The Las Vegas odds on the 2016 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Final Four have up until 6:09 pm ET on Saturday before they become solidified, but there’s little wonder which team will be favored heading into the final three games of March Madness.
The last remaining #1 seed, the North Carolina Tar Heels enter the Final Four in Houston favored at 5/7 to win the entire tournament. They’ll need to first top #10 seed Syracuse and then battle the winner of two number twos doing battle, Villanova and Oklahoma.
The appetizer might be more thrilling than the main course on Saturday as the current spread for the Wildcats vs. Sooners contest stands at just two points. The consensus among the leading Las Vegas sportsbooks including the Westgate SuperBook, MGM Mirage, William Hill, and Wynn LV has Nova spotting Oklahoma just a single two-point bucket.
The second game of the evening, the Tar Heels versus the Orange, has the latter as a 10-point underdog. The spread is the largest of a Final Four game since 1995-1996 when, ironically, then-#4 Syracuse was a 14-point underdog to top-seeded Kentucky (the Orange lost by nine).
Chasing Championships, Evading Scandal
Should the 32-6 North Carolina team adhere to the odds, the school would claim its sixth national title and give coach Roy Williams his third NCAA Division I championship.
Williams and UNC is taking nothing for granted, and recognize a very worthy candidate stands in its way. The Cinderella story so far in 2016, Syracuse (23-13) has been upset-happy as they’ve worked their way through March Madness, the Orange overcoming #1 Virginia in the Elite Eight.
Off the court, both programs are dealing with recent controversies.
At UNC, an academic scandal in June 2014 rocked the university known for its scholastic excellence. A former federal prosecutor alleges that over an 18-year period more than 3,100 student-athletes took phony and easy classes to stay academically eligible, with 12 percent suspected to have been members of the basketball team.
Meanwhile, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim began the season serving a nine-game ACC ban for failing to properly monitor and stop monetary payments to student-athletes by local YMCA employees.
Predicting Villanova and Oklahoma
The professional bookmakers responsible for the Las Vegas odds are struggling to determine which team will come out the victor between Villanova and Oklahoma. A two-point spread in a basketball game is nearly a straight-up bet, so what do the analytical computers say?
According to Bing Predicts, an arm of the search engine that incorporates web activity, social sentiments, and other signals to predict outcomes, Villanova has a 54 percent chance of winning. Bing Predicts has correctly chosen 73 percent of the NCAA March Madness games so far.
ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) relies heavier on actual statistical data than Bing Predicts, but it too shows a similar albeit slightly reduced result. The BPI believes Villanova has a 50.3 percent chance of beating Oklahoma.
Bing Predicts says UNC will win 85 percent of the time over Syracuse, and ESPN has the Tar Heels at an 80 percent chance of reaching the championship game.