The Final Four is set and it’s all bluebloods: Bitter rivals Duke and North Carolina will meet in one half – amazingly, their first-ever matchup in the NCAA Tournament, and Kansas will take on Villanova in the other half, although the Wildcats will be missing a key player. Since the 2007-08 season, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Villanova have claimed seven of the 14 national championships. The NCAA basketball betting odds to win.
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Duke is the +155 favorite to cut down the nets on April 4 in New Orleans and send out retiring coach Mike Krzyzewski in style. The Blue Devils advanced with a pretty easy 78-69 win over Arkansas in the Elite Eight. The Blue Devils (32-6) used a 10-0 second half run to pull away and send Krzyzewski to his NCAA-record 13th Final Four, surpassing the legendary John Wooden (12). Duke emerged as champions of the West Region for the first time.
Freshman Paolo Banchero scored 16 points with seven rebounds and four assists, earning West Regional Most Outstanding Player honors. Classmate AJ Griffin netted a team-high 18, going 7-of-9 from the floor and 2-of-3 from behind the arc, while sophomore Mark Williams registered a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double. Ten of Williams’ points came in the opening half to help Duke establish an early lead. Duke’s 17 Final Four appearances tie Kentucky for third most all-time. The Blue Devils punched their ticket to the Final Four for the first time since the 2015 National Championship run.
North Carolina (+475 to win title) routed Cinderella Saint Peter’s 69-49 to advance. Armando Bacot was unstoppable with 20 points and 22 rebounds. The eighth-seeded Tar Heels (28-9) made their record 21st Final Four.
The Peacocks, whose 10-game win streak ended, moved the ball well and got plenty of good looks over the first 10 minutes. Some shots went halfway down and rimmed out. Others bounced twice on the iron but wouldn’t fall. They trailed 21-7 after missing their first six shots, and 16 of their first 19. The game was over already. Duke and North Carolina split two regular-season meetings, each winning on the road.
Kansas (+185) advanced with a 76-50 win over Miami. The top-seeded Jayhawks trailed by six at half to the 10th-seeded Hurricanes, but outscored Miami 47-15 in the second half to pull away and secure the Midwest Regional championship. Kansas shot 60 percent from the floor in the second half, while holding Miami to 21 percent shooting, and outrebounding the Hurricanes 25-11. The win sends Kansas (32-6) to the Final Four for the fourth time under Self and second time in the last the four NCAA Tournaments.
“That’s about as well as we played in this tournament so far,” Coach Bill Self said of his team’s second half performance. “The guys didn’t worry about the distractions about what was going on in the first half, they just played the second half.”
Kansas outscored Miami 42-20 in the paint and 17-0 on second-chance points. The Jayhawks shot 50 percent from the floor, while holding Miami to 35 percent shooting. With the strong defensive performance in the second half, Kansas improved to 24-0 this season when holding opponents to less than 70 points.
Villanova (+425) was a slight dog vs. Houston but beat the Cougars 50-44 … but also lost Justin Moore to a season-ending injury. Jermaine Samuels, who was named Most Outstanding Player at the South Regional posted a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds in the win over the Cougars. Caleb Daniels added 12 points and six rebounds and Collin Gillespie drained a huge jumper after Houston had shaved the Wildcats lead to 42-40 with just over five minutes left in the contest.
The Wildcats won their 30th game of the season through grit and tenacity, holding the Cougars to .298 shooting on the night, including 1-of-20 from beyond the 3-point arc (.005).
Moore slipped while driving to the lane with 35 seconds left in Saturday’s win and had to be helped off the court. He did not take part in the postgame celebrations, with his teammates coming to see him at the end of the bench after the final buzzer sounded. Moore, a 6-foot-4 junior, had eight points and two rebounds in 37 minutes against Houston. He ranks second on the team in points and assists and third in rebounds, averaging 14.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists and earning second-team All-Big East honors. He was also a member of the All-South Region Team announced on Saturday after scoring 21 points in the first-round win over Delaware and 15 points in the Sweet 16 victory over Michigan.