The college basketball season comes to an end tonight. We know this because we aren't idiots and have been following March Madness the last few weeks, but there's another indicator that tonight is the national championship game in college basketball. One many sports fans will notice whether or not they pay attention to the sport.
There are no NBA games tonight.
The NBA regular season ends Wednesday, with the playoffs beginning on Saturday, but one of the low-key cool things the league has done over the years is give this day to college basketball. Of course, until last year, championship Monday in college basketball also coincided with MLB's Opening Day, but that's no longer the case. So one could argue that the NBA was both getting out of college basketball's way, and also avoiding having to compete with MLB for eyeballs on its first day of the season.
Whatever the initial inspiration was for it, it's still cool that the NBA follows it and lets the college kids have the night to themselves.
Of course, there's a flip side to it as well. For gamblers, it means there are a lot fewer games on the board, and considering I have to make four picks here today, my options are limited as well. With that in mind, I've focused on the NCAA title game and made four picks on Virginia vs. Texas Tech (9:20 p.m. ET, CBS/March Madness Live).
1. At the spread: Virginia -1
I don't mind the under in this game, even with the total as low as 118, but I'm more comfortable with the spread than the total. These are two teams that are terrific defensively, hence the low total. According to KenPom's efficiency metrics, Texas Tech's defense ranks first in the nation while Virginia's is fifth. Neither team makes life easy for you on the offensive end, and both sides will struggle to find open shots tonight.
And that's why I'm leaning Virginia: It's better equipped to not only find those shots but make them. You can call Virginia's offensive style boring, but the premise is to have constant motion and move the ball around until a good shot presents itself. More than that, though, Virginia is better equipped to hit those shots than Tech is. I mentioned how great the defenses are, but it's often overlooked that Virginia's offense ranks third nationally according to KenPom. Texas Tech's offense isn't bad, but it ranks 28th. Virginia is also a great three-point shooting team, hitting 39.3 percent of them this season.
Finally, doesn't it just seem like everything is playing out in storybook fashion for Virginia here? To go from losing to a 16-seed last season, to struggling against one this year, but recovering and getting past tough teams to reach this point. There's just a team of destiny feel to these Cavs, and as much as I respect Texas Tech and what it has accomplished, I can't go against Virginia tonight.
Our SportsLine computer projection model has been crushing NCAA picks, and it has a strong lean on the title game, too -- for the over/under. Find out which side is landing in more than 65 percent of the simulations here.
2. Team to make the first 3: Virginia -115
A pretty logical choice here. The way Texas Tech defends forces you to beat them with 3s, though the same can be said of Virginia. The difference is Virginia is a better 3-point shooting team and shoots them with more frequency, so they're more likely to make the first one.
3. Total points by Kyle Guy: Over 14 (-110)
Somewhat in line with the last pick. Virginia's going to have to hit threes to win this game, and that means Kyle Guy will have to have a good game. He's shot 42.5% from three this year and has scored more than 14 points in 20 games this season, including each of the last two.
Want more championship game prop bets? Our SportsLine experts had some fun with a whole bundle of player props that you can check out here.
4. Free throws made by Kyle Guy: Under 1.5 (+150)
Guy, who of course, has the lowest free throw rate on a team that doesn't shoot a lot of free throws going against a team that doesn't send opponents to the free throw line. I expect most of Guy's shots to come from the perimeter, lowering his odds of shooting a lot of free throws, so there's value here at +150.