User ID
Password
  Forgot User ID
or Register Today!
VegasInsider.com
Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us on Google+ VI Mobile Scores and Betting Odds
Home
NFL
NBA
NHL
MLB
NCAA FB
NCAA BK
Golf
Auto Racing
Horses
More
Betting Tools

 
Final Four Breakdown

New Sportsbook.ag customers: Make your 1st bet, get your 2nd bet free, 100%, winnings paid in cash.
Join Now

Already have an account? Click here to view new Exclusive Rewards!

Editorís Note: Antony Dinero is the No. 1 college basketball handicapper on VegasInsider.com. Donít miss out on all of his postseason picks, which include expert analysis. Click to win!

It will certainly be big, but there's nothing easy about what's about to go down in New Orleans.

Even though Kentucky was the single No. 1 seed to make the Final Four, Kansas and Ohio State went into their conference tournaments in the mix for a top line, while Louisville reigned supreme at Madison Square Garden, winning the Big East. TLC, if polled, would say there's no scrubs.

With the drinks flowing freely on nearby Bourbon street, it's fitting these Cinderella-free national semifinals can be separated into bourbon and beer brackets. That's not the only way to separate Louisville, Kentucky, Kansas and Ohio State, though. All four fan bases travel tremendously and are sure to have an intoxicating time boosting the local economy and cheering their schools, but there are 10 other ways to distinguish the Final Four field from one another in advance of Saturday's Superdome double-header.

