With the 2012 Final Four beginning on Saturday (3/31), we’ll take a look at the last eight years and how each Final Four match-up has shaped up. This year only one #1-seed remains, Kentucky, and they have been the clear-cut favorite to win the tournament since the season even started. They opened up as an 8.5-point favorite over #4-seed Louisville from the Big East and betting is roughly equal on both sides. In the other half of the bracket, #2-seed Ohio State is a 2.5-point favorite over Kansas and the slight majority of the betting public is backing the Buckeyes.
The table below shows the closing lines, closing betting %’s, and the results since 2004.
|Year||Closing Line||% on Favorite||Did Favorite Cover?||Closing Total||% on Over||Did Over Cover?|
|2004||Okla St. -4.5 vs GT||46%||No||139||38%||No|
|Duke -2 vs UCONN||34%||No||144.5||71%||Yes|
|2005||Illinois -3 vs Louisville||61%||Yes||143.5||68%||No|
|UNC -5.5 vs MSU||45%||Yes||159||62%||Yes|
|2006||LSU -1.5 vs UCLA||37%||No||123.5||68%||No|
|Florida -6 vs GMason||52%||Yes||159||69%||No|
|2007||OSU -1 vs GTown||47%||Yes||130||69%||No|
|Florida -3 vs UCLA||61%||Yes||130||68%||Yes|
|2008||Memphis -2 vs UCLA||40%||Yes||134||74%||Yes|
|UNC -2.5 vs Kansas||70%||No||157.5||56%||No|
|2009||UCONN -4.5 vs MSU||63%||No||133.5||57%||Yes|
|UNC -7 vs Villanova||51%||Yes||161||58%||No|
|2010||Butler -1.5 vs MSU||53%||Yes||126.5||62%||No|
|Duke -2.5 vs WVU||55%||Yes||130.5||65%||Yes|
|2011||Butler -3.5 vs VCU||50%||Yes||133||60%||No|
|Kentucky -2 vs UCONN||43%||No||138.5||65%||No|
|2012||Kentucky -8.5 vs Louisville||51%||138||75%|
|OSU -2.5 vs Kansas||54%||137||83%|
*Lines derived from Pinnacle
Basically, the public likes to bet on the favorites and the overs. It’s a known tendency in the sports betting world and it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Of the 16 Final Four games in the last 8 years, the favorite has covered in 10 of them, and favorites of 5 points or more have gone 3-0 ATS. Linesmakers must be spot-on during the Final Four since betting has been roughly 50/50 for each matchup, with the lone exception in 2008 where UNC was a 2.5-point favorite over Kansas and getting more than 70% of spread bets. UNC ultimately did not cover that game and lost by 18 points.
Totals, on the other hand, tell a different story. The majority of the public (55% or greater) has been on the Over for 15 of the last 16 Final Four games, whether the total is 123 or 161, and this year is no different. 75% of the public is on the Over in the Kentucky/Louisville game and over 80% of the public is on the Over in the OSU/Kansas game as well. However, only 6 games of the 16 in that span have actually gone over the closing Total.