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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Friday, April 3, 2015 at 2:00 PM

We’ve already seen heavy betting action in Saturday’s Final Four matchups featuring Duke vs. Michigan State and Kentucky vs. Wisconsin. That’s only going to increase through the day Saturday as locals and tourists make their way to sportsbooks to bet their preferred sides and totals in these late afternoon/early evening starts.

There’s definitely a “Super Bowl” buzz in the air because we have such high profile “public” teams involved in showcase games. I’m not suggesting that the overall handle will match the Super Bowl. NFL is still king. But, this could easily be the most heavily bet Final Four ever. It’s about as great a weekend as Vegas could hope for in terms of marquee value and public interest.

Both lines settled at -5 relatively early in the process. Though, we’ve seen a slight shift in one of the matchups here late in the week. Let’s review how sharps have been betting the games so far…with an eye toward what might happen from both sharp and square money in the hours before tipoff.

I’ll list the games in the order they’ll tip off in Indianapolis Saturday.

 

Duke vs. Michigan State (6:05 p.m. ET, 3:05 p.m. in Las Vegas)

Duke went up on the board at -4.5. It was bet to -5 fairly quickly…staying there most of the week until a move up to -5.5. There’s been a lot of national publicity about a big bet on Michigan State to win the national title. Generally speaking smart money has been going Duke’s way at -4.5 of -5. I would imagine that we would see very strong support for Sparty at +6. And, that may come in at +5.5 if that’s going to be the apex. You regulars know that favorite money from the Wise Guys usually comes in quickly in advance of public betting (squares almost always bet favorites, particularly favorites they’ve been watching on TV all season). Underdog money usually waits to see what it can get. Perhaps game-day action will split fairly evenly around the 5.5. If not, look for a tug-of-war between the public on Duke and sharps on Michigan State at this new higher spot on the scale.

The Over/Under has been bet down from 140.5 to 138. That’s a big move for a game this late in the season. I believe that’s the result of a combination of factors:

*The game is in a dome, which is encouraging Under bets

*Sharps didn’t anticipate “Over” public money after last week’s dome dynamics

*Michigan State will try to slow the game down, so “MSU money” bet Under early while biding its time on team side options.

There was no reason for Under money to wait for something better because the public could be scared off of Over betting given what happened last week in Houston. It might take as low as 137.5 or 137 before any of the quants buy back in the other direction.

 

Kentucky vs. Wisconsin: (8:45 p.m. ET, 5:45 p.m. in Las Vegas)

The first lines up offshore were Kentucky by around -6. Wisconsin lovers jumped in right away, causing Vegas stores to open at Kentucky -5.5. Wisconsin money still kept hitting the board until an equilibrium was found at Kentucky -5.

Interesting here that underdog money came in early, not even waiting to see how the public was going to bet. What caused that? Many sharps had both Wisconsin and Arizona closer to Kentucky in their Power Ratings than oddsmakers did…and were anticipating value at the outset no matter who won the West. Also, there’s some pretty serious Wisconsin money in the pipeline because of their fan base. That fan base was ecstatic to see +6 offshore or +5.5 on the opener. So, even if the “general” public was likely to look at the favorite…that was swamped a bit by square Badgers money.

Right now, the five feels pretty solid. It would take a flood of one-sided action Saturday to budge. We’ll see what happens late in the day. This will be an extremely heavily bet game, which means a surprise could develop.

We’ve had a slight move up on the total from a low opener of 130 up to 131 or 131.5. So, an opener that started about 10 points below the other game is now only about seven points below the other game. Why did this one rise while the other fell? I’m hearing its FREE THROWS!

You’ll recall that Arizona/Wisconsin had a veritable free throw parade in the West Finals last weekend. It’s anticipated that we’ll see the same thing here because Wisconsin doesn’t have the athletes to play defense without committing a bunch of fouls. The “dome” issue is less of a factor on free throws than on longer shots. So…the game with a low starting total (Wisconsin/Kentucky) rose because of free throw potential…while the game with the high starting total (Michigan State/Duke) sunk because of pace and backdrop issues.

You can purchase my personal selections for Saturday’s Final Four 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 during normal business hours Friday afternoon or during the day Saturday. Please remember to check on my rates for the rest of the NBA and all of Major League Baseball (with first pitch Sunday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago).

We’ll have one more college basketball report this season when I come back Monday afternoon to look at sharp betting in the National Championship showdown matching Saturday’s winners. Then, in a couple of weeks, I’ll begin coverage of the NBA Playoffs through the Spring and Summer. As always, thanks for reading. See you again Monday!

Be sure to follow:

Richie B. on twitter @vsm_baccellieri

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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