Final Four Predictions – Virginia-Auburn: Tigers Have a Lot to Overcome
The Auburn Tigers have surprised a few people along the way to the Final Four, to say the least. And they have brushed up against history by beating storied programs like Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky. Now they get the opportunity to succeed in their first game ever in this stage of the tournament advance to the championship game for the first time. They’ll have to get by the defensive-minded Virginia Cavaliers. Game time for this national semi-final is 6:09 PM ET at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
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Auburn, coached by the animated Bruce Pearl, who has had previous success at Tennessee and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is known primarily for its ability to hit three-pointers. And they have been outstanding in this tournament, making a little better than 40%. But they demonstrated that they could win without a barrage of triples when they got past Kentucky in the Elite Eight. It is not likely that they will be able to move beyond Virginia here in the Final Four, if they can’t get hot from the outside, preferably as it is opened up by a drive from either of their great guards. Jared Harper and Bryce Brown, as a tandem, can compete with any backcourt out there, and they are fully capable of extracting an advantage over the Virginia guards.
They also take half of Auburn’s three-point shots, which in turn are half of the team’s total shots. The Cavaliers are one of the best there is at defending threes, allowing just 28.7% over the course of the full season. But during the NCAA Tournament, they have surrendered almost 40%, which is important to keep in mind. Carsen Edwards in particular was able to carve up Tony Bennett’s Pack Line defense to the tune of ten triples in 19 attempts.
In the Final Four odds on the NCAA Tournament, posted by the folks at BetAnySports, Virginia is the favorite:
Virginia Cavaliers vs. Auburn Tigers Final Four Odds
- Virginia Cavaliers -6
- Auburn Tigers +6
- Over 131 points -110
- Under 131 points -110
Virginia is also posted as the favorite to win it all at +156.
One thing the Cavaliers can do to foul up Auburn’s plan is protect the ball. They have turned the ball over less than 15% of the time in each of the last seven games. Meanwhile, Auburn is 0-4 this season when failing to force turnovers on 18% or more of their opponent’s possessions. Since the Tigers have relied a great deal on getting those turnovers and creating transition opportunities, this leaves them with a dilemma. Should they lay the pressure on heavy, or concentrate on getting back into a halfcourt defense? They can make their opponents work, as those foes have taken an average of 18.4 seconds per possession off the clock. So you are going to see some very long possessions indeed.
But what is Auburn going to do with their offense? Are they going to try to exploit what becomes open to them in the halfcourt setting with the Pack Line? Their guards can maneuver themselves into position, as Virginia does allow you to take three-point shots. And the Tigers can try to get themselves down the floor and shoot before the Pack Line has an opportunity to set up. And that’s a challenge, as Virginia does a great job in getting back on the defensive end.
Ultimately, can Virginia, which is ranked third nationally in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, create some distance? We know that they can hit threes, but whereas they were 39.4% over the entire season, they have made just 30% of their attempts in the Big Dance. And Kyle Guy has been very inconsistent in this regard. If they continue their inaccuracy, and with the deliberate way they play, this is bound to be a tight game much of the way, with Auburn’s prowess hitting triples taking on some added weight. Virginia may be the better team in this game, but there is definitely enough room for Auburn, an overachiever throughout all these proceedings, to cover the number.
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