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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks April 6

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published April 6, 2024
8 min read
N.C. State vs. Purdue Boilermakers Prediction

And then, there were four! The Final Four has finally arrived, and the teams that have booked their plane tickets to Phoenix, Arizona, include the No. 11 N.C. State Wolfpack, the No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers, the No. 1 UConn Huskies, and the No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide.

Can the Huskies keep up their mind-bogglingly impressive ten-game winning streak of double-digits against Mark Sears and the red-hot Crimson Tide? Can the 11th-seeded N.C. State Wolfpack continue their miracle run against reigning Wooden Award winner Zach Edey?

Find our analysis for these enthralling games below, featuring a breakdown of each team’s performance so far in the NCAA Tournament and whether or not their championship odds have value!

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No. 11 N.C. State @ No. 1 Purdue

All odds are available via DraftKings Sportsbook but are subject to change.

PICK: N.C. State +9 (-110) at DraftKings

For the first time since 1980, the No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers have made the Final Four, breaking their more than four-decade drought. Purdue has handled each of its first four opponents without too much trouble; it got down by 11 points in the first half to Tennessee but overcame that deficit before the end of the half and never looked back.

The Boilers have leaned heavily on Wooden Award winner Zach Edey for virtually everything; he has averaged 30 points and 16.3 rebounds per game on 65.6% shooting from the field in their four NCAA Tournament games. 

The Boilers have won by an average of 21.2 points as a team, shooting 51.7% overall and 39% from the three-point line while holding opponents to a shooting split of 40/35/68. The significant difference between Purdue and its four opponents in the NCAA Tournament has been free throw attempts; the Boilermakers (22) are averaging 11 more free throw attempts than their opponents (11). 

Disgruntled fans have raised concerns about the Boilers’ free-throw disparity, but much of that can be attributed to Edey’s size (7-foot-4) and strength; he is virtually impossible to defend with how referees are officiating him right now.

Regardless, opponents must choose whether to send a double-team at Edey or let him go one-on-one in the post with their center. The former option is much more challenging because Purdue is the best three-point shooting team in the nation, primarily due to the type of looks they get from deep.

That is the decision that N.C. State will be forced to make on Saturday night when it faces off against the red-hot Boilermakers for a spot in the National Championship game. The Wolfpack have put together one of the most unlikely Final Four runs in college basketball history, winning five ACC Tournament games in five days to punch their ticket to the “Big Dance.”

Without the automatic bid, N.C. State would not have made the NCAA Tournament. In fact, it would not have come all that close, finishing 11th in the ACC during the conference regular season!

However, the Wolfpack have caught fire, winning nine straight games to make it to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed; they beat Duke (twice), North Carolina, Virginia, Marquette, Texas Tech, and Oakland in that stretch!

N.C. State has gotten improved play from every one of its main contributors, but the most notable and obvious has been D.J. Burns Jr., who has averaged 18.3 points, five rebounds, and 3.5 assists in his four NCAA Tournament games on 67.4% shooting from the floor.

Michael O’Connell, D.J. Horne, Mohamed Diarra, Casey Morsell, Jayden Taylor, and Ben Middlebrooks have also had huge outings (and individual moments) throughout the Wolfpack’s run. Still, the best aspect of this team is that they are not too reliant on any one player. Morsell posted 15 points against Marquette, Horne scored 29 against the Tar Heels, Middlebrooks had 21 against Texas Tech, and O’Connell hit the game-tying shot against Virginia. Everyone has contributed and had their moment, instilling confidence in themselves and their teammates.

Can the Wolfpack band together again and defeat Goliath (literally) to log their tenth consecutive win?

If Purdue does indeed lose, it likely won’t be to N.C. State. However, we can expect the Wolfpack to keep this game close. They have held their past three opponents to just 42.6% shooting inside the arc, which means the Wolfpack has been protecting the paint well. 

N.C. State will have the necessary size to throw at Edey, including the 6-foot-9 Burns, who is listed at 275 pounds but probably weighs close to as much as Purdue’s big man. Middlebrooks stands at 6-foot-10 and is also a handful in the paint, evidenced by his game against the Red Raiders in the opening round.

Additionally, the Wolfpack have held their four tournament opponents to just 23.9% shooting from behind the arc. It will be imperative to keep up against the Boilers, who rank first in the nation in three-point percentage. Despite their ranking, Tennessee was able to contest perimeter shots exceptionally well in its Elite Eight game, so N.C. State could do the same.

Ultimately, laying nine points is way too much, given how well the Wolfpack has played in the past few weeks.

