In Friday's post, it turns out I went a painful 0-2 on my Final Four semifinal selections, with Kentucky missing by half a point against Louisville (in a game where, in ultra-shady fashion, Louisville folded up their tents down eight with 30 seconds to go), and Ohio State choking away a double-digit lead in the second half against Kansas.
If you subscribe to the theory that "the trend is your friend," then skip the rest of this post and pay no attention to the man typing these words. If you subscribe to the theory that balance can be restored and that I am "due," then onward, degenerate soldier!
It's practically gambling law that for big events like this, not only must you take the side and the total, but you have to sprinkle in a handful of proposition wagers as well. (In fact, I will promise my vote to the presidential candidate that makes this into actual law.)
So let's lay the groundwork by giving you my prediction for tonight's game. First, before getting into the X's and O's, let me say that after last year's lackluster marquee value for the Final Four here in Houston, this year's Final Four and especially this title game are a welcome change.
After a Final Four last year that lived down to its level of anti-hype (Remember Butler shooting 18.8 percent in the title game? I'm still trying to block it out), this year we have a team whose founder actually invented basketball against a school who acts like they invented it. Two coaches who are at the top of their game, one seeking redemption from a catastrophic 2008 title game loss to the other. Two first team All Americans up front who might go first and second in June's NBA draft. Two teams that like to get out and run, and run, and run some more. (Hunch: There will be no 18.8 percent shooting in this matchup.)
Much will be made of the matchup of each team's big man (Hell, I've already mentioned it in the previous paragraph), but I expect this game to be a track meet. Since both teams are stout inside blocking shots (Kentucky is the most prolific shotblocking team in the history of the game, and Kansas has a top shotblocker in center Jeff Withey), don't expect much from the half-court game inside the arc. I expect both teams to bomb away from downtown and run at every opportunity, a somewhat self-fulfilling prophecy if shots aren't dropping, what with long rebounds and all.
The X-factor to me isn't a specific player, but how close the game is down the stretch. Kentucky hasn't been tested in a really close, possession-by-possession game down the stretch in this tournament. If anything, they've had trouble putting teams away despite some double-digit leads throughout these games.
Kansas, on the other hand, has had to survive close games with Purdue, North Carolina State, North Carolina and Ohio State. They've had to come from behind and make plays at the end of games to come away with wins. In short, if this game is a one-possession game either way down the stretch, I trust Kansas more to make the correct play than I do Kentucky.
And I think Kansas can keep it close. They'll need Kentucky to have an uncharacteristically bad night from three-point range and they'll need Terrence Jones to do his disappearing act and might even need a little foul trouble along the way, but this is entirely doable for Kansas.
I honestly have very little feel for who is going to win this game, but I think I know what kind of game will be played. Fast, high scoring, fun.
So what the hell, let's roll the dice.
Kansas 79, Kentucky 77
TOTAL 3-POINT FIELD GOALS MADE, BOTH TEAMS -- Over 10 1/2 (-150) As I mentioned earlier, I think half-court baskets will be tough to come by, so shooting well from deep will be imperative for both teams. I think in a game with a higher than usual number of possessions (and, in turn, shots), overs on these type of team-compilation stats are as safe as you can get. KENTUCKY, FREE THROWS MADE -- Over 17 1/2 (-120) If this game plays like the Wildcats games with Indiana or Baylor, this could get there easily.
ANTHONY DAVIS, TOTAL BLOCKED SHOTS -- Under 4 1/2 (-130) The last image we have of Anthony Davis is of him swatting or altering everything Louisville brought within six feet of the rim. Jared Sullinger would have been a dream matchup for the OVER on this wager as he is not afraid to try and muscle the ball (unsuccessfully) through the hands of shotblockers. I think the pace of this game will be slightly less "blocked shot" friendly.
MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST, TOTAL POINTS -- Over 13 1/2 (-110) MKG got in foul trouble early against Louisville and wound up only playing 23 minutes and getting nine points, most of them in garbage time. The two games in this tournament where MKG has looked like a top five pick in the draft are Indiana and Baylor, which, again, are two games that I think will look a lot like this one tonight. I think he gets to 13 1/2, and I think he does it easily.
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