In an unprecedented tournament replete with historic upsets, one team has cruised through the brackets with surgical precision.
Losses by Alabama and Houston in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 ensured that a No. 1 seed would not reach the Elite Eight for the first time since seeding began in 1979. While Florida Atlantic, San Diego State, and Miami earned trips to the Final Four with thrilling, close victories, Connecticut swept through the West Regional in Las Vegas with relative ease.
UConn crushed Gonzaga 82-54 in the West Regional final, producing the largest Elite Eight victory margin in more than 30 years. The Huskies’ combined 90-point margin of victory through four games ties for eighth-best since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. As a result, the Huskies are the overwhelming favorites to cut down the nets in Houston.
UConn's 28-point Elite 8 win over Gonzaga is its largest NCAA Tournament win beyond the Round of 64.
The Huskies are the 10th team to win each of its first 4 NCAA Tournament games by 15+ points.
They also did this in 2004 and went on to win the title. pic.twitter.com/CQdPeHyqNc
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 26, 2023
At DraftKings, UConn is a heavy -125 favorite to win the program’s fifth national championship and first since 2014. The three other teams are each making their first appearance in the Final Four, and none has odds below +400 to capture the title. Since the 2023 futures market opened, bettors across the country selected the Huskies on 8% of all tickets, representing 10% of the overall handle.
Starting this week, Massachusetts sports bettors selected the Huskies on 33% of all tickets, representing 43% of the handle. While the splits are not surprising, the metrics demonstrate the considerable regional bias on the Huskies in the Bay State.
A dominant stretch
UConn entered the Elite Eight last weekend as one of only two teams in the nation ranked in the top 15 in offensive and defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. Near Christmas, the Huskies rose to No. 2 in the nation with a 14-0 start, winning 12 of their first 14 by double digits.
UConn hit a rough patch in January, dropping six of eight, including losses to NCAA Tournament teams Marquette, Xavier, and Providence. Since an 82-79 loss to Xavier on Jan. 25, UConn has won nine of 11, with the two defeats by a combined five points.
During the Albany subregional, UConn played tight first halves against Iona and Saint Mary’s before pouring it on after the break. Trailing 39-37 at the half to Iona in the opening game, the Huskies outscored the Gaels 50-24 in the second half.
Then, against Gonzaga, UConn put the game away with a 13-2 run after the break to increase its lead to 18. Over the course of the tournament, UConn has outscored opponents by average of 10.8 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, underscoring coach Danny Hurley’s ability to make halftime adjustments.
UConn ranks in the top 10 nationally in both assist rate and points per game via off-ball screens, according to Hoop Vision, a website that tracks advanced statistics in college basketball. Huskies sharpshooter Jordan Hawkins has 151 points this season via off-ball screens, which the site says ranks second in the country.
UConn is averaging over 1.2 pts per poss in NCAA tourney play
NEW 8-minute video breaking down the Huskies' offensive scheme and key players in the tourney so far https://t.co/uV5exgeGZ2
— Jordan Sperber (@hoopvision68) March 28, 2023
Throughout the tournament, point forward Andre Jackson has 31 assists, with 27 leading to a dunk or 3-pointer. Meanwhile, UConn forward Adama Sanogo has provided muscle down low, ranking 11th in the country on points from post-ups, while averaging 57% on those attempts.
Hurley expects all three to play in the NBA.
“Andre is one of the best all-around players in the country in terms of impacting the game,” he said following the win over Gonzaga. “Andre’s a high draft pick. I could only screw it up when you’re sitting next to three NBA players. We should be going to the Final Four.”
It comes as little surprise then that UConn is drawing large interest from bettors in New England, as well as the nation as a whole. At BetMGM, bettors took UConn to win the tournament on 6.8% of all futures tickets nationwide, representing 10.2% of the handle. In Massachusetts, the splits from the start rise to 12.5% of all tickets and 14.3% of the dollars wagered. Only Alabama had more backers.
Massachusetts under the microscope
While bettors have been able to legally bet on sports since 2021 in Connecticut, mobile sports wagering has only been live in Massachusetts for about a month. The regional bias on the Huskies in Massachusetts isn’t shocking, given the proximity of the two states. MGM Springfield, which opened a BetMGM retail sportsbook in January, is located approximately 10 miles from the Connecticut border. The casino is also located about 25 miles from Downtown Hartford.
In Saturday’s Final Four, UConn will face an upstart Miami (Fla.) team in the nightcap. UConn is a 5.5-point favorite at Caesars Sportsbook; the total is 149. In Massachusetts, specifically, bettors have taken UConn with the spread on 78% of all tickets, representing 79% of the handle. By comparison, the figures dip to 61% of all tickets and 61% of the handle in all states.
By the way I think UConn is very good and it certainly wouldn't shock me if they beat Miami. But it would shock me if it doesn't come down to the wire. Miami is by far best team they've played. It's a coin flip to me. https://t.co/KTIz9JgFhU
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) March 29, 2023
As of Thursday, 48% of Caesars’ futures wagers placed this week in Massachusetts were made on the Huskies to win the tourney. On March 18, a Caesars customer placed a $1,500 national championship wager on UConn at 15/1, which would pay $24,000. It is Caesars’ largest pending wager on the Huskies across the state.