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NCAA Final Four Betting Preview: Kansas vs Villanova

Kansas Jayhawks(31-7) @ Villanova Wildcats(34-4)

  • Where: Alamodome. San Antonio, TX
  • When: March 31, 2018 8:49 pm EST
  • Spread: Kansas (+5) vs Villanova (-5)
  • Moneyline: Kansas (+190) vs Villanova (-230)
  • Over / Under: Over 155 (-115) vs Under 155 (-105)

The 2018 NCAA Tournament has been full of upsets and Cinderella stories.

UMBC became the first 16th seed to ever knock off a 1st seed, shocking highly-touted Virginia with a double-digit win. Loyola-Chicago has made 98-year-old nun Sister Jean the most famous and adored fan in all of college basketball. In the South Regional bracket of 16 teams, not one seeded higher than 9th made it to the Elite Eight.

But the aristocrats of the sport are not dead. They’re just vulnerable and apt to be beaten unexpectedly, thanks to the chaos that the NBA’s one-and-done rule has brought to the Division 1 landscape. As coaches vacillate between recruiting blue-chip baller teens and disciplined 4-year cagers, there is less certainty in every match-up.

That makes the accomplishments of 1st seeds Villanova and Kansas even more impressive. The Jayhawks fought through a minefield of talented opponents in the Midwest Regional, working through a 1st-half swoon to beat Pennsylvania in the opening game before besting Clemson and Duke of the ACC by a combined 8 points. The Wildcats took on the full-court press of WVU before facing a challenge from quick, determined Texas Tech in the Elite Eight, but managed to out-last both squads on their way to San Antonio.

Bookies have installed Villanova as a strong favorite to beat KU, but think the contest will be close. Kansas is a near 2-to-1 underdog, but the point spread is only (+5) points.

If consensus opinion has the game coming down to the last 5 minutes, should the ‘Cats be such a pronounced favorite? Or are there weaknesses in the Jayhawk lineup that will make a late surge difficult and victory unlikely?

Villanova’s X-factor in the Final Four

MSB has been clear about our reasons to tout Villanova as a tourney favorite from the outset. At a glance, Jay Wright’s team has a similar lineup as many squads which have threatened to reach the Alamodome. But a deeper look reveals an element that few foes are prepared to deal with.

Jalen Brunson is a fantastic shooting guard, but lots of schools have brought NBA-prospect guards into the Big Dance. Back-court sidekick Mikal Bridges is scoring almost 20 points per game, but scoring depth is also not an issue for Final Four entries like Kansas or Loyola-Chicago. ‘Nova played excellent inside defense against Texas Tech, causing TTU to miss one lay-up after another. However, defensive prowess is not unique to the 2018 field.

Meet the X-factor. His name is Omari Spellman. The 6’9″ frosh power forward has been a dynamo on both ends of the court, the type of athlete who patiently punishes teams on the inside even when he’s not pouring in buckets. Spellman hasn’t scored a ton of points in the tournament…yet. But he’s averaging double-digits. More importantly, he is capable of dominating in all 3 phases – offense, defense and transition.

Against Texas Tech, the St. Thomas More grad blocked a driving jump-shot attempt, speedily followed the ensuing fast break and emphatically dunked a rebound out of mid-air. As versatile a player as can be found in Division 1, Spellman has shot 50% or better from the 3-point line in 2 straight games and is gobbling up rebounds.

Yes, Wright can coach his keyster off and the Villanova guards are a marvel to watch. But if the team is destined to cut down the nets in San Antonio, it will be thanks in large part to their amazing power forward…and excellent bench players like Donte Divincenzo.

Watching the odds like a (Jay)hawk

On a pure-punditry level, it’s hard to tout Kansas as likely to beat Villanova. But the Jayhawks are tall, talented and well-coached. Most importantly, KU’s money line odds are almost (+200) for the match-up on Saturday. If there’s any inkling that the contest could be a toss-up, or another OT game like Kansas-Duke, then the best bet is on the underdog.

Offense hasn’t been a problem for Bill Self’s powerful lineup. With 7-footer Udoka Azubuike distracting Duke on the inside, KU’s guards went crazy with 4 scoring in double-digits. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is listed at only 6’8″ and 205 pounds, but the Ukrainian looked like an NBA power forward in the paint, grabbing 10 rebounds in the OT win.

A penchant for second-chance buckets has the Jayhawks averaging over 40 points per half in March Madness. But it’s defense that Self should be worried about.

The Jayhawks guard, rebound and contest lay-ups at a high level, but maybe not high enough. Their opponents have averaged almost 80 points over the past 3 rounds. Clemson’s Gabe Dafoe scored 31 points as the Tigers shot almost 44% from the field. In the previous contest, Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado scored 24 while grabbing a mind-boggling 23 rebounds, many of which came on the offensive glass. The Duke game could have gone either way, thanks to KU’s inability to guard Grayson Allen in the clutch.

Efficiency at guarding NBA prospects is a high standard of judgement. But that’s where the analysis leads in such a high-profile clash as Kansas and Villanova.

Kansas vs Villanova: Final Four betting pick

Click here to wager on the Villanova Wildcats to beat Kansas in the 2018 NCAA Tournament Final Four and get a March Madness sign-up bonus from Bovada.

KU has a real shot to beat Villanova, and isn’t the worst wager to make at (+190). But a successful streak of March Madness betting takes more than waking up each day and making brand-new picks. It takes a strategy…and a little bit of a stubborn streak.

Why bet against the school most-likely to win it all? No remaining team is better-coached, better defensively or more dynamic than the Wildcats. Spellman can excel inside and outside on both ends, and he enters the next round much healthier than Azubuike. If the Jayhawks’ big center breaks down physically, there is no Plan B for Kansas except to pass, shoot and hope.

Stay the course. Pick Villanova to beat Kansas in the Final Four, and don’t shy away from a futures bet on the ‘Cats to prevail on April 2nd.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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