If sports betting odds are any indication, the 2023 NCAA men’s lacrosse Final Four has the potential to be remembered for a long time. Three teams, all ACC members, have odds between +165 and +240 at DraftKings to win the national championship.
On paper, the gap between Duke (+165), Virginia (+180), and Notre Dame (+240) is minuscule. Duke has the best odds to win the championship in part because it faces Penn State (+1600) on Saturday, as opposed to Virginia and Notre Dame, who will battle each other for a spot in the national championship match.
The Final Four showdown between Virginia and Notre Dame is expected to be highly competitive — Virginia is a -128 moneyline favorite at FanDuel — while Duke is a sizable favorite (-480 moneyline and 4.5 goal spread) against Penn State. Should Duke advance, look for the national championship between ACC squads to be tight.
Each semifinal match will take place Saturday afternoon and air on ESPN2. Duke-Penn State is set to begin at noon ET, and that game will be immediately followed by the UVA-Notre Dame matchup. The championship match will air on ESPN and take place on Monday at 1 p.m. ET.
ACC champion expected
Odds across mobile sportsbooks suggest an ACC team will be crowned the national champion Monday, despite a special season from Penn State. The Nittany Lions are 11-4 with an impressive collection of victories, but they’ve also advanced to the semifinals with a pair of one-goal wins.
“I think they certainly have the offense to hang with Duke, but a key injury to defender Jack Posey last week and their struggles at the faceoff certainly warrant these David vs. Goliath type odds,” Action Network Producer Hutton Jackson told US Bets.
Bettors looking to use head-to-head results between the ACC programs won’t learn as much as they might hope. Notre Dame is 1-0 against Duke, beating the Blue Devils 17-12 on April 8. Duke is a perfect 2-0 against Virginia. The Fighting Irish, however, are 0-2 against UVA, with each loss coming by at least four goals.
“They beat us twice, straight up,” Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said at a recent press conference. “We don’t have any excuses, and I don’t think our guys look for any excuses … But we’re looking forward to this third matchup.”
Jackson, who co-founded Pro Lacrosse Talk, likes Notre Dame’s chances of taking down UVA in their third meeting. Jackson’s pre-tournament bracket is perfect thus far, and Notre Dame was his original national title pick.
Longest 2023 NCAA Men's Lacrosse title odds across U.S. sportsbooks heading into the Final Four:
Duke +165 (DraftKings)
Virginia +215 (Caesars)
Notre Dame +250 (Barstool/BetRivers)
Penn State +1600 (DraftKings) pic.twitter.com/sfX7TvN8Ix
— Hutton Jackson (@HuttonJackson) May 22, 2023
“I’m trusting my pre-tournament picks and like Duke to beat — and cover [-4] against — Penn State and Notre Dame to defeat Virginia in what I expect to be a much closer game than these last two meetings,” Jackson said. “Notre Dame had a lot of unforced errors and poor shooting decisions in their last meeting with the Cavaliers, five of which led to transition goals for the Wahoos. I still think they’re the best team in the country and advance to the title game.”
Jackson is also interested in betting the UVA-Notre Dame under, with a total of 27.5 goals on FanDuel.
“Both of their previous meetings with Notre Dame stayed under with just 25 and 20 goals scored respectively,” Jackson said. “Notre Dame has a defense that can slow the Cavaliers down, and even though it hasn’t translated to wins, they’ve demonstrated that in their previous two meetings this season.”
If UVA can keep its season alive with a win over Notre Dame, the Cavaliers may well face Duke for the third time this season. The Blue Devils won the first two meetings by a combined three goals. That championship would almost certainly result in a tight match.
Narrow margins at the top
With such thin margins between UVA, Duke, and Notre Dame, it’s a challenge to handicap this year’s Final Four. All three ACC programs are elite, and it’s tough to determine if any of the three teams have clear advantages over their conference peers.
Virginia has won two of the last three national championships, perhaps an advantage for the program, as Virginia players are used to the immense pressure at this stage. Connor Shellenberger, who tallied 10 points in a quarterfinal win over Georgetown, was a member of Virginia’s 2021 national championship program. Still, Notre Dame and Duke are among the best teams in the country, and they’re plenty experienced in important games.
Jackson admits it’s a challenge to handicap the final games of the men’s college lacrosse season, but he’s expecting Notre Dame and Duke to meet in the championship match. Once there, Jackson likes the overall balance of Notre Dame to avenge national title losses to Duke in 2010 and 2014.
“They’re the most complete team in the tournament, with their only real weakness being at the face-off,” Jackson said. “They have the second-most efficient offense (albeit still behind the top-ranked Virginia offense) and second-most efficient defense. No other team left has a top-five offense and top-five defense. I think they will get over the hump this time.”
Photo: G Fiume/Getty Images