Final Four Odds and Trends since 2004

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.

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