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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 4:00 PM

Plenty of time for the lines to settle for the first session of Thursday’s NCAA Tournament action. Let’s see how sharps have been betting these eight games so far. Normally, I present matchups in official Nevada rotation order. That’s a bit more confusing for casual fans in the Big Dance because Nevada sets their rotation before tip-off times are announced. Today and tomorrow, I’ll go in rotation order of the sites…but then tip-off order at each site.

The day begins in Providence, so let’s head there to start our discussion of sharp betting in Thursday’s early session.




DUKE vs. NC WILMINGTON: 12:15 pm ET on CBS

Many in the mainstream media were playing up NC Wilmington’s upset potential here. But, early money has actually pushed the line higher, from an opener of Duke -9.5 to -10.5. There’s certainly some square influence there from the public as well sharp Duke money. I do believe some sharp Wilmington money will come in before tipoff Thursday, particularly if the game were to move to +11. Maybe +10.5 is the best dog lovers will see. The Over/Under of 154.5 was hit hard up to 156.5. Some stores are testing 157. That’s a BIG move Over because some long-time bettors prefer Unders in the earliest tips because the arenas usually aren’t full to capacity yet. We’re seeing 2 to 2.5 points against the usual “early tip-off” grain.  


BAYLOR vs. YALE: 2:45 pm ET on CBS

We may see a tug-of-war developing between Yale +5.5 and Baylor -5. Yale is another popular upset pick in the media. This time there wasn’t any initial move toward the favorite from squares. The public is much more likely to bet Duke blind than Baylor! Basically, some in the markets think Yale +5.5 is a great bet in Providence, while others think that Baylor becomes a play at -5 because of their advantages in raw talent. The Over/Under is still hanging around the opening mark of 136.5.




TEXAS TECH vs. BUTLER: 12:40 pm ET on TruTV

Quants hit Butler hard on the opener of -2.5. We’re now seeing a solid -4 everywhere. This despite the fact that Butler is a #9 seed facing #8 Texas Tech. Sharps typically don’t like Tech coach Tubby Smith in big games. They weren’t shocked that the Red Raiders crumbled under minor tournament pressure vs. TCU last week in the Big 12. Butler still plays smart basketball even though the head coach who took them to the Finals is now winning with Boston in the NBA. It might take +4.5 to bring in any value bets on the underdog. Not a game the public is likely to hit very hard because these weren’t TV teams this season. Sharps who got in on Butler at -2.5 and -3 are very happy with their positions. The total is down a point from 148.5 to 147.5.


VIRGINIA vs. HAMPTON: 3:10 pm ET on TruTV

Not much interest in this #1 vs. #16 game. Virginia opened at -24. They don’t have much of a public betting following despite all of their ACC success in recent seasons. And, their slow pace makes it harder to win huge blowouts. Dog lovers took that +24, so we’re seeing +23.5 in a lot of places now. Many of the old school bettors will take all big dogs on principal. You regulars remember that from the NFL.





Another game where the #9 seed is a clear favorite over a #8 seed. Connecticut had a great finish to their season last week in the American Athletic Conference tournament. They’re playing their best ball of the year, but will have to fight the natural letdown off a title run (which they’ve been able to do in the past). Colorado isn’t much respected in the market when they’re not playing at home at altitude. Connecticut opened at -3, and was bet up by sharps to -3.5. Might take a four to bring in meaningful Colorado money. The total is down from 134.5 to 132 because of sharp indicators for a slow pace and good defense.



Another 1-16 game. Not much to say here in the projected blowout. Hardly anyone’s betting the game relatively speaking. The openers of Kansas -26 and 152 are still there in most spots. Maybe the old school guys are going to leave this one alone since Kansas has been in such great form recently.





A lot of media buzz about this game because it’s supposed to be a very up-tempo affair played at altitude. Iowa State opened at -8. Most stores are showing -7.5 right now. We’ve talked in the past about how immediate moves toward the dog reflect fairly strong sentiment even if it’s only a half-point. The normal flow is toward favorites out of the gate, particularly in this price range. Note that Iona and Monmouth are basically the same team in market terms (a pick-em game in the Metro-Atlantic finals), so those touting Monmouth as a deserving at-large entry would likely be on Iona (+) here. The Over/Under opened at a very high 167, and is still centered there as I write this up.



The final game of the day session could get interesting because Arkansas-Little Rock can play. But, as we saw in the day’s opener…media chatter about a live dog didn’t prevent a line from rising for a major conference TV regular. Purdue’s opener of -8 is now up to -9. Can either NC Wilmington or Arkansas-Little Rock upset Duke or Purdue? I do expect some sharps to come in on this dog eventually. That would definitely happen at +9.5. Could turn out that +9 is the best they’re going to get. Our biggest move of the day session happened on the Over/Under here. The opening total of 134 has been pounded all the way down to 129 by quants. Some stores are testing 128.5 to see if that brings in any Over money. Worst oddsmaker miss of the day so far is the total in this matchup.

Some fun pairings to start things off. History shows that a #12 usually beats a #5 each year. Two of those come up right away with Yale/Baylor and Little Rock/Purdue. Dangerous #13’s in Iona and NC Wilmington are hoping for a shining moment too.

You can purchase my daily NCAA tournament selections 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. Try to take care of business early on Thursday before those first games tip off.

Back with you early Thursday to talk about the night session. That octet is highlighted by Arizona/Wichita State and Gonzaga/Seton Hall. Locals out here in Nevada will be actively involved in those games, as well as Utah/Fresno State and USC/Providence. Can’t ever recall a prime time session which was THAT loaded with prominent Western powers. Might be the single busiest March night in Vegas (and Reno) ever!

Here’s the plan through the weekend…

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

Thanks for reading. You regulars know that college basketball is my favorite sport to handicap and bet. I’m like a kid in a candy store this week. A very crowded candy store where it’s going to be so loud Thursday and Friday that you can’t hear yourself think! See you again soon for the next of my sharp reports direct from Las Vegas.


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Richie B. on twitter @vsm_baccellieri

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