Lone Surviving No. 1 Seed Virginia New NCAA Title Favorite
They trailed a No. 16 seed by double digits in their opening NCAA Basketball Tournament game, they looked lackluster against a No. 12 seed in their Sweet 16 contest, and they needed a last-second shot to force overtime and survive in the Elite Eight.
Duke’s Ouster Leaves ACC Rival Virginia at Top
That mantle had belonged to Duke, the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed, which was ousted by No. 2 seed Michigan State in Sunday’s East Regional final.
The Blue Devils’ loss leaves ACC mates Virginia as the lone No. 1 seed headed to the Final Four, where they’ll be joined by two programs — Auburn and Texas Tech — reaching that level for the first time, along with the two-time national champion Spartans.
Duke had entered the tournament as the heavy March Madness betting favorite to cut down the nets in Minneapolis, sporting +175 odds to claim the title — far better than Virginia’s +800 at the time.
With the Blue Devils out, South Regional champ Virginia is now the betting favorite to win the championship at +130 according to top bookmakers, compared to +190 for Michigan State, +400 for Texas Tech and +650 for Auburn.
Virginia’s Semifinal Foe, Auburn, Longest Shot Left
Virginia is a 5.5-point favorite over Auburn, the No. 5 seed from the Midwest Regional, which has won 12 straight and reached the program’s first Final Four by beating Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky in consecutive games. The Tigers have covered in eight of their past 10 games.
Michigan State is a 3-point favorite over West Regional champ Texas Tech in Saturday’s other national semifinal at U.S. Bank Stadium. Both teams are red-hot in the victory column and against the spread.
The Spartans have won nine straight and covered in 11 of their past 14 games. The Red Raiders have won 13 of their past 14 and covered 12 times in that span.
Cavaliers in Final Four for Third Time
The Cavaliers are in the Final Four for the third time in school history, but for the first time since 1984. Free throws in the final seconds of overtime in the Elite Eight against Purdue secured just Virginia’s second cover in their past five games.
Virginia’s road to Minneapolis inspired plenty of doubts. In the opening round, the Cavaliers trailed No. 16 seed Gardner-Webb by 14 points — conjuring queasy memories of last season’s historic first-round loss to UMBC — before rallying to win easily.
In the Sweet 16, they struggled to put away No. 12 seed Oregon. Against Purdue in the Elite Eight, they trailed by 10 early, and forced overtime on a tying jumper by forward Mamadi Diakite as time expired in regulation.
And yet the Cavaliers persevered each time, behind a substantial rebound margin, a timely 3-point attack, and an efficient offense which limits turnovers.
And with Duke — which handed the Wahoos two of their three losses this season — now out of the way, coach Tony Bennett’s team has emerged as the favorite among oddsmakers to cut down the nets on April 8 and should draw plenty of interest in places where legal sports bets are allowed for the tournament.
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