Final Four 2011: Can UConn Beat Kentucky And End The Big East Betting Curse?

Courtesy of SB Nation's partners at Oddshark.com, a preview of this weekend's Final Four games. Can UConn beat the odds and take down Kentucky?

More 2011 March Madness resources: Final Four 2011 schedule ... Visit our NCAA Tournament hub for up-to-date news and information … updated printable NCAA Tournament bracket.

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Final Four 2011: Can UConn Beat Kentucky And End The Big East Betting Curse?

Connecticut faces Kentucky in the 2011 Final Four on Saturday night, but they also face the recent Big East Final Four Betting Curse. The Big East is widely regarded as the deepest conference in NCAA basketball, and it gained a record 11 bids into this year’s NCAA Tournament based largely on that perception.

But the conference was nearly wiped out of the bracket by the first weekend and is a bankroll-crippling 0-4 against the spread in its last four games Final Four appearances. [Final 4 Odds & Matchups]

“It’s hard to put a lot of stock in a conference angle like that that extends over nine years, but it’s also one of those patterns you don’t want to completely ignore,” said Mark Presley of OddsShark.com. “Even Charles Barkley - we have odds on how many games he will pick right this weekend – will take that with a grain of salt.”

Of the 11 member schools invited to the party, only two – UConn and Marquette – reached the Sweet 16. Both of those schools beat another Big East team to do so.

Bettors and bracketeers who still have the Huskies alive hope UConn, the last Big East school to win a game in the Final Four in their national championship season in 2004, can come through against the spread.

Other numbers favor Connecticut, which enters as a 2-point underdog against Kentucky on Saturday. The Huskies are 14-4 ATS in their last 18 games when getting points. They are also 8-1 ATS past nine games in March.

Kentucky brings its own impressive March trends, going 17-1 SU past 18 March games overall and 10-3 ATS past 13 overall.

In the other national semifinal game on Saturday, Butler is a 2.5-point favorite against VCU, and it’s easy to bet the Bulldogs if you like one impressive trend. Experience counts in the Final Four, and Butler is the team carrying it into Houston. Over the last 20 years, returnees from the previous Final Four are 7-1 ATS and 8-0 SU. Looks like bettors could be seeing the Bulldogs against the Huskies in Monday night’s national title game.

Butler has also won 8 straight SU as a favorite, won 12 in a row SU in March and is 10-1 ATS in its past 11 games in March. But beware the VCU team disguised as Cinderella. The Rams are 14-6 ATS past 20 games as an underdog.  [VCU Butler Odds]

Some of the trends are pointing towards a Connecticut-Butler showdown on Monday, but oddsmakers like Kentucky to win its first national championship since 1998. The Wildcats are priced as +140 chalk, followed by the Huskies (+220), Bulldogs (+350), and Rams (+550).

Kentucky is seeing a lot of public action. The Wildcats have the most talented roster in the Final Four and they’re fresh off defeating the overall No. 1 seed in Ohio State in the Sweet 16. Kentucky followed up its upset of the Buckeyes by downing No. 2 North Carolina to win the East Region.

That said, the value is with UConn, if only because it provides a more sizable return on investment. Like Butler and Virginia Commonwealth, however, Connecticut wasn’t picked by many to reach these heights back at the start of the season.

“The Huskies weren’t supposed to get this far,” says Presley. “After powering through the Big East Tournament many experts didn’t think that Connecticut would have enough left in the tank to put together a big run in the Tournament.” 

Live odds, matchups, links to Final Four games, and more every day, visit Odds Shark.

More 2011 March Madness resources: Final Four 2011 schedule ... Visit our NCAA Tournament hub for up-to-date news and information … updated printable NCAA Tournament bracket.

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