2013 The Final Four

It is a great week for sports fans with the start of
baseball, the NBA stretch run, the Final Four and the culmination of the college
basketball season next Monday in Atlanta, Georgia for the national championship.
It’s clear that it’s not the teams the start the season hot, but the ones that
get hot when it really matters — March and April!

Many things happen
over the course of a long season. Some teams play great basketball in December
and January, only to break down from injuries or run out of steam down the
stretch. Miami is a good example, starting 22-3 before the national spotlight
and a key injury took a toll, losing in the tourney to Marquette, 71-61.

The last two years Missouri started 17-0 before stumbling in midseason,
while Villanova won 16 of 17 to start the season, then broke down with injuries
and poor play, finishing 3-10 SU, 1-12 ATS. Six years ago Clemson started 17-0,
then failed to even make the Big Dance after a 4-10 SU, 5-9 ATS run.

Kansas may have won the title five years ago, but seven years ago it was
a very different story: The Jayhawks started 20-1, only to go 3-6 straight up
and 1-8 against the spread the last nine games. They never made it to the Final
Four because of a 64-63 loss to Bucknell as a 13½-point favorite.

times an easy early season schedule, youth, bad coaching, untimely injuries, bad
luck, poor team chemistry or a combination of these can cut down a potentially
great team. North Carolina suffered from too much youth and not enough defense
in an uneven campaign, getting smoked by Duke in the ACC tourney (69-53) and by
Kansas in the Big Dance (70-58). Youth and a loss of its best players toppled
Florida after winning back-to-back titles and prevented a North Carolina repeat
in 2010.

Duke saw its title hopes dashed a year ago in a stunning loss
to Lehigh as 11-point chalk, but this is nothing new. Gonzaga was taken down by
Wichita this March, and two years ago No. 1 seed Pitt saw its hopes crushed in a
loss to Butler, 71-70. A few years ago No. 2 seed Georgetown took itself out of
the tournament, blowing a 46-29 lead by trying to stall against Davidson with
far too much time left.

It is very easy for sports bettors to look into
trends to try and predict the future. Trends can be helpful if there are reasons
to support it. For example, from a betting perspective, what stands out about
the last nine Finals Fours?

Score – Line

Ohio State
62 – 3
Kansas 64 – 136
Louisville 61 – 136.5
Kentucky 69 -8

Butler 70 – 3.5
VCU 62 – 133
Kentucky 55 – 131
56 – +2.5

Butler 52 – 1.5
Michigan State 50 – 125
Virginia 57 – 130
Duke 78 – -2.5

Michigan State 82 – 135

UConn 73 – 4
North Carolina 83 – 7.5
Villanova 69 – 160

Kansas 84 – 158
North Carolina 66 – 3
UCLA 63 – 135

Memphis 78 – 3

Georgetown 60 – 1
Ohio St. 67 – 130

UCLA 66 – 131
Florida 76 – 3

G. Mason 58 – 132

Florida 73 – -6
LSU 45 – -2
UCLA 59 – 123


Louisville 57 – 144
Illinois 72 – -3
Michigan St. 71 – 153
Carolina 87 – -2

Georgia Tech 67 – 139
Oklahoma St. 65 –
UConn 79 – -2
Duke 78 – 144

Marquette 61 – -4½

Kansas 94 – 153½
Syracuse 95 – 153
Texas 84 – -3


Indiana 73 – 134
Oklahoma 64 -6½
Maryland 97 – 168
Kansas 88 –

What stands out is that it has been the day of the dog. The
underdog is 12-8-1 against the number, with 11 dogs winning straight up. In
addition, the games have gone 12-10 “under” the total, although the “under” is
10-4 the last seven years. You can even make an argument that this would be the
right time of the college hoops’ season to take a shot with the dog on the
money-line. However, this is where one needs patience, because trends can also
be a fool’s paradise. The last eight years the favorites are 9-6-1 ATS.

If you go back to the previous three Final Fours before that content
analysis, 1999-01, we find Duke topping Maryland 95-84, Arizona blowing out
Michigan State 80-61, Michigan State beating Wisconsin 53-41, Florida topping
North Carolina 71-59, UConn beating Ohio State 64-58 and Duke surviving Michigan
State 68-62. What stands out is that the favorite won and covered in five of
six, for a hefty 5-1 spread record.

Even looking at totals, a similar
pattern emerges. The last 11 years the “over/under” has been almost equal, 12-10
under in the Final Four. The three years before that the “under” prevailed at a
5-1 clip. All of a sudden, those who look solely at trends as the key to the
sports betting kingdom are stuck at close to a .500 winning percentage ATS.

For the record, going back the last 16 years, there have been 22
“unders” and 14 “overs” in the Final Four, with 18 dogs covering while 17
favorites have gotten the money with one push. Again, trends are worth
examining, but there needs to be reasons behind them if you’re serious about
putting down hard earned money on a side. Perhaps the most significant stat that
stands out is that 15 of the 18 dogs that covered ended up winning the game
outright, which shows how competitive and relatively evenly matched the games
become when teams get this far in the season.

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