Saturday, April 01, 2017

Final Four Picking The Lines

After having so many strong teams that just didn't quite have the breaks go their way, it's nice to see Gonzaga finally break through and make a Final Four. They've had to deal with "Well who did they beat, anyway?" "They'd struggle to go .500 in a real conference" garbage every season.

NCAA Tournament results, of course, prove nothing. South Carolina made the Final Four, too, and they barely even deserved to make the NCAA Tournament at all. But Gonzaga was #1 in Pomeroy for a reason, and their ungodly +0.37 PPP advantage in WCC play was impressive for a reason. Anything can happen in a small sample size, and if Gonzaga had fallen in the Second Round to Northwestern then this still would have been a great Gonzaga team, but it was inevitable that one of these years they'd finally have the lucky breaks fall in their direction.

Gonzaga is, unsurprisingly, the gambling favorite to win the NCAA Tournament right now. Even if you don't believe in the advanced computer ratings which have Gonzaga is the best team in the Final Four, the fact is that Gonzaga has a significantly softer Final Four opponent than North Carolina does. Mark Few might never have a better chance to win a national title than he does right now.

Sunday ATS: 1-1-0
2017 Tournament ATS: 32-29-3 (52%)
2016 Tournament ATS: 36-30-1 (55%)
2010-15 ATS: 220-167-11 (57%)

Gonzaga (-7) over South Carolina: South Carolina has to regress to the mean at some point right? Right?... Anyway, if there's one area of South Carolina's run that has been most surprising it has been their offensive explosion, pouring in 1.17 PPP against a difficult NCAA Tournament schedule after scoring just 1.00 PPP in SEC play. This has been due to a combination of factors, including both offensive rebounding and a high free throw rate. Gonzaga certainly has the size and skill to limit those two areas, though of course they have to score, too. The test for South Carolina will be how their post defense, which isn't particularly deep, handles Gonzaga's massive front line. Przemek Karnowski could have a monster game.

North Carolina (-5) over Oregon: This is a big Vegas spread, but understandable. It's become clear that the Chris Boucher injury isn't going to sink Oregon (he had lost his role in the starting lineup and seen his minutes decline even before getting hurt), but Oregon's front line has a major match-up problem here. North Carolina's offense is heavily dependent on offensive rebounding, having led the nation in offensive rebounding percentage while finishing just 10th in ACC play in both 3P% and eFG% shooting. Oregon finished just 9th in the Pac-12 in defensive rebounding percentage. That said, Oregon has a big outside shooting advantage, having hit 38% of their three-pointers this season, including 43% during their NCAA Tournament run. North Carolina was dead last in the ACC in defensive 3PA/FGA ratio. So if Oregon wins, it'll be because they got hot behind the arc. It's a realistic scenario, but not one I'm willing to bet on.

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