I’m not as thrilled with the two team totals, as it’s likely they’ll split like Duke-MSU (though maybe just a Duke under 70 is the way to go).
ESPN Chalk pick: under 140 points
ESPN Chalk picks: l ean to Wisconsin and under 140 (personally doing a parlay)
LAS VEGAS — In some ways, Monday night’s NCAA championship game has become anticlimactic after Wisconsin’s epic upset of undefeated Kentucky on Saturday night.
In the Final Four Betting Guide we did on ESPN Insider last week, our CBB Vegas Rankings had Wisconsin and Duke power-rated at 98.5 apiece, so our panel was basically projecting that the two teams should be a pick ‘em on a neutral court. If Duke had faced Kentucky in the title game, I wasn’t planning to take them plus the points because I don’t think they would have matched up as well with the Wildcats. Both games went over their betting totals.
Maddux Sports: I had this game lined at pick ‘em as well, so I don’t think there is any edge in this game. The over/under opened most places at 141 and at 10 a.m. The title game opened a pick ‘em with Wisconsin now favored by 1 nearly across the board.
9:18 p.m. I’ll be staying away.
Both semifinal games went over the total; Wisconsin-Kentucky had only 116 possessions but the two squads combined for 10-of-22 (45 percent) from 3-point land and 27-of-32 (84 percent) from the free throw line. And I think that although both teams are capable of lighting up the scoreboard, both defenses should show up Monday night, so I also like the under.
Now, there are two things that give me pause: Duke’s 80-70 win over Wisconsin back in December and that the Badgers are coming off an incredible win; we’ve seen teams with similar victories come up flat.
Let’s take a look at how ESPN Chalk’s betting experts view Monday’s finale.
Largest lead: under 12.5 points
Duke first half: under 32.5
Duke total points: under 70
Frank Kaminsky: under 19 points. ET on CBS
ESPN Chalk pick: pass
But I know people don’t want to hear “pass” on any kind of championship game, so I’ll give my thoughts and people can take them with a grain of salt as I’m not sure I’ll play the game. Wisconsin beat Kentucky 71-64 as a consensus 5-point underdog and plus-210 on the money line here in Vegas. ET Monday, the majority of books were at 140.
So yes, I do give a slight edge to Wisconsin, and obviously nothing from Saturday changed that opinion. I got lucky with Frank Kaminsky over 19.5 points, as he got fouled late with the victory assured and fortunately concentrated enough to go 2-for-2 and finish with 20. The Duke-Michigan State game was called extremely tight (46 fouls) whereas Wisconsin and Kentucky were allowed to play a little more physical. So I don’t like these as much as the Final Four props but will be more likely to play them if the Westgate lines move or I find better prices elsewhere.
I went 3-2 on player props in the Final Four, so that worked out fine (and 1-1 on team totals with unders on Michigan State and Duke). If anything, I’d look for him under 19 against Duke as I expect the Badgers’ scoring to be balanced as usual. The fact that Wisconsin, especially with Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker being able to score on anyone either inside or outside, match up well with Kentucky has me liking the Badgers at pick ‘em.
Dave Tuley: Count me among those who view this game as anticlimactic. I see a majority of the title game being played in the half court and my projection for pace suggests that both squads will need to have very efficient offensive nights in order to top the current number of 140. It’s always best to end on a winning note.
But if I’m just going on the pure handicap of the teams, I’ll take the Badgers. The Wynn Las Vegas and the Boyd Gaming books (including Coast Casinos) opted for Wisconsin minus-1, but by Sunday morning all 14 Vegas books on the Don Best screen had the game at pick ‘em. I cashed on Wisconsin (first half, game spread, money line) and have ended the NCAA tournament strongly with Notre Dame versus Kentucky in the Elite 8 (losing a small moneyline play on the Irish at plus-625 but also winning a first-half wager) after mostly trading money up until then. However, in the notes, I did hint that I had the Badgers rated a little higher than the Blue Devils but was outvoted.
There was talk that a Kentucky-Duke matchup would create the biggest TV audience in college basketball history, and there was speculation that it would create a record betting handle. I made a bet on Duke-Michigan State under the total and seemed well on my way to victory before some late-game sloppiness, lackluster defense and a whopping 53 free throw attempts helped sneak the game over the total.
Andrew Lange: Despite Duke doing a number on Michigan State, you can’t fault the betting markets for taking an early piece of Wisconsin after the Badgers did the unthinkable and took down Kentucky. I like the under in this one.
Favorites and underdogs split the two games in the Final Four on Saturday as Duke routed Michigan State 81-61 to cover as a 5.5-point favorite despite trailing by eight points early in the first half. Heading into the title game, underdogs now lead just 32-30 ATS (51.6 percent) for the tournament and unders’ edge is down to 32-28-2 (53.3 percent).
Westgate line: PK; over/under 140
PickCenter: 53 percent picked Wisconsin
As you’d expect from a pick ‘em contest, I’m not anticipating either team getting out to a big lead (or, more specifically, I think both teams are good enough to stop opponent’s runs and not get too far behind), so I like the “largest lead” prop to stay under 12.5. (Who am I kidding? I’ll at least have a small parlay.)
After Wisconsin’s upset of Kentucky, the majority of Vegas sports books posted the opening line for the title game at pick ‘em. But while Wisconsin-Duke might not draw the same numbers, it’s still going to be what most sports fans are looking to watch (and bet on) come Monday night, so it’s time to take a look from the Vegas betting perspective.
I’ve always been a believer that if you can accurately project pace, you’ll win a lot more totals than you lose