FINAL FOUR BREAKDOWN - TOP TO BOTTOM
Factor 1 2 3 4
Talent Kentucky Wildcats
NBA scouts have drooled over John Calipari's batch of one-and-dones since catching their act in H.S. All-American games. There's no secret Anthony Davis will be the No. 1 pick and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is coveted as a sane next-level Ron Artest-type glue guy. Terence Jones is a future lottery pick, while the guards can all make you pay. They're not talking about this being an all-time team for nothing.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Jared Sullinger is a First Team All-American and certain lottery pick, while DeShaun Thomas is a skilled, versatile athlete who could become a first-rounder down the road if he keeps refining his game. Aaron Craft is an excellent athlete that brings a high IQ to the equation, while William Buford has glue-guy potential on the next level. 6-11 freshman center Amir Williams doesn't play much, but he's expected to be a force down the road.
Louisville Cardinals
Louisville has lost a few rotation players to injuries, but don't let the No. 4 seed fool you into taking it lightly. 6-foot-11 Gorgui Dieng has graduated from the project phase to the point where it would be an upset if he doesn't land in the league after another year of seasoning. Peyton Siva is a lightning-quick point guard and one of three McDonald's All-Americans on the roster, joining true freshmen Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear, who will both need to play well beyond their years to help topple Kentucky.
Kansas Jayhawks
No one has been handed anything among this group, a trait embodied best by certain lottery pick Thomas Robinson. The team's anchor has willed his way into the spotlight by developing his skills and gaining strength. Ditto for 7-footer Jeff Withey, who transferred in from Arizona once Lute Olson retired and is only now starting to live up to his prep accolades. Guards Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson are great athletes who often have to be reined in but have been at their best in these NCAAs. Still KU, lost a lot of next-level talent with the Morris twins and Josh Selby leaving for the NBA and top recruit Ben McLemore ruled ineligible.
Coaching Louisville Cardinals
Pitino has gotten the most out of a Louisville team that wasn't expected to be here. He's a master of adjustments and his track record speaks for itself. Besides winning the '96 title at Kentucky, he owns regular season and tournament titles in every conference he's coached in (Big East, SEC, C-USA, AmEast). This is his sixth Final Four appearance.
Kentucky Wildcats
Calipari owns fewer NBA victories (72) than Pitino (192) and he hasn't won it all yet, so save your hate mail, Big Blue Nation. Coach Cal is obviously a beast, getting kids to buy into his ability to make him great, coaxing them to defend or eat some bench. Compiling a 100-14 mark has had some Kentucky fans compare him to the legendary Adolph Rupp. Let him win one first, though. Like Pitino, he's won multiple championships in each of his leagues (SEC, CUSA, A10). This is his fourth Final Four appearance.
Kansas Jayhawks
Self has a national title thanks to Mario Chalmers' heroics and has excelled in the Big Ten and Big 12 since leaving Tulsa for the big time in 2000. He's certainly overachieved with this current Jayhawks team given who left for the pros, continuing to seamlessly fill Roy Williams' massive shoes.
Ohio State Buckeyes
No slouch himself, Matta is the youngest of the group. He helped build Butler as an assistant under the modern program's patriarch, Barry Collier, before finally taking over in 2000, experiencing immediate success and taking over at Xavier. He's pulled off doubles in the Horizon League, A-10 and Big Ten and owns Coach of the Year awards in each. Like Self, this is his second Final Four. Unlike Self, he came up empty in a national final.
Size Kentucky Wildcats
Davis' wingspan is 7-foot-4 or 7-foot-5, depending on who you listen to. With Kidd-Gilchrist and Jones flanking him on the front line, the Wildcats are huge. Kyle Wiltjer, who comes off the bench and offers a different look with his perimeter prowess, measures in at 6-foot-9. This is no contest.
Kansas Jayhawks
Withey and Robinson are strong in addition to big, but the depth behind them isn't plentiful, limited to 6-foot-8 Justin Wesley and Kevin Young. The Jayhawks do have bigger guards than most, led by the tallest point guard in the Final Four, Taylor.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Sullinger is about 6-foot-9 and takes up more space than most, but the Buckeyes are smaller than the Jayhawks more often than not because 6-8 Evan Ravenel has supplanted 6-10 Williams as the primary backup. Thomas, a hybrid forward, will have to continue rebounding the way he has in this tournament (8.5 rpg) to help make up the difference.
Louisville Cardinals
Keeping Dieng out of foul trouble is essential since the Cards have no alternative but to play small. Benahan, a tenacious rebounder and low-post scorer, is roughly about 6-6. Rakeem Buckles and Stephen Van Treese were both lost for the season, so Rick Pitino has no choice but to plug in inconsistent Jared Swopshire or ride his larger wings and look to create matchup problems whenever the 6-10 Dieng is unavailable.
Guard Play Kentucky Wildcats
