How to Bet on the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship

UConn vs South Carolina Odds

Odds via BetMGM.

UConn Odds +3.5 / +150
South Carolina odds -3.5 / -185
More less 125.5
Trick 8 p.m. ET
TV ESPN

Connecticut’s Final Four victory over Stanford means there will be a new Division I women’s basketball champion. UConn won Friday night despite 19 turnovers to Stanford’s 10.

The game was somewhat peculiar, given the poor quality of both teams’ shots. Neither shot better than 36.8 percent from the floor. However, UConn sophomore guard Paige Bueckers still managed to shoot 53.8 percent while scoring 14 points on 13 shot attempts.

UConn will likely need Bueckers to be even more aggressive to have a shot at winning the title against the No. 1-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks.



UConn

After just six games into the season, there was a sense of desperation among the UConn fan base when Bueckers suffered a non-contact injury in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame. The apparent scare was an ACL injury, but an MRI and CT scan revealed a tibial plateau fracture that took six to eight weeks to recover from.

Bueckers’ absence was immediately felt as UConn lost two of its next three games. However, the Huskies bounced back to win 14 of their next 16 games.

With Bueckers sidelined, other players had to step in to fill his void. I suspect UConn head coach Geno Auriemma probably learned more about his team after his star player was injured. My only question is whether he will be brave enough to use his bench more with a championship on the line.

Sunday’s game will be Connecticut’s third meeting with South Carolina in the past two seasons. Our analysis doesn’t make much sense, given Bueckers’ prominence on the UConn team, including games before he arrived on campus.

However, as dominant as this Gamecocks team was, UConn managed a 63-59 overtime victory in Bueckers’ first season. Also, the South Carolina team is essentially the same as they returned 100% of their score.

In the first meeting, Bueckers went for 31 points. However, I was more impressed with UConn’s play when they went with a smaller roster that included their guards, Evina Westbrook and Nika Muhl. The Huskies seemed to have more momentum with the smaller roster, which also helped them with their transition game.

Connecticut scored 10 points on the fast break while holding South Carolina scoreless in the same category. Scoring in transition takes away one of the Gamecocks’ strengths: their ability to block shots in the half-court defense.

I think UConn’s strength in this game may be unknown. Auriemma needs to have confidence in his bench and take an unconventional route to win the game.

Caroline from the south

We could spend all day talking about the strengths of this Gamecocks team.

Forward Aliyah Boston was recently named Defensive Player and Naismith of the Year, becoming the first player to win both awards. At 6ft 5in, she has the complete package, given her ability to play on both sides of the court. The future lottery choice plays a crucial role in South Carolina blocking 7.5 shots per game.

The Gamecocks can also hit the boards well, as they often control games thanks to their 47.8 rebounds per game. South Carolina’s offensive rebound also helps generate a ton of second-chance points.

As for potential weaknesses, we could probably point to South Carolina’s free throw and perimeter play. The Gamecocks are shooting 67.7% from the charity strip, which puts them 265th in the nation. Beyond the arc, South Carolina ranks 252nd with 4.9 3-pointers per game.

In contrast, Connecticut is slightly better from the foul line as they shoot 69.3% (tied for 215th), but they average two more 3-pointers per game than South Carolina and rank in the top 50 in percentage by 3 points (34%). However, the Gamecocks have plenty of chances to win the charity strip, as they are tied for 38th with 19.6 attempts per game.

Given how strong the Gamecocks are on the boards, it should come as no surprise that they have outshot the Huskies in each of the last two meetings. However, South Carolina went 1-1 in those games. There’s no doubt that the Gamecocks seemed to have it all together this season, as evidenced by their 34-2 record. They also have the highest margin of victory per 100 possessions (+29.5) in the nation.

Still, while Boston is the reigning Naismith Player of the Year, Bueckers won the award the year before. The UConn sophomore likely would have been in contention for the top prize again had she not suffered a knee injury. After watching her drop 31 on the Gamecocks as a freshman, South Carolina would be aware not to take her lightly.

NCAA Women’s Championship Predictions

This game has a bit of everything in terms of handicapping.

I watched both games from the past two seasons and despite the Gamecocks 73-57 win over the Huskies last November, South Carolina trailed as much as 13 points in the game. After the third quarter, UConn trailed 57-54, but only managed three points the rest of the game. Connecticut picked a bad time to turn icy as they struggled to overcome their 19 turnovers, including six in the fourth quarter.

I think Auriemma missed a trick by only playing Muhl for three minutes in the game. UConn needed more ball handlers on the field, and Muhl could have helped relieve Bueckers as the lead ball handler.

My model puts South Carolina closer to a seven-point favorite in this game. However, I also have to consider that the data would likely be more favorable for UConn had Bueckers not suffered a knee injury. UConn averaged 73 points with Bueckers sidelined and 76 points when she was able to dress. And with everything on the line in a win-win game, she’s more than capable of producing a Herculean effort. As a result, I’m a bit undecided on one side in this game and would rather look for a play on the total.

For UConn to have a chance, they’ll need to come out in transition and head to the basket in hopes of drawing South Carolina’s frontcourt players at fault. Thus, I like the option of playing the most at 125.5 or better for half a unit.

I also like betting under Azzi Fudd’s 13.5 point score. Fudd only played 10 minutes in the previous game against South Carolina. It was his shortest outing on the pitch this season. Fudd is coming off a three-rotation performance against Stanford, so it wouldn’t surprise me if she’s somewhat tentative in this game. The rookie had three turnovers twice this season, and in both cases failed to put up more than 13 points in his next game.

Choose 1: More than 125.5 or better (half unit)
Choose 2: Azzi Fudd under 13.5 points (1 unit)