Men’s NCAA Final Four Betting Preview

We haven’t had a repeat national player of the year on the men’s side of college basketball since 1983, and we haven’t had a repeat national champion since 2007.

We’re fairly certain that one drought will end when Purdue’s Zach Edey becomes the first back-to-back winner of the Wooden Award since Virginia’s Ralph Sampson more than 40 years ago. And this weekend, we will find out if UConn can match what the Florida Gators did 17 years ago by successfully defending their national championship.

No. 11 North Carolina State vs. No. 1 Purdue (-9)

An 11-seed has made it to the Final Four six times. Not one of them has made it to the championship game.

It’s not a great history if you are a North Carolina State fan. But if you have been following the Wolfpack since the beginning of the ACC Tournament, history hasn’t mattered. Never before had a team won five straight ACC Tournament games to win the conference’s automatic bid until N.C. State did it. In their nine straight wins, including four in the NCAA Tournament, N.C. State was the underdog seven times.

While no one is going into Saturday’s game expecting to see N.C. State knock off the Purdue Boilermakers, at this point, no one could really be surprised if it happens. It’s who the Wolfpack are in this tournament. They are Cinderella, but in need of a really big glass slipper. 

D.J. Burns is a mountain of a man at 6-foot-9, 275 pounds. He gives up seven inches to the 7-foot-4 Edey. But in terms of a big body, he can match him in the paint. In fact, his body is so big, NFL teams have interest in him as an offensive tackle.

A big Saturday game from Burns on both ends of the floor, as well as another big game from D.J. Horne – he scored 20 in his team’s Elite 8 win over Duke – and this team can compete.

How long that competition lasts – 20 minutes, 30, or the entire 40-minute game – remains to be seen. So far, no one has had an answer for Edey. The presumed Player of the Year has put together a rock-solid case for being the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. He is averaging 30 points and 16 rebounds a game, and he hit the 40-point mark in Purdue’s Elite 8 win over Tennessee.

The Boilermakers are the heavy favorite to win on Saturday, and they are paying +205 to win the title on Monday night.

No. 4 Alabama vs. UConn (-11.5)

Alabama is in its first Final Four, and the team insists they aren’t happy with just being here. The oddsmakers suggest that they should be. Beating the defending national champion UConn Huskies is not in the cards. And to be fair to the Crimson Tide, that is not because they have any particular shortcomings that would prevent them from winning. UConn is simply too good.

Let’s go back to last year’s NCAA Tournament, where Connecticut’s winning margins were 24, 15, 23, 28, 13, and 17 points. They didn’t just win the national championship — they barely broke a sweat in winning it.

This year, it has been more of the same, with winning margins of 39, 17, 30, and 25. That’s now 10-straight NCAA Tournament games that have been won by at least 13 points, and with an average margin of victory of 23 points.

Close games are more fun for fans. But the clinic that is on display every time the Huskies take the floor is a sight to behold. So is it possible that Alabama can keep it close and cover the 11.5-point spread?

Possible. But if you saw UConn’s incredible 30-0 run in the middle of their win over Illinois, it’s also possible that they win on Saturday by 50.

For the season, six different Huskies have been the high scorer in a game, and three different players have been the high scorer in the NCAA Tournament. They spread their offense around, and then rely on 7-foot-2 center Donovan Clingan to be the defensive force. The highly rated NBA prospect has 14 blocked shots so far in the tournament to go along with nearly 16 points and 10 rebounds per game.

If we do get an Edey vs. Clingan matchup for the national championship on Monday, that eclipse you see might not be related to the moon.

UConn is a heavy favorite to get past Alabama on Saturday, and they are the -195 favorites to win another national championship.

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