Final Four Bets: Assessing Villanova Minus Justin Moore, Duke Vs. North Carolina

Written By Eli Hershkovich on April 2, 2022 - Last Updated on April 3, 2022
Final Four Bets

We’ve reached the final two chapters of the college basketball season. As disheartening as that sounds, let’s at least try and make them profitable. Here is a breakdown of my Final Four bets, including analysis on both Kansas vs. Villanova and Duke vs. North Carolina.

Click on the odds below to place a bet, and continue the discussion in our Discord betting chat, where bettors chat about their favorite Final Four wagers. You can reference my pre-NCAA tournament power rankings as well.

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No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks vs. No. 2 Villanova Wildcats

After Kansas opened as a 3/3.5-point favorite, the betting market quickly bumped this up to a two-possession spread. Villanova will be without two-guard Justin Moore (torn Achilles tendon), yet is this move a bit of an overreaction?

Spacing Out Kansas’ Defense

Jay Wright is 4-0 against the spread versus Bill Self, and that record isn’t a “trend” to ignore. In their most recent tournament duel, the Wildcats’ perimeter-shooting barrage went 18-of-40 en route to winning a national title.

Why may that performance translate into contest? This Jayhawks perimeter defense has been due for negative regression all season. They allow the 17th-lowest 3-point clip (29.6%) despite yielding their fair share of uncontested long-range shots.

Schematically, Wright’s unit can take advantage again. Villanova tallies the 25th-highest scoring rate from behind the arc.

With that being said, Moore’s perimeter touch will undoubtedly be missed, and the Wildcats’ short-handed rotation will be even more problematic if foul trouble comes about. Moore represents their second-best distributor behind Collin Gillespie — the 2021-22 Big East Player of the Year — who’s also their primary 3-point threat.

But Villanova still presents multiple ball handlers to break down Kansas’ delicate isolation defense. Moreover, Bryan Antoine, who’s arguably the most decorated recruit in program history, is a worthy candidate to see clean looks off the bench. He hasn’t played much this season, yet don’t be surprised if Wright utilizes his shooting touch with the Wildcats’ already lacking depth.

Additionally, Villanova matched up versus a similarly-constructed UConn team without Moore on Feb. 5. Just like the Huskies, the Jayhawks’ post-up defense — anchored by the 6-foot-10 David McCormack — held a bottom-five efficiency in conference play (via ShotQuality).

Wildcats center Eric Dixon took advantage to the tune of 24 points in that duel. Expect Wright to employ an inside-out approach from the get-go, including Dixon, Jermaine Samuels and his guards on the low-block.

The Wildcats produce a top-95 efficiency in that department overall, and Dixon’s interior touch should render success against McCormack. He’s a threat to cause havoc towards their pick-and-roll coverage too.

Switching A Concern?

Should Villanova’s offense be as effective as I anticipate, it should dictate the pace (14th-slowest adjusted tempo per KenPom) while minimizing the significance of its minimal depth. Even when Kansas initiates transition opportunities, the Wildcats’ defense is tremendous at shutting them down.

So let’s focus on Self’s half-court action. As I dissected in an earlier breakdown, Wright’s scheme is oriented to switch everything on ball screens. That could put Gillespie, who’s an inferior defender overall, in a heap of trouble versus the Jayhawks’ athleticism. He’ll be tasked with guarding the quick-twitch Remy Martin as well.

Nevertheless, Villanova’s defensive structure is sound at denying clean pick-and-roll attempts at the rim, along with forcing difficult shots against isolation sets. The 6-foot-7 Brandon Slater plays a major role on that end with his lengthy frame, and he could be tasked with shadowing star forward Ochai Agbaji.

Unless the refs are calling a tight whistle, the Wildcats’ half-court defense — beyond Gillespie — sets up well enough minus Moore.

Kansas – Villanova Conclusion

From a numbers perspective, I make the Jayhawks a two-point favorite even without Moore. Expect the Wildcats to at least stay within two possessions.

The shooting backdrop at this stage typically shifts bettors’ attention towards the under, and the pace alone could cash that itself. However, I’m staying away from the total.

Eli’s Final Four Bets: Villanova +4.5
Best Available Line: Villanova

No. 2 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels

The spread opened at Duke -4 before it was quickly bet up to -4.5. It’s now back to the initial line at most sportsbooks. After these two rivals split their regular season series, where does the betting value lie?

UNC Due For A Defensive Setback?

Dating back to Feb. 19, the Tar Heels own the fifth-ranked Adjusted Defensive Efficiency across college basketball (via BarTorvik). It’s an 11-game sample size with Kansas (No. 8), Villanova (No. 13) and Duke (No. 170) all behind them.

Digging into that metric even further, they’re yielding a 26.5% clip from behind the arc in the NCAA tournament. That may seem like a sustainable percentage given their overall surge, yet it’s worth comparing against UCLA’s Final Four run from a season ago.

The Bruins not only demonstrated elite “free-throw defense” (I’m still bitter), but they also allowed a 24.7% 3-point clip during their four-game stretch. Mick Cronin’s bunch then surrendered a 33.3% hit rate to Gonzaga in an overtime thriller. That included Corey Kispert missing numerous open looks.

While the Blue Devils don’t jack up a bevy of 3s, their elite transition offense — led by the 6-foot-10 Paolo Banchero — should take advantage of a Tar Heels unit that’s yet to face an opponent in the big dance that can run with them. After all, it’s the weakest aspect of their defense.

Keep in mind, their fast-break defense was abused in their first meeting. Hubert Davis didn’t help his cause by throwing Armando Bacot on Banchero early on, setting up Duke to run at will because of Bacot’s foul trouble. Nevertheless, Leaky Black isn’t necessarily built to handle Banchero’s build if Brady Manek has to sit as a result of the same issue.

In terms of player props, Jeremy Roach’s point total (O/U 9.5) could be one to target in a high-possession affair. Roach may be turnover-prone at times, but Mike Krzyzewski needs his on-ball coverage against RJ Davis.

Tar Heels’ Offense Should Excel Again

Roach’s reinvigorated defensive energy may limit Davis’ ability to get to his spot as much as he accomplished in the Tar Heels’ outright upset at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Regardless, UNC still showcased a crucial mismatch — off-ball action.

In their second meeting, Davis’ motion offense picked apart Duke’s ball-screen defense with 1.25 points per possession. The Blue Devils struggled to control their cutting action as well, which hasn’t normally been an issue.

Similar to the Tar Heels, the Blue Devils have been fortunate to square off against opposing offenses that struggle with consistency from deep. UNC isn’t cut from the same cloth, executing its off-ball offense at the 20th-most efficient rate (per ShotQuality) while turning those sets into open 3s.

If Krzyzewski and his staff integrate a matchup zone, which they’ve used throughout the dance, say goodnight. Their transition defense is just as exposable too.

On top of that, the 7-foot Mark Williams notably struggled to restrict Bacot’s productivity in the paint during the aforementioned affair. Both big men are prone to leak into foul trouble, yet the Tar Heels’ ability to establish Bacot quickly would lead to additional clean 3s for Manek and Caleb Love.

Duke – UNC Conclusion

There might be more pressure on the Blue Devils to emerge victorious given the fact that Krzyzewski is coaching in his last Final Four. But I wouldn’t overthink a situational spot given the stage.

Even though I lean towards the over, the total is priced fairly correctly. Instead, let’s eye a live bet on UNC at around three possessions or better for my Final Four bets.

Eli’s Final Four Bets: Monitor UNC in-game
Best Available Line: UNC

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Written by
Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

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