NCAA betting preview: UConn streak will end

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
The Sporting Tribune's Danny Burke breaks down the men's National Championship game.

We have reached the finish line of The Big Dance. Big being the key word here as 7-foot-4 senior Zach Edey and Purdue look to upset 7-foot-2 sophomore Donovan Clingan and UConn.

Since seeding originated in 1978, only 10 other championship games featured a battle of No. 1 seeds. The 11th will take place Monday night in Glendale, Arizona. 

There are hundreds of different ways to wager on the game, but I’ve narrowed it down to one.

UConn (-7) vs Purdue, 6:20 p.m.

Throughout this tournament, no team has come close to competing with the Huskies. They have won by an average margin of 25 points and are a perfect 5-0 against the spread. 

Their opponent has also managed a 5-0 mark ATS, but with an average winning margin of 19.6. 

Purdue’s big-man, Edey, now belongs in rarefied air having won back-to-back Naismith National Player of the Year awards. He is the first player to accomplish that feat since Virginia’s Ralph Sampson (1981-83). 

Edey has lived up to the accolades and then some. His journey throughout the bracket features an average of 28 points and 15.4 rebounds per game. Will Clingan be able to contain Edey down-low?

In order to handicap this game effectively, you have to understand what the Boilermakers possess outside of their center. KenPom ranks Purdue third in adjusted offensive efficiency and 13th in effective field goal percentage. 

The Boilermakers aren’t a group that lives and dies by the 3-pointer, however, when they do launch from deep — they do so successfully. They rank second in 3-pt field-goal percentage (40.6). 

Inside the perimeter, they are knocking down 53 percent of their looks (57th). 

Of course, the team’s offensive stature can’t all be attributed to Edey. Players such as Braden Smith (12.0 points per game), Lance Jones (11.9 ppg) and Fletcher Loyer (10.6 ppg) help carry the load.

Overall, they are an experienced bunch and can kill you in more ways than one offensively. 

Though, coach Dan Hurley’s roster can do just the same — if not better. Yes, Clingan is a force to be reckoned with, but a majority of UConn’s scoring comes elsewhere.

Leading the way are senior guards Tristen Newton and Cam Spencer, who both average more than 14 points per game. Also, sophomore forward Alex Karaban logs 13.5 per game. 

Clingan averages 13.1 points, while pulling over seven rebounds a game. Clearly the Huskies aren’t as reliant on their giant as their upcoming opponent is.  

Unlike their prior matchups, though, tonight’s difference is Purdue’s balance. Coach Matt Painter’s squad ranks 12th in adjusted defensive efficiency, 37th in defensive effective field goal percentage and 50th in opponent 3-point field-goal percentage (31.6). 

That’s not to say the Huskies aren’t admirable on defense themselves. In fact — they are better. KenPom lists them 4th in AdjE, 3rd in eFGD% and 42nd in opponent 3-point FG% (31.4). 

UConn has been the best team in the country. But this game will play out closer than the betting market is indicating. Catching seven points with Purdue feels a bit much given how well they can counter the Huskies’ strengths. 

UConn will defend its crown, but it won’t be the team to end with a perfect record against the spread in this tournament. 

Play: Purdue +7 (-110); Risk 1.10 units to win 1.00