March Madness: Final Four Picks

Alright, its finally here, the Final Four! In a year where experts and fans alike were sending Duke, UNC, and Gonzaga to Minnesota with sharpies, none of them made it.

Instead, last year’s disappointment Virginia, blue-collar Michigan State, Lock-down defenders Texas Tech and blazing hot Auburn will be taking the court at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday.

After Brian and I finding winner on both Saturday and Sunday, here are our selections for Final Four Saturday.

Brian’s Picks:

Auburn vs Virginia ML -240

Ok I know that the Tigers are on fire right now and have a similar rallying cry as Louisville in 2013 but the loss of Chuma Okeke for Auburn is more detrimental to them as Kevin Ware was for Louisville. Okeke was used to stretch the floor, fight for rebounds and open driving lanes for others.

Virginia needed a volleyball type shot by Mamadi Diakite to send their Elite 8 game to overtime, where they eventually won despite the amazing performance by Carson Edwards. The Cavaliers had to that point asserted their defensive prowess upon opponents by only allowing an average of 52 pts/gm. While Purdue did score 75 against them, 42 of those were from the scorching hot Edwards who went 10-19 from downtown.

Auburn has two of their own sharpshooters in Jarrett Harper and Bryce Brown Jr. but no offense to them, they’re not the off the dribble shot creators that Edwards is. They will find it very difficult to find open shots as well as when they miss, Virginia will have a tremendous size advantage down low and thus dominate the defensive rebounds.

The slow pace of Virginia will keep Auburn in this and may allow the Tigers to hold a lead at some point, but the size difference inside and the trio of Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, and De’andre Hunter will be too much in the end.

Michigan State vs Texas Tech (Under 132)

There isn’t too much to say about the Red Raiders except they may be playing the best overall team basketball so far in the tournament. They limited two top 10 offenses in Buffalo and Gonzaga to 55 and 69 points respectively while squeezing in a dominant defensive performance against my Michigan Wolverines between them. Potential lottery pick Jarrett Culver, senior transfer Matt Mooney, and Italian sharp shooter Davide Moretti have also increased their offensive output giving them a real shot at the Title.

Their opponent, the Michigan State Spartans also dominated their first three games with an average margin of victory of 16 points before surviving a slugfest against the consensus favorite Duke Blue Devils 68-67. Sparty is led by Big Ten player of the year, and All-American Cassius Winston who has willed this injury depleted team here.

All the injuries may have made them a better team as freshman Aaron Henry, sophomore Xavier Tillman, and seniors Kenny Goins and Matt McQuaid have all played their best basketball in March.

Tech and State are both blue-collar teams who pride themselves on the little things. Shot selection and defensive rebounding will be priorities for both teams while also attempting to limit turnovers. I see a lot of one and done possessions for both, as well as a slow pace to this game. Take the Under.

Kyle’s Picks:

Virginia -5.5 vs Auburn

This pick is all about fading what we think we know. Virginia was a free throw away from being eliminated. Instead Mamadi Diakite was hitting a jumper to force OT. Not only did the Cavaliers win the game but they covered the 4/4.5 they were favored by.

Auburn comes into their first ever final four on quite the run. They were able to win against a really good Kentucky team without Chuma Okeke. Sure feels like Auburn has all the momentum and Virginia is running on fumes, or that’s what they want us to think.

Despite nearly 75% of the bets coming in on the Tigers, the line has inflated from 5 to 5.5. I’m going with the money and against the narrative in this contest.

Beyond the numbers, the loss of Okeke will be felt more in this one. The Tigers will be stifled by this Virginia defense. I’ve been on them since the beginning and am not jumping off the bandwagon now.

Texas Tech ML vs Michigan State

Guns up!!! I’m back on Tech for this matchup. Chris Beard has these guys playing phenomenal basketball. They’ll be ready for Sparty.

Michigan State comes into this contest after beating Duke to get to the final four. They’ll be riding the emotional high of toppling Zion and company. While the perception of Duke is they were a giant that couldn’t be defeated, the reality was they ran some questionable plays and were a general mess offensively.

Sparty is a short favorite (-2.5) in this contest. I expect the public to back them in forces as the weekend comes. The bets are fairly even at the moment. It will be curious to see if you can get Tech +3.

If you really like Tech and I do, you can get Texas Tech at +400 or better to win the whole thing. Feels like great value on team that is only +130 to win this game. Id expect them to be around +150 or less if they win and face either Auburn or Virginia.

You can also take the exact matchup of Virginia over Texas Tech at around +400. If I’m right and both Virginia and Tech get to the championship, you would be sitting pretty.

Good luck and enjoy the Final Four!

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