NCAA Tournament Betting: Final Four Side And Total Picks

(USA TODAY Sports)`

The Elite 8 had fans and bettors on the edge of their seats with all four games going down to the wire and two ending in overtime. Will the Final 4 bring more excitement? It’s been an entertaining NCAA Tournament and oddsmakers have Michigan State and Virginia favored on the betting line to reach the National Championship Game Monday night. Our Thomas Casale and Matt Schmitto break down the Final Four and give their picks to win the national title.

Virginia (-5.5, 131) vs. Auburn

Side

Casale: I’ve gone against Auburn in every game, so why stop now? I actually took New Mexico State to beat Auburn in my brackets. They had a shot at the end but came up short. Since that game, Auburn has been fantastic. I thought the Tigers showed a lot by regrouping and beating Kentucky in overtime. Auburn has now won 12 straight games entering the Final Four and the Tigers win over North Carolina may have been the most impressive of the tournament.

Everyone is on Auburn in this game. Oddsmakers I spoke to said they are seeing strong Auburn action early. I do believe the game will be close but it seems like it’s Virginia’s year after the way they tied the game against Purdue to send it into overtime. Carsen Edwards torched Virginia’s top-ranked three-point defense but the Cavs have the perimeter defenders to give Auburn’s shooters fits. I also believe the loss of Chuma Okeke will hurt the Tigers in this matchup. Without a low-post presence, Virginia can extend its defense and take away the three-point shot.

I see Auburn hanging around here but Virginia ultimately pulling away to win by 8-10 points.

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Schmitto: Auburn is the hottest of the four teams rolling into Minneapolis this weekend. They have won 12 consecutive games going back to the end of February. They beat Tennessee twice before the NCAA Tournament, then they took down Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky to get to the Final Four. I’m a fan of Bruce Pearl and this Auburn team, but like you, I believe their luck runs out here, unfortunately.

I say unfortunately not just because I like Bruce Pearl or because I think they’d be an easier matchup for Texas Tech. I think I speak for most college hoops fans when I say, for entertainment’s sake, I don’t want to watch a national championship game between Texas Tech and Virginia that will feature a snail-like pace.

Virginia will be the best defense Auburn has faced all year and they won’t see nearly as many open looks from three as they have seen so far in the tournament. I think it will be a good game, but my money is on a second consecutive back-door Virginia cover.

Casale: Sounds like we both have it close to the spread close late. To be honest, a late Virginia cover is how I see the game playing out too.

Total

Casale: This number is pretty tight but I lean to the Under here. The thing about Auburn is they tend to play the pace of its opponent. They can play fast like we saw against North Carolina but they will also slow it down. Auburn ranks 153 in Adjusted Tempo at KenPom, so they don’t always run and gun.

No one slows the pace like Virginia. The Cavaliers rank last in the country in Adjusted Tempo and I expect them to slow this game down to a crawl. Like I said, the number is right on, but I see a 68-60 type of game, so I’ll go Under with Virginia dictating pace.

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Schmitto: Though Virginia’s defense will give Auburn trouble, the Tigers will find a way to throw up threes. I think Virginia covers by scoring points in this match up. Auburn has actually been great forcing turnovers, but hopefully Tony Bennett will utilize De’Andre Hunter, who has had a slow tournament relative to his regular season performances.

Jack Salt grabbed 8 rebounds and saw 34 minutes off the bench against Purdue, but there’s an opening to use Braxton Key to help Virginia’s offense now that Auburn is missing Okeke down low. I can see Virginia scoring just over 70 points and Auburn scoring in the mid-60s.

Casale: Yeah, the total will really depend on Auburn because Virginia will play so slow with a lead, it’s hard to believe they even use a shot clock. The total in this game is my least favorite play of the weekend because the line is right on the money.

Michigan State (-2.5, 132.5) vs. Texas Tech

Side

Casale: What a game this is going to be. You can throw Auburn in there too but for my money, Michigan State and Virginia have been the two most impressive teams throughout the entire tournament.

I’m giving a slight edge to Michigan State. The Spartans rank in the top-10 in both offense and defense efficiency and have the ability to play any kind of style. I see Michigan State trying to play fast when they get the opportunity to get out in transition because Texas Tech’s half-court defense is so suffocating.

One area where Michigan State has a big advantage is rebounding. The Spartans are one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the country, while Texas Tech is below average on the offensive and defensive boards. Michigan State’s size could be the deciding factor in a tight game.

I also like how Michigan State has a week off to reset after the emotional win over Duke. If these two teams were meeting 48 hours after that win, I’d give an edge to the Red Raiders. This is going to be a bloodbath but I’m laying the short number with the Spartans. The team that wins this game will cut down the nets Monday night.

And now, Texas Tech alum Matt Schmitto to tell me I’m wrong…

Schmitto: Remember when I said Texas Tech would SMASH Michigan? They did. Michigan State may have swept Michigan this year, but it took two comebacks victories to do it.

