North Carolina, Villanova among conference tournament betting favorites

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The college basketball postseason is in full effect this week with conference championship tournaments, which are always fun for bettors who have to gauge which likely top seeds for March Madness are motivated to keep bragging rights over their fiercest rivals.

With a multifaceted attack led by conference player of the year Justin Jackson, the North Carolina Tar Heels are the +190 betting favorite on the ACC champion futures board, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Tar Heels, who are one of the toughest teams around the rim with the likes of center Kennedy Meeks and power forward Isaiah Hicks supporting Jackson, have won seven of their last nine games.

The top of the ACC board includes the Louisville Cardinals (+400), Virginia Cavaliers (+400), Duke Blue Devils (+450) and Florida State Seminoles (+650). Florida State, led by Xavier Rathan-Mayes, is the No. 2 seed and has the easiest path to the final. It’s always possible that Louisville or Duke, who are the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds respectively, could beat the Heels in the semifinal only to lose in the final. Beating three nationally ranked opponents in as many days is a tall task.

The defending national champion Villanova Wildcats (-130) are the only better than even-money favorite in a major conference, as they are 27-3 on the season and expected to roll through the Big East tournament. However, the Butler Bulldogs (+450) are responsible for two of Villanova’s three losses this season and the move to have star scorer Kelan Martin become the sixth man seems to have re-energized their lineup at a good time of year.

Without Maurice Watson Jr., who tore his ACL and was then suspended after being charged with first-degree sexual assault, the Creighton Bluejays (+550) are a team to avoid.

The Big Ten Tournament odds are topped by the Purdue Boilermakers (+200) for exactly one reason: center Caleb Swanigan is a beastly big man, a 20-and-10 threat on any given night.  In what’s been a down year for the conference’s high-profile teams, the Wisconsin Badgers (+260) are high on the board thanks to their reputation but the roster is thin beyond stars such as Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig.

Anyone doubting Purdue, or wanting a better price, should consider the Minnesota Golden Gophers (+750), whose arsenal of Nate Mason, Dupree McBrayer and Jordan Murphy can outscore a lot of teams.

The Big 12 tournament is clearly a three-team derby, with the Kansas Jayhawks (+145) the chalk pick thanks in large part to the stability of their guards Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham.

The West Virginia Mountaineers (+190) have a better price, and with one of the country’s best defenses, led by point guard Jevon Carter, they could cause Kansas difficulty if they meet. Meanwhile, the Baylor Bears (+475) have been a .500 team over the past month and might have peaked too soon.

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.