total (163.5).

Ty Lawson scored 19 points for North Carolina, and Danny Green added 18 points in that victory.

Team records:
Villanova: 30-7 SU, 19-14 ATS
North Carolina: 32-4 SU, 16-19 ATS

Villanova most recently:
When playing on Saturday are 3-7
After playing Pittsburgh are 5-5
After a win are 7-3

North Carolina most recently:
When playing on Saturday are 8-2
After a win are 8-2

A few trends to consider:
Villanova is 7-1 SU in its last 8 games
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Villanova's last 7 games
Villanova is 14-7 ATS in its last 21 games
North Carolina is 18-2 SU in its last 20 games

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NCAAB Today

Huge crowd in Detroit's Ford Field should be pro-Spartan (only 75 miles away). Since 1999, #1 seeds are 8-3 SU when facing a lower seed in the national semifinals; UConn starts three seniors with 7-3 junior Thabeet, who is huge force on defense, especially against team that doesn't shoot a lot of 3's (Michigan State scores 22% of points from arc). Huskies are 3-0 vs Big 11 teams, winning by 19 over Wisconsin, 8 vs Michigan, 12 against Purdue. Spartans just beat Louisville, beat team in Big East; they lost by 35 to North Carolina in this building Dec 3rd. State starts pair of seniors-- Suton will try to draw Thabeet from hoop with jumpers.

In six of last seven Final Fours, there was an upset in one of the semis. North Carolina is 1-5 in national semifinal games since '95-- they were a favorite in five of the six games. Tar Heels are 2-0 vs Big East, winning by 22 vs Rutgers, by 15 over Notre Dame- they start three juniors, two seniors and don't utilize the bench as much as previous Carolina teams. Villanova ranks 23rd in the country in % of points scored from foul line; they're still a young team (only one senior starter). Tar Heels played in this building in December, waxing Michigan State by 35. Villanova beat Duke by 23, in its only game this season against an ACC opponent.

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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Saturday 4/4

Game of the day: Villanova vs. North Carolina
By Alex Smart

Villanova Wildcats vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (-7, 158.5)

Record makers meet in Motown


Just because you're small, doesn't mean that you don't carry a big stick. Since seeding began in 1979, the Villanova Wildcats have racked up 15 wins as a lower seed in the NCAA tournament. That’s the most of any school. This marks the Wildcats' fourth ever appearance in the Final Four and their first since winning the National Championship as a No. 8 seed in 1985.

Nova is the lowest seed to ever win a tournament championship, just as they were one of the four teams in the first ever tournament in 1939. Also, Villanova coach, Jay Wright, notched his 300th career win as his Cats downed Pittsburgh in the Elite Eight.

Winning tradition

The Tar Heels’ numbers speak for themselves. They’ve made 18 Final Four appearances (the most all-time) and nine of those in the past 19 years.

Roy Williams is making his ninth Final Four appearance as a head coach, joining legendary UCLA coach John Wooden and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski as the only individuals to guide their teams to five Final Four appearances over an eight year span.

On paper, it's clear who's playing the role of Goliath. But don't assume Villanova accepts the role of David.

"I don't feel like we're underdogs. At this point, you just have to look at it like, everyone's on the same plane. We've worked just as hard as they have to get here," senior Dante Cunningham told reporters.

To Villanova, their seed, as well as UNC's 18th trip to the Final Four, is just a number.

To the rack

"It only has to work once," Scottie Reynolds told the press after Nova sent Pitt packing on a last second shot in the lane that left only .05 on the clock.

The highlight has been burned into the minds of UNC's players. They've all seen Reynolds blow past DeJuan Blair and pull up in the lane to secure a spot in Detroit.

Tar Heels senior Danny Green laid out Saturday night's defensive game plan saying, "Our job is to stop their penetration and put hands up on their shots, make them take tough shots and limit them to one shot."

Conversely, Wildcats head coach Jay Wright feels that his team can't just narrow in on one area of Carolina's attack. Wright mentioned the play of 2009 Cousy Award Winner, Ty Lawson, and his ability to control the tempo of a game.

He mentioned Hansbrough as one of the best big men in the country. He discussed Carolina's shooting ability as well as its depth and athleticism.

"It's just a complete basketball team,” Wright told the media. “Obviously, you know, when you get to this point, everybody's good. But I think we've all watched this team throughout the year and thought they were, you know, possibly the best team in the country."

Trendsetters

Head to head, UNC leads the all-time tournament series with Villanova, 3-1, with Nova's sole victory coming in the 1985 Elite Eight. Overall, UNC holds a 9-4 SU series advantage.

Jay Wright is 0-1 against the Tar Heels but hasn't seen them on the court since 2005's Sweet 16 contest. Carolina went on to win the National Championship that year.

Both UNC and Villanova come in with hot numbers against the spread. North Carolina is 4-0 ATS in its last four tournament games. On the flip side, Villanova enters Saturday's contest 5-1 ATS in its last five tournament games played as an underdog and 8-2 on Saturdays. The kicker could very well be Nova's poor 1-4 record against the odds as an underdog of 7-12.5 points.

