Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 9:00 PM
The four-day marathon of opening weekend action in the NCAA Tournament is about to come to an end. We have one day left, with eight games scattered across four regionals. Friday’s winners play today in Brooklyn, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, and Spokane.
This particular set of games is going to be fascinating to study because there are so many surprise teams. Oddsmakers are generally aware of what’s going on with the likes of Stephen F. Austin, Middle Tennessee, and so on. But, since so many of those small conference representatives were underrated Friday…they must determine what kind of adjustment was needed for today’s pointspreads. We know, for the most part, the public WON’T bet “no name” teams. Sportsbooks must manage their exposure and risk in responsible fashion in this complicated scenario.
As has been the case all weekend, I’ll go in Nevada Rotation order for each city, but then in starting time order at each locale.
GAMES IN BROOKLYN
VILLANOVA vs. IOWA: 12:10 pm ET on CBS
A spot where the favorites did survive and advance. Though, Iowa had to sweat overtime with an unimpressive Temple squad. The opener of Villanova -6 has been bet up to -6.5 and -7. Squares (the public) and sharps (professional wagerers) alike have reason to doubt how the Big 10 will perform vs. quality. Indiana did come through Saturday vs. Kentucky, but so many others haven’t. This is an early tip, which is just 9:10 a.m. out here in Las Vegas. There might be enough time to set up a tug-of-war at either Villanova -6.5 and Iowa +7….or a half point higher. Nothing happening yet on the opening total of 145.5. As we’ve discussed during the weekend…the market will move on quant bets…but not the general public. Unchanged totals mean that the numbers guys passed the game.
NOTRE DAME vs. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN: 2:40 pm ET on CBS
Many casual fans and media reporters were stunned when Notre Dame only opened at -1 in this game. Obviously oddsmakers believe Stephen F. Austin is for real. They should have been seeded much better than #14. If you watched, you know it was a clean win over West Virginia. The public has pushed the game up to -1.5. Stores who tested the two saw underdog money come in on SFA. A possible tug-of-war game before tip-off. Though…public betting may be so heavy on Notre Dame that the line settles in at two or -2.5. The total is down a point from the opener of 141.5 to 140.5.
GAMES IN OKLAHOMA CITY
OKLAHOMA vs. VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH: 5:15 pm ET on CBS
Nothing happening yet at the opener of Oklahoma -6.5. That non-move actually suggests decent support for VCU. This is obviously a game where the public would want to take the Sooners. They’re the better known team, the favorite, and they have “favored son” status playing in Oklahoma City. The fact that public money didn’t push the game to -7 or more is telling us about a pull from sharps on VCU. If you watched Oklahoma struggle much of the way with Cal-Bakersfield, that’s understandable. Quants did hit the total here, as an opener of 146 is up to 147.5. That’s actually the biggest early totals move of the slate.
TEXAS A&M vs. NORTHERN IOWA: 7:45 pm ET on TruTV
The renewal of the Texas A&M/Texas rivalry was put on hold because Northern Iowa sprung an upset with a halfcourt shot at the buzzer. Even though the Aggies impressed in their 2016 Dance debut, this line has dropped from the opener of A&M -6.5 down to -6. Missouri Valley teams (UNI and Wichita State) have been getting market respect (though WSU’s run ended early Saturday). Kentucky’s loss to Indiana made it tougher to love the Aggies here as well. Kentucky and A&M went overtime last weekend in the SEC finals. Not much happening yet on the low early total of 127. Underdogs are often popular bets in low-totaled games because points are at a premium.
GAMES IN ST. LOUIS
SYRACUSE vs. MIDDLE TENNESSEE: 6:10 pm ET on TNT
This wasn’t supposed to be a vintage Syracuse team. But, they sure looked vintage when the crushed Dayton early Friday. An opener of -6 has been bet up to -6.5. The public doesn’t think MTSU can score consecutive upsets. Teams like this who upset a superpower almost always let down the next time out. You saw that early Saturday with Yale falling way behind Duke, though that dog did almost come back to cover. Another game where a tug-of-war is likely between now and tip-off. It’s just hard to tell in advance if that will be at -6 and +6.5, or a half point higher. It’s possible that New York money could hit the market in a way that drives the tug-of-war a full point higher. If Syracuse hadn’t been a bubble team, this line would have been closer to -10. The total is down a point from 137 to 136.
XAVIER vs. WISCONSIN: 8:40 pm ET on TNT
A rare weekend spot where the underdog was hit early on. Xavier opened at -5. We’re now seeing -4.5 in most stores as I write this. That goes against the general flow of second round betting. More evidence that the market didn’t really see Xavier as a #2 seed. Still, Xavier impressed in their opener, while Wisconsin survived an ugly game amidst an ugly Friday for the Big 10. The total is down a point from 137 to 136.
GAMES IN SPOKANE
MARYLAND vs. HAWAII: 7:10 pm ET on TBS
The networks were hoping for Cal-Maryland. Injuries to the Bears prevented that from happening. Though, Hawaii did play very well Friday, and was a sharp choice of many even though before the injury bug hit. Back to the standard flow where first action went against the mid-major. Maryland opened at -6…and has been bet through -6.5 up to -7 in most stores. My understanding is that sharps who prefer Hawaii are waiting to see what they can get. There will be some Wise Guy money on this underdog before tip-off. The opening total has stood pat at 144.
OREGON vs. ST. JOSEPH’S: 9:40 pm ET on TBS
Only a half-point move on the favorite here, as an opener of -6 is up to -6.5. You’ve surely noticed by now that we had a lot of games open around the six or 6.5 mark in Sunday’s matchups. There’s so much parity these days that it’s hard to see a double digit line in a second round game. There’s some skepticism in the market about whether or not Oregon was a true #1. I believe St. Joe’s money would come in pretty hard of +7 comes into play. The very high opening total of 157 hasn’t moved.
Don’t run out of gas now…you can catch up on your rest starting Monday! Let’s go make some money. You can purchase my 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 before that Villanova-Iowa matchup gets the day started.
My sharp reports will take a hiatus until the Sweet 16 arrives Thursday. Then, I’ll be back with game-day reports through the weekend one more time. The Big Dance always flies by once it gets rolling. We’ll be down to the Final Four at the end of next weekend! Thanks for reading. Best of luck to you Sunday. See you again Thursday for more reports direct from your friend behind the line in Las Vegas!