No. 4 Alabama @ No. 1 UConn

All odds are available via DraftKings Sportsbook but are subject to change.

PICK: UConn -12 (-105) at DraftKings

The second Final Four matchup features the No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide and the top-ranked UConn Huskies. The Huskies have continued their utter dominance in win-or-go-home settings, winning ten consecutive games in the NCAA Tournament dating back to the beginning of last season.

Throughout the 2023-24 regular season, Alabama struggled against top-tier competition, boasting a 4-10 Quad 1 record heading into March Madness. Even worse, Bama finished 0-6 against teams ranked as a No. 1, 2, or 3 seed entering the NCAA Tournament.

However, the Crimson Tide wasted no time displaying their dominance, knocking off No. 13 Charleston, No. 12 Grand Canyon, No. 1 North Carolina, and No. 6 Clemson. Offensively, they have performed as expected, shooting 47.6% from the field and 41.4% from behind the arc on just shy of 30 three-point attempts per game.

On the other end of the floor, Bama has stepped up, holding opponents to a 40/29/69 shooting split in its first four games, substantially improving from most of its season. The Tide have done a solid job defending the perimeter (opponent 3P% of 31.5%), but they have let opponents get nearly anything they want inside the arc. 

Still, if Alabama wants a remote shot at beating UConn, it will need to do the inverse of its strategy this season: force the Huskies to knock down threes, which they have not done well throughout the tournament.

Three-point shooting has been the sole weakness for the Huskies so far, as they are only converting on roughly 28% of those attempts in the tournament. Luckily, UConn has been so dominant in every other area that its shooting struggles have not gotten it in trouble.

Donovan Clingan has been spectacular on both ends so far, but his performance on the defensive end of the floor has been some of the best we have ever seen in college basketball. Clingan has avoided foul trouble and still dominated inside the paint, remaining vertical on dribble drives and using his length and defensive IQ to make life on opponents very hard.

In 22 minutes of play, Clingan held the Fighting Illini scoreless as the primary defender. On 19 separate occasions, Illinois tried to score on, over, or around him and failed. That is borderline incomprehensible. 

Clingan will need more consistent play from his teammates like Tristen Newton, Cam Spencer, Stephon Castle, and Alex Karaban if the Huskies want to be comfortable while they run the table but, if anything, the offensive inconsistency means there is substantial upside, especially against an overall poor defensive team like Alabama.

One thing that the Alabama Crimson Tide do not want to do is slow down the pace of the game, evidenced by their ninth-ranked adjusted tempo ranking, per KenPom. Alabama has played at a frenetic pace all season, challenging opponents to play at its tempo and try to outscore it over 40 minutes. 

As a result, the Crimson Tide slacked on defense for much of the 2023-24 campaign, which is different from last year’s squad that excelled on that end of the floor. As mentioned above, Bama ranks just 104th in adjusted defensive efficiency, which does not bode well against this Huskies squad.

In fact, UConn has the top-ranked offense (adjO) in the nation and plays just a bit faster than a snail’s pace (315th in adjusted tempo). The Huskies are more disciplined and better coached. They will not, under any circumstances, play at the pace that Alabama wants to play at, forcing the Crimson Tide to defend for 25-30 seconds of the shot clock on every defensive possession.

Alabama also has relied heavily on the three-point shot this season and during the 2024 NCAA Tournament. Still, UConn will funnel Bama’s shooters inside the arc to try and score on 7-foot-2 defensive anchor (and future lottery pick) Donovan Clingan. 

As mentioned briefly above, Clingan put a lid on the basket in the Huskies’ last game against Illinois, forcing it to shoot 0-for-19 from the field when he was the primary defender. That level of defensive dominance has been unmatched for a long time.

The Fighting Illini have much more size and athleticism in their frontcourt than the Crimson Tide do, making this a tough matchup for the Crimson Tide, as 6-foot-11 forward Grant Nelson and 6-foot-10 Nick Pringle are the only two players who could potentially score in the paint. But foul trouble could leave Alabama with even fewer options, as Clingan does a terrific job of drawing contact on the other end of the floor, too.

Alabama is about to run into the metaphorical UConn buzz saw, and even a 12-point spread won’t scare us off of the Huskies; they have won ten consecutive NCAA Tournament games by double-digits, and the streak should continue here.

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Andrew Norton

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Andrew has always been an avid sports fan and followed his hoop dreams all the way to college. He’s well-versed in everything betting with multiple years of experience and is qualitatively and quantitatively knowledgeable in sports statistics and analytics.

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