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Final Four betting guide: Odds, picks for NCAA championship weekend

Haley Jones and Stanford's championship odds are undervalued on some sportsbooks. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Four teams, three matchups, two game days and one weekend. That’s what we have left of the 2021-22 college basketball season.

It’s also what we have left to bet on.

With every major regulated sportsbook finally offering women’s college basketball lines, we have several options to choose from. Let’s break down how, where and what to bet when it comes to this weekend’s Final Four.

Betting options

For an overview of the basic types of bets you can place and how to make sense of the numbers, you can check out our primer from last fall. While that was for the WNBA, the lines and odds work the same way for any basketball game at any level.

If you’re interested in some slightly more advanced options, we’ll break those down here. If you’d rather stick to the basics, or if you’re already well versed in these options, feel free to skip to the game analysis below.

Every sportsbook is a little bit different, so not all of these will be available everywhere. Books that now offer women’s college basketball lines include PointsBet, BetRivers, FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars, BetMGM and WynnBet. Each of the following options can be found on at least one or two of those books.

Alternate lines

Every sportsbook will set the main spread at exactly or approximately equal odds on both sides, but if you’d rather bet on a different spread, some sportsbooks will allow you to do that at different odds. The less likely the bet is to win, the more it pays if it does.

Most sportsbooks have South Carolina favored over Louisville by about eight points. A bet on South Carolina -8 would be around -110 odds, but you could also bet on South Carolina -10 at longer (higher paying) odds or South Carolina -6 at shorter odds. South Carolina is less likely to win by double digits than they are to win by at least eight, so a bet on South Carolina -10 would pay even more if it wins.

These alternate lines are often available for game totals as well.

Half and quarter lines

These are also offered by some sportsbooks, and the concept is pretty simple – they work the same way as the moneylines, spreads and totals for the full game, except only for a specific quarter or half.

If you want to bet on South Carolina but are worried that their 269th-ranked free-throw shooting won’t hold up enough in the final minute for them to preserve an eight-point lead, maybe it’s worth betting on them to win the first half rather than winning or covering the spread for the whole game.

Live bets

Every major U.S. sportsbook has been offering this option as we’ve gotten deep into the tournament. Live betting is just betting in the middle of the game rather than before it starts. Because the lines are constantly changing throughout the game depending on the score and time remaining, sometimes it can be hard to place a bet before the line moves again, so this usually works best during a dead ball or a timeout.

The most value in live betting is often when there is a game situation that the sportsbooks may not be accounting for. Injuries are an unfortunate one, but factors like players fouling out or teams going on a run after a shift in strategy can also lead to good live betting opportunities.

Player props

Player prop bets are just bets on a specific stat for one player – typically something common like points, rebounds or assists. They work the same way as an over/under bet for the game: You bet on whether that player will go over or under the line in that particular category.

For example, in Monday’s Elite Eight game between Louisville and Michigan, FanDuel had the line at 18.5 for Naz Hillmon’s points scored. That means a bet on the over would have won if Hillmon had scored at least 19 points, but because she finished with 18, the under won.

Most “real” sportsbooks don’t yet offer player props on the women’s side (which is why it’s important to keep pushing for equal betting options). But PrizePicks, which brands itself as a daily fantasy site rather than a sportsbook, offers what essentially amount to player props on women’s college games. And as of the Elite Eight, FanDuel and DraftKings began offering some player props as well.

Final Four breakdown

Now that we have a sense for how and where to bet on these games, let’s take a look at where the value is.

Destanni Henderson and South Carolina enter the Final Four as the No. 1 overall seed. (Kevin Langley/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

South Carolina vs. Louisville

We’ve reached the point of the season where everyone remaining is a team that has been a good bet all season. These two teams have covered quite a few spreads, as have the two in the other matchup Friday, so picking against one of them is tough.

Ultimately, this one may come down to the Cardinals’ defensive game plan. It’s no secret that the way to stop South Carolina is to pack the paint – outside of Destanni Henderson, the Gamecocks don’t have outside shooting that can come close to matching their dominance inside.

Easier said than done, however. We’ve seen other teams try this and fail for various reasons. Creighton did an excellent job of swarming Boston and company, but when you’re giving up that many inches, sometimes it just doesn’t matter.

If there’s anyone who can make it work, though, it’s Louisville and Jeff Walz. Remember when they knocked off the Oregon team that had just beaten Team USA and was supposed to go 40-0, largely thanks to Walz’s uniquely brilliant defensive scheme? In that one, he had Kylee Shook, his rim protector, matched up with Oregon guard Minyon Moore, who wasn’t a 3-point threat. That allowed Shook to freely roam the paint, while Moore didn’t hurt them from the perimeter.

The personnel and the opponent are much different here, of course, but the defensive brilliance is the same. Expect Louisville’s havoc-wreaking backcourt to apply enough pressure to make it difficult for South Carolina to get the ball inside in the first place, which could neutralize the Gamecocks’ height advantage.

Louisville will have to keep them off the glass as well, but at the current line of South Carolina -8, it’s worth taking a shot on the Cardinals to do that. Every game this time of year seems to come down to the final minute, so a three-possession spread is pretty wide.

Stanford vs. UConn

The heartbreaking reality of betting this game is that it may come down to the injury to Dorka Juhász. While Juhász isn’t the star that, say, Paige Bueckers is, the impact of her absence will be substantial.

When Juhász went down Monday during UConn’s Elite Eight win over NC State, the Huskies were up 25-18 with a chance to extend the lead at the free-throw line. That was midway through the second quarter, at which point Elissa Cunane had managed just three points.

Cunane scored 15 of her 18 from that point on as the Wolfpack went on a run to get back in the game and turn it into a thriller. Without Juhász, the Huskies are left with only Aaliyah Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa as true post players in the rotation. That problem is magnified by the fact that both are foul prone and, at times, have trouble staying on the court.

Edwards fouled out of that Elite Eight game, and Nelson-Ododa had to play several minutes with four fouls. We saw Cunane get a few easy buckets at the rim late in the game, when Nelson-Ododa was forced to be less aggressive defensively on the interior.

While Stanford doesn’t have a back-to-the-basket threat at Cunane’s level, they do love to score at the hoop via layups and back cuts out of their Princeton offense. If Edwards and Nelson-Ododa get into foul trouble in this one, UConn may be forced to go small and sacrifice rim protection and rebounding.

Most books opened with UConn favored by 1.5, but that has already reversed in several places. Even with a line of Stanford -1.5, the Cardinal are still a solid bet in this one.

Championship futures

There is perhaps no better illustration of the value of “line shopping” (searching on various sportsbooks for the best odds on a particular bet) than in the championship odds.

Some lines have moved since that post, but there are still plenty of discrepancies from one book to another, so it’s worth checking around to see where you can find the best odds on the team you want to bet on.

As far as value, South Carolina is the clear favorite and should have over a 50 percent chance to win it all. The +115 odds above were from Caesars, and those have moved, but FanDuel still has that line at +100. If you can find the Gamecocks at plus odds, don’t overthink it, just take it.

Stanford is the other team that seems to be undervalued in a lot of places. Several books still have Stanford with longer odds than UConn, despite the fact that most of those same books also have Stanford as slight favorites over UConn.

Don’t bet on Stanford at anything +300 or worse, but if you can find +400 or better, then hop on the defending champs.

Calvin Wetzel is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering basketball and betting. He also contributes to Her Hoop Stats, CBS SportsLine and FiveThirtyEight. Follow him on Twitter at @cwetzel31.