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March is now in the rear-view mirror but there still is a bit of madness left to sort out in Minneapolis on Saturday night. With only 3 games left of the NCAA tournament for you degenerates to wet the beak on before diving into the NHL and NBA playoffs later this month, I’m laying out some of the key numbers I look at. Use this as another piece at helping sort through where to throw your money as we wrap up the college buckets season. Remember though, your gut and your brain are sometimes your own best assets (or enemies).

We have very diverse, yet somewhat boring group of teams left standing. Michigan State coming off the upset of top ranked Duke faces red-hot Texas Tech and their suffocating defense. On the other side, we get Virginia, they of the redemption tour after being the first 1-seed to lose to a 16 last season in their loss to UMBC. The Cavaliers face the unbelievably hot shooting Auburn Tigers fresh off ripping through blue-bloods Kansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky.

Story lines are everywhere and some of the numbers you will see here will show how close each of the four teams are in terms of likelihood to cut down the nets Monday night.

A look back…

TEAM Preseason Odds Pre-Tournament Odds
Michigan State 25-1 15-1
Texas Tech 100-1 40-1
Virginia 12-1 15-1
Auburn 40-1 30-1
(Odds from Westgate SuperBook)

Before the season began, Virginia was one of the favorites to be here and maintained a top-5 ranking for most of the season. Texas Tech in hindsight obviously looks like a great buy but a team coming off an Elite Eight loss and bringing back a player like Jarrett Culver should’ve stood out being 100-1 in the first place.

Michigan State is always a team in the hunt and usually bettors are unable to get great future odds on them with a commonly large public backing. Opinion on Auburn was relatively high to start the season and their hot finish to the regular season and conference tournament leading into their run in the tournament wasn’t a complete shock.

Common Opponents

Record vs. Common Opponents
Virginia vs. 5-2 Dayton; So. Carolina; Duke; NC St.; UNC
Auburn 3-3
Texas Tech vs. 4-1 Nebraska; Duke; Texas, Michigan
Michigan State 7-0

Looking at how opposing teams fare against common opponents is at least a decent barometer to see how they’ve stacked up in similar match-ups – for obvious reasons. On the flip side, a team hitting 17 threes can negate the common opponent stats pretty quickly but you can rarely foresee a game like that coming.

One thing to point out is Michigan State’s record here is made up of three wins against Michigan alone. Texas Tech’s dismantling of the Wolverines in the Sweet 16 shined a spotlight on Michigan’s offensive woes.

KenPom…obviously.

Offensive Efficiency (AdjO) Defensive Efficiency (AdjD)
TEAM Rating Rank (Natl.) Rating (Rank (Natl.)
Michigan State 121.7 5 90.2 8
Texas Tech 113.6 30 84.0 1
Virginia 123.0 2 88.8 5
Auburn 121.0 6 96.3 39
(KenPom.com)

I’m not a KenPom freak or anything, but there is some definite credence to the rating system he uses. I’m an idiot and will never be able to calculate this kind of stuff on my own, but the fact is a majority of national champions over the last couple decades fall within the top-15 of both AdjO and AdjD.

It’s seems obvious – teams that don’t waste possessions on both sides of the ball are more likely to win – not a shocker. But it’s interesting to note only two of the four squads left meet that criteria. Texas Tech’s top ranked defense will keep them in any game but getting Culver enough help offensively against another solid defensive team in Michigan State may be a lot to ask for.

On the contrary, Auburn needs to shoot like they have for the last 10 games or so. Losing inside presence Chuma Okeke to a devastating (and horrifically gross as shit) ACL tear could prove to be too much to overcome. Bryce Brown and Jared Harper will have to shoulder most of the offensive load. Virginia hasn’t shot well in the tournament at all after being one of the best teams in the country from three during the season but a tenacious team defense and De’Andre Hunter being one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the country can negate a poor night.

Scoring still matters…but so does balance.

Top 3 Scorers
Michigan State PPG
Cassius Winston 18.9
Nick Ward 13.2
Xavier Tillman 10.1
Texas Tech
Jarrett Culver 18.9
Davide Moretti 11.6
Matt Mooney 11.0
Virginia
Kyle Guy 15.2
De’Andre Hunter 14.9
Ty Jerome 13.3
Auburn
Bryce Brown 16.0
Jared Harper 15.4
Samir Doughty 7.2
(College Basketball Reference)

I love a team this time of year that has multiple scorers. For every Kemba Walker or Carmelo Anthony run, there’s much more like 2016 Villanova or 2009 UNC. Riding one guy so long can be dangerous with an off shooting night or picking up a pair of quick fouls in the first half. There’s guys capable of it – Cassius Winston and Culver are two of the best in the country – but Winston definitely has a bit more help.

Virginia has options galore. Michigan State and Auburn lost Joshua Langford and Okeke respectively. Texas Tech heavily rides the shoulders of Culver offensively (and for good reason). Brown and Harper dominate the ball and will dominate the scoring for the Tigers. An outstanding duo offensively, they will be challenged by Virginia’s defense led by Hunter and Jerome.

What have you done for me lately?

Season ATS FAV/DOG Last 10 OVERS
Michigan State (-2.5) 23-10 20-8 4-6
Texas Tech (132.5) 13-11-11 2-3 6-3-1
Virginia (-5.5) 21-9 19-9 6-4
Auburn (131) 16-12-4 3-2 5-5
(The Action Network)

A few days out from Saturday, the sharps appear to be on the two favorites according to The Action Network. It’s something to monitor as well as the Virginia line keeps moving up slightly. I’d really start giving pause to backing Tony Bennett’s crew if that goes up to six or more at this time.

The fact is though that Auburn played the “roll out Okeke for inspiration” card in their Elite Eight win. You have to figure that won’t work twice. And yes, I definitely believe him being there with the dramatic entrance played a role in Auburn’s win (and is an obvious Bruce Pearl calling card). Mojo matters. And that brought some serious swag to the Auburn bench.

For the season, Sparty and the Cavs have both been good as favorites and bettors have made a killing on them as evidenced by their season long records. Texas Tech on the other hand has been a difficult team to handicap. Auburn is only slightly better for gamblers to have read this season.

Be sure to check in on Saturday for Nick and my own picks for the Final Four games as we have been betting each game of the tournament. We’ll post them here and you’ll be able to find them on our Twitter feed as well so be sure to follow.

 

Follow Matt on Twitter @schools_01

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