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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 4:00 PM

The first busy day of NCAA Tournament action is here. Let’s run through how sharps have been betting all 16 Thursday matchups. I’ll be back with you at the same time tomorrow for a look at Friday’s equally busy slate.

I’ll go in schedule order of locations…but in tip-off order at each site so you can apply what you’re seeing to the real-word betting schedule. The first game listed at each site is the first game scheduled in the afternoon. The first two games at each site are day games…the last two are night games. Here we go…

 

GAMES IN JACKSONVILLE

GEORGIA STATE VS. BAYLOR: Baylor opened at -8, and was bet up to -9. Sharps have a lot of respect for this Bears team…though that respect was misplaced in their poor showing against Kansas in the Big 12 semifinals. Georgia State is clearly the most respected of the #14 seeds as the rest are bigger dogs. Note the likely home crowd advantage for the dog here. Sharps would take Georgia State at +9.5 or higher if the public gets involved before tip-off. I believe there is some underdog money waiting to enter the market in this one. The Over/Under has dropped from 130.5 to 127 because the quants expect a slow, halfcourt game.

OLE MISS VS. XAVIER: This one was later up on the board because Ole Miss didn’t qualify until late Tuesday night. Xavier opened at -2, and was bet up to -3. Sharps wanting to bet the fatigue/travel angle stepped in right away on the two. Tough to have to play a day game Thursday after the late tip Tuesday in this event. Though, at least Ole Miss won’t have any first game jitters. Not much happening yet on the Over/Under. I’ll only mention those when there’s been a meaningful sharp move.

HARVARD VS. NORTH CAROLINA: This is the marquee event of the evening slate in terms of TV appeal, though sharps don’t really see it that way. They weren’t impressed with the way Harvard limped home, and struggled vs. what really isn’t a very good Yale team. Remember that Harvard lost at home to Yale to almost blow the Ivy League, then won a neutral court tie-breaker at the buzzer over a team that didn’t even earn an invite to the NIT. Sharps bet North Carolina at the opener of -9, and have driven it all the way up to -10.5 or -11. I believe that dog players are being tempted by +11, and will surely come in at +11.5 or higher if the public drives the favorite higher.

WOFFORD VS. ARKANSAS: Not much interest at all in this one yet. Sharps either put the game right on the market price or are waiting for a better price on the dog. The fact that the line didn’t go up right away in advance of public action suggests that it’s either Wofford or pass for the Wise Guys.

 

GAMES IN PITTSBURGH

NORTHEASTERN VS. NOTRE DAME: Not much interest here. Sharps haven’t had much respect for the Irish this season…which is why they were such sizable underdogs vs. Duke and North Carolina on their way to the ACC championship. They sure weren’t being priced like a #3 Dance seed last weekend. The opening line of -12.5 has mostly stood pat, though some stores are showing only twelve as dog bettors decided there was no reason to wait for +13.

TEXAS VS. BUTLER: Texas has been a solid favorite of -1.5 through the week. That’s interesting because they’re the #11 seed and Butler is a #6 seed. Sharps and the computers have been fond of Texas this season…but the Longhorns have had trouble winning close games. That makes this a dicey proposition because they can’t lose and cover. I would expect sharp Butler money to come in if the public pushes the game to two. The total is up from an opener of 122 to 123.5 or 124.

LAFAYETTE VS. VILLANOVA: Our first #1 seed opened at -22 and has been bet up to -23. Sharps tend not to get too involved in #1 vs. #16 games unless they’re very confident that a big ugly dog can hang around in garbage time…or if they believe a very slow tempo will make it hard to cover a tall number. Villanova plays fast, and can run up the score. Not a place for Wise Guy dog interest. Big move on the Under, as an opener of 149 has been bet all the way down to 146 or 145.5 by quants who project play style and garbage time likelihoods.