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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Saturday 4/4

Tips and Trends

Final Four: #2 Michigan State vs. #1 Connecticut


Michigan State: The Spartans are definitely the sentimental favorites to win the national title in nearby Detroit, especially after knocking off #1 overall seed Louisville in the Elite 8. Around 30,000 fans attended their practice on Friday, giving them confidence that they will have home-court advantage. “We’re trying to put smiles on people’s faces,” said Michigan State point guard Kalin Lucas, a Detroit native. “We have the city on our back and we’re going to come out tomorrow and we’re going to make sure we hold it down for the Motor City.”

Michigan State is 6-2 ATS in its last 8 Saturday games.
The UNDER is 11-4 in Michigan State's last 15 games overall.

Key Injuries - NONE

PROJECTED SCORE: 67 (OVER - Total Play of the Day)

UConn (-4, O/U 134): The Huskies have proven many doubters wrong in the Big Dance, covering every game with ease en route to the Final Four. They have been hit with allegations of possible recruiting violations while head coach Jim Calhoun has been dealing with his third diagnosis of cancer. Still, UConn remains on track to play for its third national title in 10 years. “This team has given me incredible joy this season,” Calhoun said. “They were the tonic, quite frankly, the best medicine I could ever possibly receive.”

UConn is 4-0 ATS its last 4 games overall.
The OVER is 7-1 in UConn's last 8 NCAA tournament games.

Key Injuries - F Jeff Adrien (knee) is probable.
C Hasheem Thabeet (finger) is probable.
G Jerome Dyson (knee) is doubtful.

PROJECTED SCORE: 70


Final Four: #3 Villanova vs. #1 North Carolina

Villanova: No team has been more impressive in the NCAA tournament than the Wildcats, who have beaten such perennial powers as UCLA, Duke and Pittsburgh en route to the Final Four. Some bettors are still waiting for their magical ride to end, as there are still doubts that this team has the same chemistry as the team that won the national title after shooting 78.6 percent against Georgetown in 1985. “Our players believe they can win,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “We use a term, ‘We don’t have to play perfect, we just have to play together.’ That’s how we’re going to play, and our guys believe we’re going to win that way.”

Villanova is 16-3 SU in its last 19 games overall.
The UNDER is 9-2 in Villanova's last 11 non-conference games.

Key Injuries - G Scottie Reynolds (thumb) is probable.

PROJECTED SCORE: 77 (Side Play of the Day)

North Carolina (-7, O/U 158.5): The Tar Heels will be looking to atone for last year's poor performance in the Final Four, when eventual national champ Kansas jumped out to a 40-12 lead and never looked back. Four NBA prospects chose to return this year just to win the NCAA title, including preseason National Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough. “It was our first Final Four,” Hansbrough said. “Now, I guess we’ll be more prepared.” Hansbrough and his teammates better hope so because another loss will leave them subject to major disappointment once again.

North Carolina is 4-0 ATS in its last 4 games overall.
The UNDER is 4-1 in North Carolina's last 5 games overall.

Key Injuries - NONE

PROJECTED SCORE: 81

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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Saturday 4/4

Final Four Research
By Indiancowboy

Uconn vs. Michigan State


Classic Big East vs. Big 10 Matchup as this should be exciting. Note the line is just 134 here while UConn is favored by -4. Although Michigan State beat Louisville, this team did lose to Maryland eariler this year but did beat Kansas and Oklahoma State. MS dropped 77 against Robert Morris, 74 against USC, 67 against Kansas (defeating them twice this year) and 64 against Louisville. This team has given up less points essentially in each game this year as the teams have gotten better giving up 69 to USC, 62 to Kansas and most recently, 52 to Louisville. This game in some way reminds me of UConn vs. Purdue as Uconn won 72-60 and was able to cover the spread. I believe UConn is a better team than Louisville in some ways as they are disciplined - remember, UConn took it to Louisville at Louisville this year. I lean on Uconn and the Under here similar to how the Uconn/Purdue game went earlier this year in the Sweet 16.

Villanova vs. UNC

Oklahoma is known as a bit more of a defensive team, and that showed in UNC's latest total out put. I can't imagine Villanova wants an up and down game. Remember, UNC has defeated Radford, LSU, Gonzaga and Oklahoma to get here as they face a very good Villanova team. During this process UNC has put up 101 against Radford, 84 against LSU, 98 against Gonzaga, 72 against Oklahoma and now faces Villanova. You really can't attribute it to the UNC defense that tehy gave up 60 to Oklahoma though as it was primarily b/c Oklahoma couldn't shoot worth a lick in that game. UNC did face a Big East team earlier this year and won 92-75 (167) at home. But, Villanova is a much different team. For starters, Villanova with their physical presence gave up 67 points to American, 69 to UCLA, 54 against Duke, and 76 to Pittsburgh (game totaled 154). It's tough to pick a side here as Villanova has played with so much heart this tournamnet and that intensity counts a lot for just 40 minutes of play. I lean on the Under here slightly, but if Villanova ends up being an active dog, than it would not shock me to see this game go over.

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