I’m going to weigh in tomorrow with in-game analysis during both games. Until then, I just wanted to share a couple of interesting things that have popped up today and provide us with more to think about as we try to make winning picks on the big games:
Kansas loses a player – The Jayhawks become the second team to have to cope with the loss of a minute-eating reserve. Unlike Memphis, though, this was not for disciplinary reasons. In a bizarre incident, guard Rodrick Stewart broke his kneecap in an open practice today. He was mugging for the crowd by doing a big slam and he obviously landed very badly. Stewart, a senior, added just 2.8 points per game, but was good for 11.6 minutes. Like the Allen situation with Memphis situation, I’m not too worried about this one – teams are very likely to shorten their bench and rely more heavily on their starters in a game that is so crucial as this. That’s especially the case when the season ends with a loss, and is almost over with a win, so there is no future to save your players for.
The ‘experts’ weigh in – It is time for the paid geniuses to make their wise picks. There is an interesting contrast between two of the major media outlets. SI.com asked five of their writers who would win. Four came up with UCLA as champions, with three having them beat North Carolina in the final. The fourth has North Carolina beating Memphis. ESPN is a bit different. Three of their five experts has Memphis beating UCLA, though none have Memphis winning it all. Two of them have Kansas winning it all, while UCLA and North Carolina get the nod once. The boldest pick is that he team that is playing best in the final will win it. That’s how you really go out on a limb. If you buy into these expert opinions at all then you have to think that UCLA presents pretty good value in their Saturday game since they are underdogs. The SI writers might want to make a futures bet, too – the Bruins are the longest shots on the board to win it all at 16/5 according to Bodog. Kansas is 3/1, Memphis is 27/10, and North Carolina is fairly significantly favored at 8/5.
The books like their number in the North Carolina game – Almost 80 percent of the bets made so far have been on the Tar Heels, yet the number is still at the -3 that it opened at in most places. That either means that the smart money is hitting Kansas hard enough to balance things out, or that the books are willing to expose themselves at this number. Memphis has had about two thirds of the action, and the line has moved from -1 to -2, so that one is acting more as expected.