Final Four best bets: Picks against the spread and how to watch

San Diego State guard Matt Bradley runs to a practice Thursday in Houston.
San Diego State guard Matt Bradley runs to a practice Thursday in Houston ahead of the Aztecs’ Final Four contest against Florida Atlantic on Saturday.
(David J. Philip / Associated Press)

The Final Four games on Saturday are not what we expected, but it doesn’t take anyway anything from the magnitude of the contests, nor the opportunities available to bettors.

Here’s a betting breakdown of the NCAA tournament semifinals (50-39 tournament record against the spread):


No. 9 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 5 San Diego State (-2, 131.5)

When: 3:09 p.m. PDT

How to watch: CBS;; Paramount+

Greg Peterson: San Diego State has been the more efficient defense this season, ranked 14th in the country in points allowed per possession, but Florida Atlantic has better balance. The Owls are 15th in points scored per possession and 20th in points allowed per possession, while ranking 10th in rebound rate away from home.


Even though San Diego State is the nation’s top three-point shooting defense in games played away from home (opponents shooting 27.3% from three-point range), its defense should see regression as the Aztecs have allowed opponents to go just five of 44 from three-point range in the past two rounds of the NCAA tournament.

The Owls are 13th in opponent three-point shooting away from home, which will lock up a San Diego State offense that rates 275th in the country in two-point shooting percentage in games played away from home.

🏀 Pick: Florida Atlantic ML +110

San Diego State outlasts Creighton to reach the NCAA tournament Final Four for the first time. The Aztecs will play Florida Atlantic in the semifinals.

March 26, 2023

Zachary Cohen: San Diego State has held all four of its NCAA tournament opponents under 65 points, with two of those being Alabama and Creighton.

The Crimson Tide and the Bluejays have firepower scattered throughout their lineup, and they still couldn’t find ways to beat this Aztecs defense. And while Florida Atlantic definitely has some talent, the Owls don’t have high-major studs. Of course, that doesn’t seem all that important right now, especially with FAU having made a remarkable run already. But that type of thing matters this late in the tournament.


The Owls don’t have somebody they can rely on to score late in the shot clock, and it’s unclear how they’d produce points if this is close late in the game. Simply moving the ball and shooting threes won’t work against San Diego State.

The Aztecs are 12-0 ATS when facing teams that make 8.0 or more threes per game (after 15-plus games) this season. San Diego State has beaten those teams by an average of 9.9 points per game.

🏀 Pick: San Diego State -2


No. 5 Miami vs. No. 4 Connecticut (-5.5, 149.5)

When: 5:49 p.m. PDT

How to watch: CBS;; Paramount+

Zachary Cohen: Miami is one of the most impressive offensive teams in the nation, as the Hurricanes are fifth in college basketball in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric.

However, UConn is 11th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, and the Huskies happen to be 16-6 ATS when facing teams that shoot at least 45% from the floor this season.


UConn has won those games by an average of 10.8 PPG, so Dan Hurley’s team hasn’t had much trouble beating up on opponents that can score the basketball. The Huskies are also 18-9 ATS when facing teams with winning records this year, and they have beaten those opponents by an average of 10.1 PPG.

This UConn team is just built differently than a lot of other programs, with Adama Sanogo a grown man in the paint. The Hurricanes don’t have anybody quite like him, and his physicality should be a problem for Miami — even for Norchad Omier.

The same goes for the length the Huskies have throughout their rotation. UConn doesn’t play many undersized players, which should help the team get out and contest every shot from Isaiah Wong, Nijel Pack and Jordan Miller.

This also seems like a game that Jordan Hawkins should thrive in. The Hurricanes don’t defend the perimeter at all, so Hawkins is going to get some good looks from deep. Don’t be surprised if he goes for at least 20 points and hits some threes.

🏀 Pick: Connecticut -5.5


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Adam Burke: I’m inherently skeptical about expecting a lot of points in a game played in a football stadium. In fact, it’s part of the reason why I like San Diego State. However, this game between Miami and UConn is a lot different and I think we should get a back-and-forth, high-scoring thriller.

UConn’s best attribute throughout the tournament has been its size. The Huskies don’t have a traditional point guard, but virtually everyone that plays important minutes is 6-foot-5 or taller and contributes on both ends of the floor. Against Miami’s quick guards, I’m not sure that the size will have as much of an impact as it has had against teams like Gonzaga and Arkansas. Of course, the Razorbacks missed a bunch of decent looks and were 15 of 47 from two-point range in that game, so they could’ve at least held up their end of the scoring bargain.

Miami should be able to get some dribble penetration here and Jim Larrañaga is well aware that he should try to play in transition and kick up the pace as much as possible. In this tournament, Miami has scored at least 1.219 points per possession against Indiana, Houston and Texas, all regarded as quality defensive teams. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Hurricanes can get over a point per possession on UConn because of their quickness.

I also wouldn’t be shocked if UConn’s offensive barrage continues. Miami is 243rd in 2P% defense and 132nd in 3P% defense. You can absolutely score on this team and UConn has been extremely efficient on offense since mid-January, including four games of at least 1.117 PPP in the NCAA tournament.

The Huskies should get a lot of offensive rebounds in this game to increase their probability of scoring points. I think Miami will get open looks because of how they share the ball and their quickness off the bounce. The Hurricanes also aren’t as three-happy as some teams with a three-point rate of 34.3%. They are capable of getting higher-percentage looks than that, much like they did against Texas in a game where they had just eight three-point attempts.


🏀 Pick: Over 149

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