Final Four Odds & Prediction — Can Auburn Beat the Pack Line Defense?

Date | AuthorCharles Jay

Last Updated: 2019-04-06

On the surface, it sure looks as if the Virginia Cavaliers have all kinds of fundamental advantages over the Auburn Tigers in one half of the Final Four matchups taking place on Saturday. And maybe that’s why there has been significant betting interest on the Cavs. They’ll tip it off at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis at 6:09 PM ET – televised by CBS.

BetAnySports customers will have the chance to get better odds than usual on this game, by accessing reduced juice, and after the game has started, they can stay right in the action while it is in progress, using what is available through Live Betting Ultra.

If you take a look at what Auburn does very well – what got the Tigers to where they are right now – Virginia would appear to have answers for it. They thrive on creating turnovers, leading the nation, in fact, when expressed in percentage terms, and Virginia is among the best teams when it comes to avoiding those turnovers, committing them only 14.7% of the time. If you look at Auburn’s games this season, their record when they turned their opponents over less than 20% of the time is 4-6 (straight-up) and they have lost all four games when the opponent’s TO rate is below 18%.

Auburn is a team that can best be characterized as three-point crazy, and they have made 38.3% of their tries, which places them 15th in the country. They will launch them with impunity. And Virginia’s vaunted Pack Line defense has been good enough to limit opponents to just 28.7% from beyond the arc this season. There are only two teams in the nation who have been better than that.

And Auburn is known as a team that likes to get down the court in transition. The average possession length of Virginia’s opponents this season is 18.8 seconds, and only eight teams in the country have made their foes hold it longer than that. What that means, at the very least, is that the Cavs know how to get back on defense. So maybe the Tigers get neutralized there as well.

More on all that in a second. But here are the numbers, as they are posted at BetAnySports:

Virginia Cavaliers -6
Auburn Tigers +6

Over 131 points -110
Under 131 points -110

If Auburn had Chuma Okeke, they might have an easier time being able to balance things out, but he is out with his ACL injury. That leaves them with a hodgepodge of people up front, and that includes Horace Spencer, who went scoreless with three rebounds in 13 minutes against Kentucky in the Elite Eight.

Virginia’s offense offers additional support for their argument, in that they’ll create problems for Auburn there as well. That comes by virtue of their 39.4% accuracy rate from long range, not to mention De’Andre Hunter’s ability to operate inside the arc. A real head-scratcher is how Auburn is in the Final Four despite its defense being just inside the nation’s top 200 against three-pointers, and 227th against two-point shooting.

So how could Auburn possibly have a chance in this game, right? Well, to say they have found a way to overcome disadvantages along the way would sound too simplistic. But how about if we gave you some real numbers, okay?

Auburn is going to put up at least half its shots from three-point range. That’s the way they’re constructed. They will live and die with it, as one of the players explained pretty simply. The Pack Line defense does a good job all the way around, but it is designed primarily to cut off passing lanes inside and clog the middle. Yes, players have the flexibility to get out to the deep perimeter to contest shots, but the general feeling is that if there is anything that can beat the Pack Line, it’s very good three-point shooting, because teams are going to get their opportunities.

And during this tournament, Auburn has been hitting triples better than usual. They have, in fact, hit on 40.5% of their attempts. Anybody who saw Virginia in its thrilling win over Purdue remembers that Carsen Edwards nailed ten treys. The Cavaliers have allowed 39.2% from beyond the arc in these four NCAA Tournament games, which is a much higher rate than what they did in the regular season.

Now let’s take a look at things from the other angle. It may surprise some people to know that Auburn has done a pretty good job against long-range shooters in the Big Dance, yielding just 26.9% (25 of 93). At the same time, Virginia has been relatively cold from three-point range, making just 30%. We could see some regression to the mean over time, of course, but the “trends” here seem to moving in Auburn’s direction.

Auburn’s backcourt of Jared Harper and Bryce Brown – who take 50% of their triples – have a quickness edge over Virginia’s guards, and getting to the right place a little late can hurt a team playing the Pack Line as well. If Auburn can get off their shots, they can create a real problem.

And consider the proposition that in a game where possessions are likely to be limited, three-pointers may carry more weight than usual, because obviously they count for 50% more than two’s. Therefore, a team with an edge there can really make some gains.

You have seen enough evidence here to suggest that Virginia can win this game. But the price is a factor. Remember that this is a market, just like a lot of things. If you like a house at $250,000, would you also like it at $300,000? Or $350,000? Ithink there is enough built into this number for Auburn to sneak in under it, considering the timing of this event and the possibility that Bruce Pearl’s team is near a peak.

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