It's all in the finish

April 01, 2008 7:00 PM
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Feist Facts by Jim Feist | Itís a great weekend for sports fans with the Final Four and the culmination of the college basketball season next Monday in San Antonio for the national championship.

Clearly, itís not the teams that start the season hot, but the ones that get hot when in March and April when it really matters.

Many things happen over the course of a long season. Some teams play great basketball in December and January, only to break down from injuries or run out of steam down the stretch. South Florida is a good example, winning 10 of 11 games in midseason. Overrated (and overvalued), the Bulls then lost 10 in a row (2-8 ATS).

A year ago Clemson started 17-0, then failed to even make the Big Dance after a 4-10 SU, 5-9 ATS run. A similar thing happened to Kansas three years ago. The Jayhawks started 20-1, only to go 3-6 SU and 1-8 ATS the last nine games. KU never made it to the Final Four because of a 64-63 loss to Bucknell as a 13Ĺ-point favorite.

Other times an easy early season schedule, youth, bad coaching, untimely injuries, bad luck, poor team chemistry or a combination of these can cut down a potentially great team. Youth and a loss of its best players certainly hit defending champion Florida this season, settling for the NIT. No. 2 seed Georgetown took itself out of the tournament, blowing a 46-29 lead by trying to stall against Davidson with far too much time left.

A year ago Wisconsin was a No. 2 seed, but suffered a key late-season loss in 6-11 Brian Butch, their leading rebounder and third-leading scorer. They werenít the same group, getting smacked by Ohio State in the Big 10 tourney and suffering an upset loss to UNLV in the Big Dance.

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

Fact is it has been the day of the dog. The underdog is 8-3 ATS, with seven winning straight up, including Ohio State last season. In addition, the games have gone 7-5 over the total. However, the under is 3-1 the last two years.

You can argue that this is the right time to take a shot with the dog on the money-line. However, this is where one needs patience. Trends can also be a foolís paradise. The last three years the favorites are 4-2 ATS. So if you had used that dog strategy the last two years you would have gone 2-4.

If you go back to the previous three Final Fours before that survey, the favorite won and covered in five of six, for a hefty 5-1 spread record.

With totals, a similar pattern emerges. The last six years the over has gone 7-5 in the Final Four. The three years before, the under prevailed at a 5-1 clip. Thatís just 10-8 under the last nine years.

For the record, going back the last 13 years, the under holds a 15-11 edge and underdogs have covered 14-of-26. Note that of the 14, 11 ended up winning the game outright.

Again, trends are worth examining, but there has to be reasons behind them if youíre serious about putting down hard earned money on a side.

 

Year Final Four
Score 
Line
2007: Georgetown 
60
-1
Ohio St. 
67 
130
UCLA 
66 
131
Florida 
76
-3
2006: G. Mason 
58
132
Florida 
73 
-6
LSU 
45
-2
UCLA
59
123
2005: Louisville
57
144
Illinois
72
-3
Michigan St.
71
153
N. Carolina
87
-2
2004: Ga Tech 
67
139
Okla St.
65 
-4
UConn 
79
-2
Duke 
78
144
2003: Marquette
61
-4½
Kansas 
94
153½
Syracuse
95
153
Texas 
84
-3
2002:  Indiana
73
134
Oklahoma 
64
-6½
Maryland
97
168
Kansas
88 
-1½