Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 12:00 PM
The 2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament begins Tuesday night in Dayton with the first two “play-in” games. Two more will be played Wednesday on the same floor. If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting all season for this week to arrive. College basketball is my favorite sport to handicap. I’m like a kid on Christmas morning right now…except Christmas lasts the rest of the month!
Let’s take a look at how sharps (professional wagerers) have been betting those four games here in today’s report. Quick reminder that this two-day “preliminary” features a battle of #16’s to start each double-header, followed by a battle of the last at-large’s to get in (this year it’s all #11 seeds, sometimes #12’s will be involved). If you’re just a casual basketball fan, you can skip the openers each day (which start at 6:40 ET, 3:40 out here in Las Vegas). For the full Dance experience, you should watch every minute!
(If you’d like to plan ahead, I’ll be back with you late Wednesday to start a busy sequence of “session-by-session” reports through the Round of 64. A schedule appears at the end of this report.)
Games are presented in rotation order so you can make notes in your schedule…
FLORIDA-GULF COAST vs. FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON: Tuesday at 6:40 pm ET on TruTV
Many of you remember Florida-Gulf Coast from that big run a few years ago. This year’s team isn’t nearly as good…but is still well clear of Fairleigh Dickinson. FGC opened as a 6-point favorite. Sharps shaped that down to FCU +5.5. More of a value play than anything else. Many old school guys are dog-heavy in the Dance based on principal, and will bet dogs blind. These two teams weren’t followed much by Vegas oddsmakers or the most important betting influences. That line reflects a composite of the most respected computers and old school dog betting. The Over/Under is up two points from 150.5 to 152.5. Doesn’t take much to move a total in an off-the-radar game like this though. Those who follow the teams do expect a high scoring affair. The winner in this battle of #16 seeds will be in big trouble Thursday against North Carolina in Raleigh.
WICHITA STATE vs. VANDERBILT: Tuesday at 9:10 pm ET on TruTV
Very interesting game here…because betting market respect is MUCH higher than selection committee respect for both teams! Wichita State has been priced like a Sweet 16 team all season, and is getting that kind of respect as favorites of -3.5 points (up from the opener of -3). Vanderbilt would have been in the Dance easily if “the market” determined invitations. Remember they were a very big favorite in that SEC loss to Tennessee. This is basically a #4 seed vs. a #8 seed in market pricing, even though the committee made them both #11’s! You may have noticed that all the #9 seeds are favored over the #8’s this year. I’m confident that Vandy would have been a short favorite over the #8’s too. Sharps liked Wichita State at minus three. I believe dog money would come in if +4 comes into play from public betting. That move from -3 to -3.5 is telling enough because it goes against the usual grain of sharps liking Dance dogs.
Not much happening yet on the opening total in the 134.5 to 135 range. This winner gets Arizona Thursday in Providence, who probably should have been a #4 seed rather than a #6 seed themselves. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “miss” this bad in terms of a team with legitimate Sweet 16 quality getting stuck in a play-in game. And, it’s a crime that Wichita State has to come in as a #11…and beat Vandy just for the right to play Arizona!
SOUTHERN vs. HOLY CROSS: Wednesday at 6:40 PM ET on TruTV
We move to Wednesday for another battle of #16 seeds. Holy Cross is the worst entry in the tournament…as they got hot at the right time as a mediocre team in a very minor conference. They did get the early money though. The opener of +3 is down to +2. Don’t want to go overboard with the size of that move. Generally speaking, the part of the country where Holy Cross is from has a lot more betting influence than the part of the country Southern is from. The Under is worth noting, as an opener of 131 is down to 129. This winner will have to play Oregon Friday in Spokane. Imagine having to play the high energy Ducks with tired legs and cross-country jet lag! Oregon had some very fast starts in the Pac 12 tournament. As long as the Ducks don’t get complacent, they should have another fast start Friday.
MICHIGAN vs. TULSA: Wednesday at 9:10 pm ET on TruTV
Like the rest of the country, the betting markets were stunned when Tulsa got an at-large bid to the Dance. Fans of West Coast basketball left sportsbook view parties in shock Sunday afternoon because St. Mary’s and San Diego State were snubbed while Tulsa (and some other question marks) got in. Michigan was a borderline bubble team themselves, but opened at -3 in this one. Sharps drove that to -4! We’re seeing a little buy back from dog lovers…but support here for Michigan is legit. The single “most relevant” move from these four games is the Wolverines at -3 in my view because we had a full-point jump that went against the grain of usual dog support. Sharps can't believe Tulsa is in this event.
To give you a sense of the disparity in the #11 seeds in these play-in games…Wichita State is -3.5 over Vanderbilt…Vanderbilt would probably be a slight favorite over Michigan (or pick-em)…and Michigan is -4 over Tulsa. The committee put Wichita State and Tulsa on the same seeding line!
Not much happening on the Over/Under, which is still around the opener of 143.
A nice appetizer for all the tournament bedlam that begins Thursday morning here in Las Vegas (lunchtime where many of you live, but just after breakfast here in the sports betting capital of the World!). You can purchase all of my daily NCAA tournament selections (and possible bonus plays from the other tournaments) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. Please ask about packages that take you through the tournaments and the NBA Playoffs.
Here’s the schedule for the rest of this blockbuster week…for my money the most exciting week in all of sports betting! Of course, I’m biased…college basketball is my favorite sport to handicap.
Late Wednesday: How Sharps are Betting the early Thursday session
Early Thursday: How Sharps are Betting the late Thursday session
Late Thursday: How Sharps are Betting the early Friday session
Early Friday: How Sharps are Betting the late Friday session
Very Early Saturday: How Sharps are Betting Saturday’s eight games
Very Early Sunday: How Sharps are Betting Sunday’s eight games
It’s always a lot of fun to monitor the markets during this amazing week. So many of you were with us a year ago for this wild ride. Thanks for coming back in 2016. Best of luck to you all through the tournament. See you again late Wednesday afternoon to talk about those early Thursday games (like Baylor/Yale, Duke/NC Wilmington, Butler/Texas Tech, and Connecticut/Colorado.
We’ve been waiting all season for the Big Dance, and it’s finally here!
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