The Spartans opened -3 but the line has fallen to -2.5 at most shops. DraftKings Sportsbook is still giving Texas Tech 3 points, though. To no one’s surprise, I’m still not hedging out of my 75/1 and other futures on the Red Raiders winning it all. I genuinely think Texas Tech is the best team left even if oddsmakers think otherwise. Like Auburn, Texas Tech has had a pretty impressive tournament so far, beating the West Region’s No. 2 and No. 1 seed. They are 4-0 ATS this tournament, so it’s definitely a wonderful time to be a homer.

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The main test for the Red Raiders’ defense will be Michigan State’s Cassius Winston. The 6’1 first team All-American point guard scored 20 points and had 10 assists against Duke. He went for 17 and 8 the game before against LSU. He’s the heart and soul of this Michigan State team.

The true chess match will be between head coaches Chris Beard and Tom Izzo. Beard might be the favorite to win Coach of the Year but it’s still tough to beat Izzo’s experience. Texas Tech might not smash Sparty like they did the Wolverines, but they’re going to slow Winston down and cover this spread.

Casale: Michigan was one of the most overrated teams in the country because of their inconsistent offense. The Spartans are a much tougher opponent and while I do think it will be close throughout, it’s Michigan State’s defense that will be the difference. Good luck to you though. As you’ll see, my bigger play is on the total.

Total

Casale: Texas Tech is the top defensive team in the country and Michigan State is fifth, so points won’t be easy to come by in this matchup. Like I stated earlier, Michigan State is comfortable playing slow or fast with an adjusted tempo at 201, while Texas Tech comes in at 228. Both teams have topped 70 points in three of four NCAA Tournament games though, so they really are playing exceptional on both sides of the ball.

I like the Over here as my top play of the weekend. The number looks a little low to me. I have it at 137. Michigan is a great defensive team too and in three games versus the Wolverines, Michigan State put up 65, 75 and 77 points. I’m not expecting a game played in the 80s but there is some value with the total only 132.5. It will be painful to watch at times but we’ll get over that number in the final few minutes.

Schmitto: News flash America: TEXAS TECH ISN’T JUST A DEFENSIVE TEAM. I know I’ve said it before but based on what I’ve heard from people this week, I guess it needs to be reiterated again. Texas Tech has the No. 1 adjusted offense since losing to Kansas on February 5th. They used that offense to match Gonzaga, the nation’s leading offensive team, shot for shot last Saturday. Sure, Tech’s defense slowed the Bulldogs down, but Gonzaga and Hachimura went on dangerous offensive spurts that were answered more times than not with clutch threes from Texas Tech guards Matt Mooney and Davide Moretti.

I think you’re on the right side of this one, but I prefer taking a position on one of the team totals instead. The Under is 3-1 in Texas Tech’s tournament games, in large part to their suffocating defense. Though the Under has been hitting, Texas Tech has gone Over their team point total in all four games. Give me Over 65 Texas Tech points in this one, too.

Casale: Agree. That’s why I would like Texas Tech pretty big if they get by Michigan State and face Virginia in the finals.

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National Champion

Casale: I’m going with Michigan State over Virginia. Like I said, I think the winner of MSU and Texas Tech is going to win the title. Michigan State’s size and ability to control the boards will be a big issue for either Virginia or Auburn. If Texas Tech beats Michigan State, I’ll have a big play on them Monday night. After beating Michigan, Gonzaga and Michigan State, I don’t see Virginia or Auburn defeating the Red Raiders in the finals.

Schmitto: I thought Gonzaga was the best team left last weekend, and I’ll even admit that I was a little surprised that Texas Tech beat them. We are 4-0 ATS this tournament, so it’s definitely a wonderful time to be a homer. If they can get past Gonzaga, they can – they will — get past anyone. I genuinely think the combination of coaching, defense, and Texas Tech’s surprising offensive efficiency makes them the best team in the Final Four even if oddsmakers believe otherwise. The only thing I’m worried about is waking up to write the Breakfast Spread Tuesday morning after I watch Texas Tech cut down the nets in Minneapolis. Are you surprised?

Casale: The easiest bet in the history of gambling was you picking Texas Tech. Hey, you went to school there. Enjoy it. Besides, if the Red Raiders beat Michigan State, I’ll be rooting for them almost as hard as you Monday night, just without the Patrick Mahomes jersey.

Schmitto: I’m packing red polos for this one, but I might bring the Mahomes jersey just in case he and I cross paths this weekend.

About the Author

  • Thomas Casale (tcasale)

  • Thomas Casale is the Editor of Sports Betting Content for RotoGrinders. He's been following the sports betting industry for almost 30 years. Before coming to RotoGrinders, Thomas contributed to The Linemakers and worked as an editor at BetChicago. He's also provided fantasy sports analysis for multiple websites and print publications, while covering the NFL, college football, college basketball and MMA at different media outlets.