All’s well that
mostly ends well

Mar 27, 2007 7:24 AM

It’s a great weekend for sports fans with the Final Four and the culmination of the college basketball season next Monday in Atlanta for the national championship.

Clearly, it’s not the teams that start the season hot, but the ones that get reach that level in March when it really matters.

Many things happen over the course of a long season. Some teams. like Clemson, play great basketball in December and January, only to break down from injuries or run out of steam down the stretch. The Tigers began 17-0, then failed to make the Big Dance after a 4-10 SU, 5-9 ATS run.

A similar thing happened to Kansas two years ago. The Jayhawks started 20-1, only to go 3-6 SU and 1-8 ATS the last nine games. KU never reached the Final Four because of a 64-63 loss to Bucknell as a 13½-point favorite. Other factors such as an easy early season schedule, youth, untimely injuries, bad luck, poor team chemistry or a combination can cut down a potentially great team. Youth and a loss of its best players hit then-defending champion North Carolina last year. It resulted in the Tar Heels being knocked off early by George Mason.

Oddsmakers overvalued George Washington last season after a 26-1 start because injuries took a serious toll. The Colonials went 0-4-1 ATS their final five games, with early exits in the Atlantic 10 and NCAA tourneys.

Wisconsin took a No. 2 seed into this year’s tournament, but suffered a key late season loss in 6-11 junior Brian Butch, their leading rebounder and third-leading scorer. The Badgers weren’t the same team, getting smacked by Ohio State in the Big 10 tourney and losing to UNLV in the Big Dance.

It’s very easy for sports bettors to look into trends to try and predict the future. Trends can be helpful if there are reasons to support it. For example, from a betting perspective, what stands out about the last five Final Fours?

From a betting perspective, it has been the day of the dog the last four years. The dog is 7-3 ATS. Six won straight up, including UCLA last season. The games have gone 6-4 "over" the total, although last season both Final Four games sailed "under." You can make an argument that this would be the right time of the college hoops season to take a shot with the dog on the money-line. However, this is where one needs patience.

Trends can also be a fool’s paradise. The last two years the favorites are 3-1 ATS. If you had used that dog strategy, you would have gone 1-3.

The previous three Final Fours before that survey (1999-01) we find Duke topping Maryland 95-84, Arizona blowing out Michigan State 80-61, Michigan State beating Wisconsin 53-41, Florida topping North Carolina 71-59, UConn beating Ohio State 64-58 and Duke surviving Michigan State 68-62. The favorite won and covered in 5-of-6.

Even looking at totals, a similar pattern emerges. The last five years the "over" has gone 6-4 in the Final Four. The three years before that, the "under" prevailed at a 5-1 clip. All of a sudden, those who look solely at trends as the key to the sports betting kingdom are stuck at close to .500 ATS.

The past 24 Final Fours are basically 50/50 in lines and posted totals. The "under" is 14-10, while dogs hold a slim 13-11 edge over favorites.

Again, trends are worth examining. However, there have to be reasons behind them if you’re serious about putting down hard earned money on a side.

Most significant stat: 10 of the 13 dogs that covered ended up winning the game outright.