Final Four Odds
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#11 seed GONZAGA BULLDOGS (19-14) vs. #6 seed ST. JOHN’S RED STORM (21-11)
NCAA Tournament – Second Round
Tip-off: Thursday, 9:45 p.m. ET – Denver, CO
Line: St. John’s -1, Total: 135
Gonzaga versus St. John’s is a matchup of teams with two distinctly different NCAA histories, recently speaking.
The Bulldogs have been to each and every NCAA party since 1999, dancing its way from tournament Cinderella in the late 90’s to perennial attendees today. If the ’Zags have been the annual party people, St. John’s on the other hand has been a tournament home body. The Johnnies, longtime strangers to all this madness nonsense, will be making their first tournament appearance on Thursday night since 2002, when they lost in the first round to Wisconsin.
The closest thing that these two teams may have in common is a little bit of history. In 2000 Gonzaga and St. John’s met in the second round of the West Regional. Gonzaga (#10 seed) defeated the Big East champion Red Storm (#2 seed) that year, 82-76. 2000 was also the last year that the Red Storm won a tournament game. Now Steve Lavin has the program back to respectability, and will be trying to add onto an already impressive ‘10-11 resume that saw the school go from 17 wins to 21 (and counting?) and from 6-12 in league play last season, to 12-6 this year.
You don’t make the tournament 13 straight times without getting hot at the right time of year, so it shouldn’t’ be surprising to see Gonzaga entering the tournament winners of nine straight and 11 of its last 12. Those numbers become even more impressive when you consider where Gonzaga was on December 11, when the ‘Zags were sitting at 4-5 following an 83-79 loss to Notre Dame in South Bend.
Shortly thereafter, quality out-of-conference wins over Baylor, Xavier and Oklahoma State got things back on track for Mark Few’s team, and from there it was a race to wrest control of the West Coast Conference back away from last year’s champ, Saint Mary’s. That battle was waged throughout the season, with the two teams splitting games, winning on each other’s home court. It came down to the conference title game, and the ‘Zags were up to the task, defeating the Gaels 75-63. Gonzaga is led by big 6-foot-5 senior guard Steven Gray (13.8 PPG, 3.8 APG, 1.7 SPG), who leads the team in scoring, assists, steals, collisions and floor burns.
Gray gets a big assist from 7-footer junior Robert Sacre (12.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.9 BPG) the team’s leading rebounder, and shot blocker. Sacre (pronounced Sock-cray) could pose a particular headache on the interior for the Red Storm’s big men, whose tallest players seeing regular playing time are only 6-foot-8. Sophomore Elias Harris (12.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG) is the third player scoring in double figures for the Bulldogs. Gonzaga’s guard play down the stretch was also impressive. Marquise Carter (5.9 PPG) averaged 14.5 PPG, made 13-of-15 FT, and committed just three total turnovers in the semifinal and championship games of the conference tournament. David Stockton provided key minutes off the bench subbing for Carter and Gray.
The Red Storm were sitting at 13-9, and 5-5 in conference play following a seven-point February 5 loss in Los Angeles to UCLA. They closed the regular season with a flurry, winning seven of their final eight games, including home victories over ranked teams Connecticut and Pittsburgh, and a road win over ranked Villanova. The Johnnies defeated five ranked teams in Madison Square Garden during the regular season, with the big head-turner being their 93-78 blowout of Duke on Jan. 30.
First team All-Big East player Dwight Hardy (18.0 PPG) led the team in scoring, seemingly saving his best for the biggest games. He scored 34 against ‘Nova, 33 versus UConn and 26 against Duke. Fellow senior Justin Brownlee (12.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG) is second on the team in scoring and rebounding. The concern for St. John’s entering this game isn’t who will take the court, but who will not.
Leading rebounder, and number two assist man, senior D.J. Kennedy (10.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.0 APG), tore his right ACL in the Big East Tournament loss last Thursday to Syracuse, ending his season and career at the school in heartbreaking fashion. Kennedy also led the team in steals with 56. Kennedy’s versatility as a passer, scorer, and defender will be sorely missed, especially on the interior, as Lavin’s crew will have to contain an energetic 7-footer without its top player on the glass. With Gonzaga averaging 37.4 rebounds per game to the Red Storm’s 32.8, the Johnnies have no choice but to outwork the ‘Zags in the paint. If they can’t, the Bulldogs could bulldoze the Red Storm en route to the second round.
