March is here and the madness has arrived. Gonzaga and South Carolina, whose first meeting ever will be Saturday, are similar in that this is the inaugural Final Four for each. In the other semifinal, No. 1 North Carolina faces No. 3 Oregon. While the Ducks are in the national semifinals for the first time since 1939, when they won the title, the Tar Heels are in a familiar spot. North Carolina lost to Villanova in the national championship game a year ago.
Let’s take a betting look at the semifinal with key betting numbers and tips for betting each team.
Odds: Gonzaga -6.5, 138
What you need to know
If UNC is the most talented team in the tournament, then Gonzaga is the deepest. This bench goes nine or 10 deep and at every position. The Bulldogs are also good at everything as the No. 12 scoring team in the nation, the No. 4 scoring defense and the 10th-best team in rebounding margin.
The Bulldogs stormed out to a 20-5-1 ATS record this season as one of the top two bets in the nation. Since then, they are 4-5-1 ATS as the team gains widespread recognition and respect it lacked for much of the season. The Zags won nine of those 10 matchups but only covered four of them – a sign their lines have been inflated. I won’t be surprised if early money fluffs this line up a little beyond 6.5 and then late money on South Carolina brings it back down on game day.
Seven of the last nine Gonzaga games have played UNDER. It’s not an accident that coach Mark Few made his team clamp down on defense when the month of March rolled around.
Probably a 79-73 win over Northwestern as a 10-point favorite. The Zags led by 20 in the first half but let Northwestern storm back to make things interesting and allow the Wildcats to cover the spread.
NCAA TOURNAMENT BETTING RECORD SINCE 1996:
What you need to know
South Carolina sorta woke up from nowhere after sleepwalking into the NCAA tournament on a 3-6 straight-up run while failing to cover in nine of its last 11 games entering March Madness. Since then, this team has used a strangling defense that pressures you relentlessly every second you have the ball in the halfcourt. The Gamecocks have forced opponents into at least 14 turnovers each game. They have also been outstanding on the boards, out-rebounding each of their tourney opponents.
South Carolina has won all four of its tournament games as an underdog. A team that plays defense like this while getting a handful of points is the kind of live dog where I look for a middle in-game. If you take South Carolina to start, keep an eye on those in-game lines. Middling gives you a shot at both bets.
South Carolina is the only team with a losing ATS record on the season in the Final Four. Also the only team that has won all four of its tourney games straight up as an underdog. Sign up at Heritagesports and get in the game on the final four.