Butler and VCU played Cinderella in the 2011 edition of the Madness, the first time a pair of real underdogs played in the Final Four.
This year, the underdogs are teams very unaccustomed to the role of dog, as four of the most storied programs in college basketball gather in New Orleans.
For example, Louisville is an underdog of 8.5 points against Kentucky. Louisville has been a dog this big (+8.5) just seven times in the past decade. Bettors should be aware that they are 5-2 ATS in those games.
And Kansas, dogged by 2.5 points in the other Final Four odds matchup, has only been an underdog nine times overall in the past four seasons combined. Since the start of the 2008 season, they are 2-7 SU in those games.
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It’s not a huge volume of games to draw handicapping conclusions, but in those rare times when Louisville is a big dog, they bite hard against the spread. When Kansas is an underdog, they tend to lose.
Historically speaking, this is not a place where underdogs or lower seeds succeed. Favorites are 9-5 ATS in the past seven Final Fours. Higher seeded teams are 9-2 ATS over the same time period (with three games involving identical seeds).
Saturday's first national semifinal features a Bluegrass State treat with Kentucky, the top overall seed against Louisville (6:05 pm Eastern, CBS). It’s also a unique battle of coaches with Rick Pitino and John Calipari clashing. Then in Saturday's second game, Ohio State faces Kansas (8:45 Eastern, CBS). [ Best underdog line? Check out ]
If there is a game where chalk bettors should be mindful of trends, it’s the Kentucky game. The Wildcats have been mediocre against the spread but Louisville has been on a tear, winning eight straight and covering the spread every time.
And as an underdog, the Cardinals are 10-3 ATS in their past 13 games. For Kentucky’s part, their most significant trend involves the total (the OVER is 7-1-1 past 9 games as fave of 8 or more points).
Both are rematches of games played earlier this season, but again, they must be taken with a large handicapping grain of salt. Although OddsShark.com regulars recall that Kentucky successfully avenged an earlier loss against Indiana in the Sweet 16.
BetOnline had Kentucky as an 8.5-point favorite with an over/under of 137.5. The Wildcats are also moneylined at -500, with the Cards getting +405 to win the game outright.
SEC regular-season champion Kentucky has lost just two games this season, one on a buzzer-beater at Indiana back in December and the other in the SEC tournament championship game to Vanderbilt.
Louisville struggled to seventh in the Big East during the regular season, then won the conference tournament, following the same slow-starting path that UConn did a year ago in winning the national title.
Kentucky beat Louisville 69-62 on New Year’s Eve at Rupp Arena. But the Cards got the cover as 10-point dogs.
Big Ten regular-season tri-champion Ohio State entered the tournament as the two seed in the East, while Big 12 regular-season champion Kansas came into the tournament as the two seed in the Midwest.
KU defeated OSU 78-67 in Lawrence in December. But the Buckeyes played without F Jared Sullinger that day due to a lingering back injury.
BetOnline had Ohio State as a 2.5-point favorite over Kansas, with an O/U of 136.5. The Buckeyes are also being offered at -150 on the moneyline, with the Jayhawks getting +130.