Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 4:00 PM
Today marks the first of four straight expanded reports studying how sharps (professional wagerers) are betting in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. I’ll look at the 16 games on tap for Thursday in this report. I’ll be back in about 24 hours to do the say for all the Friday action.
To make it easy for you to take notes, I’ll go in Nevada rotation order of the regions, but then tipoff order at each region. We start the day in Buffalo, with one of the most anticipated first round matchups…
(12) PRINCETON vs. (5) NOTRE DAME: 12:15 pm ET on CBS
Princeton in particular, and the Ivy League as a whole, usually gets respect from the sharps in the tournament. That’s certainly the case here. Notre Dame opened as a 7 to 7.5 favorite depending on the store. Even though the public tends to back major conference favorites vs. mid-major underdogs, this line has come down to Princeton +6.5. Sharps were very happy to get +7.5 or +7, and didn’t wait to see if the line went up because they anticipated a feeding frenzy on the brainy dog. The total opened 132.5, and was bet up to 134 by the numbers guys.
(13) BUCKNELL vs. (4) WEST VIRGINIA: 2:45 pm ET on CBS
This one opened at West Virginia -14, and has largely stood pat. Any move off the fourteen sees counter-action that brings it right back. West Virginia has been a popular computer team all season. This isn’t a vintage Bucknell team compared to past threats (like the one that beat Kansas awhile back!). So, sharps were looking at other Cinderellas on the day one card. (A lot of others!) This total was also bet up, from 146 to 148.
(16) MT. ST. MARY’S vs. (1) VILLANOVA: 7:10 pm ET on CBS
A delayed opener since St. Mary’s had to win Tuesday night to advance. The first number up was Villanova by 26.5. This will not be a heavily bet game by sharps or squares because that’s such a high line in a game that will likely have extended garbage time.
(9) VIRGINIA TECH vs. (8) WISCONSIN: 9:40 pm ET on CBS
The first number up here was Wisconsin -6. That was bet down to as low as Wisconsin -5 before favorite money came back in to settle the line at -5.5. Very clear indicators that sharps really like Virginia Tech at +6 or better, but that Big 10 money (some of it smart) will come in at Wiscy -5. Many pundits were surprised that Wisconsin fell all the way down to being a #8 seed. I can tell you that Vegas oddsmakers had them Power Rated as more equivalent to a #4 or #5 seed. That’s why this line is six, while the other #8 vs. #9 games are within a point of pick-em. An Under play here for sharps, as the opener of 138.5 is down to 137.
(12) NC WILMINGTON vs. (5) VIRGINIA: 12:40 pm ET on truTV
Another great matchup in the earliest tips. The opener of Virginia -9 has been bet down to NC Wilmington +7.5. You regulars know that the public usually backs favorites, particularly those from the big TV conferences. But, Virginia hasn’t looked great down the stretch…and NC Wilmington is a popular Cinderella choice amongst sharps. That’s why this one fell immediately (like Princeton). A really big move on the total here, as an opener of 131 has shot up to 135. Wilmington plays at a fast pace, spurring Over gradings for the math guys. Oddsmakers may have been thinking too much about Virginia’s slow pace and low scoring reputation when posting the opener.
(13) EAST TENNESSEE STATE vs. (4) FLORIDA: 3:10 pm ET on truTV
Florida opened at -11 or -12 depending on the store. Underdog money has been coming in ever since. We’re now seeing East Tennessee State +10.5. A lot of cases thus far of sharp love for live dogs against relatively well-known favorites. Squares don’t bet early. Maybe we’ll see the favorite prices go higher in the hours before tipoff. But, the mindset these days seems to be to find Cinderellas. So public bettors are thinking more about the likes of East Tennessee State, NC Wilmington, and Princeton than they used to. Another total that shot way up, as the opener of 142 is up to 145.
(11) XAVIER vs. (6) MARYLAND: 6:50 pm ET on TNT
Most stores opened at Maryland -1 or -2. We’re sitting on the two and have been now for awhile. I’d expect sharp money to bring any moves higher or lower back to the two. Mostly tight lines on the #6 vs. #11 games this year. Under interest on the total, as the opener of 143.5 has been bet down to 142.
(14) FLORIDA GULF COAST vs. (3) FLORIDA STATE: 9:20 pm ET on TNT
We’re sitting at a solid FSU -12 now. The first numbers up were higher. FGC goes on the list with potential Cinderellas who were bet as dogs at the opener. The market hasn’t yet found the price that will bring in square money to fully counteract the early sharp moves. Still time for that. The total has moved up two points from 144 to 146. Three of the four games in Orlando saw fairly significant Over moves.
