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Best bets ahead of San Diego State-Florida Atlantic

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Coaches Press Conference Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the Mountain West conference will embark on a historic event, as the No. 5-seeded San Diego State Aztecs will take on the No. 9-seeded Florida Atlantic Owls in the Final Four. It marks the first time a conference history that one of its programs advanced to the Final Four, which gives them a clear shot at advancing — and possibly winning — a national championship.

Previously, I outlined three reasons why Brian Dutcher’s squad can take home the crown. But today, let’s discuss a couple bets I like ahead of Saturday’s showdown — I’m an objectively bad bettor, but let’s give it another shot, courtesy of the DraftKings Sportsbook.

Best Bet: Florida Atlantic u64.5 points (-110)

This isn’t an indictment on the Florida Atlantic offense, this is an indictment of the San Diego State defense, the fourth-most efficient defense in the country.

The Aztecs have held their last eight opponents to 40.0 percent shooting or worse, while also limiting their last nine opponents to 64 points or fewer.

Florida Atlantic is a top-25 offense and has scored at least 64 points in all but one game since the New Year — the one outlier appearing against Tennessee, the No. 1 defense in the country, scoring 62 points. Tennessee and one of two top-25 defenses it has faced over that span.

San Diego State has multiple switchable defenders — including Jaedon LeDee, Keshad Johnson and Aguek Arop — as well as a pair of feisty point-of-attack ball-stoppers in Lamont Butler and Darrion Trammell. San Diego State has capable enough guard defenders to mitigate the damage from guards Johnell Davis, Alijah Martin and Michael Forrest, though it’s still going to be an uphill climb.

The biggest counterargument is free-throw shooting — especially if it’s late in the game. But the Owls rank in the bottom-third in free-throw rate (free throws per FGA) at 29.3 percent, while SDSU is No. 132 in the nation in opponents' free-throw rate at 29.4 percent.

Both teams are elite rim protection squads, led by Nathan Mensah (SDSU) and Vlad Goldin (FAU), so this game is going to be heavily reliant on jump shooting, should both teams keep each other in the halfcourt. That’s why I would lean toward the under for Florida Atlantic, which is facing an incredibly well-coached, physical Aztec squad.

Favorite Parlay (+245):

  • San Diego State +3.5
  • u135.5 points
  • Lamont Butler 11+ points/assists

Both San Diego State and Florida Atlantic have proven they can win close games; the Aztecs have won their last nine games in decisions decided by five or fewer points, while the Owls have closed their last four with a five-point differential. To account for the potential free-throw-in-a-close-game scenario, I bumped the O/U from 131.5 to 135.5 and picked the under. With Butler’s prop, he has registered at least 11 combined points and assists in five of his last seven games. Against an FAU squad without much size outside of Goldin, I foresee Butler reaching that 11-point/assist bench mark yet again.

Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.