Editor's note: Since March 28, Brian Edwards is on an 11-3 run in college hoops for 8.92 units of profit. Going back further, Brian owns a 57-35 record (62%, +1972) since Feb. 21. Don't miss out on tonight's pick package.
For the first time since 2007, the Final Four returns to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta this weekend. Louisville is the only team that was in New Orleans last year, losing to eventual champ Kentucky in the semifinals.
Michigan is back for the first time since 1993, joining Syracuse which last won four NCAA Tournament games on its way to the 2003 title. Wichita St. is the sleeper squad, becoming the first No. 9 seed to ever make the Final Four (Boston College was the only other previous #9 to make a regional final, losing in 1994 to Florida in Miami after Craig Brown hit three straight corner 3’s late in the second half.).
Rick Pitino is making his seventh career Final Four appearance, joining North Carolina’s Roy Williams for the fourth most in NCAA history. Only John Wooden (12), Mike Krzyzewski (11) and Dean Smith (10) have more.
This is Pitino’s third Louisville team in the Final Four. The Cardinals are looking for their first national championship since beating Duke in the 1986 finals behind the play of freshman center Pervis ‘Never Nervous’ Ellison.
U of L will have to go through Wichita St. to get to Monday night.
As of Friday morning, most betting shops had Louisville (33-5 straight up, 23-15 against the spread) as a 10.5-point favorite with the total in the 132-133 range. Gamblers can take the Shockers to win outright for a +500 return (risk $100 to win $500).
Louisville hasn’t tasted defeat since losing at Notre Dame in five overtimes on Feb. 9. The Cardinals have taken the money in 10 of their last 11 games, including last Sunday’s 85-63 win over Duke as 3.5-point favorites at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Russ Smith scored a game-high 23 points against the Blue Devils. The junior is a product of Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, the same program that produced Ga. Tech’s legendary guard Kenny Anderson. Smith is averaging a team-high 18.9 points per game, but he’s scoring more in the Tournament with a 25.0 PPG average.
Peyton Siva scored 16 points and dished out four assists vs. Duke. Gorgui Dieng, who missed a loss to the Blue Devils back in November due to an injury, produced 14 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Late in the first half of the win over Duke, U of L had to deal with major adversity. Kevin Ware suffered a compound fracture of his leg right in front of his team’s bench after landing awkwardly after contesting a Duke shooter at the 3-point line.
The grotesque injury left players on both teams rattled and emotional. However, before leaving the court on a stretcher, Ware directed his team to forget about him and repeatedly said, ‘win this game.’
Ware’s teammates didn’t’ let him down. His surgery went well and he was given clearance to travel with the team to Atlanta.
Wichita St. (30-8 SU, 19-14-2 ATS) is back in the national semifinals for the first time since 1965, becoming the first Missouri Valley Conference representative at the Final Four since Larry Bird led Indiana St. to the finals in 1979.
Since losing a heartbreaker to Creighton in the MVC Tournament finals, Gregg Marshall’s team has covered the number in all four NCAA Tournament wins over Pitt (73-55), Gonzaga (76-70), LaSalle (72-58) and Ohio St.
Wichita St. beat the Buckeyes 70-66 in last Saturday’s West Region finals at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Shockers won outright as five-point underdogs, hooking up money-line backers with a payout in the +190 range. The 136 combined points jumped ‘over’ the 129-point total.
Malcolm Armstrong led four double-figure scorers with 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Fred Van Fleet and Cleanthony Early added 12 points apiece.
In the win over LaSalle, Armstrong was the catalyst with a game-high 18 points to go with six rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals. Carl Hall added 16 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.
Wichita St. has been an underdog seven times, compiling a 5-2 record both SU and ATS. The Shockers won outright as ‘dogs at VCU and at Illinois St. during the regular season before winning three NCAA games as puppies.
U of L has posted a 15-8 spread record in 23 games as a double-digit ‘chalk.’
The ‘over’ has hit in seven consecutive games for Louisville, improving to 18-14 overall. The Cardinals have had 17 games with totals in the 130s and the ‘over’ has hit at an 11-6 clip in those contests.
The ‘under’ is 15-14 overall for Wichita St., but the ‘over’ is on a 6-2 run in its last eight games.
Sportsbook.ag has posted a plethora of proposition wagers. For example, gamblers can bet on the players to score the first points of the game. Smith is the +400 favorite, followed by Early (+550), Hall (+600), Dieng (+600), Siva (+650) and Armstead (+700).
For first-half wagers, Louisville is a six-point favorite with a total of 61.
Tip-off from the Ga. Dome is scheduled for 6:09 p.m. Eastern on CBS.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--Wichita St. has held all four of its NCAA Tournament foes to shooting percentages of 35.7% or worse. The Shockers allowed Ohio St. to make just 5-of-25 shots from 3-point range.
--William Hill has released lines for the four potential national title game matchups: Louisville -5 vs. Michigan, U of L -4.5 vs. Syracuse, Michigan -5 vs. Wichita St. and 'Cuse -4.5 vs. Wichita St.
--Sportsbook.ag has Louisville as the -150 ‘chalk’ on the futures board (risk $150 to win $100). Michigan has +325 odds (risk $100 to win $325), followed by Syracuse (+400) and Wichita St. (12/1).
--Sportsbook has Russ Smith as the -125 favorite to win Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors. The next-shortest odds belong to Peyton Siva and Trey Burke (+300), followed by C.J. Fair (+800), Gorgui Dieng (+800), Tim Hardaway Jr. (10/1), Michael Carter-Williams (12/1,), Nik Stauskas (15/1), Brandon Triche (15/1) and Cleanthony Early (25/1).
--On Thursday afternoon, Darren Heitner of Forbes reported that Michigan’s Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. will be turning pro next week.
--Iowa’s incredible 10-0 ATS run came to a halt Thursday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Baylor won its first NIT Championship in school history by spanking the Hawkeyes 74-54 as a 2.5-point underdog. Pierre Jackson was the catalyst with 17 points and 10 assists for the Bears. Jackson finished his stellar collegiate career with a fourth straight double-double. Baylor hooked up money-line supporters with a +125 return.
Brian Edwards can be reached at email@example.com.
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