NCAA Tournament odds: March Madness betting lines have logjam at the top

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Some team will cut down the nets on April 3 to celebrate winning the NCAA Tournament, but at this juncture oddsmakers are just as on the fence as the experts about who’s capable of doing so.

Two weeks out from March Madness, the Duke Blue Devils, Gonzaga Bulldogs and Kansas Jayhawks are listed at +1100, +800, and +700, respectively, on the odds to win the NCAA Tournament at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The top of the board also see two legacy programs, the North Carolina Tar Heels and UCLA Bruins, each listed at +600, while the defending national champion Villanova Wildcats are listed at +1000.

None of the above even seem like a mortal lock for the Final Four, which will be held in Glendale, Arizona on the first weekend of April. Gonzaga hails from the mid-major West Coast Conference, while Duke, which takes on the Tar Heels Heels on Saturday as road underdogs, has a discomfiting tendency to lose its focus late in games. Kansas’ issues with limiting opponents’ looks at three-pointers makes it vulnerable to a hot-shooting team.

North Carolina has an inside track on a No. 1 seed, though, and their stumbles on the road might not matter so much in a string of neutral-site games. Given their soft schedule and reliance on a freshman floor leader, Lonzo Ball, UCLA might be overhyped. Arguably the grittiest, more tournament-ready team coming out of the Pac-12 is probably the Oregon Ducks (+1200) with their leaders Dylan Ennis and Dillon Brooks.

The ACC could have as many as 10 teams in the field of 68. While UNC and Duke have the pedigree and the titles, both teams’ popularity will hurt their odds. The Virginia Cavaliers (+2000) defend as well as almost anyone in the country and should be a tough out in the postseason. For similar reasons, the Baylor Bears (+2800) are being highly touted for a breakthrough in March.

The Louisville Cardinals (+1600) of coach Rick Pitino have hit a wall of late,losing three recent ACC games. Whether they can regain their edge over the next few weeks remains to be seen.

As much as parity is the buzzword in college basketball, anyone trying to pick a champion this early should remember that pedigree might still count for something at the end. There hasn’t been a first-time champion since 2006, when the Florida Gators won the first of back-to-back titles. In the last 20 seasons, there have been only four other first-time winners – the 1997 Arizona Wildcats, 1999 Connecticut Huskies, 2002 Maryland Terrapins and ’03 Syracuse Orange. That ’99 UConn team was the only one to do so in the team’s first trip to the Final Four.

Of the highest 20 teams on the board, Gonzaga is the only one who has never made it to the final weekend.

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.