A wildly entertaining and exciting NCAA Tournament will come to an end tonight as San Diego State and UCONN will play for a chance at cutting down the nets. With both teams winning their Final Four games in completely different fashions, they find themselves 40 minutes away from history, and we’ll be previewing the game before going over why I’m targeting a first-half bet in this one.
UCONN has played five very solid teams so far in the NCAA Tournament, and the final score of each game has made it look like it was the beginning of the season, and they were playing a weak schedule. Four of the Huskies' five opponents rank within the top 25 on KenPom, yet they won all five games by double digits while covering the spread as favorites in each.
In their most recent win over the Miami Hurricanes, the Huskies shot 49% from the field and dominated Miami on the glass by outrebounding them 40 to 29. Big man Adama Sanogo finished with his third double-double in the tournament and has proven to be one of the toughest assignments since the first round.
The Huskies' 8th-ranked defense on KenPom has also been displayed all tournament. Saturday night, they held the Hurricanes to a 32% field goal percentage marking the fifth straight game they have held a team under 39% from the field. San Diego State ranks 68th in offensive efficiency on KenPom, but in their win over FAU, they did shoot 50% from three.
SDSU will also enter tonight with a player who has a ton of momentum in Lamont Butler, who just showed the game is truly a matter of inches. Butler made the biggest shot of his career to win the game for the Aztecs, but Matt Bradley’s 21-point performance helped them overcome a seven-point halftime deficit.
The Aztecs will be the first team in the tournament that will play UCONN and be ranked higher than the Huskies in defensive efficiency on KenPom. SDSU was third in the country in opponent three-point percentage this season, which will be a significant factor tonight in trying to limit guys like Jordan Hawkins and Alex Karaban.
Instead of making a play on the spread for the entire game, I’ll be targeting the UCONN Huskies' first-half spread of (-4). Over the past four rounds, the Huskies have averaged a halftime lead of 9.5 points, and they now will face a San Diego State team that ranked 109th in the country in first-half points per game.
SDSU has gone into halftime of the last two rounds, losing by five or more points, and despite leading the team in scoring on Saturday, Matt Bradley has not been shooting it well at all this tournament. Bradley is shooting 36% from the field, and it may take him a while to get going tonight against a UCONN team that just shut down Miami’s high-powered offense.
I think the Aztecs will need a halftime adjustment to slow down Adama Sanogo, as they have similar rebounding numbers to Miami, and we saw how it went for them to stop the big man. Overall I think UCONN has been coming out of the gate incredibly well, and even if the final score ends up being close, I expect the Huskies to be up at halftime.
UCONN Huskies 1H (-4)