Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, April 5, 2019 at 9:00 AM
College basketball fans and bettors have been treated to a terrific championship tournament this season. Maybe there weren’t as many upsets as you wanted early in the event. But, when it was all said and done, only one out of four #1 seeds was able to make it to Minneapolis. And, that was a Virginia team that many pundits had ruled out because they supposedly lacked “tournament toughness.”
Handicappers are left with a challenging Final Four featuring teams with varying levels of talent, experience, and coaching moxy. Nothing that happens Saturday and Monday would truly surprise me.
*Auburn is a relative longshot compared to the others. But, they are far from a pretender, having won the SEC tournament before taking out Kansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky in succession in this event. They also have the best shot of controlling their own destiny with three-pointers. This is truly a “live by the three, die by the missed three” type of team at this site, where a unique shooting backdrop might cause some problems. I also like the emotional element this group brings to the table under a head coach who knows how to channel that.
*Texas Tech isn’t explosive unless opponents are handing them free points off turnovers. But any high quality team with the #1 defense in the nation (in any sport) is never a longshot when championships are on the line. I do credit this coach for improving his “late game” offense. If you watched the Red Raiders lose to Duke at Madison Square Garden early in the season you know the players had NO IDEA what to do late. Big difference in the second halves against Michigan and Gonzaga.
*Michigan State has the perfect skill set mix when everything’s clicking. Plus, they have a head coach who’s gotten this deep and won before. They should be favored over Texas Tech. Handicappers must determine if the market is giving coach Tom Izzo too much or too little credit. On paper, there’s a lot to love about this team. Will they have an emotional letdown after taking out Duke?
*Virginia has a chip on its shoulder after last season’s embarrassment. This group (players and coaches) would love nothing better than winning a national championship the season after becoming the first #1 seed in history to lose to a #16 seed. Also a great defense here. Even though the media still showcases scoring talent, 2019 is a reminder that important games are won on the defensive side of the floor.
We’ve talked so much in recent months about PLAYMAKERS AND GAMEBREAKERS and THE MOTIVATION FACTOR here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping that nothing more needs to be said in those areas. Here’s what I believe should be the focal points of your handicapping efforts this weekend.
*Research what you can about the shooting backdrop of this arena. If it’s going to throw long range shooters off, then what happens in the paint is going to determine who wins and advances. Your homework today is to develop “most likely” scenario outlines for each game…one for “if shooters will struggle”…and one for “if shooters adjust quickly.” Look over season-to-date three-point stats on both sides of the floor, with extra emphasis on what’s happened in neutral courts in the postseason.
*Research the rebounding strengths and weakness for all four remaining teams. Use your findings to supplement the “if shooters struggle” scenario. Any team that isn’t going to make threes or grab those misses has little chance to advance.
*Research ball protection capabilities for each offense. I believe the media has greatly under-publicized the importance of the turnover category last weekend. All four game winners won that stat by a significant margin.
Elite 8 Turnovers (fewer is better)
Virginia 5, Purdue 9
Texas Tech 13, Gonzaga 16
Auburn 9, Kentucky 14
Michigan State 7, Duke 17
A great job of protecting the ball from Virginia, Auburn, and Michigan State (the first two went overtime and still kept their giveaways under 10!). Then, a great job of forcing turnovers from Texas Tech.
None of the winners could hit 50% of their two-point shots. None of the winners reached double digits in made three-pointers. Three of the four were outrebounded (Tech, Auburn, and Michigan State). The four finalists are in Minneapolis because of the turnover category. It’s your job to figure out which is most likely to cut down the nets Monday night.
That will give you plenty to think about between now and tipoff Saturday afternoon. You regulars know that I can’t post my official selections here in the coursework. That wouldn’t be fair to paying clients. KELSO STURGEON’S top plays can always be purchased at this website by credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office by calling my office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours.
I fully expect to be talking about college basketball again in Monday’s class. We’ll have time to review the key stats from Saturday’s semifinals, and discuss any line movement that occurred after the championship’s opening line was posted. Then, a week from today, we’ll talk about how to handicap the opening round of the NBA Playoffs that will start the next day. It’s great that the college playoffs hand off to the pro playoffs in this sport.
Through the rest of April, May, and much of June, we’ll be taking turns with pro basketball and baseball…mixing in some advanced football when it makes sense. Sports books here in Nevada are already posting proposition bets for the NFL. They know that tourists will bet pro football year round.
The Dean of Sports Handicapping is grateful for your continuing attendance and support. Best of luck to you this weekend. See you again Monday.