The last two spots in the Final Four are on the table this Sunday. Four power-conference teams will scratch and claw for the right to play in Atlanta on April 6.
Duke Blue Devils vs. Louisville Cardinals
Sunday, 5:05 PM ET
Odds: Louisville -3.5
In this matchup, two key details will compete against each other. On one hand, Duke will gain an advantage because Louisville’s players are not fully healthy. UL guard Russ Smith has passed around a cold virus that caused a number of Cardinal players to cough and hack during timeouts and other dead-ball situations in Friday’s Midwest Regional semifinal win over the Oregon Ducks. Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said that Oregon’s quickness wore out his own team, an odd thing to say when one realizes that Louisville’s quickness is extremely hard to match. Louisville did not play particularly strong defense on Friday against Oregon, and if its players are not able to feel close to 100 percent on a physical level, the Cardinals are going to be in real trouble.
On the other hand, the big trump card that works in favor of the Cardinals is the fact that Gorgui Dieng will be on the floor for this tilt. Dieng missed the regular-season meeting between these two teams, a big reason why Duke was able to prevail. Dieng is going to make life very difficult for Duke big man Mason Plumlee, and if Duke’s guards get into the paint, Dieng can alter their shots. When one also realizes that this game, being played in Indianapolis, will feel like a Louisville home game, the Cardinals will be given a substantial additional shot of adrenaline. All in all, Louisville will probably scrape out a win, but Duke will cover the spread on the betting lines.
Pick: Duke +3.5
Michigan Wolverines vs. Florida Gators
Sunday, 2:20 PM ET
Odds: Florida -1.5
This contest is extremely hard to predict, not just because regional finals between teams seeded one notch apart (Michigan fourth, Florida third) are generally contentious but because there are strong reasons to pick for (or against) each side.
Michigan is an attractive pick because it is going to be enormously confident after coming back from an 11-point deficit on the college basketball odds against Kansas on Friday night with just over three minutes left in regulation. When a team makes the kind of “great escape” that Michigan pulled off, it feeds into a sense of total confidence, creating positive energy in a locker room and in every gameday situation. Florida feels good about itself, but Michigan feels great about itself. Michigan played a mediocre game for 37 minutes but managed to beat Kansas in a 45-minute contest. That’s the kind of event which transforms a season and an NCAA tournament. Michigan guard Trey Burke was a mediocre player for 37 minutes but then turned into Superman for the final eight. If he plays 40 complete minutes against Florida, it’s hard to see the Wolverines losing.
Florida, though, matches up better with Michigan than it would have with Kansas. Against Kansas, Florida would have had to face Jeff Withey, a monster in the paint. Against Michigan, Patric Young should enjoy a legitimate matchup advantage against the Wolverines’ Mitch McGary, who kept his team in the fray against Kansas before Burke took over in the final minutes. Florida is in good position to take away the things Michigan does well. The Gators are a disciplined defensive team that can easily force Michigan into taking bad shots. This feels like a one-bucket game, but Florida is more likely to create an easy shot or defend against it. Give the Gators the slight nod here.
Pick: Florida -1.5