The Final Four is Finally Here!

by Larry Ness

Favorites were 36-15 SU (.706) but 24-27 ATS (37.1%), or -5.7 net games (one contest closed at pick), heading into last weekend's Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games. Baylor was the only No. 1 seed to not advance to the Sweet 16 but come Sunday night, the lone No. 1 seed advancing to the Final 4 was Kansas. The tourney's overall No. 1 seed (and the AP's No. 1 team in its final regular season poll) was Gonzaga but the Bulldogs lost 74-68 to Arkansas (a No. 4 seed). Once again, Mark Few's team will head home without an NCAA title. The "big news' of the Sweet 16 was St Peter's beating Purdue (a No. 3 seed) 67-64 on Friday, to become the first 15th seed to reach the Elite 8. Kansas ( No. 1 seed in the Midwest) beat Providence 66-61 and No. 10 Miami-Florida beat No. 11 Iowa St 70-56. Favorites would go 3-4 SU (Texas Tech-Duke closed at pick) and 2-5 ATS. 

Favorites were 3-1 SU & ATS in the Elite 8 games, although note that the higher seeds went 4-0 SU and ATS. No. 5 Houston was a small favorite over No. 2 Villanova but it's hard to win when a team makes ONE of 20 three-point attempts as the Cougars did last Saturday. Also on Saturday, No. 2 Duke beat No. Arkansas 78-69. On Sunday, the two double digit seeds (No. 15 St Peter's and No. 10 Miami) were outclassed and outplayed by North Carolina and Kansas, respectively. Heading to the Final 4, favorites have gone 42-20 (.677) and 29-33 (46.8%) or -7.3 net games

Kansas may be the only No. 1 seed to make 2022's Final Four but it is full of college basketball Blue Bloods. Two No. 2 seeds (Duke and Villanova) plus No. 8 North Carolina join Kansas in New Orleans. For the record, Kansas was ranked No. 3 in the AP's preseason poll, Villanova No. 4, Duke No. 9 and North Carolina No. 19. Kansas ranks No. 1 all-time with 2,328 wins, North Carolina checks in at No. 3 with 2,294 wins, Duke at No. 4 with 2,214 wins and Villanova at No. 19 with 1,817 wins.

North Carolina is the lowest seed at No. 8 but is in its 21st Final 4, the most of any school in history. Duke is playing in its 17th Final 4 (tied for 3rd most) and Kansas in its 16th (5th-most). FYI...The last time Duke, Kansas and North Carolina all made the Final Four was 1991, when Duke shocked the 'unbeatable' UNLV Runnin' Rebels then beat Kansas (coached by Roy Williams) for Coach K's first title. North Carolina owns SIX national championships, Duke owns five (ALL under Coach K) plus Kansas and Villanova each own three.

The Villanova-Kansas game will play "second-fiddle" to UNC-Duke, as that rivalry is over 100 years old but the schools have never gone head-to-head in the NCAA tournament until now. It comes in Mike Krzyzewski's final season (you can't make this up!). Meanwhile, Coach K's "opposite number" will be UNC's Hubert Davis. He is the first first-year head coach to make the Final Four since Bill Guthridge, who also did so with UNC after taking over for Dean Smith in 1998 (can't make that up, either). However, don't sell the Villanova-Kansas game short, as Kansas opened the season at No. 3 in the AP's preseason poll and Villanova at No. 4. Bill Self's Kansas team is the lone No. 1 seed left and while Villanova head coach Jay Wright can't match Coach K's resume (five national championships and an appearance in the Final 4 in each of the last FIVE decades), Wright is looking to win a national championship for the THIRD time in the last seven years ('Nova won in 2016 and 2018).

At DraftKings, Duke (+155) is the title favorite, followed by Kansas (+185), Villanova (+450) and UNC (+500). In Saturday's games, Kansas is favored by 4 1/2-points over Villanova, with a total of 133, while Duke is favored by four points over North Carolina, with a total of 131.

Good luck...Larry

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