Teague's jumper makes the difference between UK being good and great, since teams can't afford to play off him if he's in sync. His speed is a dynamic weapon, but he's still picking up the nuances of running a team. Doron Lamb and Darius Miller have made 127 3-pointers combined, helping to stretch the floor. Both could certainly be more consistent defensively.
Ohio State Buckeyes
My opinion that Craft is the top point guard left might raise some eyebrows. Sure, all three of the floor generals on the other teams might all be closer to being pros than Ohio State's sophomore, but none are better at consistently getting their teams into sets or applying defensive pressure. Buford brings loads of experience and shoots 3-pointers at a 35 percent clip, as does sophomore Lenzelle Smith, who has been playing a major role.
Kansas Jayhawks
Taylor can be a force or Kansas' worst enemy. He's a one-man fast-break, but often takes that too literally, playing out of control. Johnson has been the unsung hero of the team's current run, turning around what had been a disappointing 2012 as soon as elimination games began in the Big 12 Tournament. Over the past six games, he's averaging 15 points and shooting over 50 percent from the field. Travis Releford is an excellent defender and Conner Teahan a strong 3-point shooter, rounding out the rotation.
Louisville Cardinals
Siva, like KU's Taylor, is often boom or bust. The Cardinals are at their best when he's penetrating and making plays, but he can often be erratic or disappear. Russ Smith, x-factor deluxe, is another Cracker Jack prize. Chris Smith, J.R.'s little brother, is an elite, similarly fearless shooter. Leading scorer Kyle Kuric also has gumption, but is often accused of being too one-dimensional and camping out on the perimeter.
Closers Kentucky Wildcats
The Wildcats didn't play many close ones and in games they lost, they did experience scoring droughts. Still, but you can ideally play through whichever of the bigs have the biggest advantage. Lamb is deadly from beyond the arc (47 pct) and at the FT line (83 pct), but everyone but Jones is an above-average FT shooter.
Kansas Jayhawks
Robinson is the top closer left. He can post, draw double-teams and is also best at getting after it if someone else misfires. Taylor can certainly be the show. Johnson has hit so many big shots this March that he'll be the frontrunner to inherit the role from Taylor next year. Teahan (86 pct. FT) is someone the Jayhawks can rely on to finish off a game, but it is disconcerting that Robinson and Taylor are both sub-70 percent free-throw shooters.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Sullinger is in Robinson's category in that you can play through him, while Thomas' versatility makes him a valuable weapon if the defense forces it out of the big man's hands. On the wing, it helps to have Buford's stroke behind the 3-point line and at the FT stripe to close games, where he's a lock at over 83 percent. Craft, at 69 percent, needs to be more consistent there, as he definitely has the tools for it.
Louisville Cardinals
The Cards don't lack players whose hands you can put the ball in, so it makes sense they ride a collective approach. Siva is ideally the creative force to get the ball to the Smiths or Kuric, but there have been plenty of instances where the Ville have come up empty in situations where they need a basket. Kuric, at 81 percent, is the surest bet to put a game away at the FT line, but the Smiths and Siva are all solid, filled with intangibles that allow them to succeed when all the chips are on the table.
Depth Kentucky Wildcats
Consider Kentucky's bench short, but supremely sweet. Darius Miller is a sixth starter and the top reserve among this quartet of finalists. Wiltjer is the top big off the bench, while 6-10 Eloy Vargas is also a viable option, giving Calipari the luxury of resting Anthony Davis' knee whenever there's a window, not to mention five more hard fouls to burn. Ideally, there would be another ball-handler behind Teague, but there isn't.
Louisville Cardinals
The way Pitino tells it, he throws Russ Smith out to be a game-changer, crosses his fingers and often closes his eyes. He's an x-factor -- both ways. Swopshire is inconsistent but offers needed size, while Blackshear, who missed all but 10 games of his freshman season, hasn't gotten acclimated to the college game despite his undeniable talents. Another freshman, Kevin Ware, gets minutes when the team needs another athlete on the ball.
Kansas Jayhawks
Teahan is the veteran of the group, a leader and sharp-shooter who spreads the floor and gives the first unit added stability. Young and Wesley have done a decent job providing frontcourt depth, especially in this tournament, where their activity has been great. Freshman guard Naadir Tharpe is available to lend backcourt depth.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Everyone but Sullinger played at least 35 minutes in the Elite Eight win over Syracuse, and that was only due to foul trouble. Ravenel would be considered the sixth man, but Williams is ideally the player the Buckeyes need to step up due to his size and shot-blocking. Freshmen Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson are talented, but Buckeye fans are hoping not to have to count on their contributions to advance.
Defense Louisville Cardinals
