Final Four Odds, Predictions | The 2 Early Bets We Love for Saturday

Final Four Odds, Predictions | The 2 Early Bets We Love for Saturday article feature image

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images. Pictured: Donovan Clingan (UConn)

It seems hard to believe, but we only have three games remaining in the 2023-24 college basketball season.

And while we still have a few days to go until the Final Four tips off from Phoenix, we have two early bets we're leaning into.

Keep an eye on the lines as the week progresses, as well as the rest of our coverage, including official game predictions, player props and best bets.

On March 11, the Tar Heel State launched North Carolina sports betting fully online. Sign up at NC Sportsbooks today.

NC State vs. Purdue

Saturday, Apr 6
6:09 p.m. ET

By Carmine Carcieri

Like UConn, Matt Painter, Zach Edey and Purdue are on a mission.

They’re not looking to repeat as national champs like the Huskies, but the Boilermakers are attempting to prove the college basketball world wrong and accomplish what Tony Bennett and Virginia did in 2018-19 — win the NCAA Championship one year after losing to a 16-seed.

Edey is averaging 30 points and 15 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament, including posting a ridiculous 40 points and 16 rebounds against a strong Tennessee defense. No one can stop the 7-foot-4 big, but Purdue has separated itself from last year’s team thanks to its improved guard play.

Lance Jones was an excellent addition via the transfer portal, and Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith have grown immensely in their second seasons.

That's all well and good, but how can I bet against the Pack here? NC State has won nine straight games, including victories over North Carolina, Duke (twice), Marquette and Texas Tech. This is one of the greatest March runs we’ve ever seen from a team that was just 17-14 before the ACC Tournament.

While the Boilermakers have Edey, DJ Burns Jr. is playing out of his mind himself, dropping 29 on Duke and 24 and 11 against Oakland.

Facing Edey is obviously a whole new task, but Burns has the finesse, toughness and experience to avoid foul trouble and at least put up a fight against the two-time National Player of the Year.

NC State also has Mohamed Diarra's length to use against Edey defensively.

And even if Edey dominates those specific matchups, the Wolfpack have the guards and role players to keep them in the mix.

DJ Horne is an excellent shot creator as the Wolfpack’s leading scorer this season, Michael O’Connell and Ben Middlebrooks were A+ transfer portal additions, and the aforementioned Diarra has become a force of a secondary interior big next to Burns.

Remember, Burns scored just four points in the second round, and the Pack still dominated Marquette from tip to finish.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying I think 9.5 points is too many. This is not some mid-major Cinderella that will be overmatched talent-wise on the sport's biggest stage.

The Wolfpack will certainly put up a fight in Phoenix, even if they ultimately come up short of a victory.

Pick: NC State +9.5

Alabama vs. UConn

Saturday, Apr 6
8:49 p.m. ET

By Tanner McGrath

I’ve lost a pretty penny fading Alabama this month.

However, I’ve also been unlucky, as the Tide are lucky to be here. Specifically, they’ve been shooting over their head.

During this four-game tournament run, the Tide have shot 42% from 3 on nearly 30 attempts per game. They dropped 16 3s against Clemson, 11 against North Carolina and 13 against Charleston.

In the one game they didn’t shoot well, the Tide needed a late 17-3 run to overtake Grand Canyon. Conversely, Alabama’s opponents have shot 28% from 3 on 28 attempts per game and 68% from the free-throw line on 25 attempts per game.

Jeez. That’s running well.

Mark Sears and Aaron Estrada are amazing, and Grant Nelson has put together some great tournament moments, but I have to think regression is coming and that the Tide are overvalued — hence, why the line has jumped nearly two points since opening. EvanMiya also projects UConn as closer to a 13.5-point favorite.

Meanwhile, I’ve made a pretty penny backing the Huskies this month. Everyone has. The Huskies have won and covered 10 straight NCAA Tournament games.

But that’s not luck. They haven’t shot well during this run, canning only 28% of their 22 3-point attempts per game. They shot 3-for-22 (14%) from 3 against Northwestern and won by 27. They shot 3-for-17 (18%) from deep against Illinois and won by 25.

Instead, their tournament success is baked into Dan Hurley’s elaborate, variable scheme, which is so versatile that they can shapeshift and adjust when Plan A isn’t in the card (unlike, say, Illinois).

It makes them hard to scheme for on short rest and much less vulnerable to the inherent variance of the NCAA Tournament one-and-done structure.

During this run, the Huskies played some excellent, switchable defenses that could guard their secondary, off-ball screening actions (Northwestern, San Diego State). So, they’ve slipped into more high ball-screens with Tristen Newton and slips/cuts with Donovan Clingan.

The Huskies averaged “only” 38 paint points per game during the regular season, draining 3s at a 36% clip. But since the triples haven’t fallen, they’ve decided to adjust and score over 50 paint points in three of their four NCAA Tournament contests.

That’ll be a problem for Alabama, which can’t stop any action but struggles mightily against interior ball screen and post-up creation.

The Tide leaned into more small-ball lineups with Rylan Griffen at the four, sacrificing any attempt at rim protection and rebounding.

Meanwhile, UConn does plenty well on the defensive end, like ranking second nationally in 2-point defense and first in points per shot allowed at the rim.

But one thing that’s rarely talked about is the Huskies' ability to effectively limit perimeter shots. They rank top-50 nationally in 3-point rate allowed, top-40 in 3-point attempts per game allowed and top-20 in catch-and-shoot opportunities per game.

Hopefully, that’ll finally force the 3-point regression train into Tuscaloosa Station.

And given that Nate Oats-ball is a rim-and-3-based offense that relied heavily on 3s to get to the Final Four, it’ll be hard for the Tide to effectively initiate offense.

Meanwhile, even if Alabama continues to get lucky with opponents failing to make any free throw or 3, the Huskies will figure out a way to score consistently. It’s what Hurley does.

UConn rolls to the championship game. Wager accordingly.

Pick: UConn -11.5 (Play to -13)

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