Duke the Consensus Favorite Now as March Madness Reaches the Final Four

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The Caesars Superdome is set to host some college basketball royalty next weekend. On Sunday, blueblood programs North Carolina and Kansas punched their tickets to the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four, joining fellow top-tier teams Duke and Villanova, both of which made their reservations with wins on Saturday night.

Duke basketball
Duke basketball
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski finishes cutting down the net after his Blue Devils beat Arkansas Saturday in the West Regional final in San Francisco. The Blue Devils are the favorites to win the NCAA men’s basketball title next week in New Orleans. (Image: Duke Athletics)

Just how elite of a grouping are we talking about here for the pinnacle of March Madness? The four teams have combined to accumulate more than 8,650 wins and 17 national titles. Kansas, Duke, and UNC rank among the top-four programs in all-time wins, and Villanova – a top 20 team in all-time victories – has won two of its three titles since 2016.

Moments after North Carolina denied St. Peter’s a Cinderella run to the national semifinals on Sunday evening, oddsmakers released their point spreads and money lines for next Saturday’s games in New Orleans.

Jayhawks are Chalk Against Nova

The Kansas Jayhawks, the only No. 1 seed from any regional to survive, will play the Villanova Wildcats, like Duke a No. 2 seed, in the first game, scheduled for 6:09 pm ET. Oddsmakers at Caesars, DraftKings, FanDuel, and PointsBet made KU a four-point favorite over Nova, while BetMGM gave the Wildcats an additional half-point.

Straight-up moneyline odds, too, are fairly similar. BetMGM, Caesars, and PointsBet all have it -190 (meaning a $190 bet would net a $100 profit) for Kansas and +160 (a $100 bet nets a $160 profit) for Villanova. DraftKings has it at +155/-180, and FanDuel is +158/-192.

The Jayhawks got to the Final Four thanks to what might have been their best half of the season. They trailed Miami by six at halftime before turning it around in the second half thanks to great shooting and great defense. KU shot 59.3% (16 of 27) in the second half and held the Hurricanes to just 6-of-28 shooting (21.4%) and 0-of-13 from beyond the 3-point arc in the 76-50 win in Chicago.

Kansas coach Bill Self said after the win that he thought getting to the Final Four was a possibility for his team.

“But I’ve also thought all along that the margin for error wasn’t such where we could get loose and have it be a probability,” Self said. “So… I think these guys have stayed focused and eliminated distractions for the most part all year long, and they do play for each other. So, when we play the way that I think that we’re capable of playing. I have total faith that we can play very well.”

Fierce Rivals Meet in Final Four

The Duke Blue Devils and the eighth-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels, fierce rivals from the ACC whose schools are just 10 miles apart, face off in the nightcap, will play a half-hour after KU and Nova wrap up. Beyond the rivalry, the game will have more attention paid to it as it could be the final game for legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will retire at the end of the season.

But UNC coach Hubert Davis said after his team’s win in the Elite Eight Sunday that he has not even thought about next week’s game.

The only thing on my mind is celebrating with the rest of the players on what just happened today,” Davis said. “Next week will be next week, and we’ll deal with that next week. But right now, I don’t want to think about next week and lose the moment of today. There’s so much joy and there’s so much happiness and thankfulness and appreciation. I want to stay there.”

Despite the Heels sweeping the Blue Devils in both regular-season games, including a 28-point beatdown at Duke a month ago, oddsmakers at the major national sportsbooks have made Coach K’s squad a 4.5-point favorite.

Similar to Kansas-Villanova, oddsmakers are also close on the moneyline in the Duke-UNC game. Duke’s odds straight-up range from -195 at DraftKings to -210 at PointsBet, while the Tar Heels range from +165 at DraftKings and BetMGM to +175 at PointsBet.

Duke the Consensus Favorite

Saturday’s winners will square off in the Superdome that following Monday night for the national championship.

Duke entered Sunday as the favorite to win the title, and nothing UNC nor Kansas did changed oddsmakers’ opinions.

The Blue Devils entered the tournament at +1700 at FanDuel and were that sportsbook’s biggest liability as of March 16. Now, FanDuel offers them at +160, the same at PointsBet. DraftKings and BetMGM both post +155 odds for Coach K going out a winner, while Caesars, which had Duke at +1400 before the tourney, now has them at +150.

Kansas is the consensus second choice as its odds range from +180 at FanDuel and PointsBet to +190 at Caesars. The Jayhawks were +1100 at FanDuel and +900 at Caesars.

If the favorites win Saturday, then Monday’s title game would mean FanDuel has a big payoff to one bettor. Before the tournament, two New Jersey gamblers made megawagers. One bet $300,000 on Duke at those 17-1 odds, while another put $200,000 on Kansas at 11-1.

Villanova, a +2000 choice at FanDuel nearly two weeks ago, now goes between +400 at BetMGM and +475 at PointsBet.

North Carolina goes for +550 at PointsBet and +500 at BetMGM, Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel. Before the tournament, the Heels were considered massive longshots. Caesars offered UNC at +10000.

The post Duke the Consensus Favorite Now as March Madness Reaches the Final Four appeared first on Casino.org.

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