NCAA Final Four Trends: Recent History Points To Kansas

In an overhead shot, Baylor coach Scott Drew (face not seen) waves the basketball net after cutting it off the rim following the Bears' victory over Gonzaga in the 2021 NCAA Tournament men's national championship game at at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis
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NCAA Final Four trends reveal a few interesting nuggets ahead of Saturday’s games in New Orleans.

First, Midwest No. 1 seed Kansas is a 4.5-point favorite over South No. 2 Villanova in the opening contest, while the nightcap has West No. 2 seed Duke as a 4-point favorite over ACC rival and East No. 8 seed North Carolina.

Still undecided on which sides and/or totals to roll with? We caution you to pause and read on — especially before pulling the trigger on Villanova to score the outright upset of Kansas. Or playing either Final Four game Under the total. breaks down several interesting NCAA Final Four trends over the past 10 events (dating to 2011, since the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled).

The Power Of No. 1 Seeds

Kansas Jayhawks guard Ochai Agbaji (30) dunks during the second half against the Providence Friars in the semifinals of the Midwest regional of the men's college basketball NCAA Tournament at United Center in Chicago on Friday, March 25, 2022.
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Kansas fits one recent historical trend: A No. 1 seed has won four straight NCAA Tournaments and seven of the past 10.

Over that span, the only No. 1 seeds to fall in the Final Four were North Carolina in the 2016 national title game (lost when No. 2 seed Villanova hit a buzzer-beater); Florida in the 2016 Final Four (fell fell victim to No. 7 seed Connecticut in the national semifinals during the Huskies’ unlikely title run); and when a top seed faced another top seed (as was the case last year, when No. 1 seed Gonzaga lost the title game to fellow No. 1 Baylor).

Also, No. 3 seed Connecticut won the 2011 title in the only recent Final Four with no No. 1 seeds.

Top seeds are 9-1 SU in the national semifinals when facing a non-No. 1 seed, with only the 2014 Florida squad falling. Those teams are only 3-6-1 ATS, but with the caveat that only one game had a point spread of 4.5 or lower like Kansas-Villanova on Saturday. (In 2017, No. 3 seed Oregon covered as a 4.5-point underdog in a 77-76 loss to North Carolina.)

Since 2011, a No. 1 seed has faced a No. 2 seed in the semifinals just once. That was last season, when Baylor drubbed Houston 78-59 as a 5-point favorite.

Fade The Favorites?

Overall, Final Four favorites are 15-5 SU in the past 10 tournaments, but those faves are under water at the betting window (8-10-2 ATS).

In games in which the spread is 4.5 or lower — as in this year’s two semifinals — favorites are 5-4 SU but 3-5-1 ATS.

In the last 10 national title games, favorites are 6-4 SU and ATS, although the point spread never came into play. Every underdog that covered also won the title.

Duke Vs North Carolina Oddities

North Carolina Tar Heels guard Caleb Love (center) dribbles the ball up court as Duke forward Paolo Banchero (right) trails behind him during an ACC basketball game
Image Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The recent history of No. 2 and No. 8 seeds in the Final Four provides some odd notes for Duke vs. North Carolina.

Only seven No. 2 seeds have reached the Final Four over the past 10 tournaments. Twice, they played each other in the semifinals (2016 and 2012), and Houston lost to No. 1 Baylor in last year’s semis.

The only two occasions in which a No. 2 seed played a lower seed: Michigan State lost to No. 3 Texas Tech 61-51 as a 2-point favorite in 2019, and Wisconsin lost 74-73 to No. 8 Kentucky as, strangely enough, a 1-point underdog in 2014.

The only two No. 8 seeds to reach the Final Four over the past 10 Tournaments won their semifinals before losing in the title game — but both 8-seeds were actually favored in their Final Four matchups. The aforementioned 2014 Kentucky team pushed against Wisconsin, and Butler covered as a 3.5-point favorite against No. 11 seed VCU in the 2011 semifinals.

Is It ‘Over’ Time?

Unders dominated in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, going a remarkable 11-1 (both for the first half and full game). But bettors should be wary before locking in Unders for Saturday’s games.

The Over is 11-8-1 in the national semifinals over the past 10 Tournaments, including 8-3-1 over the past six.

That trend reverses sharply for the national title game, with the Under going 7-3 with the trophy on the line.