Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Saturday, March 18, 2017 at 7:00 PM
More great matchups Sunday because there so few upsets in first round action. Cinderella rarely no-shows a Big Dance. So, maybe we’ll have some shockers on this eight-game card.
Let’s see how sharps (professional wagerers) have been betting so far. As we’ve been doing this week, we’ll use the Nevada rotation order for the regions, but then tipoff order at each region so it’s easier for you to follow along throughout the day. Note that first up on the card is a pair of LATE starts. Be sure you’re paying attention to these starting times. The earliest tips are in the second regional listed in the Nevada rotation because the TV networks adjust on the fly pending matchup marquee value.
(1) NORTH CAROLINA vs. (8) ARKANSAS: 6:10 pm ET on TNT
Some of the first numbers up at the small offshore places were North Carolina by single digits. But, the bigger spots posted Carolina -10, which has been bet up to -11 at most stores as I write this. The public definitely wants Carolina here because Arkansas doesn’t seem to match up well with teams who know what they’re doing. And, everyone saw the controversial ending of Arkansas/Seton Hall Friday. Tough to bet on a team that seemed like it needed help from the refs just to advance. Probably a tug-of-war eventually in the marketplace because squares will drive the line to a place that brings in sharps. Might happen at +11. Could take +11.5 or more. Quants pushed the opening total from 160 up to 162. The market is telling you Carolina should score at will. You have to pay a premium to bet on that happening.
(2) DUKE vs. (7) SOUTH CAROLINA: 8:40 pm ET on TBS
This one’s been painted Duke -7 and 142 since it went up. South Carolina is playing in its home state, and played so well in the second half vs. Marquette that a Duke bandwagon couldn’t really get started. Sharps who like Duke in the tournament are already in at Futures prices…and are more likely to take them in spots closer to pick-em down the road if the Blue Devils get past this one. It will be interesting to see how game day money falls.
(2) LOUISVILLE vs. (7) MICHIGAN: 12:10 pm ET on CBS
One of the best matchups of the whole tournament is the very early start. Don’t sleep on this one! It tips at 9:10 a.m. here in Las Vegas. Michigan should have been seeded a lot better than #7. That was obvious with their great shooting performance vs. Oklahoma State. Louisville opened at -3, but was bet down fairly quickly to Michigan +2.5. I wouldn’t be surprised if the public prefers the dog here because the Wolverines are so hot. Aggressive Louisville money might not come in until -2. Michigan’s hot shooting of the past few weeks may be what drove the Over/Under up from an opener of 139.5 to 141.
(2) KENTUCKY vs. (10) WICHITA STATE: 2:40 pm ET on CBS
Kentucky opened at -2.5…which might seem low to you given the seedings. The public and more than a few sharps agreed with you! That line has shot up to -4 as I write this, and might make a run at -4.5. Though the computers all seem to love Wichita State, the Shockers are less likely to play to super high levels when matched vs. elite opposition. I would bet some of the smart early money will buy back at +4.5 (and definitely +5) with a good middle in play. Nothing happening on the total.
(1) KANSAS vs. (9) MICHIGAN STATE vs.: 5:15 pm ET on CBS
Not much happening on the side or total yet, which is Kansas -8 and 147.5 as I write this. Sparty surprised a lot of people by playing so great after falling behind Miami 10-0 out of the gate Friday night. That scared off aggressive Kansas support. But, State has been so shaky of late outside of that great rally vs. Miami that we’re not seeing sharps or squares jumping on the dog. My take is that the Wise Guys are going to wait and see if they can get +8.5. No need to rush in since this starts later in the day.
(3) BAYLOR vs. (11) USC: 7:45 pm ET on truTV
Looks like a tug-of-war here between Baylor -6.5 and USC +7. Many sharps out here in Vegas have been surprised by USC’s strong run of late. The Trojans almost beat UCLA in the Pac 12 tourney, they really impressed vs. Kansas State and SMU (even if they were a bit fortunate to get past the Mustangs). Frankly, this is a spot where both sharps and squares will have trouble truly trusting either side. Baylor as a favorite is shaky in the Dance under this head coach. USC will have to play its third good game in five days. Nothing happening on the total.
(2) OREGON vs. (11) RHODE ISLAND: 7:10 pm ET on TBS
We don’t have big TV markets here. But, Oregon has a solid betting contingent in Nevada. The opener of Oregon -4.5 is up to -5 or -5.5 right now depending on the store. I believe another tug-of-war will settle in once sharps think they’ve seen the apex. It’s amazing how much this Round of 32 is like an NFL Sunday. So many good, competitive matchups that tug-of-wars are developing all over the schedule as sharps try to find value against the favorite-loving public. The total is up a point from 138.5 to 139.5.
(3) UCLA vs. (6) CINCINNATI: 9:40 pm ET on TBS
All three Pac 12 “powers” have been taking money this weekend. Arizona ended up getting hit hard very late Friday and Saturday in advance of the St. Mary’s game. We just talked about Oregon taking early money vs. Rhode Island. UCLA opened at -2.5 and has been bet up to -3.5 or -4 at press time. This one could be heavily bet because the public (particularly in Nevada) wants to root for UCLA…but there are some deep-pocketed sharps who like to bet “defensive dogs” in the Dance. Cincinnati certainly qualifies there. This is the final tip-off of the eight-game slate, which gives bettors all day to get involved. If squares win early, they’ll definitely be re-investing on UCLA here in the nightcap. Nothing happening yet on the total. We saw quants act fairly quickly Thursday and Friday. So, the lack of early action in many spots is suggesting that oddsmakers are doing a better job of nailing those openers.
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Thanks for reading all through this first wild week of NCAA Tournament action. Back with you again midweek to look at Sweet 16 betting.