HomeSportsThe point spread for the Final Four semifinals is historically high

The point spread for the Final Four semifinals is historically high

Most of this NCAA tournament was decided by favorites.

No. 1 overall seed UConn has outscored everyone and is now 10-0 against the spread over the last two NCAA tournaments. Every No. 1 and No. 2 seed was in the Sweet 16, a rare occurrence. Favorites are 36-28 against the spread in the tournament, and the double-digit favorites are 15-3.

Given that theme, it should come as no surprise that we have a historically tough Final Four.

UConn is an 11.5-point favorite at BetMGM in one semifinal against Alabama, and Purdue is a 9.5-point favorite against NC State in the other. If that seems abnormally high, it is.

There has never been a Final Four where the spreads in both semifinals were so high.

Some big Final Four favorites

When you reach the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament, you expect great matchups. For the most part, that happened.

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According to Sports Odds History, since it started tracking national semifinal point spreads in 1963, only 18 games in national semifinals or national championships have had a spread of 9.5 or more. Incredibly, John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty of the late 1960s and 1970s is responsible for eight of those games.

Never before have both semifinals in a single Final Four had a spread of 9.5 or more points. That streak will end this year, assuming there are no major line moves before tipoff Saturday.

Purdue center Zach Edey and his Boilermakers are heavy favorites against NC State.  (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Purdue center Zach Edey and his Boilermakers are heavy favorites against NC State. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

On one side of the bracket, we have a strong No. 1 seed in Purdue against No. 11 seed NC State, which has astonishingly won nine straight games that you have to win to stay alive. While the Wolfpack is on a fantastic run with some great wins, their power still doesn’t come close to that of the Boilermakers, leading to the wide spread. The other spread is high because UConn is blowing everyone out. The Huskies have won all 10 of their NCAA tournament games by at least 13 points over the past two seasons. Alabama is a good team, but even with the wide spread, bettors are flooding BetMGM with UConn action. On Monday, 64% of the bets and 81% of the money were on the UConn-Alabama point spread on the Huskies.

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The matchups have led to a historically lopsided Final Four, at least on the odds board.

The Big Final Four underdogs have fared well against the spread

Just because there are two big spreads, we can still get some close games.

Underdogs in those 18 Final Four games with a spread greater than nine points have gone 11-7 against the spread. Only two of those — 1985 Villanova over Georgetown and 1999 UConn over Duke, both in the title game — have won outright.

UConn’s spread is very rare. According to Sports Odds History, the Final Four spread was above 11.5 only nine times, and six of those games were Wooden’s UCLA teams. Since 1974, only twice has the spread exceeded 11.5 points. In 1996, Kentucky was favored by 14 over Syracuse in a national semifinal, and in 2021, Gonzaga was favored by 14.5 over UCLA. Take heart Alabama: Both major underdogs covered.

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It was a strange tournament because of the dominance of the favorites. Public gamblers have done much better than usual. Usually everyone’s bracket is broken by now, but in Yahoo’s Bracket Mayhem, more than 45 percent of players had either UConn or Purdue winning.

Hopefully we’ll get at least two competitive games this Saturday. The odds are not optimistic.

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