The 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament is almost over. Time flies when you’re having fun, and fun is something bettors did have during March Madness, which produced a ton of upsets but also pushed two #1 seeds into the Final Four.
I tried to help along the way, as I handed out some college basketball picks and did deliver some solid ones.
My most recent pick (Florida State +4.5) scored a win, while I also scored nice upset wins with Texas Tech downing Purdue and Marshall beating the spread against Wichita State.
That makes three in a row and I’ll try to keep the positive momentum rolling into the weekend, when two more games go down to help set up this year’s national title game.
On one side of that is the cinderella of the tourney, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers. I was not one of the few that pegged the Ramblers as a dangerous threat, but they’ve ridden an elite defense (4th in the nation) to the Final Four.
The path here hasn’t been easy for Sister Jean’s crew, either. The Ramblers edged out a solid Miami team in round one, topped Tennessee in round two and moved on to oust Nevada and Kansas State to reach this year’s Final Four.
Defense and a little bit of luck have been responsible for this magical run, as Loyola-Chicago has won three games by two points or less, but also hasn’t allowed more than 68 points in any game.
Michigan’s path to the Final Four hasn’t been quite as intense, but it also hasn’t been a cakewalk.
The Wolverines held a potent Montana defense to just 47 points in round one, escaped with a win in the clutch versus Houston, crushed Texas A&M and won a gritty defensive battle against the Seminoles.
The moral of the story? These two teams both offer up staggering defenses (both top six in defensive scoring) and come into this showdown extremely battle tested.
The big question for NCAA tournament bettors, of course, is which will provide a winning bet?
There is obviously a lot riding on this contest, so I fully expect a good game with both teams dialed in and giving it their best. One huge reason why is because these teams are virtually identical.
Both teams play at a slower, methodical pace and they rely on gritty defense to keep them in and close out games. Michigan and Loyola-Chicago also can get hot from the outside and produce efficient offense attacks that can explode in basically any setting.
This matchup looks like a game of chess on paper. I think it’s silly to suggest one of these defenses doesn’t show up. Both have been stout throughout the tournament and I don’t think either offense is so explosive that they’re going to come out and obliterate such steady and disciplined defenses.
Early in the tourney some of the top defensive teams (namely Virginia and Cincinnati) got waxed. That set a pretty unsettling tone for top flight defenses, but both of these teams responded with historic runs.
No matter what happens here, fans are getting a David vs. Goliath title match, as whoever wins here has to face a #1 seed. I think the team best equipped to handle that situation is Michigan and of these two groups, I also think they’re the easier offense to trust.
While I do like Michigan straight up and expect them to be the slightly more balanced team on Saturday, I don’t think they advance easily.
This could be another game that comes down to the final shot and judging by the team the Ramblers have been all year (not just in this tournament), I don’t believe they will go quietly into the night.
I expect a good, tight game where Michigan wins, but the Ramblers beat this rich +5 spread.
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