The NCAA Tournament Finals odds were released promptly on Saturday night and opened with the Kentucky Wildcats at -3.0 with a game total of 132.5. Both of those sides quickly shifted in different directions. The lines have since settled at KU -2.5 with a total of 135.0 being the general consensus across the board. Considering that both teams are a combined 9-0-1 ATS heading in to the NCAA Tournament Finals, this will be a tough game to get a handle on from all perspectives.
It makes sense to back Kentucky for a lot of reasons in spite of the handicap handed out in the NCAA Tournament Finals odds by the linemakers. They’ve had a tougher road to get to the championship game, beating out Wisconsin, Michigan, Louisville and Wichita State. Their shallow +2.8 point differential in this game basically created this line because they haven’t blown anyone out since they murdered Kansas State during the Round of 64.
The size of the Wildcats is going to pose problems for Connecticut. Their front court is well equipped to bottle up the slender scoring of DeAndre Daniels, who has gone from a relative unknown to a first-round pick in the NBA Draft over the last few weeks. On top of that, the 6-foot-1 Shabazz Napier will be fighting to find sight lines and open looks against the 6-foot-6 Harrison twins, who have been as clutch as the UConn guard has been himself.
The general public seems to be enamored with Connecticut for two major reasons. The first is that Shabazz Napier has been the best player in the entire tournament without question. Against Florida and the pitbull that is Scottie Wilbekin, he managed 12 points and 6 assists to go along with an amazing 4 steals. Head coach Kevin Ollie has never seemed “over his head” despite just two years of coaching experience as well, and the fact that they cleaned the floors with Florida in a ten-point route pretty much legitimized them as championship contenders if there were any lingering doubts.
But the fact that the public’s favor leans towards Connecticut’s NCAA Tournament finals odds as underdogs has more to do with Kentucky than anything else. As stated, they haven’t been winning games by a large margin and they lack the polish that UConn has played with. At no point has Kentucky been a clear juggernaut. They have fought tooth and nail to get to where they are, and there are many that believe that the bow will eventually break. You can’t keep surviving on the skin of your teeth forever.
That line of thinking might very well undersell the strength of Kentucky’s competition in the tournament. After all, winning ugly is still winning, right? For my money, Kentucky seems like the logical play. Napier and Daniels are facing defensive nightmares when you simply study the tale of the tape, and Aaron Harrison has been lighting fires from the perimeter all tournament long.
Kentucky’s generally large public backing doesn’t seem to be putting a dent in the beef of this betting line either, which is somewhat surprising given that they were the country’s top ranked team in the preseason. In a vacuum my calculations grade this specific matchup as a game where Kentucky should be favored by -6.5 points, but their inability to completely dominate the scoreboard – and play sound defense for forty minutes – makes the NCAA Tournament Finals odds completely fair.