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March Madness: Best bets for the Final Four

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Purdue and Connecticut waltzed their way into the Final Four. And if you go by the point spreads for Saturday's games, you can go ahead and start handicapping the matchup for Monday night's national championship since those programs are huge favorites over North Carolina State and Alabama, respectively.

Luckily, that's what the point spread is for - injecting uncertainty to pick a side in Arizona. Will we take on that task or look elsewhere for betting value?

(11) North Carolina State vs. (1) Purdue (-8.5, 145.5)

Matt's best bet: Under 145.5

We know at least one main thing about each team:

  • N.C. State's defense has improved, driving its season-saving, nine-game win streak;
  • Purdue wants to slow the pace, with just five fast-break points against Gonzaga and nine versus Tennessee (augmented by the Vols' porous mid-range shooting)

Add the discomfort of shooting in a cavernous football stadium, and it should be challenging for both squads to score 70 points. The last time State Farm Stadium hosted the Final Four, teams combined to shoot 32.5% (43-of-132) from three.

Sam's best bet: None

Maybe it's lame that I'm sitting this one out, but I don't have a play on the side or total. Purdue has the size to contend with DJ Burns, and the Boilermakers' offensive firepower will be too much for N.C. State's defense to handle.

Purdue and UConn are on a collision course to meet in Monday's championship, but 8.5 is too many points for me to lay with Purdue.

Matt's best prop: DJ Burns - Under 14.5 points (-105)

A half-court battle works for Burns if he's posting up against Kyle Filipowski or Oakland's limited size. As much as we've all enjoyed what he's brought to this tournament, his spin moves and floaters won't be as effective against Zach Edey. And Purdue's star isn't likely to put him on the line. Defensively, Burns might be a liability, which may limit the minutes for the 13-point-per-game big man.

Sam's best prop: DJ Burns - Under 14.5 points

I promise Matt and I didn't collaborate on this play beforehand. How does the saying go, great minds think alike? It must be that.

N.C. State's opponents have wrestled with whether or not to double Burns, and he's hurt teams all tournament that didn't. The answer for Purdue is easy when it has a 7-foot-4 center who can guard Burns in single coverage.

Burns hasn't been defended by anyone of Edey's height and strength. The nation fell in love with Burns over the last three weeks, but he'll struggle inside against Purdue as the Wolfpack are sent home packing.

(4) Alabama vs. (1) Connecticut (-11.5, 161.5)

Matt's best bet: Alabama 1H (+6.5)

Connecticut's rating overinflated the point spreads against good teams in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, something we looked at last week. There's reason to be gun-shy about fading the Huskies in a game that should be closer to -9 and might have been -7 before the tournament started.

To back Alabama, I want to tighten the sample size to best utilize the Crimson Tide's high-variance style of play, eliminate Dan Hurley's opportunity to make halftime adjustments, and still take advantage of a first-half point spread derived from an inflated line.

Xavier, St. John's, Marquette (without Tyler Kolek), San Diego State, and Illinois all hung around in the first half of neutral-site games against the Huskies. Alabama can do the same, especially if UConn's brutal travel results in a sluggish start.

Sam's best bet: Alabama +11.5

Someone must at least compete with Connecticut during this dominant run, right? Maybe not, but I'm betting against the Huskies this weekend. As Matt pointed out, this line is inflated because of the program's incredible run and cover streak.

But let's face it: this is the best team the Huskies have faced in the postseason in the last two years. I thought that was the case with Illinois, but a hard-to-fathom 30-0 UConn run proved the Fighting Illini more fraudulent than expected.

Alabama's defense ranks outside the top 100, per KenPom, but it has improved throughout the tournament. Nate Oats' group proved it can lock down defensively in crucial spots.

The Crimson Tide's style, which includes playing faster and shooting a plethora of threes, won't allow UConn to go on monstrous runs. If Alabama goes ice-cold from long range, this will get ugly, but that's a rarity for the team.

Matt's best prop: Grant Nelson - Over 16.5 PRA (-125)

Grant Nelson averages 18.9 combined points, rebounds, and assists (PRA) this season, and he managed 17 in just 21 minutes against Clemson. Nate Oats will start with Nick Pringle on Donovan Clingan before deploying several other lengthy options, so Nelson will get the less physical Alex Karaban. That matchup will make Nelson less likely to get into foul trouble than he did against PJ Hall and Ian Schieffelin.

Sam's best prop: Donovan Clingan - Over 9.5 rebounds (-130)

Clingan has been a monster on the glass for the Huskies all tournament. He's averaging 10 rebounds through four games and grabbed 14 against Northwestern in the Round of 32.

Nelson and Pringle are serviceable bigs but don't have Clingan's stature. The projected top-five draft pick should clean up the boards all game. Alabama is one of the worst teams in the country at limiting opponents on the offensive boards. Expect UConn to emphasize crashing the glass to create extra possessions, which should lead to Clingan grabbing even more rebounds than usual.

Follow Matt on social media at @mrussauthentic and Sam at @soshtry.

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