💸 March Madness Final 4

• 7 min read
💸 March Madness Final 4

Apologies for sending out our letter a day later than usual - we were settling up with our bookie after those wild elite 8 games.

So what were the main takeaways from the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds?:

  1. Gonzaga has absolutely crushed their opponents.  Gonzaga has won 27 consecutive games by double digits, which is the most by any team in the last 60 years.
  2. Gonzaga has beaten the spread in every game they've played:
  • vs. Norfolk State (Spread: Gonzaga -33): Score 98-55
  • vs. Oklahoma (Spread: Gonzaga -14.5): Score 87-71
  • vs. Creighton (Spread: Gonzaga -13): Score 83-65
  • vs. USC (Spread: Gonzaga -8.5): Score 85-66

It's very hard to bet with Gonzaga's opponents to cover when Gonzaga keeps blowing them out.

3. UCLA is for real - taking out a true contender in #2 Alabama and then #1 Michigan (pulling out narrow victories in each).  They're led by the stellar play of Johnny Juzang.  Juzang is averaging 22.3 points on 51 percent shooting in the NCAA tournament.

4. Baylor has been a very efficient team, particularly on defense.  According to FiveThirtyEight the Bears have harassed opposing ball-handlers. Baylor’s 14.6 percent steal rate leads all tournament teams, and the Bears are scoring 31 points off those turnovers per 100 possessions

5. Houston fans won't like this, but they have faced a historically soft field on their way to the Final Four.  

The combined seed total of opponents Houston has faced (No. 15 Cleveland State, No. 10 Rutgers, No. 11 Syracuse and No. 12 Oregon State) is 48, and that is just the sixth time a team has faced a seed total of 45 or greater in its first four tournament games.

That said - Houston has been great on the glass, using their length to sweep up rebounds.

Now that we have a little background on the remaining teams, let's do a preview of the Final Four matchups and see where you can find some value:

Houston (#2) vs. Baylor (#1):

Saturday, April 3rd, 5:14pm EST

So far the smart money is on Baylor to win and cover against Houston.  

Baylor leads the country in 3-point shooting percentage (41.8) but have shown the ability to win even when they are struggling from behind the arc.  

But, aside from their offense, Baylor brings a fierce defense to the table.  The Bears placed three players on the Big 12 All-Defensive team

As far as the Over-Under, the Sportsline model from CBS is leaning over on the total, projecting the teams to combine for 148 points.  However, as you can see above, the sharp money is on the under.  

Here are the picks across the landscape:

Sporting News Prediction:

The schools have a history that dates to their Southwest Conference days, and the Cougars have a 38-15 advantage in the series. The teams have not met since 2003, however, and the dueling Final Four droughts should add to the intensity.

Both teams can win with their defense, and that could lead to some rough shooting in the first half. Look for both teams to settle in during a tight second half, but Baylor's backcourt (and depth) will be a difference-maker. The Bears take advantage of second-chance points and make clutch free throws down the stretch.

CBS:

Why Baylor can cover:

  • The Bears lead the country in 3-point shooting percentage (41.8)
  • The Bears placed three players on the Big 12 All-Defensive team in Butler and fellow guards Davion Mitchell and Mark Vital.

Why Houston can cover:

  • Quentin Grimes and second-leading scorer Marcus Sasser (13.5 points per game) have played stellar defense, combining for 16 steals in the tournament.
  • One key for the Cougars in their last two victories was the ability to shut down the opposition's leading scorer, holding Syracuse's Buddy Boeheim and Oregon State's Ethan Thompson to a combined 23 points on 6-of-25 shooting.
  • Houston also dominated the glass in each of those matchups, winning the battle of the boards by a combined 81-60.

Action Network:

  • Houston: Quentin Grimes is the leading scorer at 17.9 points for a team that is full of players between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-8, including do-everything senior wing DeJon Jarreau, who recently recorded the first Cougar triple-double since Bo Outlaw in 1993.
  • Baylor: Can the Bears regain their pre-COVID form? That was the primary question heading into the tournament after suffering a loss in the Big 12 semis to Oklahoma State. It appears they have, so you can put the Bears back in Gonzaga’s neighborhood. With Davion Mitchell leading the charge, Baylor will be tough to beat.

Gonzaga (#1) vs. UCLA (#11):

Saturday, April 3rd, 8:34pm EST

No surprises here.  The smart money is overwhelmingly on Gonzaga to win outright on the moneyline and cover the spread.  Despite the spread being set at +/-14.

And it's hard to argue with that.  As we covered above, Gonzaga has dominated the competition, covering the spread in each of their contests in the NCAA tournament - and winning 27 straight by double-digits.  

UCLA is on a heater though and may be much stiffer competition than Gonzaga has faced thus far.  

The over-under is set at 145.5, and the smart money has the over in this one.  Apparently this is predicted to be a high scoring affair.  

An interesting tidbit - the Bruins are 5-0 against the spread in the 2021 NCAA Tournament as well.  Which will break?

The Sportsline model is leaning over on the total, projecting the teams to combine for 157 points.

Here are the picks across the landscape:

Sporting News Prediction:

Gonzaga has scored at least 83 points in each of its tournament games, and they overwhelm opponents with that up-tempo game. UCLA can only slow that tempo so much, so it will take a hot-shooting 3-point night from Juzang and the supporting cast to put up a chance.

Look for Timme to get the Gonzaga offense going early, and Kisper and Suggs will take over in the second half. UCLA will not get blown out, but the Bulldogs will keep that double-digit cushion to the end.

Final score: Gonzaga 84, UCLA 70

CBS:

Why UCLA can cover:

  • UCLA's slow pace masks its overall efficiency, as the Bruins are a top-15 offensive team in the country.
  • UCLA commits a turnover on only 15.8 percent of possessions
  • The Bruins put pressure on the offensive glass, grabbing more than 30 percent of their own misses, and they are a strong 3-point shooting team, making 36.9 percent for the season and 39.0 percent in Pac-12 play to lead the conference.
  • UCLA is above-average in two-point defense, yielding just 49.5 percent

Why Gonzaga can cover:

  • The Bulldogs are also led by a trio of All-Americans: Drew Timme, Croey Kispert and Jalen Suggs (projected to be a top 5 pick in the NBA draft).
  • That trio pushes Gonzaga to nation-leading metrics in point differential, scoring, field goal percentage and more, and the Bulldogs have the more talented team in this Final Four matchup.

Action Network:

  • Since the 2005 NCAA Tournament, underdogs of 10 or more points have the slightest of edges in these matchups, posting a 120-117-5 (50.6%) against-the-spread (ATS) record.
  • Double-digit dogs have been a bit more profitable in this season’s tourney, going 8-6 (57.1%) through the Elite Eight matchups.

For those that want a little color outside of the NCAA Tournament, here is where the sharps are playing the other leagues:

Find out where the sharp money is laying.

NBA:

Pulled from sportsinsights.com

NHL:

Pulled from sportsinsights.com

MLB:

Pulled from sportsinsights.com

How to look at this:

  1. This shows you where the bets (#) and the amount of money ($) are laying down across different bets.
  2. The interesting stuff is when the number of tickets and the amount of money differs.  

Do with it what you will!


We're keeping it short and sweet this week.  We'll have more lines, more analysis, more opportunities and more picks from around the sports world next week.  Be sure to subscribe to premium if you want to make sure you don't miss a thing and see regular updates regarding the sharp money: https://www.bettorsecrets.com/subscribe/.

Want to see more?  Write us at michael@bettorsecrets.com.

We'll see you again next week.  Good luck out there!


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