(13) WINTHROP vs. (4) BUTLER: 1:30 pm ET on TNT
Most stores opened at Butler -12 or -11.5. Here we have another respected dog getting hit immediately. We’re now seeing a fairly solid Winthrop +11 everywhere. That’s clearly the theme of the first day. Sharps acting quickly…no reversal yet from the public who has learned to at least respect the most dangerous mid-majors enough to pass this type of game instead of laying the chalk. The total is up 1.5 points from 143 to 144.5.
(12) MIDDLE TENNESSEE vs. (5) MINNESOTA: 4 pm ET on TNT
Very interesting game here. The first number up in Las Vegas was Minnesota -3. It was clear right away that there was interest on the dog. Other stores opened at Minnesota -1.5. Since then we’ve seen the line go as far as Middle Tennessee -1 before coming back to pick-em. Remember, this is a #5 vs. #12 game…and sharps bet the #12 all the way to a favorite price! Minnesota money does come in at +1…and the public might take this power conference team on game day because the line is so low. It’s one thing to shy away from -8 or -10. But, when the more prominent program just has to win to cover…that might be catnip for squares. The total is up from 134.5 to 136. (Note that #5 seed Minnesota was a 4-point underdog last weekend to #7 seed Michigan!)
(13) VERMONT vs. (4) PURDUE: 7:25 pm ET on truTV
Just the latest example of a feared Cinderella getting fast respect from sharps, as a Vegas opener of Purdue -10 was bet down to -9. We’ve stayed solid on the nine since then. If sharps are right, we’re going to see a lot of underdog drama on Thursday! A rare drop on an early total, with an opener of 136 down to 135.
(12) NEVADA vs. (5) IOWA STATE: 9:55 pm ET on truTV
Not as much passion for this potentially live dog as we’ve seen with some of the others. Here the opener of Iowa State 6.5 is down to Nevada +6. Obviously the Las Vegas and Reno sportsbooks had to defend against “locals” money. The Nevada Wolfpack looked very impressive last week at the Thomas & Mack Center, and dominated the Mountain West Conference all season. There weren’t going to be any bargains available on this dog. Some interest on the total, as an already high opener of 155.5 is up a half-point to a point at some stores.
IN SALT LAKE CITY
(16) SOUTH DAKOTA STATE vs. (1) GONZAGA: 2 pm ET on TBS
Not much interest in this one. Gonzaga opened at -22, and is up a half a point to 22.5. We did see a lot of game day money on Gonzaga here in Vegas during the West Coast Conference tournament. So, there’s still time for that one to steam from square money. The Wise Guys might come in at +23, and certainly would at anything higher. Little interest on the total. I can tell you that the Round of 32 game between Gonzaga and the next winner will be heavily bet in Nevada.
(9) VANDERBILT vs. (8) NORTHWESTERN: 4:30 pm ET on TBS
The first number up was pick-em, with later stores opening at Vanderbilt -1. We’re now seeing Vandy -1 or -1.5 everywhere. I’ve told you in the past that Las Vegas has a lot of transplants from Chicago, particularly when it comes to the sports betting industry! Northwestern will have very loud support in the sportsbook viewing rooms. Financial support hasn’t been showing up so much after a relatively disappointing late season fizzle. The total has been bet up from 128.5 to 130.
(10) VCU vs. (7) ST. MARY’S: 7:20 pm ET on TBS
Early Vegas stores opened St. Mary’s at -3.5, perhaps underestimating the local interest in this West Coast Conference team. We’re now seeing St. Mary’s painted at -4.5. And, there’s already a lot of buzz about a potential St. Mary’s/Arizona meeting in the second round. With one team playing its conference tourney at the Orleans, and the other at the T-Mobile Center…Vegas got a very good look at both of those teams in recent days. First things first. The total is up a tick from 126 to 126.5.
(15) NORTH DAKOTA vs. (2) ARIZONA: 9:50 pm ET on TBS
The final game of the first day has been holding around Arizona -17 since first posting. Big move on the total though, from an opener of 144 all the way up to 147.5 or 148 depending on the store.
I’m sure you’re looking forward to the first big day of the Big Dance as much as I am. You can purchase my daily selections all through the tournaments right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155.
Thanks for reading. See you again tomorrow at the same time. Let’s go watch some basketball!