The teams that advanced to the Elite Eight out of Friday night’s regional semifinal games have been battle-tested to a severe degree. After playing punishing games, will teams have enough energy left to be at their best with a Final Four spot on the line? This will be a very interesting question to follow.
East Regional Final
Connecticut Huskies vs. Michigan State Spartans
Sunday, 2:20 PM ET
NCAA Basketball Odds: Michigan State -5.5
The Michigan State Spartans were picked by a lot of college basketball betting experts to reach the Final Four and even win the national championship when this tournament began. The Spartans were pushed hard by Virginia on Friday night in the East Regional semifinals, but they were able to do what they needed to in key moments. Michigan State’s Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne were hard for Virginia to cope with, and they’re going to be difficult for Connecticut to manage in this game. Michigan State has to feel very confident now that it has passed a big test. That’s going to be something that will break in the Spartans’ favor in this game.
However, Connecticut has its significant advantages, too. The Huskies, having played in Madison Square Garden for many years in the Big East Tournament, will be very comfortable in that arena for this game. Connecticut looked at home in Friday’s semifinal against Iowa State, so this game should be little different. Connecticut also has Shabazz Napier, who is certainly the best guard on the court. Michigan State might have strength in the paint, but Connecticut is better on the perimeter.
The other thing to realize about this game is that Michigan State’s game against Virginia was very physical. If Michigan State doesn’t put Connecticut away early, the Huskies could win this game late against Michigan State’s tired legs. Michigan State will probably win this game, but Connecticut should be able to cover the spread.
Pick: Connecticut +5.5
Midwest Regional Final
Kentucky Wildcats vs. Michigan Wolverines
Sunday, 5:05 PM ET
NCAA Basketball Odds: Kentucky -2
This is a game in which Las Vegas is clearly banking on the notion that a lot of people are going to be betting on Kentucky, now that the Wildcats have been able to regroup after a mediocre regular season and win three games in the NCAA tournament. A lot of people will fall in love with Kentucky, now that the two Harrison brothers, Andrew and Aaron, are playing well and being very aggressive on the court. Bettors are also going to find Kentucky attractive because of the way in which Dakari Johnson filled in for injured post player Willie Cauley-Stein on Friday night against Louisville. Johnson provided another solid inside anchor for Kentucky to complement Julius Randle in the paint. Kentucky was faster and stronger in the pursuit of loose balls against Louisville, and since Louisville plays with a lot of hunger on defense, it’s a strong statement for Kentucky to have been able to persevere in the final minutes of that game in the Sweet 16. So many people are going to be caught by the idea that Kentucky and coach John Calipari are about to make a run to the national title after hibernating for the past several weeks. This is why Kentucky is the favorite on the betting lines.
Will Kentucky win, though? The Wildcats will probably be without Cauley-Stein in this game, and if he’s playing, he probably won’t be effective. Michigan has been playing exceptionally good team basketball in the tournament. The Wolverines were shaky in the final minutes against Tennessee on Friday, but they still did manage to win. If Michigan plays against Kentucky the way it played for most of the night against Tennessee, it should be in good shape. Take the Wolverines in this spot.
Pick: Michigan +2