There are a lot of sports going on.
MLB just finished its first weekend of the season, and the early returns on its rule changes are promising. Games are finishing roughly 30 minutes quicker, and we're seeing more hits and stolen bases. More action in less time is probably good in the long run. The NBA is finishing its regular season, as most teams have roughly four games left. The NHL is in the same spot. Soon the playoffs will begin in both sports.
That's all great, and I'm excited about all of it, but tonight we have the final college basketball game of the season. UConn and San Diego State will square off in Houston to decide the national champion, and tonight's newsletter is dedicated to that game and that game only. I have a pick for the full game and two player props. Before we get to them, let's check out what's going on elsewhere.
Now for our final shining moment of the season.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
No. 4 UConn vs. No. 5 San Diego State, 9:20 p.m. | TV: CBS
- Key Trend: The under is 17-5 in SDSU's last 22 and 7-2 in UConn's last nine.
- The Pick: Under 132.5 (-110)
If you read this newsletter on March 20th, the Monday after the first weekend concluded, you found two futures for the rest of the tournament. One was that UConn would win the whole thing at (+1000). The other was San Diego State reaching the Final Four at (+525). San Diego State has already cashed. Tonight we find out if UConn will too.
The Huskies were (+1800) before the tournament began, and that's when I bet them. That's what I have riding on this game. I have hedged slightly, though. I'm going for the middle. I bet San Diego State +7.5. If UConn wins and covers, I cash my future, but not at full price. If San Diego State wins outright, I lose my future, but at least I get some of it back with the cover. But if UConn wins and San Diego State covers? Let's just say I'll be a very happy man.
Regardless of all of what I just said, here it the smartest play tonight: the under.
UConn is undefeated in nonconference play this season. The Huskies are 16-0 outside the Big East, and while I'm sure you already knew that, have you looked into why? The difference on the defensive end has been insane. In the Big East, UConn had a defensive efficiency of 94.8. That's very good! That number over the entire season would rank 25th nationally. However, that number plummets to 85.6 in nonconference games. That would be the best in the country by more than two points per 100 possessions.
When Dan Hurley says his team is built better for nonconference play, he means they are truly elite defensively. San Diego State has been elite defensively all season, and like UConn, it's been better on that end outside the Mountain West when facing teams that aren't familiar with it. These are two incredible defensive teams tonight, and with so much on the line, it's only natural to expect nerves that can impact shooting.
Finally, for what it's worth, UConn played a Saint Mary's team with a similar statistical profile and style of play as San Diego State earlier in the tournament. The final score of the game was 70-55. The Huskies shot 10-for-22 from three in the game and still couldn't get past 70 points due to the slow pace of play. I expect tonight's game to look similar. Of course, I'd like for San Diego State to keep it much closer than the Gaels did.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: Five of SportsLine's handicappers have submitted plays on the spread tonight. All five are on the same side.
💰 UConn-San Diego State props
The Pick: UConn's Adama Sanogo Over 7.5 Rebounds (-125) -- Sanogo is a big reason why UConn is second nationally behind only Purdue in overall rebound rate at 56.7%. Sanogo is "only" 6'9, but his length and intelligence have led to him being one of the best rebounders in the country. The Aztecs are good on the glass too, but UConn has a significant size advantage on them tonight that could lead to problems.
It won't be easy, as Sanogo will likely be matched up with the Aztecs' Jaedon LeDee, another terrific rebounder. But LeDee is much better on the offensive end. Sanogo could feast on the other end of the court, and I wouldn't be surprised if Sanogo hits the over early in the second half, if not sooner.
The Pick: SDSU's Matt Bradley Under 12.5 Points (-110) -- There's been a pretty noticeable trend with Bradley in the NCAA Tournament. He's San Diego State's leading scorer, but he isn't prolific and averages only 12.71 points per game. Against Charleston and Furman -- teams that rank 66th and 184th, respectively, in defensive efficiency -- Bradley shot 9-18 from two while only 1-7 from three and averaged 13.5 points per game.
Against Alabama and Creighton, two top-15 defenses, Bradley shot 3-17 overall, including 0-3 from beyond the arc and scored only eight points. On Saturday against FAU, the floodgates opened. While Bradley made only one of four shots inside the arc, he went 4-8 from three and hit seven free throws to finish with 21 points. I don't expect him to have nearly the same level of success tonight against UConn.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: OK, so maybe you want to bet something other than college basketball tonight. That's fine. Luckily, the SportsLine Projection Model has an A-graded play on tonight's MLB game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves.