Villanova vs Kansas Betting Odds
This Final Four is the Blue Bloodiest we’ve seen in years. Villanova and Kansas represent half of this super-blue affair in New Orleans.
Kansas is the final No. 1 seed remaining after the other three were knocked out before the Elite Eight. As a result, the Jayhawks are favorites at many sportsbooks to cut down the nets next Monday.
Meanwhile, Villanova continues to truck along, operating with computer-like efficiency. Unfortunately, the Wildcats are short one of their best players, as Justin Moore tore his Achilles last weekend.
I’ve read that Moore is worth about a point to the spread, so Villanova is likely to close as a 4.5-point underdog in this neutral-court battle. The total is hanging around 133.
Where does the value lie?
Villanova Wildcats Odds
Moore is so critical to what the Wildcats do. Not only is he the second-leading scorer (14.8 points per game), he’s also the third-best defender (.705 points per possession allowed as primary defender). The two defenders who grade out better play a combined 18.1 minutes per game (Jordan Longino, Bryan Antoine).
So, how do the Wildcats adjust?
Moore is iron-man, akin to Cal Ripken Jr. for the Orioles. In three years with the Wildcats, he’s missed just one game.
That was against Connecticut earlier this season. The Wildcats pulled out a nine-point victory on the back of … Eric Dixon?
Dixon put up 24 points on 10-for-14 shooting from 2-point range in that game. He was unstoppable on the interior in that game.
But it makes sense. The Wildcats’ primary form of creating offense is the pick-and-roll, which they run over and over until they find an open 3-point shooter.
Not only is Dixon the top roll-man in the pick-and-roll, but he’s a big part of the Wildcats’ third set: The post-up.
Villanova posts up about 11% of the time, which is top-50 nationally. Dixon gets about 40% of those opportunities, the most on the team. But Moore gets 24% of those opportunities, which is second-most on the team.
Dixon is going to get the extra volume, and I think he’s up for the challenge.
It’ll be hard to see how the Wildcats adjust defensively, but it’ll be uber-important to match up with the Jayhawk shotmakers.
Kansas Jayhawks Odds
Because at its core, Kansas is a collection of shot makers.
The Jayhawks aren’t uber-efficient in offensive sets, specifically ball-screen sets. But it has several deadly offensive weapons that can put the ball in the bucket.
It starts with Ochai Agbaji, whose 19 points per game this season put him in the National Player of the Year conversation. He’s deadly attacking the rim (72 FG% at the rim) and from deep (39 3P%). He’s the Jayhawks’ highest usage player, but he still scores with efficiency.
Image credit: CBB Analytics
Christian Braun is also an underrated wing player, scoring a cool 14.3 points per game while also shooting nearly 40% from deep. He also does the little things, like grabbing 6.5 rebounds and dropping 2.7 assists per game.
Don’t forget the frontcourt tandem of Jalen Wilson and David McCormack, as the two represent one of the best post-up and offensive rebounding combinations in the nation. Kansas is top-40 nationally in offensive rebounding rate and post-up efficiency.
Last but not least, there’s Midwest Region Most Outstanding Player Remy Martin. After transferring from Arizona State, Martin has had an unpredictable year filled with injuries and other ailments. But he’s finally found his stroke in this tournament.
Remy Martin: 11 points
All Providence scorers: 8 points
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 26, 2022
In his four tournament games, he’s dropped a combined 67 points (16.8 per game) while earning KenPom game MVP honors in three of them. He’s so locked in right now that the bucket looks ten times as large.
More important, however, is that the Jayhawk defense is massively underrated. Kansas finished 18th in defensive efficiency this season but was solid across the board. The Jayhawks were top-40 nationally in defending ball screens, catch-and-shoot 3s, midrange shots, and post-up opportunities.
Villanova vs Kansas Prediction and Pick
My pick: Eric Dixon over 8.5 points (+110 at DraftKings)
I don’t see much value on a side in this game. The market is so efficient by the time the Final Four comes along, that it’s hard to make a bet with much confidence.
If I had to lean towards a bet in this game, I like the first half under.
However, why not look towards a player prop?
As I wrote above, Dixon is going to get plenty of volume in this game. The Wildcats will run a shorter rotation and Dixon will get an extra three-to-five minutes of playing time. Moreover, he’ll pick up extra post-up and pick-and-roll opportunities with Moore out.
In the end, he’ll get the opportunities needed to go over this line. Besides, he already averages 9.1 points per game and we’re getting this line at plus-money, which gives us some value over the implied line.
Let’s not forget that Dixon shoots over 50% from 3, although on limited attempts. If he hits even one, we’re that much closer to the nine points we need.
After seeing how he performed without Moore against Connecticut, I’m willing to back Dixon one more time. I’ll play this at 8.5 or 9 as long as we’re getting plus-money.