UConn vs. Gonzaga Odds
LAS VEGAS, NV — As the old saying goes, “What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.” This is generally true in all aspects of life, unless you leave victorious in the West Regional of the NCAA tournament.
The stakes could not be higher on Saturday, with the winner heading to Texas for a shot at the national title.
From seeding to analytics, the West was the toughest region in the tournament. The winner of UConn and Gonzaga will get the experience of cutting down the nets just off Las Vegas Boulevard and could be the betting favorite to win it all at NRG Stadium during the Final Four.
While UConn guard Jordan Hawkins was in tears of joy when embracing with his family postgame, Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman looked to describe just how good the Huskies are.
In comments about Hawkins, Musselman stated, “Hawkins is as good a shooter as we’ve played all year. He rises up over people. He moves without the ball really well.”
Arkansas caused 17 turnovers, a victory in which Musselman described as rushing the quarterback. The fault came in UConn’s ability to create 22 assists, hit nine consecutive 3-pointers in the first half and post more than twice the defensive rebounds.
The Huskies flexed on both sides of the court in the Sweet 16, dominating the rim and 3-point line on each end. UConn exploited a weak Arkansas perimeter defense with a Catch-and-Shoot 3 efficiency of 53rd and a mid-range rank of 11th.
Head coach Dan Hurley has plenty of offensive weapons to work an opponent with hard cuts and screens.
As Musselman stated in his post-game presser, “They have a point forward in Andre Jackson, and they cut really hard.”
Stopping the UConn offense requires elite switching on defense and all hands on deck to stop the best offensive rebounding team in the nation.
The Huskies’ defense survived the isolation attempts from a trio of Razorbacks that are NBA bound. UConn has not been elite against jump-shooting teams, ranking outside the top 280 in efficiency against post-ups, mid-range shots and catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts.
Any team looking to give the Huskies a loss must be able to hit from any spot.
To become a masterclass wordsmith in handicapping Gonzaga, there is only one word in the dictionary: offense.
The Bulldogs’ efficiency on defense is down across the board — from a KenPom effective field goal rate of 245th to ShotQuality numbers in the bottom 25 of Division I against mid-range, post-up and isolation plays.
There is not a single redeeming defensive statistic in favor of the Bulldogs for the remainder of the tournament, leaving gamblers only the handicap of how much the Zags can score.
Head coach Mark Few has top-50 efficiencies in the half-court, running the pick-and-roll and hitting mid-range jumpers. Although Gonzaga does not run a high frequency of isolation plays, a rank of 21st is its highest of any other play set.
Teams that commit to a lightning pace of possessions have not fared well, as TCU discovered in a Round of 32 barn burner.
The Zags suffered two losses in conference play, a 66-possession game against Loyola Marymount and a dragging overtime loss at Saint Mary’s. Dictating pace and clogging the lanes in transition are the first steps to stopping Gonzaga.
UConn vs. Gonzaga Betting Pick
No team has had a better efficiency since Feb. 1 than UConn. Hurley has built a team capable of playing in the paint — as well as the perimeter — on both sides of the floor.
UConn will have plenty of advantages on offense, as it will seemingly be able to get to the rim or shoot 3-pointers uncontested. After hitting nine consecutive early against Arkansas, the hot shooting in T-Mobile Arena is expected to continue against a Gonzaga team that will push pace.
The biggest handicap is the ability of the Huskies’ bigs to defend Drew Timme in the post.
UConn is a top-50 defense in transition efficiency and may have the ability to keep Hunter Sallis and Malachi Smith from attacking the basket, while using drop coverage to keep Julian Strawther from hitting logo 3-pointers.
Defending Gonzaga is a much different task than an Arkansas squad that is uber-focused on going to the rim. The bigger question is if the Huskies will look to make the game a half-court affair to keep the scoring down.
UCLA elected to run at a hyper pace with Gonzaga and ultimately it fell a bucket short. UConn is 55th in defensive average possession length, hinting that this game could be light speed.
Every miss on the offensive glass for the Huskies should be a put-back, as they are the second-best team in the nation in rebounding. Quick scores equal boatloads of points, similar to Gonzaga’s ability to get to the free-throw line.
UConn has a defensive foul rate of 320th, a terrible number in sending opponents to the charity stripe. Gonzaga gets to the foul line at a top-100 pace, with expectations that the magic of Timme will draw fouls from the likes of Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan.
Look for both offenses to have a green light for the full 40 minutes.
As for the side, a number of UConn -2.5 was posted and quickly took action down to -1.5 at most shops. With our Action Network projection squarely on UConn -1.5, there may be no value in the game pre-tip.
However, these are two of the leaders when it comes to the Kill Shot, a metric defined by at EvanMiya as a 10-0 run. Both the Zags and Huskies average a Kill Shot at a 76% chance per game.
Conversely, neither of these teams give up 10-0 runs to opponents.
Considering Arkansas was able to string together a 10-0 run on UConn in the second half of the Sweet 16 game, there is every expectation that this will be a live betting dream, where each side will have plus-money in the market.
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