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Final Four: Madness Ends in the Big Easy

We're now down to the cr¿me de la cr¿me of college basketball teams. We've moved from the Field of 65, to the Sweet 16 to the Elite Eight and now to the Final Four.

Although the two best teams in the country according to my power ratings (Kentucky and Arizona) didn't make it to this weekend's games, Kansas, Texas, Marquette and Syracuse are all quality teams that can win the whole tournament. My power ratings for these teams are: Kansas a 3, Texas a 5, Marquette a 7 and Syracuse an 8.

Three of the four teams had a large regional advantage in last weekend's games. Only Kansas played in an arena not populated by a majority of the team's fans. In New Orleans, Texas will clearly have the crowd behind them, since most of their fans can simply drive to New Orleans in less than a day.

Here's a summary of the point-spread results for the semifinal and final round of the NCAA basketball tournament for the last six years.

Favorites in Final Four
Against the Spread
Year Semifinals Finals
2002 0-2 1-0
2001 2-0 1-0
2000 2-0 1-0
1999 1-1 0-1
1998 0-2 1-0
1997 1-1 0-1
1996 0-2 0-1
Totals 6-8 4-3

Again, there's no clear pattern other than that the favorite has won and covered the point spread in the championship game in the last three years. Here are my selections for the semifinals and the championship game.

The Winners Are ...

Marquette +$1.80 (money line) over Kansas. Kansas is a 4 1/2-point favorite over Marquette. However, if you think Marquette can win the game straight up, you can make a bet to win $1.80 for every dollar that you bet on what is called the money line. I've gone back and forth on this game for most of the week and have finally come to the conclusion that I don't think the points will matter in this game. So I'm taking Marquette to win the game straight up.

Kansas deserves kudos for their consecutive victories over Duke and Arizona last weekend. But I think this week will be different for the Jayhawks, for a number of reasons. Marquette has been a solid team all season. Dwayne Wade has emerged as a certain NBA first-round draft pick. He reminds me very much of Phoenix's Shawn Marion and has the versatility to score in a variety of ways. Kansas has two solid NBA draft choices in Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich, but beyond those two players, their scoring options are very limited. If either Collison or Hinrich gets into foul trouble, the Jayhawks will be in trouble.
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