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College Notebook

Bettors Leaning Toward All-Big East National Title Game

Perhaps it's fitting that the Big East has two of the four teams in this weekend's Final Four in Atlanta as it's the final season of the Big East as we know it. The Catholic 7 will take the name and conference tournament rights in Madison Square Garden to form their own 10-team basketball-only conference next year (along with Butler, Creighton and Xavier).

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Both Big East teams in the Final Four, Syracuse and Louisville, will be ACC members by 2014. The Orange are gone in July, and the only reason the Cardinals aren't also leaving in a few months is that the Big East wouldn't let them because of football scheduling issues. The "old" Big East will be called the American Athletic Conference starting next season.

So perhaps it would also be fitting if Louisville and Syracuse face off Monday night in the Georgia Dome for the national championship. A conference getting two teams in the Final Four hasn't been a rarity since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 – the year the Big East sent a record three teams to the Final Four. This will be the 19th time it has happened since then.

However, getting two teams from the same conference in the national title game is rare. It happened in the '85 season when Villanova beat Georgetown in all-Big East affair in what would become one of college basketball's biggest upsets, and again three years later when Danny Manning's Kansas team surprised Big Eight foe Oklahoma.

Bettors at Bovada are leaning toward an all-Big East final on Monday night.

History Not In Shockers' Favor

No. 1 overall seed Louisville is an 11-point favorite against No. 9 Wichita State in Saturday's first game. The Shockers are the second No. 9 seed to reach the national semifinals and fifth team seeded No. 9 or higher to do so.

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The previous four didn't fare well. In 1979, No. 9 Pennsylvania (the last Ivy League team to reach the Final Four) was crushed by Magic Johnson's Michigan State Spartans 101-67; Johnson would lead Sparty to the national title over Larry Bird's Indiana State team. In 1986, No. 11 LSU was beaten 88-77 by Louisville, and the Cardinals would then beat Duke for the national championship. In 2006, No. 11 George Mason was handled 73-58 by Florida, and the Gators cut down the nets two days later by beating UCLA. Finally, two years ago No. 11 VCU lost 70-62 to Butler. The Bulldogs lost in the finals to UConn.

Louisville is taking a heavy lean for Saturday's game, with more than 65% of the action on the Cardinals. U of L opened the NCAA Tournament as the 5/1 co-favorite and is now 2/3. They are taking the most handle of the remaining teams on the futures. Wichita State is 12/1 to win the national title and is taking the least amount of action.

Big Ten Drought

In the other semifinal, Michigan is a two-point favorite over Syracuse, and the Orange are taking about 55% of the action. SU coach Jim Boeheim has the numbers in his favor as he is 3-0 in three previous Final Four games and 9-0 in his coaching career against Michigan's John Beilein. The Wolverines are looking to become the first Big Ten team to win the title since Michigan State in 2000. The last team from the conference to reach the finals was the Spartans in 2009.

UM is 3/1 to cut down the nets and Syracuse 17/4. The book isn't exposed on either. A finals matchup of Louisville-Syracuse at 7/5 is taking the most action overall, while Syracuse-Wichita State at 10/1 is the least. Louisville-Michigan is the favorite at 10/11.

Kentucky Likely to Open as 2013-14 Favorite

It's hard to get a handle on where college teams will be for next season until the deadline for players to declare for the NBA draft passes on April 28. As of now, all signs point to Kentucky as opening as the championship favorite, as they did this year at Bovada.

The Wildcats had one of the nation's best freshman classes this season but vastly underachieved and lost in the first round of the NIT. Once the best of those freshmen, center Nerlens Noel, went down with a season-ending ACL injury the Cats weren't the same. Noel is expected to go pro and fellow freshman Archie Goodwin already has declared. However, Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress will return to Lexington, as will sophomore Kyle Wiltjer.

What makes Kentucky potentially scary good next season is that coach John Calipari is bringing in a recruiting class that is considered potentially the best ever – even better than Michigan's famed Fab Five – with a record six McDonald's All-Americans. In addition, the nation's top overall recruit, Andrew Wiggins, has Kentucky on his short list of finalists. Thus the 2013-14 Cats could have potentially 10 future first-round NBA draft picks.

The only team that might challenge UK as the early odds-on favorite would be Indiana, but that's if stars Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo return to school. Both are expected to leave for the NBA. Michigan also could be in the mix if national player of the year favorite Trey Burke returns, but that's highly unlikely. Louisville is losing senior Peyton Siva and possibly Final Four MOP favorite Russ Smith and Big East Defensive Player of the Year Gorgui Dieng.

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