Reaching the Final Four isn’t going to dull the pain of last year’s memorable first round loss when the Virginia Cavaliers were the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16. The only thing that will make Tony Bennett and his squad feel better is winning it all. The Cavs can take another step toward their goal but they have to get past the scorching hot Auburn Tigers to do it. The Tigers knocked off college basketball royalty to get here and they’ve won 12 straight heading into Saturday’s first national semifinal matchup.
NCAA Final Four Betting at BookMaker.eu
Auburn Tigers vs. Virginia Cavaliers
Date and Time: Saturday, April 6, 2019, 6:09 p.m. ET
Location: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
CBB Betting Odds at Bookmaker.eu: Virginia -5, O/U 130
Auburn vs. Virginia TV Coverage: CBS
Live Betting Odds Analysis
As hot as the Tigers are, they still find themselves as a 5-point underdog on the college basketball betting lines. Not a problem says Bruce Pearl, whose Tigers beat No. 1 seed North Carolina, 97-80, as a 5.5-point dog in the Sweet 16. In a SEC Elite Eight rematch with Kentucky, the Tigers were spotted 4.5-points and took out the Cats 77-71 in overtime. Auburn’s last loss was back on Feb. 23, 80-53, against the same Wildcats. Auburn certainly wasn’t expected to be here, and they wouldn’t have been had New Mexico State converted its free throws in the first round. That 78-77 win is the closest of the tournament, so the Tigers have to feel like they’re playing with house money at this point.
Last year’s first round result will forever be a part of Virginia’s basketball history. The Cavs can add a positive chapter to their record book by claiming their first national championship . And they are the only No. 1 seed to escape the second weekend after watching Duke, North Carolina and Gonzaga all go down. Using that upset loss to UMBC as motivation, the Cavs beat everybody not named Duke during the regular season and are a healthy 33-3 on the year. I guess that inspirational message worked.
Losing your leading rebounder and third-leading scorer would be devastating for most teams. But the Tigers didn’t actually lose Chuma Okeke. Let me explain. Sure he’s not playing after suffering a torn ACL in the UNC game, but Okeke provided his own inspiration for his teammates against Kentucky. Parked behind the bench in a wheelchair, Okeke’s mates took notice and rallied to beat the Wildcats.
“It gave our team a lift,” Jared Harper said of seeing his fallen brother join the Auburn bench after halftime. It’s going to be impossible to rekindle that emotion for another game. That moment was like a firecracker, once it pops you can never find it again. Instead, the Tigers will use the committee approach to replace Okeke’s numbers and Pearl will again challenge Anfernee McLemore, Austin Wiley, Danjel Purifoy and Horace Spencer to win their individual battles.
Okeke started and played nearly 30 minutes a game for a reason, though. Without his 6.8 caroms per game, the Tigers lost the rebounding battle to Kentucky, but it was close. And he’s one of three double figure scorers at 12.0 per game. His loss will have a bigger impact against a team that plays defense with the best of them.
Defense is what the Cavs are known for, and why not, they lead the nation in fewest points allowed at just 55.4 per game and they defend the perimeter with the best of them. There’s more to it than just preventing the other team from scoring, though.
Purdue’s Carsen Edwards was on fire in the Elite Eight matchup, dropping 42 on the Cavs while making 10 of 19 three-pointers. It can be done. Teams and certain players can score against UVA’s vaunted defense. Edwards was just unconscious last weekend and it will take a similar out of body experience to replicate, and I can’t see anyone on the Tigers side doing that.
College Basketball Live Betting Picks
Auburn likes an up-tempo pace and the Cavs are methodical in their approach. The contrasting styles will make this a game within a game. I have to give the edge to Virginia because of its efficiency on both ends of the floor. The Cavs are actually rated higher in offensive efficiency than they are on the other side. And they are disciplined. The Cavs will frustrate Auburn into mistakes and they’ll take advantage. We won’t see a lot of points and the opening total is too high for me, so I’m going with UVA to cover and cash the under at offshore sportsbooks.
Final Four Score Prediction: Virginia 71, Auburn 65
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