The Cards are capable of limiting possessions and frustrating a team by making everyone of those painfully grueling. Pitino demands that every shot be contested and usually gets his way. His team also handles his mixing up defenses extremely well, showing off their diligence and high IQ. Be it zones or the man-to-man that fueled the comeback win against Florida, Louisville handles its business well, not to mention its use of a full-court press and halfcourt traps that are the envy of every team left in the field.
Kentucky Wildcats
Calipari utilizes most of his timeouts to instantly to address individual breakdowns and makes most of his substitutions to get after the guilty party. Defense is stressed with a capital D, producing the results you've seen to date thanks the Kentucky's superior length and athleticism. Davis' growth as an elite shotblocker throughout his freshman season has been the anchor, but the Wildcats are gifted on the wing and at the point of attack as well.
Kansas Jayhawks
Robinson isn't a shot-blocker, but his athleticism at the paint can certainly alter plans. The actual swatting is usually left to Withey, whose notches 3.5 per game. Releford is a superb defender, while both Taylor and Johnson can really get after you when engaged. Self also employs an effective press and changes defenses very well.
Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes have great individual defenders and are capable of putting together two championship-caliber performances, but they're the weakest of this Final Four. Craft is among the top defensive point guards in the country and Buford can bother any wing, so it might be the lack of a consistent shot-blocker that derails them. Sullinger, for all his talents, isn't a great defensive presence, while Williams has proven too raw. That might wind up being the Buckeyes' Achilles heel.
Toughest Road Louisville Cardinals
Louisville saw a Davidson team that offered no picnic in the opener and New Mexico was a beast in third round action, losing in the final minutes. The Cards were the first team to take out a No. 1 seed by ousting Michigan State and came back from an 11-point deficit in the final eight minutes against Florida.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State had no issues with Loyola (Md.), so its tournament tests started with Gonzaga, which put up a solid fight and started a trend of teams that attempted to match the Buckeyes' physicality and came up short. Big East beasts Cincinnati and Syracuse were the next victims, so there's no question Matta's team earned their way to N.O.
Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky has taken the buzzsaw to everyone by double-digits, but the road it has traveled hasn't been easy. After taking down the Hilltopppers, they survived Royce White and a second-half tie with Iowa State, broke the century mark in a revenge game against Syracuse and rolled over a long and talented Baylor squad.
Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas got the benefit of playing three double-digit seeds on the road to the Elite Eight and still struggled to get there. After taking down Detroit, they survived No. 10 Purdue and No. 11 N.C. State by three points apiece. Beating North Carolina 80-67 was impressive, but the victory's impressiveness was tempered by the absence of Tar Heels point guard Kendall Marshall.
Question Marks Kentucky Wildcats
Between Davis' knee scare from last week and the collective youth Calipari is attempting to cut the nets down with, the only top seed left also leads the field in scary variables.
Ohio State Buckeyes
There's trepidation over Sullinger's ability to stay out of foul trouble with so little behind him. Can Craft be more assertive and take advantage of his opportunities to score?
Kansas Jayhawks
Taylor is going to be the key to KU's hopes. If he's great, they have as good a chance to cut the nets down as any. If he's not, it's akin to pulling the loose thread out of the sweater. All that will be left if he turns it over or tries to do too much is watching disaster ensue.
Louisville Cardinals
Louisville loves question marks. Russ Smith has become the team poster child. The uglier a game gets, the better off this particular 'Ville squad will be. Unpredictability works them.
Gambling Scope Louisville Cardinals
Louisville is a perfect 4-0 ATS in this tournament, taking advantage of just a 5-pt spread in the opener against Davidson. Yep, that's how little oddsmakers thought of the Big East Tourney champs, who have now covered eight consecutive elimination games this season. Louisville is 22-13-1 ATS.
Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes are 3-1 ATS in the NCAAs and have covered six of eight. Only the Big Ten Tournament title loss to Michigan State and third-round win over Gonzaga failed to rake in a profit. Ohio State is 19-14-1 ATS.
Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas has been just 2-2 ATS despite getting to New Orleans. The Jayhawks have only been dogs in four games this season and are 1-2-1 in the situation they find themselves in against Ohio State. KU was a 1-point favorite when it faced Ohio State minus Sullinger on Dec. 10 and covered handily. For the season, its 17-16-1 ATS.
Kentucky Wildcats
The Wildcats are 3-1 ATS in this tournament, including a perfect run after narrowly missing a cover in the first round against Western Kentucky. Because most of its spreads are jacked up, Kentucky is a Final Four-worst 16-20-1 ATS.

 

  
corner graphic
With a VI Gold Membership, you can SAVE 10% off a Live Odds subscription, SAVE 20% off Daily Pick packages, and receive access to up to 1,000 Member Plays each month!