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UCLA, Duke, Kentucky leading latest odds to win NCAA Tournament

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Legacy programs such as the UCLA Bruins, Duke Blue Devils and Kentucky Wildcats drive interest in college basketball but don’t necessarily create value for futures-focused bettors.

Two months away from March Madness, UCLA, Duke and Kentucky are 1-2-3 on the 2017 NCAA Tournament champion futures board at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com at +500, +525 and +550, respectively, on those college basketball odds.

While the Bruins have not been the last team standing cutting down the nets in celebration since 1995, point guard Lonzo Ball and power forward T.J. Leaf have furnished the Pac-12 powerhouse with one of the most potent offenses in the league.

Duke’s odds are likely to slip soon after recent losses to Louisville and Florida State. One should keep in mind how much instability the Blue Devils are contending with – first injuries in the frontcourt to freshmen Marques Bolden, Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum and now the current absense of coach Mike Krzyzewski, who is  recuperating from facial surgery. Duke should still be a force by March.

Kentucky, meanwhile, is 15-2 straight-up and 11-6 against the spread behind the freshman guard combo of De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk. The Wildcats have also been one of the best offensive teams in the country while playing a challenging first-half schedule.

The defending champion Villanova Wildcats, reigning runners-up North Carolina Tar Heels and Kansas Jayhawks are each listed at +1200. It’s been exactly 10 seasons since a team repeated and Villanova, with coach Jay Wright’s ability to temper the pace of games and seasoned holdovers such as SF Kris Jenkins and SG Josh Hart, could be tough in the tournament.

The top-ranked Baylor Bears are still well down the board at +1400, suggesting oddsmakers are dubious about their staying power. But coach Scott Drew preaches inside-the-opponent’s-shirt defense, and has taken a team as far as the Elite Eight (in 2010).

Baylor’s devotion to playing zone defense and physical presence with C Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. and PF Johnathan Motley could make them hard to prepare for in a single-elimination tournament, not unlike the Syracuse teams that have had surprise runs to the Final Four in recent history.

The Arizona Wildcats, at +4000, are also a darkhorse pick. Arizona – who would be the de facto home team at the Final Four if they get that far – is 16-2 SU and 9-8-1 ATS even though PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright has been limited by a high ankle sprain. Arizona also has freshmen catalysts aplenty who could break out in March, including smooth-shooting Finnish big man Lauri Markkanen. The Final Four takes place on April 1 and 3 in Glendale, Arizona.

Warriors seeking Game 3 victory at Cleveland as road betting favorites

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Golden State Warriors backers are hoping the third time will be the charm when it comes to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

As the best-of-seven series resumes near the banks of Lake Erie, Kevin Durant and the Warriors are listed as 3.5-point favorites against the Cavaliers with a 226-point total in their NBA Finals matchup on Wednesday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

In each of their two previous playoff matchups, Cleveland won Game 3 on its home floor at Quicken Loans Arena. Of course, those Warriors had neither Durant nor a record of 29-1 straight-up and 21-7-2 against the spread in their last 30 games (according to the OddsShark NBA Database). Nor were they threatening to go undefeated in the playoffs.

Golden State is 9-11 SU and 7-12-1 ATS in its last 20 road games when it was favored by 3.5 or fewer points, but apart from some turnover issues they have dictated terms to the Cavaliers. Cleveland has yet to find a defensive matchup for Durant (38 and 33 points in the first two games), while SG Klay Thompson went 8-for-12 from the floor in Game 2 on Sunday.

The Warriors’ turnovers (40) in the first two games almost matched their combined winning margin (41 points). It’s scary to think what Golden State, which is 5-0 ATS in their last five road games, would do if they cut their turnovers down to about 10 per game.

Cleveland, which is 16-4 SU and 12-8 ATS in its last 20 home playoff games, needs much more than characteristic superstar performances from SF LeBron James and PG Kyrie Irving to get back into the series. Members of the supporting cast such as PG J.R. Smith, PF Channing Frye (a solid three-point shooter) and physical PF Tristan Thompson will need to step up their contributions.

The Cavaliers shot 34.5 and 45 per cent in each of the first two games. That’s likely to improve now that the three-point threats such as Frye and Kevin Love are in familiar surroundings, but they would have still lost Game 2 even if they had shot 50% from the floor.

The total has gone over in seven of the Warriors’ last eight road games heading into Wednesday’s Game 3 matchup. The total has also gone over in four of the Warriors’ last six road games against the Cavaliers. The total has gone over in 12 of the Cavaliers’ 20 most recent home games against Western Conference teams.

North Carolina narrow favorite against Gonzaga for NCAA Tournament championship

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Joel Berry II and the North Carolina Tar Heels, who only seem to play close games at the Final Four, are a slim betting favorite against the first-time finalist Gonzaga Bulldogs.

The Tar Heels are listed as a 1.5-point favorite against the Bulldogs with 153.5-point total in the college basketball championship game matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The teams tip off at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on Monday.

The Tar Heels are 7-2 both straight-up and against the spread on the college basketball point spreads in their last nine games as a favorite of 1.5 or fewer points. Gonzaga, though, is 15-1 SU in its last 16 games with one day off between games.

Coaches Roy Williams and Mark Few are going head-to-head for the first time since 2009, when UNC ousted the Zags in the Sweet 16 on its way to the national title. North Carolina is 0-4 ATS in its last four games after winning the previous game in a matchup, while Gonzaga is 6-0 SU and ATS in its last six games after losing the previous game in a matchup.

Gonzaga’s impressive record when it has a day of rest attests to having perhaps the deepest rotation in the country, with PG Nigel Williams-Goss as the floor leader.

Seven-foot-one Przemek Karnowski and freshman Zach Collins will be tasked with avoiding foul trouble and preventing North Carolina’s big men such as Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks from nabbing the offensive rebounds that give the Tar Heels extra scoring opportunities. How Collins, a NBA-bound freshman, responds to North Carolina’s challenge might make or break Gonzaga.

The Bulldogs are 1-5 SU in their last six games as an underdog, according to the OddsShark College Basketball Database, but those contests are spread out from the 2013-14 to 2015-16 seasons.

With North Carolina, the main question is the health of Berry, who is soldiering on with two sprained ankles. Berry clearly seemed affected during the Tar Heels’ semifinal win against Oregon and will have greater challenges against Gonzaga at each end of the court.

The Bulldogs have, in Williams-Goss, a more electric point guard and also play man-to-man defense while Oregon uses a zone. Justin Jackson, who is North Carolina’s first look on offense, is a resourceful attacker whom Gonzaga will be hard-pressed to shut down completely.

With Berry compromised, backcourt depth will be important. Gonzaga has been more impressive than North Carolina in this area during the run of the NCAA Tournament.

The total has gone under in seven of Gonzaga’s last 10 games. The total has gone under in Gonzaga’s last five games against the Atlantic Coast Conference The total has gone under in 10 of North Carolina’s last 14 games after a win. The total has also gone under in five of North Carolina’s last six games with a closing total of 153.5 points or less.