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Virginia two wins away from ultimate redemption

Updated March 31, 2019 - 8:30 pm

Virginia is two wins away from writing the ultimate NCAA Tournament tale of redemption.

A year after the Cavaliers became the first No. 1 seed ever to lose to a No. 16 seed, they’re the only No. 1 seed headed to the Final Four.

Top overall seed Duke lost to Michigan State 68-67 in Sunday’s Elite Eight finale and No. 1 seed Gonzaga was eliminated by Texas Tech in Saturday’s 75-69 loss.

No. 1 seed North Carolina was whipped by 17 points in the Sweet 16 on Friday by Auburn, which knocked off Kentucky 77-71 in overtime Sunday to advance to its first Final Four.

Final Four lines

That sets up a showdown of contrasting styles in Saturday’s national semifinal between defensive-minded Virginia and up-tempo Auburn in Minneapolis. The Cavaliers opened as 5½-point favorites over the Tigers and the total is 131.

“That’s the biggest contrast you’ll ever see,” Westgate sportsbook manager Ed Salmons said. “One team wants to get out and run and gun and shoot 3s. The other team is a possession team that plays slow and doesn’t turn the ball over.

“Every point you score against them, you have to earn.”

Michigan State opened as a 2½-point favorite over Texas Tech at the Westgate in the other Final Four matchup before the line quickly moved to 3. The total is 133.

“We thought 1½ or 2 was plenty. We think 3 is too many. I would lean to Texas Tech,” Salmons said. “It just figures to be a close game. That’s going to be a drag-out war.”

Tom Izzo has guided the Spartans to eight Final Fours. The Red Raiders are headed to their first Final Four under Chris Beard but Salmons sees the coaching matchup as a draw.

“One guy is not going to outcoach the other guy,” he said.

Texas Tech at 200-1

A Westgate bettor placed a $500 wager in November to win $100,000 on Texas Tech at 200-1 odds to win the NCAA title.

Underdogs go 3-1

Underdogs went 3-1 ATS in the Elite Eight with three outright wins.

Michigan State erased a nine-point first-half deficit to Duke and went ahead for good on Kenny Goins’ 3-pointer with 39 seconds left. The Blue Devils had a chance to tie but RJ Barrett missed a free throw with six seconds left and the Spartans were able to dribble out the clock.

Coach K strikes out

Duke went 0-4 ATS in the tournament, finished the season on a 3-11 spread slide and have reached only two Final Fours in the last 15 years.

“It’s not a popular thing to say but (Mike) Krzyzewski is a terrible X’s and O’s coach,” Salmons said. “Every time you watch a Duke game at the end, they have no clue what they’re doing.

“It’s not exactly hard to roll out three (NBA) lottery picks and say, ‘Go have fun.’ That’s essentially what he does.”

Win big, lose big

A South Point bettor won a $300,000 straight wager on Gonzaga over Florida State in the Sweet 16. But a South Point bettor lost $420,000 on Saturday on a pair of $210,000 wagers on Gonzaga — one at minus 4½ and one at minus 5 — when the Bulldogs couldn’t solve the Red Raiders’ stifling defense.

The high roller cut his losses a bit by virtue of placing the bets at minus 105 instead of minus 110 at the South Point, which is running a minus 105 promotion through the national title game.

“The guy lost $420,000 instead of $440,000. That’s a difference of $20,000,” South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews said.

Miracle cover by Cavs

Virginia was the only favorite to cover in the Elite Eight. And they did so in virtual miraculous fashion as 4½-point favorites in Saturday’s 80-75 overtime win over Purdue.

Mamadi Diakite made a jumper with one second left in regulation after a scramble to send the game to overtime. Kihei Clark was fouled with one second remaining in OT and hit both free throws to cover.

Auburn outlasted Kentucky in OT in its first game without injured star Chuma Okeke.

“It didn’t matter (Sunday) but it might at some point,” Andrews said. “Virginia certainly has a great defense and can lock a lot of teams down. That’s one less option for Auburn.”

Auburn has covered three straight and eight of 10, Michigan State has covered three straight and seven of nine, and Texas Tech has covered four straight and 12 of 14. Virginia has covered only three of its last seven but is 33-3 overall.

“Auburn’s got to hit their 3s to stay close,” Salmons said. “If they don’t hit their 3s, it could be a long game. But it seems like Virginia’s been uptight the whole tournament. Even though they’re winning, nothing’s easy for them in this tournament.”

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Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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