Las Vegas Sun

July 12, 2024

Vegas odds favor Kentucky slightly in national championship

Wildcats settle as 2.5-point favorites, the lowest title game point spread since 2008

NCAA Kentucky-Michigan

David Phillip / AP

Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison, center, is congratulated by teammates Julius Randle, left, and Dakari Johnson after making a 3-point basket in the final seconds of the second half of the NCAA Midwest Regional final game against Michigan on Sunday, March 30, 2014, in Indianapolis. Kentucky won 75-72 to advance to the Final Four.

National championship betting

Which side would you take in the national championship game?
Kentucky -2.5 — 50.1%
UConn +2.5 — 49.9%

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The NCAA Tournament semifinals culminated with one of the most exciting Final Four games in several years Saturday night in Dallas.

Aaron Harrison sunk a 3-pointer from the wing in the final seconds for the second straight game to lift Kentucky to a 74-73 victory, in which it did not cover the closing point spread of minus-1.5, over Wisconsin.

The shot set up a national championship meeting with Connecticut on Monday night, which projects as every bit as gripping and evenly matched according to the early betting line in Las Vegas sports books.

Kentucky opened, and settled, as a 2.5-point favorite over UConn on Saturday night in the final college basketball game of the season. It’s the closest national-championship spread in six years and marks just the seventh time since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985 that the line is less than 3 points.

UConn pulled the biggest point-spread upset since the round of 32 to claim its spot, beating Florida 63-53 as a 7-point underdog. The Huskies went down 16-4 early but came back with a dominant inside performance from DeAndre Daniels, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and a 5-for-12 shooting tally from beyond the 3-point arc.

The victory was the Huskies’ fourth straight as an underdog in Las Vegas.

“They have a lot going for them,” Ed Salmons, assistant sports book director at the LVH Superbook who oversees college basketball, said earlier this week. “They’re so 3-point dependent, and if they hit their shots and make a lot of them, it can change the whole complexion of the game.”

The Superbook listed No. 7 seed UConn at 100-to-1 to win the tournament before round of 64 action tipped off two weeks ago. No. 8 seed Kentucky was 50-to-1 at the same time.

That means not only will Monday produce the highest-seeded team to cut down the nets in 29 years, but also the biggest Vegas underdog in quite some time.

“Making Kentucky a No. 8 seed to start the tournament was ridiculous,” Salmons reiterated. “They were much better than an 8-seed, and we all knew it.”

It might sound strange labeling the Wildcats with the underdog tag, anyway, as they opened as the 4-to-1 favorite to win the title last April at the LVH. Their odds grew exponentially, however, as a freshman core labored their way to a 21-10 straight-up, 12-15-2 against-the-spread regular season and doubled when the Wildcats landed in the loaded Midwest Region.

UConn stayed more in line with Las Vegas’ expectations all season. The Huskies never moved from their 100-to-1 price to win the title at the LVH Superbook from the beginning of January to the start of the tournament.

UConn went 24-7 straight-up and 15-14 against the spread during the regular season but has covered in every game throughout the tournament. Kentucky’s first point-spread loss of March Madness came against Wisconsin.

The Wildcats are currently minus-135 on the moneyline to win straight up with the Huskies coming back at plus-120. That equates to oddsmakers giving Kentucky a 56 percent chance to win the national championship Monday night.

Prepare for another close call.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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