LSU VS. NC STATE: NC State opened -1, and has been bet up to -2. Sharps have had some good success with NC State vs. the ACC elites this year. But, the team sure laid an egg vs. Duke in the ACC tournament. Maybe that got their attention. LSU did play Kentucky tough though, and would generate sharp interest if the line moves to +3. And, possibly even at +2.5. One of the best matchups talent-wise of the first day…particularly if both teams play near their peaks.

 

GAMES IN LOUISVILLE

ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM VS. IOWA STATE: We had a big move here on the total, as a high opener of 148 was bet all the way down to 143.5. Some sharps like betting Unders in the earliest tips because of half-empty arenas and awkward weekday starting times. That may be in play here. On the team side, Iowa State opened at -13 and is up slightly to -13.5. Just a half point move suggests dog money would come in at +14 if the public pushes the game higher. Less time for that in an early tip.

UCLA VS. SMU: This is one of the showcase afternoon games along with Butler/Texas. There were certainly be a lot of interest in Las Vegas sportsbooks because money from LA and Dallas has a way of finding its way here. Interesting that the opener of SMU -2.5 has been bet up to -3.5 so far. Not much buy back on the dog for a “local” team in Vegas so to speak. Remember that Vegas got a first hand look at UCLA in the Pac 12 tournament at the MGM Grand last week. The sharps who liked SMU were fairly aggressive at -2.5 and -3. Underdog money would definitely come in at +4, but might have to settle for +3.5.  

PURDUE VS. CINCINNATI: Purdue has been bet up from an opener of -1 to -1.5 or -2. Sharps or the market in general haven’t been particularly impressed with either team. Purdue may have been a #4 seed in the Big 10 tournament. They’ve been priced like a bubble team for weeks. Low interest game for sharps. The total is down from 120 to 118.5. That’s the lowest total of the day by a good bit.

HAMPTON VS. KENTUCKY: The biggest mismatch of the tournament…and probably one of the biggest mismatches ever given that Kentucky is historically great and Hampton is a losing team from a bad conference that caught a few breaks to get here. Kentucky opened at -31 and has been bet up to -32.5 or -33. Only Kentucky’s tendency to coast with big leads is keeping this game from soaring higher.

 

GAMES IN PORTLAND

TEXAS SOUTHERN VS. ARIZONA: Not much interest in this one. Sharps have loved Arizona this year…but may be picking their spots later in the tournament to make a move. An opener of -23 is only up to -23.5 thus far. I’m hearing there’s some respect for what Texas Southern might be able to do in garbage time.

OHIO STATE VS. VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH: Ohio State is a lot like Texas this year, in that the computers and many sharps respect them even though they don’t have a won-lost record that would justify that passion. An opener of Ohio State -2.5 (as a #10 seed over a #7 seed) has been bet up to -3.5. There’s a feeling amongst the Wise Guys that Ohio State’s guards will be able to handle the VCU press…and that’s usually what triggers money in VCU games.

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN VS. UTAH: No interest at all here. Oddsmakers correctly anticipated that SFA would be a popular choice as a Cinderella, which has kept the line in check. Utah is still -6.5.  

EASTERN WASHINGTON VS. GEORGETOWN: A rare game that moved toward the dog right off the bat. Georgetown opened at -8. It’s now a solid -7.5 everywhere. Because the early flow is generally toward favorites (sharps anticipating public interest because squares always bet favorites!), even a half-point move toward an underdog is a meaningful indicator. The Over/Under is down from 148 to 146.

That wraps up the first big day of Dance action. You can purchase my personal selections for the day and night slates right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155 before the first games tip off Thursday.

Back again tomorrow to look at Friday. Then we’ll also have special reports for the eight-game schedules Saturday and Sunday when the Round of 64 winners advance to try and earn a spot in the Sweet 16. Look for daily sharps reports through the Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedules in the first and second weeks of the Dance. I appreciate that so many of you read the NFL reports this past season. Thanks for returning for the NCAA Tournament!

 

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Richie B. on twitter @vsm_baccellieri

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