Playing some totals in women’s Final Four, one over and one under: Best Bets for March 31

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Iowa guard Caitlin Clark celebrates as she walks off the court during the second half of an Elite 8 college basketball game of the NCAA Tournament against Louisville, Sunday, March 26, 2023, in Seattle. Iowa won 97-83. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Each day, one of our experts will offer up a best bet (or two or three) that mobile sportsbooks are offering. It might be a traditional spread bet, a player prop or one of the various odds boosts that books offer.

Here are our best bets for Friday, March 31:

TOP PLAY

The play: Women’s Final Four, South Carolina-Iowa OVER 149.5

The odds: -110

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Time/TV: 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Our take: This is one of the more anticipated women’s Final Four games of all time, the juggernaut South Carolina against the run-and-gun Iowa Hawkeyes and their fearless sharpshooter leader, Caitlin Clark.

It’s going to be tons of fun. And my first thought was to be a wet blanket and bet Clark to score under 27.5 points. That line seems inflated from Clark’s performances last weekend in Seattle, where she went for 31 points and 41 points (plus a triple-double) in wins over Colorado and Louisville, respectively. And South Carolina has won of the best defenses in the nation! They haven’t allowed more than 25 points to any player all year.

But then I started thinking about it. And number one, Clark is not just any player. She’s not only a tremendous shooter but can also drive to the hoop and runs out in transition for a few easy buckets a game as well. Carolina has given up more than 20 points a handful of times — and it’s always to guards, never to inside players. So I started second-guessing myself.

So this is where I’ve landed. I’m not sure if Clark will get to 28 points — my guess is still that she won’t quite get that high — but Iowa plays at a breakneck pace. The Hawkeyes average 87.6 points per game and almost 77 possessions per game. That’s the highest in the nation by a long shot.

And while South Carolina has this reputation of playing a slow and defensive style, the Gamecocks really aren’t afraid to run. They’ve won games 93-66 and 86-75 (in the Elite Eight against Maryland) just this month. They’ve also won 87-69, 81-77, 88-64, 95-66 … you get the picture. If you want to run, Carolina will run with you (and still beat you).

I’m not sure Caitlin Clark gets 30, but I think these teams are going to play a tremendously fun game that flies over the total.

GOING THE OTHER WAY IN THE FIRST SEMIFINAL

The play: Women’s Final Four, LSU-Virginia Tech UNDER 133.5

The odds: -110

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Time/TV: 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Our take: On the other hand, why is this total so high?

LSU hasn’t played a game with a total above 130 since the SEC tournament. The bigger the game, the more the Tigers seem willing to slow down and use their physical advantage inside to suffocate opponents. Case in point: The ultra-slow but ultra-effective 54-42 victory over Miami in the Elite Eight.

Virginia Tech will score a bit more, but they don’t mind getting into a slow battle, either, having won games by scores of 68-42, 58-37 and 58-33 this month.

HOW WE’VE FARED

Thursday’s best bets

MLB: Astros money line over White Sox (LOST)

MLB total: Under 6.5 runs scored in Guardians at Mariners (WON)

Thursday’s profit/loss: 1-1

Total for the week: 3-4, 1 pending

Total for March: 32-28, 1 pending

Total for 2023: 64-68, 1 pending

NOTE: If a line or odds are minus, it considers the juice one must lay to place the bet. Ex: Team A is -160 on the money line, one would have to bet $160 to win $100 (or $16 to win $10). OR Team B is a 5-point favorite at -110, one would have to bet $110 to win $100 (or $11 to win $10.)

Conversely, on positive lines, if Team C is +140 on the money line, $100 would bring in $140 (or $10 to win $14).

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