Betting Previews
March Madness

3 Games Left -- Who We're Picking

3 Games Left -- Who We're Picking | Tipico
3 Games Left -- Who We're Picking | Tipico
Alex Valdes
Published: 2023-03-29

In our series Tipico Edge, we work with both our internal analysts and external experts to provide you with betting insights and tips on key games or tournaments.

By Mike Miller

Your bracket’s a mess. Don’t worry. Everyone’s bracket is a mess.

The 2023 NCAA Tournament’s been a roller coaster ride of stunning results, surprise teams, and more than a few double takes.

The Final Four is no different.

Three teams – Miami, San Diego State and Florida Atlantic – have never made it this far in the Big Dance, the first time that’s happened since 1970 when St. Bonaventure, New Mexico State and Jacksonville reached the Final Four, along with UCLA. (Yeah, feels a lot like this year’s bunch.)

It’s the first Final Four without a No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 seed, making 4-seed UConn the big dog of the group.

UConn. The outlier. The Huskies qualify as the UCLA of this group, having won four national championships since 1999, more than any other college basketball program in that time.

This season’s Huskies are 29-8, and were ranked No. 1 in December before a midseason swoon removed them from the public consciousness as a national title contender. Losing six of eight games will do that.

But they’ve turned it on in the last few weeks.

UConn outscored Arkansas and Gonzaga in the West Regional by 51 points, the high scoring margin in a regional by any team since Kentucky in 1996 (Google those ‘Cats if it doesn’t immediately ring a bell). 

On the popular advanced analytics site, the Huskies boast an adjusted efficiency margin – the number of points over 100 possessions it would outscore an opponent – of 28.95, top among all D-I teams, and eight points better than San Diego State (20.85), the next-closest Final Four team. FAU (19.43) and Miami (18.23) are further back.

Bet the tourney: In Colorado | Iowa | NJ | Ohio

The last time a team was this far ahead of its Final Four competition was 2018, when Villanova won the title by an average margin of victory of 16.5 points.

Forget anyone bemoaning the lack of marquee teams in the Final Four as a likely indicator of low TV ratings. UConn demolishing teams en route to a title will be the reason nobody watches.

So, is that where we’re headed?

Let’s come back to that and look at the other Final Four matchup, FAU vs. San Diego State. If the teams are unfamiliar, that’s OK. Just don’t mistake them for lightweights.

Florida Atlantic (35-3) has more wins than any other D-I team, and boasts the nation’s longest winning streak (11). They’re the deepest team among the four, with nine players receiving significant minutes.

That rotation allows them to apply defensive pressure throughout the game, usually resulting in the opponent taking a tough or hurried shot. Only 14 teams held opponents to a worse effective FG% this season (remember that stat), which is impressive because the Owls aren’t a big team.

Bet the tourney: In Colorado | Iowa | NJ | Ohio

Only sophomores Vladislav Goldin (7-foot-1) and Giancarlo Rosado (6-foot-8) are listed as taller than 6-4 among those nine rotation players.

That could be the difference when FAU faces the Aztecs. San Diego State (31-6) has three players, Jaedon LeDee, Keshad Johnson and Nathan Mensah, who can control the paint due to their size and bulk. Additionally, SDSU is among the most physical teams in college hoops. They’ll hand-check ball-handlers, muscle post players, and refuse to concede any easy shots.

FAU’s defensive effective FG% (a strong suit) is 45.9%. SDSU’s is 46.3 – but in March, it’s 41.8%. Teams cannot hit shots against the Aztecs. If you’re rating teams based on defensive ability, they’re the best among the four remaining teams.

Still … the Aztecs have to score. And that’s why FAU has a chance. For all of SDSU's defensive ability to limit shots, the Aztecs can’t make them, either. They only make 34% of their 3s (right at the D-I average) and just 49% of their 2s -- 240th overall. Their best offense has been to grab rebounds and make shots. That’s why the spread for Saturday only has them winning by two. 

But SDSU should win. FAU’s reliance on 3-pointers – no team defends the 3 better than SDSU – should be enough to send the Aztecs into the final.

Pick: SDSU over FAU

UCONN vs Miami
UConn is favored by 5.5 points against Miami and has advantages in pretty much every area. The Huskies are bigger (all five starters are as tall or taller than the 'Canes), deeper (they play eight guys), are ferocious on defense, and even score more efficiently than Miami.

Bet the tourney: In Colorado | Iowa | NJ | Ohio

Normally, that’s where Miami (29-7) has the edge. With two elite guards in Isaiah Wong and Nigel Pack, they can space the floor, allowing Jordan Miller and Norchad Omier free to grab rebounds or get tip-ins on offense. They’re both just 6-7 but tend to play bigger than they’re listed. It makes them one of the more enjoyable teams to watch, but also comes at the expense of defensive stops.

Consider Miami the same as SDSU, just with offense.

The only way Miami can keep Saturday close is if they force UConn point guard Tristan Newton into several turnovers or get him into foul trouble. He’s not an elite point guard who can create off the dribble but is the essential table-setter for the Huskies.

When the Huskies are sloppy with the ball, they can struggle. But that only opens the door for Miami. It still has to solve the Huskies’ defense, and if Miller or Omier get into foul trouble, it’s going to be a long night for the Canes.

Pick: UConn over Miami

Championship Game
UConn famously ran off 11 straight wins for a national title in 2011 when guard Kemba Walker turned into an offensive force and their defense made it tough for anyone to score. Their 53-41 victory over Butler in the national title game remains one of the ugliest basketball displays this century.

I raise this because Monday could be the same if the Huskies face San Diego State. They’ll have advantages in every area, which means the best chance SDSU will have to win is to slow down the game and get the ball inside for consistent, regular scoring. UConn is 2-6 this season when opponents shot better than 50% inside the arc. But that’s a big ask considering how poorly the Aztecs are inside the arc.

Simply put, it’s the Huskies’ title to lose. They have all the pieces, they have all the momentum, and they’ll have more than enough to win the fifth NCAA title in school history.

Pick: UConn over SDSU

Photo Credit: IMAGO / ZUMA wire

3 Games Left -- Who We're Picking | Tipico


Enter your e-mail below to get started now with your registration, and be ready to place real money bets on all your favorite sports.