The Daily Sweat: What you need to know to bet the women’s Final Four

Final Four weekend has arrived.

The women’s Final Four kicks everything off Friday night before the men’s semifinals on Saturday. The first game of the evening Friday features LSU and Virginia Tech and the nightcap is a matchup of the best two players in women’s college basketball.

We’ll start with the first game. It could be exceptionally close as LSU is just a 1.5-point favorite over Virginia Tech. The Hokies were a No. 1 seed and are in the Final Four for the first time in school history. LSU got to the Final Four as a No. 3 seed and its only losses have come to SEC opponents.

LSU is favored in part because of the dominance of Angel Reese. She’s averaging 23 points and nearly 16 rebounds a game and has grabbed a double-double in each of the four NCAA tournament games so far. Reese had 13 points and 18 rebounds in the Tigers’ Elite Eight win over Miami.

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, left, talks with forward Aliyah Boston (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, left, talks with forward Aliyah Boston (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Dawn Staley and Aliyah Boston’s undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks are 11.5-point favorites over Iowa. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Reese will go head-to-head in the post with Virginia Tech senior center Elizabeth Kitley. She’s averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds a game while Hokies guard Georgia Amoore is scoring 16 points a game. The Hokies have won each of their four tournament games by at least nine points and beat Ohio State by 10 in the Elite Eight. Kitley and Amoore combined to score 49 points in that win as Kilter also had 12 rebounds.

We’re inclined to take Virginia Tech and the points in this game and are fascinated to see how quickly the game is played. The over/under is at just 133.5 points after LSU and Miami combined to score 96 points and the Tigers haven’t scored more than 70 in a game since their first-round win.

South Carolina is a big favorite

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark won the Naismith Award as the best women’s player in the game over South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston earlier in the week. She’s going to need her teammates to help her pull a significant upset on Friday night if she’s going to best Boston again.

The undefeated Gamecocks are 11.5-point favorites over the Hawkeyes. South Carolina has won each of its four NCAA tournament games by double digits, though its winning margin has gotten progressively smaller in each game. USC beat Norfolk State by 32, South Florida by 29, UCLA by 16 and Maryland by 11 in the Elite Eight.

Maryland became just the third team all season to score more than 70 points against South Carolina. The Gamecocks are one of the best defensive teams ever and are well equipped to slow down Clark if that’s possible.

Clark scores 27 points per game and dishes out nearly nine assists while grabbing seven rebounds. She leads Iowa in all three categories.

The Hawkeyes score 88 points per game and have broken 90 in two of their NCAA tournament wins so far. The over/under for this one is at 149.5 as a result and we’re inclined to lean toward the under and an Iowa cover. Iowa may be more comfortable getting out and running against South Carolina, but the Gamecocks have great depth to go along with their star power. But the Hawkeyes do seem to have enough to keep the game close even if it doesn’t play out the way they want.

Big night in the Western Conference

The Western Conference standings are nuts.

Golden State currently holds the last guaranteed playoff spot in sixth and is just three games ahead of the Dallas Mavericks in 11th. In between the two teams are the four teams in the play-in spots and all four of those teams are separated by a game.

The Warriors and three of those four teams in the play-in spots take the court on Friday. Oklahoma City (10th) is at the Indiana Pacers as it tries to get back to .500 and the Warriors host the tanking San Antonio Spurs. The Thunder is a 2.5-point favorite while the Warriors are 15.5-point favorites.

The biggest game of the night involves the Lakers and Timberwolves. The Lakers are currently a half-game behind the Timberwolves in ninth in the conference. If the Wolves win and the Thunder wins, Oklahoma City jumps to ninth. If the Lakers win, they jump ahead of the Wolves in eighth and the Thunder move into a tie with the Wolves for ninth with a win.

The Wolves are favored by 1.5-points Friday night and the total is 232.5.

A light baseball slate

Just five games are on the MLB schedule for Friday after every team opened the season on Thursday.

The first game of the day is in Miami as the Mets and Marlins square off and there are three games on the West Coast.

Who cashed tickets Thursday?

The New Orleans Pelicans beat the Denver Nuggets by 19 on Thursday night and got a huge win as Denver played without Nikola Jokic. That blowout came after an even bigger one in Milwaukee as the Boston Celtics dominated the Bucks 140-99 in what is a likely Eastern Conference Finals preview.