Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, April 8, 2019 at 8:00 AM
It wasn’t the most exciting action in terms of up-and-down-the-floor basketball. But, Saturday’s compelling Final Four games showed you why the two finalists deserve to be playing for the college basketball national championship Monday Night in Minneapolis.
Virginia and Texas Tech both…
*Play great DEFENSE. You really have to work hard to good looks against these teams. Occasionally you can beat them down court, or sneak through the maze for a layup. But, Tech held Michigan State to just 51 points while allowing less than 40% shooting and forcing 11 turnovers in a very slow game. Virginia held explosive Auburn to 62 points, and the Tigers needed to get hot in the final few minutes just to get that high. (Also of note, both teams guarded the arc…with Virginia holding Auburn to 9 of 31 on treys, Tech holding Sparty to 7 of 24).
*Understand the importance of TURNOVER AVOIDANCE. We’ve been talking about this through recent discussions here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping. Texas Tech only lost the ball seven times vs. MSU, Virginia only eight vs. Auburn. Not only is that important in terms of maximizing the potential of your possessions…but it keeps your opponents from getting many “cheap point” opportunities after a steal. Part of “defense” for both teams is not handing away easy buckets with offensive miscues.
*Look for easy buckets with backdoor or inside PASSING. Too many college teams try to force shots that aren’t there. This is arguably why teams like Duke and Kentucky didn’t make it to the final weekend. Hero ball. That can work with the occasional hero. But, when playing aggressive defenses, the “true” hero will penetrate to draw defenders THEN pass to an open man by the glass or behind the arc.
If you like fast-break basketball, this isn’t for you. This is throw-back basketball to another era…which isn’t surprising because the Texas Tech coach is a so-called “disciple” of Bobby Knight, and the Virginia coach is the son of a longtime veteran. To an old-timer like me, this feels like handicapping basketball of the 1970’s or 80’s! But, with taller players who are bulked up from weight lifting.
Who’s going to win when two such similar teams play each other? You regulars know that I can’t give out my official selection here in the coursework. That’s for paying customers. I will make you aware of the following.
*I believe the market price of Virginia -1 or -1.5. has fully adjusted to the “overrated Virginia” and “underrated Texas Tech” realities of this event. Virginia has played three straight very close games when they were favored to advance more easily. This after losing their second game of the ACC tournament. A friendly schedule and some late breaks have kept them alive. Frankly, NONE of the #1 seeds played like they were any better than the #2’s and #3’s. Virginia’s just been lucky to dodge trap doors. The market knows that now.
Texas Tech, and the Big 12 as a whole, was better than the national media and global betting markets realized (Texas just won the NIT, and two Big 12 teams reached the Final Four of that event). The Red Raiders would have been about +5 vs. Virginia if they had met earlier. Obviously, we’d all love them at +5 if that were the line Monday night. No chance of that happening.
*I believe that three-point shooting will be the tie-breaker. It’s very difficult to score inside on both of these defenses. They play fast, tall, and smart…so neither team commits many dumb fouls. The winner will have to shoot OVER the opposing defense. Your homework between now and tip off is to determine which offense is most likely to do that in a high-pressure situation inside a football dome. Look at season-to-date three-point stats…and make a list for each team of the guys most likely to be difference-makers from long range. Monday’s GAMEBREAKER is probably going to be a hot three-point shooter…or a ballhandler who gets the ball to a variety of hot shooters.
I’m sad to see college basketball come to an end. But, I’ve been through this many times before. I was handicapping national championship games before many of you were even born! I know that big things are ahead in the NBA Playoffs and Major League Baseball.
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The Dean of Sports Handicapping thanks you for your attention. Our next class get-together will be Friday. We’ll probably be talking about how to handicap the NBA Playoffs at that time. That would push baseball analysis to the following week. With that in mind, I wanted to alert you to a possible dynamic happening right now in the Majors.
Early evidence suggests that MLB is back to using baseballs that fly a long way. You’ll recall there was talk about “juiced” balls a couple of seasons ago. That was more about ball construction than anything else. Many complained that it had become too easy to hit homers. Then, last year, everything returned to normal. Well, a week-and-a-half into the new season, and balls are now flying out of parks at speeds and trajectories suggesting that homers are easy again.
This should impact how you bet games. Be careful with Unders unless you have two starting pitchers who know how to miss bats. Look for Overs whenever mediocre starters or bullpens are on the mound. Bet on the best home run teams at affordable prices against offenses that don’t have as many weapons.
By the time we talk about baseball again, we’ll have more evidence to evaluate. I wanted to give you this heads up now when I had the chance. See you again Friday to talk about the NBA Playoffs.