Monday night’s National Championship game is very intriguing on many levels. We’re not seeing the likes of Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Villanova, or Michigan State. Instead, it’s two schools that have never raised the championship plaque as Virginia and Texas Tech play for the 2019 title at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The Cavaliers (34-3 SU, 25-12 ATS) are a top-seed for the second straight Big Dance, but suffered a mortifying defeat to 16th-seed UMBC last March by 20 points. Virginia avoided a second consecutive massive upset in the first round by erasing a six-point deficit to upstart Gardner-Webb in a 71-56 victory, although the Cavaliers failed to cash as hefty 22 ½-point favorites.
Tony Bennett’s squad cruised past Oklahoma in the second round, 63-51 to barely cover as 10 ½-point favorites, in spite of Kyle Guy’s 0-for-10 performance from three-point range. The Cavaliers squeezed out a 53-49 victory over Oregon as 8 ½-point favorites in the Sweet 16 in an ugly offensive performance by both clubs, as UVA shot 35% from the floor.
Virginia outlasted Purdue in the Elite Eight, 80-75 in overtime, while picking up a miracle cover as 4 ½-point favorites. The Cavaliers trailed by three points late after Ty Jerome was fouled with five seconds remaining. Jerome nailed the first free throw and missed the second one, but UVA tracked down the rebound and Mamadi Diakite’s short jumper beat the buzzer and forced overtime. Virginia led by three with five seconds left in overtime, but Purdue turned the ball over and the Cavs hit two free throws to grab the cover.
Now to the foul heard ‘round the world.
In Saturday’s Final Four matchup with an Auburn squad who eliminated Kansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky in three straight round, the Cavaliers trailed, 31-28 at halftime. Virginia rallied back to take a 57-47 advantage with 5:24 left to get in front of the -6 closing number. However, Auburn ran off 14 straight points to pull in front, 61-57 with 17 seconds remaining and creep closer towards its first ever National Championship appearance.
Guy knocked down a three-pointer to cut the deficit to one, while Auburn split a pair of free throws to take a 62-60 lead. The fun began in the final five seconds as the referees missed a double-dribble committed by Virginia, then Guy was fouled on a three-pointer in the left corner with five-tenths of a second remaining. Guy sank all three free throws to give Virginia the 63-62 victory, but Auburn backers had the last laugh as the Tigers cashed in the underdog role.
Texas Tech (31-6 SU, 20-16-1 ATS) was shocked by West Virginia in the Big 12 quarterfinals as 13-point favorites, but the Red Raiders have bounced back nicely with five straight wins in the NCAA tournament. It all started with a 72-57 triumph in the opening round over Northern Kentucky, followed by a 78-58 rout of a solid Buffalo team as 3 ½-point favorites in the second round.
The Red Raiders handled last year’s runner-up Michigan in the Sweet 16 with a 63-44 blowout as 1 ½-point underdogs. Jarrett Culver led Texas Tech with 22 points, as the Red Raiders held the Wolverines to 1-of-19 shooting from three-point range. Texas Tech knocked out top-seed Gonzaga in the Elite Eight one season after getting bounced in the same round by eventual national champion Villanova. The Red Raiders held off the Bulldogs, 75-69 as five-point underdogs to improve to 12-2 ATS the last 14 games.
After Michigan State escaped past Duke in the Elite Eight, it seemed like the Spartans were the team to beat in Minneapolis. However, Texas Tech completed its sweep of the Michigan powers in the tournament by bouncing the Spartans, 61-51 as two-point underdogs on Saturday. The Red Raiders limited MSU to 32% shooting from the floor, while senior Matt Mooney led Texas Tech with 22 points to help a Big 12 school advance to its first title game since Kansas lost to Kentucky in the 2012 championship.
Texas Tech began the season with a 2-3 ATS mark in the role of an underdog, which included losses to Duke in New York City and blowout defeats at Kansas State and Kansas. However, Chris Beard’s club owns a perfect 3-0 SU/ATS record in the last three opportunities in the ‘dog role, all over the last 10 days with the three victories over Michigan, Gonzaga, and Michigan State.
The miniscule total of 118 on Monday night tells us a lot about a potential grind-it-out affair with these two defensive-minded teams. The UNDER has cashed in seven of the last nine championships dating back to 2010, including in each of the last two years with Villanova blowing out Michigan, 79-62 on a 144 ½ total last season and North Carolina edging Gonzaga in 2017 on a 154 ½ total, 71-65.
If you believe in wacky trends, in the last two seasons ending in odd numbers, the ACC has captured the championship. In 2017, UNC took home the title and in 2015, Duke won the championship, and in both cases, those powers were number one seeds like Virginia. Meanwhile, besides Kansas winning three championships in its storied history, the only other current Big 12 school owning titles in college hoops is Oklahoma State, who won back-to-back in 1945 and 1946 when the Cowboys went by Oklahoma A&M.
Title Game History
NCAA Tournament Championship Game Notes and Angles – per Sportsbetting.ag
— The opening total of 119 is the lowest in National Championship Game history. This number shatters the previous record of 128.
— Favorites are 24-10 straight up and 15-19 against the spread in National Championship game history
– The ‘under’ has gone 19-14 since 1985 and the low side is on a 7-2 run the past nine years.
— Totals that closed at 135 or lower and their results
128 (Florida vs. UCLA in 2006) – Over
128 (Duke vs. Butler in 2010) – Under
131.5 (Connecticut vs. Butler in 2011) – Under
135 (Connecticut vs. Kentucky in 2014) – Under
— Virginia (-1.5) is one of the shortest spreads in NCAA Tournament Championship History
— Listed below are the four smallest spreads in the title game
2017: North Carolina (-1.5) vs. Gonzaga – Favorite
2006: Florida (-1) vs. UCLA – Favorite
1986: Duke (-1) vs. Louisville – Underdog
2015: Wisconsin (-1) vs. Duke – Underdog
Conference Trends in the NCAA Tournament Championship Game
— ACC is 10-6 straight up and 10-6 against the spread, 4-10 over/under
— Big 12/Big 8 is 2-4 straight up and 2-4 against the spread, 1-3 over/under
Seeds Trends in the NCAA Tournament Championship Game
— #1 Seeds are 21-12 straight up and 17-16 against the spread, 10-18 Over/Under
— #3 Seeds are 4-6 straight up and 4-6 against the spread, 4-3 Over/Under
— #1 vs. #3 is 2-0 straight up and 1-0 against the spread, 1-0 Over/Under
2018 – Villanova 79 Michigan 62 (Favorite-Under)
1990 – UNLV 103 Duke 73 (No Line Posted due to Nevada Gaming)