It did not require a rare clairvoyance to foresee North Carolina, a dominant team led by junior point guard Ty Lawson and senior forward Tyler Hansbrough, would reach the Final Four.
Two weeks ago, when office pools were circulated and oddsmakers set the lines on the NCAA Tournament, the Tar Heels were the most popular pick to win the national championship.
An element of unpredictability always exists in college basketball. But when the Final Four was set Sunday, North Carolina still ranked among the elite and was joined by Michigan State, Connecticut and Villanova.
Wynn Las Vegas sports book director John Avello posted the Tar Heels as even-money favorites to win the title.
"North Carolina has been the No. 1 team all year," Avello said. "I think it's a great Final Four. You could not ask for a better four names in college basketball."
In the national semifinals on Saturday in Detroit, Michigan State (30-6) will face Connecticut (31-4) at 3 p.m., and the Huskies opened as a 4-point favorite with a total of 135.
In the second semifinal, Villanova (30-7) meets North Carolina (32-4), and the Tar Heels are 71/2-point favorites with a total of 160.
Michigan State pulled an upset Sunday by beating top-seeded Louisville 64-52 in the Midwest Region final. The Spartans were a 61/2-point underdog.
Lawson had 19 points to push North Carolina, a 7-point favorite, to a 72-60 victory over Oklahoma in the South Region final.
Sixty games have been played in the NCAA Tournament since March 19. The story lines that emerged were more about the favorites than the Cinderella teams.
"To me what was different was there weren't as many buzzer beaters, and there weren't as many surprises," Avello said. "It seemed like games kind of went true to form.
"Not as many surprises as you would like to see -- not as many Cinderella teams making a last-second shot to win the game. The tournament kind of lacked a little bit of that this year. But the atmosphere is always good for the tournament."
Two hours after North Carolina's victory Sunday, the Wynn sports book still was buzzing as former CBS commentator Billy Packer and legendary coach Bob Knight hosted a television show.
Former University of Nevada, Las Vegas coach Jerry Tarkanian made a guest appearance on the show, and though Knight shied away from making Final Four predictions, Tarkanian was quick to pull the trigger.
"I don't see how anybody is going to beat Carolina," Tarkanian said.
The Tar Heels are 4-0 against the spread in the NCAA Tournament, winning their games by an average of 22.5 points.
Tarkanian said that although he "probably made some other bad" picks in the tournament, he did call one minor surprise.
"I picked Michigan State to win that bracket," Tarkanian said. "I got in a pool with some people, and I've got to have an edge because I don't think anybody else picked them."
Some predicted the nation's economic downturn would put a damper on basketball wagering in Las Vegas this month.
In terms of the wagering handle in Nevada, the three-week NCAA Tournament ranks a close second to the Super Bowl. A total of $81.5 million was wagered in the state's sports books on this year's Super Bowl, an 11.5 percent decrease from the game's 2008 handle of $92.1 million.
As for the handle on this NCAA Tournament, Avello said, "I believe it's probably on par with last year.
"The first weekend, it was much over expectations. But I didn't see that many big bets that I did in previous years, and that's why the Super Bowl handle was down a little. But overall, this is without a doubt the best tournament in any sport."