Final Four 2019 Betting Picks: Our Staff’s 7 Favorite Plays for Michigan State-Texas Tech, UVA-Auburn
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo.
- Virginia is a 5.5-point betting favorite against Auburn in the Final Four, while Texas Tech 2.5-point underdog vs. Michigan State.
- Our experts pick their seven favorite bets for the Final Four, including thoughts on the spreads, over/unders and props.
Saddle up folks. It’s time for the two biggest college basketball games of the year — the 2019 Final Four.
Our experts have been hard at work all week dissecting this two-game card and coming up with their favorite bets. Below, you’ll find thoughts on the sides and totals for each game, plus a largest lead prop. Let’s get to it.
Final Four 2019 Betting Picks
Danny Donahue: Michigan State-Texas Tech Over 132.5
Receiving just 39% of bets, this over is pushing to be the least popular in our database for an NCAA Tournament game past the Round of 64 (it’s currently the second-least popular). I tend to fade the public in general in heavily bet games, but I’m especially high on the strategy when public bettors decide to go against their usual tendencies of taking favorites and overs.
Since 2005, there have been 48 instances of an over receiving the minority of bets in an NCAA Tournament game past the first round, and those overs have gone 28-19-1 (59.6%).
I’ll bank on that trend continuing on Saturday.
Mike Randle: Auburn vs. Virginia Over 131
Virginia will face its toughest backcourt test of the season in Auburn’s Jared Harper and Bryce Brown. The Tigers’ duo combines for 31.4 points per game and has attempted a combined for 593 three-pointers. Their shot volume alone indicates a higher-scoring pace than Virginia is accustomed to playing.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl will not want to get into a halfcourt battle with Virginia and will press, looking to trap. This should force the Cavaliers to go into their bench more for talented offensive players like Braxton Key and Jay Huff.
Auburn’s pressure will provide open opportunities for Virginia, which hits 3’s at the eighth-best clip in the country. Auburn is not strong defensively against the 3P, ranking only 197th in the country.
History is also on the side of the over in this game. In the last six Final Four matchups (all played in football stadiums), the over is 4-1-1. The only under was last year’s Loyola-Chicago vs. Michigan game that fell short by only two points. Not only is a 67-65 type of game likely, but the efficiency from the free throw line (both teams over 71%, top half in the nation) should limit the sweat down the stretch.
Stuckey: Texas Tech +2.5
My number is equivalent to how I see this game: a true coin flip.
We have the best half-court offense in the country in Michigan State, which leads the nation in assist rate, taking on a historically elite Texas Tech defense that leads the country in points per possession allowed in the half court.
It will come down to a few little things, such as how often can Sparty get in transition, and Texas Tech’s ability to make Sparty cough up the ball — an issue they dealt with more earlier in the season.
Michigan State doesn’t pressure the ball, so TTU won’t have to worry about its potential issues with ball-handling, but it could get hurt on the defensive glass.
Every angle I look at, I can see both sides of the coin, which just confirms my actual number of Michigan State -0.5. I am going to wait it out to see if we can get a +3, but +2.5 would be enough for me to play as well.
I think the ultimate difference could be what Chris Beard cooks up either pregame or in-game via second-half adjustments. There’s nobody better in the country on the defensive end.
Eli Hershkovich: Auburn +5.5
With over 65% of the bets and money on Auburn, according to The Action Network’s data, most would hesitate toward siding with a public dog. But the Tigers have the perimeter attack to take advantage of Virginia’s pack-line defense, as it’s allowing the 104th-highest 3-point scoring rate (34.0%) in Division I.
Bruce Pearl’s bunch has tallied the seventh-ranked scoring rate from behind the arc — a product of its 15th-ranked 3-point clip. Auburn guards Bryce Brown (16.0 points per game) and Jared Harper (15.4 ppg) are at their best in transition, and they should have enough opportunities to run because of their tenacious defense.
The Tigers have amassed the highest opponents’ turnover rate (24.9%) in the country. If UVA coach Tony Bennett continues to insist on playing freshman point guard Kihei Clark, his 19.7% turnover rate should give Auburn opportunities to the pace the other way. The Tigers will be able to cover this higher line in the process — if not win the game outright.
John Ewing: Virginia -5.5
Here are five reasons I’m on the Hoos in the Final Four:
- UVA is the better team. Our power ratings give the Cavaliers a 70.0% chance of advancing.
- Tony Bennett’s team is the only squad in the country that ranks top-5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Balanced teams win championships.
- Auburn is making the program’s first Final Four appearance. Since 1985, teams have gone 4-10 straight up in their Final Four debut.
- Teams shoot worse in football stadiums. The Final Four is being held in U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings. On average, teams shoot 33.0% from 3-point range in football stadiums, down from 36.7% in basketball arenas. This is bad news for Auburn, which lives by the three.
- Narrative street: Lose to a 16-seed one year, win the championship the next. UVA is a team of destiny!
Collin Wilson: Virginia -5.5
I also have a play on the total for the Michigan State-Texas Tech semifinal game, as I’ll break down in our betting guide. As for Virginia-Auburn, I am taking my 8-1 future on the Cavaliers into the game and adding a play on the Hoos.
An opening line of -5 is trending toward -6, encouraging bettors to back what will be a very public Auburn side. The loss of Chuma Okeke cannot be overstated, as he ranked in the top 200 as an individual player in offensive rebounding, blocks and steals. While Bryce Brown and Samir Doughty will be the Cavaliers’ focus from the defensive perimeter, Virginia should control the boards on both sides of the floor.
There has been plenty of mention about Auburn applying pressure and forcing teams into turnovers, but Virginia doesn’t give the ball away. The Hoos may not force turnovers either, but they are top 10 in the nation in 3-point percentage and opponent 3-point percentage.
I expect Virginia to force their slow half court play onto an Auburn team that wants to run. Both teams rank 333rd or worse in average possession length on defense.
The loss of Okeke may be too much for Auburn, while Kyle Guy and the rest of Virginia are due to break out of their scoring drought. I will take the healthier team enforcing its style of play. After the miraculous comeback cover against Purdue, this Virginia team is letting it ride with house money.
Evan Abrams: Auburn/Virginia Largest Lead Under 14.5 Pts
I have a gut feeling this Auburn and Virginia game will be a back-and-forth slugfest and it may be tough for either team to hold a double-digit lead. This season, Virginia games are averaging 126.6 points per game, the fifth-lowest total in the country. Auburn obviously plays at a very different pace than Virginia and will look to run, but the way Virginia plays in the half court and the way Tony Bennett looks to control the tempo, I think the Under 14.5 for the largest lead is a good play here.
Since Virginia and Duke played back on Jan. 10, the Cavaliers have played 10 games with a point spread of less than 10, and the average largest lead in those games is 12.9 this season.
In Virginia’s 2019 NCAA Tournament, the average largest lead in those games is 13.8 PPG. It’s 13.4 PPG for Virginia when the spread is -5 or less this season, which is a good representation of the Final Four against Auburn.