The only thing more predictable than the season premiere of Mad Men ending with Don Draper hopping in the sack with his neighbor’s wife to ring in 1968? Me bragging about a profitable Final Four, as I went 3-1-1, including nailing this Michigan-Louisville championship game matchup. Since the NCAA tournament tipped off, I’m 18-14-1 for a net profit of $305—and with a $280 pending play on Louisville to win it all, I’m guaranteed to finish the Big Dance in the black.
Now let’s get to your obvious question: Why in the hell are you taking Michigan tonight when you have money on Louisville to win it all? Answer: A chance at the often-elusive “middle”—otherwise known in sports-betting circles as gambling nirvana. If the favored Cardinals get the job done on the court (a pretty good bet, considering the favorite has won 20 of the last 24 NCAA championship games straight-up) and Michigan gets the job done at the window (losing by one, two or three points), I win twice!
Granted, this is a pretty tight “middle” I’m shooting for, but given the Final Four results—Louisville held off Wichita State 72-68 and Michigan edged Syracuse 61-56—it’s hardly unreachable. From the Cardinals’ side of things, they’re riding a 15-game winning streak and are 18-1 since Jan. 28 (the only misstep being a five-overtime loss at Notre Dame). However, after a nine-game spread-covering bonanza, Rick Pitino’s squad has failed to cash in two of its last three (including never once having the 10-point number covered against Wichita).
Meanwhile, the Wolverines are a perfect 5-0 ATS in the tournament, including two upsets (Kansas and Florida). They’re also 9-1 ATS in neutral-court contests this season. To be honest, after watching Michigan’s last four efforts—pummeling No. 6 seed VCU, rallying past No. 1 Kansas, crushing No. 3 Florida and withstanding No. 4 Syracuse—I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the Wolverines pulled off another upset tonight.
As it is, the stats suggest these teams are dead even. Michigan averages 74.5 points per game; Louisville 74.3. Michigan shoots 48 percent from the field, 37.7 percent from 3-point range and 70.2 percent from the foul line; Louisville shoots 45.6 percent, 33 percent and 70.7 percent. Michigan allows 62.8 ppg on 42.4 percent shooting; Louisville averages 58.3 ppg on 39.2 percent shooting. And Michigan has a plus-2.2 rebounding edge on its opponents; Louisville is plus-4.3.
Yes, after two thrilling Final Four contests, the law of averages suggest that the title game will be a snoozer. But a slew of numbers say otherwise—and so do I.
Final Score: Louisville 74, Michigan 71
In February 2010, we gave Matt Jacob $7,000 to wager. When he loses it all, we’re going to replace him with a monkey.