In one of the most unlikely NCAA Tournaments ever, it’s only fitting that the national championship game features two teams that are as polar opposite as they come.
Five-seeded San Diego State brings elite defense and physicality each time it touches the floor, while No. 4 UConn’s overwhelming talent and depth has been the talk of the tournament thus far.
With each side possessing strengths and weaknesses on both sides of the ball, we take a look at the best bets for both the spread and the total of Monday’s contest.
No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 4 UConn (-7.5, 131.5)
Monday, April 3, 9:20 p.m. ET
While a 7.5-point spread seems massive in a national championship game, it’s warranted considering how dominant this UConn team has been. The Huskies have won all five tournament games by 13+, and have won all of them against the betting number.
That said, a gap so large is relatively unprecedented in modern college basketball. The last time a spread reached at least -8 was in 1999, when Duke was favored by 9.5 against this same UConn program. Interestingly, the underdog Huskies won that game outright.
As dominant as UConn has been, it’s a daunting task to cover three possessions against a slow, physical San Diego State squad. Despite falling behind by at least eight points in each of their last three games, the Aztecs have continuously found ways to stem the tide and keep things close.
The scenario of the Huskies absolutely running rampant on San Diego State is hard to ignore. UConn ranks eighth nationally in kill shots, per EvanMiya.com, a statistic that tracks 10-0 runs over the course of a game. On the flip side, though, only three teams in all of college basketball allow fewer kill shots than the Aztecs. San Diego State will try its absolute hardest to bring this game into the mud, a place UConn has not needed to play in across March Madness.
UConn has only played five games all season that featured 63 possessions or fewer, and it went 1-4 against the spread, and 2-3 outright in those games. San Diego State loves to slow the game down. They forced Creighton into just 62 possessions in the Elite Eight, and the Bluejays typically play even faster than their Big East counterparts.
Lastly, the Huskies love to shoot the 3-ball, and are 13-0 when they hit at least 40% of their treys, and 1-4 when they hit less than 30% against top-50 opponents. However, as has been widely noted, San Diego State is a top 3-point defense, sitting third nationally at 28.1%, and had been allowing opponents to shoot just 17% from deep in the NCAA Tournament before FAU hit 41% of its looks in the Final Four. Even then, the Owls went just 3-for-8 in the second half.
With UConn’s gaudy win margin in the Big Dance, expect the public to be all over the Huskies. It will always be a risk betting against a potential UConn onslaught, but San Diego State is built to keep this game somewhat close. To be safe, we recommend holding out in hopes of the spread reaching -8, in which case we’d pounce on the underdog.
Pick: San Diego State +8 or better
Almost all of the logic provided towards siding with San Diego State against the spread can also be used to endorse the under. A slow pace and solid 3-point defense both indicate a low-scoring game, and that’s before mentioning the challenges that the Aztecs face on the offensive end, and the underrated defensive unit of UConn.
Despite winning all eight of its postseason games between the Mountain West tournament and the Big Dance, San Diego State has only scored over a point per possession three times. The Aztecs haven’t hit over 50% of their field goals in any of their last 13 games, and haven’t made double-digit 3-pointers in any of those contests.
That shaky offense will need to score efficiently against the jumbo Huskies, who have held NCAA Tournament opponents to just 59.2 points per game. UConn plays a drop defense with its pair of lumbering big men, which allows its lengthy guards to press up on 3-point shooters. This forces opponents to drive to the rim and take tough shots. While San Diego State beat Alabama and Creighton – teams with similar defensive philosophies – it was the squad’s two least efficient offensive performances of the tournament.
In the likely scenario where San Diego State forces the contest to be slow and physical, and UConn uses its size and scheme to force the Aztecs into another inefficient night from the field, all signs point to the under being the right side on the total.
Pick: Under 130 or better
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