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May 22, 2019

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NCAA Tournament by the odds: Vegas picks and preview of title game

Virginia Basketball Tony Bennett

Michael Conroy / AP

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett celebrates after defeating Purdue 80-75 in overtime of the men’s NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky.

Those who characterize modern-day college basketball as too offensively dominated are receiving a rude awakening with the national championship game.

The showdown between Virginia and Texas Tech at 6:20 tonight at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis has the lowest betting total in college basketball championship history — and it’s not even close. The over/under is set at 118 points, 10 points lower than the previous floor of 128 for Florida’s 73-57 win over UCLA in 2006 and Duke’s 61-59 victory against Butler in 2010.

The total is fully because of the defensive success of Texas Tech and Virginia, not any offensive limitations. The Red Raiders have rated as the top defensive team in the nation all year, and the Cavaliers aren’t far behind.

Both teams have seen four of their five tournament games go under. Talking Points would lean to the over at such a small number, but that’s not the purpose of this blog. Let’s get to the final against the spread pick of the tournament.

Let’s get to the final against the spread pick of the tournament below. Talking Points has gone 35-29-2 picking every game including 8-2 in top-confidence plays.

No. 1 seed Virginia minus-1 vs. No. 3 seed Texas Tech It was easy to see where the national championship betting line was heading midway through the second half of Saturday’s second semifinal game. Before the complaints of the missed double-dribble call and three-point foul that led to Virginia’s 63-62 victory over Auburn had even ceased, Texas Tech was soaring to a commanding lead against Michigan State before ultimately winning 61-51. Everyone was going to be looking to bet on Texas Tech off of a dominant performance over Virginia off of a lucky escape. The point spread was not going to be Virginia minus-3.5 as was posted at sports books earlier in the week for a potential matchup against Texas Tech.

And there’s good reason for that. If that was the number, then the blog’s pick would be on the opposite side. There’s simply not enough separating these two teams at the moment, certainly not more than three points. Virginia was the most efficient team in the nation throughout the regular season. Texas Tech has been the most efficient team in the nation throughout the tournament.

But what’s more predictive? It’s typically wiser to go with the larger sample. And what’s more impressive? That could be even up for debate, as it’s a testament to Virginia that it’s reached its first-ever national championship game despite not quite playing up to its full potential. Texas Tech has been better, but it’s still only a five-game sample. And it was only one game that caused a 2.5-point move in the market. That might be a slight overreaction. Virginia is probably more deserving to be a 2- or 2.5-point favorite. That’s not much of a difference, not enough for a bet, but for a pick, the favorite looks like the side with the value.   

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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