NCAAB National Championship: Betting the Spread

Doug Upstone

Monday, April 7, 2014 5:34 PM UTC

Monday, Apr. 7, 2014 5:34 PM UTC

In what has been one of the wildest NCAA basketball tournaments ever, let’s breakdown the betting odds for each team and see where we end up for Monday’s title matchup.

For Kentucky, Size Has Mattered (As has clutch baskets)
When the Wildcats were blown out in Gainesville 84-65 as nine-point underdogs, that was their third loss and four games and they had dropped five straight against the sportsbooks. It certainly seemed Kentucky’s youthful team, for all its talent, was never going to mature and reach its seemingly unlimited potential. 

But in the second half of the SEC championship against those same Gators, John Calipari’s team made a comeback and nearly beat No.1 Florida, falling 61-60 as a seven-point underdog.

That game changed the team’s collective mindset and they have played with confidence since.

If you watched the pregame show Saturday on TBS, you saw a great piece on the Houston Cougars of the early 1980’s, who were known as Phi Slamma Jamma. Though they never won a championship, they help change basketball at the college level and there are similarities in style between them and Kentucky. 

Houston had great size with players like Hakeem Olajuwon and they seemingly did not run any plays, they just attacked on offense and made numerous “Oh My” dunks.

Players like Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson, Alex Poythress and now Marcus Lee throw done ferocious dunks, often on missed shots. A case could be made the best Kentucky play in this tournament has been the missed shot with all the putbacks.

Where the Kentucky players have grown up is their confidence in knowing they can take the ball to the rim from any point on the floor whether it is Randle, James Young or the Harrison twins and they are likely to get a dunk, a foul or a miss that is slammed through the iron that brings Big Blue fans out of the seats. It would not be easy to use a sports pick against Coach Cal’s Cardiac Cats.

Hot Guards and Hot Coach has Connecticut at the door step
If the Huskies would win tonight championship, it would be time to change our thought process about the best program in college basketball. We know all the familiar names, Duke, Louisville, Syracuse, Florida and North Carolina, but a victory by Connecticut would give them four titles in 16 years. Only the Blue Devils would have come close with four over a 20-year period (1991-2010), before UCLA owned college basketball.

This UConn team has many of the qualities as the team from three years ago with Shabazz Napier replacing Kemba Walker. However, this team is completely different as college basketball handicappers will acknowledge, because of how they play defense.

Only once in Connecticut’s last 14 games has an opponent managed to shot better than 47 percent and that was St. Joseph’s, who almost knocked the Huskies out of the tourney in the first game for each, losing 89-81 in OT, despite making half their shots.

Napier and Ryan Boatright are arguably the most disruptive backcourt in the game in recent memory. Each has tremendous quickness and as analyst Kenny Smith pointed out before their Elite 8 encounter with Michigan State, “They (the Connecticut guards) don’t get on you defensively, they get UNDER you, which is much harder to play against because they are always swiping at the ball”.

This dynamic duo has decidedly outplayed both the Spartans and Gators guards on both ends of the floor and give a lot of credit to coach Kevin Ollie.

The UConn head man now has a grand total of five pressure-packed NCAA games under his belt (Calipari has 56), but Ollie and his staff’s attention to detail has been remarkable.

Connecticut guards have forced 10 turnovers in their last two games and eight have come by steals or knocking the ball away from their opponents and with all the replays, you can see they have studied who they are matched against and have a deep understanding of their tendencies and try and push them a certain direction to set up the theft on the next dribble or two.

That is exceptional coaching and players listening to their coaches.

Check out live NCAAB National Championship Betting Odds

What to watch for Monday Night
The basketball betting odds opened with Kentucky favored at -3 and it has bounced back and forth from there to -2.5. At last look, somewhere between 56 and 58 percent are backing Connecticut against the spread and around 58 percent are taking the Wildcats on the money line. 

The Huskies don’t have to win the battle of the boards but they cannot allow the bigger and stronger Wildcats to own the offense glass, since they have averaged 11.6 offensive rebounds in the tournament.

The backcourt matchup should really be intriguing with the smallish UConn guards trying to pester the 6’6 Harrison twins. Both Andrew and Andre because of their height dribble higher, which could mean ball exposure, however, because of their size, they should be able to penetrate and get their shots off with ease.

Like Wisconsin, Connecticut has to hit a high volume of three’s to stay in the game and they are very capable and this is where DeAndre Daniels and Niels Giffey could play key roles.

As we have seen from both teams, neither is bothered by falling behind and both have shown the ability to be unbelievably clutch when it counts late.

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Title Game Pick
I see a very close contest with this NCAA basketball pick. Thus far in the tournament underdogs of three or less are 7-3-2 ATS and Connecticut is the better free throw shooting team. 

With all the tight games Kentucky has played, another one or two-point outcome is my call, thus I’ll take the points. Just don’t ask me who cuts down the nets.

NCAA Basketball Free Pick – Connecticut covers

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