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 Coaching may decide outcome

What a dynamic Final Four we have! Last year we had the chalk of four number one seeds making it and this year we only have one number one seed.

Cinderella is still dancing with No. 5 seed Butler along with Tom Izzo and his Michigan State Spartans. On the other side of the bracket we have No. 1 seed Duke with No. 2 seed West Virginia.

It’s by no means the sexiest of teams in the Final Four, but this is what makes college basketball so good. While it would have been nice to have the top seeded powerhouses of Syracuse and Kentucky in the next round, ratings and betting volume in Las Vegas won’t suffer because this is what it’s all about.

We watch these games with the hopes that the mighty will be conquered and it’s everything good about March Madness opposed to what we want in the NBA. Can you imagine having the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals? It would be dreadful, but in the NCAA tournament, the lower the seed that wins, the better.

Last weekend’s four days of excitement was no more apparent than in the Vegas Sports Books where everything was good.

“We had a really good week with the upsets,” said MGM MIRAGE Sports Book Director Jay Rood. “Our handle was up, the level of intensity was high in the books and it looks like it’s going to be a really good Final Four.”

With Kansas, Syracuse and Kentucky knocked out, it also gets some of the futures risk to win the NCAA Championship out of the way for the sports books.

“Our biggest liability through the tournament was Ohio State. They had a huge following of people that bet them either as fans or just as value of a perceived good No. 2 seed in the tournament,” said Rood.

“We win on all four sides now that the Buckeyes are gone. Butler is our biggest risk of the four remaining. We opened them at 100 to 1 to start the year and 60 to 1 to start the tournament.”

It was thought before the tournament started that Duke had the easiest of all brackets which surprised many because they were a borderline No. 1 seed to begin with. West Virginia, who won the Big East tournament, was arguably more deserving of the top seed over Duke, but they’ll get the chance to settle matters on the court.

There are a lot of Duke haters out there, especially in Las Vegas, where folks are still smarting from the Final Four loss two decades ago when UNLV was undefeated on a quest to go back-to-back, but they have earned a lot of respect for their hard-nosed mentality while playing fundamental basketball to the highest degree.

Bettors will have a tough choice to make when Duke faces West Virginia as a 2½-point favorite because both teams have gone 4-0 against the spread during the tournament. West Virginia has won by nine points or more in every game but has managed to stay under the total in three of the four games. In fact, West Virginia has stayed under the total in seven of the last eight games. The total for this week’s game is 131, which looks inviting, seeing how Duke has also gone under the number in three of their last four games.

Michigan State has had a battle in every game thus far, barely making it. Of the Final Four teams, they are the only one to have won by single digits in all four games, but have still managed to go 3-1 ATS. They match up against a Butler team that has gone 3-1 ATS and held all of their opponents to under 60 points per game while going under the total three of four games. Butler is a slight 1-point favorite with the total at 126.

I like the trends and think they’ll hold up this week again.

Michigan State 62

Butler 57

West Virginia 65

            Duke 60

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