Gonzaga is 12-8 ATS after an SU win, while St. John’s is 4-6 ATS after an SU loss. The Red Storm are also 6-10 ATS in non-home games, while Gonzaga is 8-6 ATS outside of their home gym.
GONZAGA is 11-3 ATS (78.6%, +7.7 Units) when playing against a good team (Win Pct. 60% to 80%) over the last 2 seasons. The average score was GONZAGA 73.3, OPPONENT 66.1 - (Rating = 1*).
GONZAGA is 17-6 ATS (73.9%, +10.4 Units) in road games after 2 straight games making 78% of their free throws or better since 1997. The average score was GONZAGA 80.6, OPPONENT 74.1 - (Rating = 1*).
This four-star trend advises a play on the Under.
GONZAGA is 11-1 UNDER (91.7%, +9.9 Units) versus good shooting teams - making >=45% of their shots this season. The average score was GONZAGA 69.5, OPPONENT 67.0 - (Rating = 4*).
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (8-0) vs. KENTUCKY WILDCATS (5-2)
SEC/Big East Invitational – Louisville, NFL Odds KY
Sportsbook.com Line: Kentucky -5 & 141
One team is undefeated, the other team is facing a losing streak. One team has five seniors in its starting lineup. The other team has one senior on its entire team. One team is rated 23rd in the nation and rising. The other team is rated 16th and dropping. Welcome to Notre Dame vs. Kentucky.
Undefeated in eight games, the Irish are off to their best start ever under head coach Mike Brey. Despite losing player of the year candidate Luke Harangody to the NBA, the Irish are showing that a team’s experience can help to close the gap when depth appears to be lacking. Notre Dame is being led by senior guard Ben Hansbrough who is leading them in points and assists (15.8 PPG, 4.0 APG), and forward Tim Abromaitis (15.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG) who continues to be one of the most improved players in the Big East from year to year. Last season, Abromaitis averaged 18.2 PPG in league play. Forward Carleton Scott has become a double-digit scorer and is leading the team in rebounds (7.8 RPG). Forward Tyrone Nash (12.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG) is third on the Irish in scoring, and just behind Scott in the rebounding category. With victories over Georgia, California and Wisconsin that helped them win the Old Spice Classic, Notre Dame has gone a long way to enhance its tournament resume (never too early to talk about that stuff kids!). A win over No. 16 Kentucky would take the conversation to a whole new level.
Kentucky is in the part of its December schedule where it will play key out-of-conference rivals in contests that are only moderately important … if you consider bragging rights and life or death “moderately” important. The ‘Cats are coming off of a 75-73 defeat at North Carolina in Chapel Hill. After Notre Dame, Kentucky has a contest against another cross-state rival, Indiana on Saturday. On New Year’s Eve, John Calipari’s kiddie ’Cats will complete the scheduling gauntlet with a game against Louisville, a surprising 6-0 to start the season. The Wildcats lost to UNC despite a 24-point effort from freshman guard Doron Lamb. Freshman Terrence Jones is leading Kentucky in both scoring and rebounding (19.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG), but struggled against the Tar Heels, tallying just nine points and six boards in 28 minutes of play before fouling out. Freshman Brandon Knight (17.0 PPG, 3.4 APG, 3.3 RPG) has been impressive as he continues to fully grasp Calipari’s system.
The last time that Notre Dame started off this well was in 1973-74 when it began the season 12-0. That year, the biggest achievement for the Irish came when they broke up a certain 88-game winning streak belonging to some team from out west. That will not happen this year, but it doesn’t mean that Mike Brey’s squad won’t have a chance to do something else memorable this year. Wednesday in Louisville they have a shot at another tournament-resume-boosting win. While Christmas is just 17 days away, March will be here before you know it, and the selection committee is always interested in who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.
Kentucky won four straight series meetings (SU and ATS) from 2001 to 2004, but Notre Dame was the most recent series winner, 77-67 in 2009. These two trends like Notre Dame to at least cover the spread on Wednesday night
NOTRE DAME is 18-5 ATS (+12.5 Units) versus good teams - outscoring their opponents by 4+ points/game over the last 2 seasons. The average score was NOTRE DAME 72.4, OPPONENT 66.7 - (Rating = 3*).
NOTRE DAME is 19-6 ATS (+12.4 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record over the last 2 seasons. The average score was NOTRE DAME 73.3, OPPONENT 66.3 - (Rating = 2*).
Sportsbook.com has just put up a variety of props on the Heisman Trophy. Who will finish with a higher finishing positition, Andrew Luck or Kellen Moore? Luck is -300 favorite. Get in the action now at Sportsbook.com.