Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at 2:00 PM
I hope you’re all rested and recuperated from having a few days off during the NCAA Tournament. Now it’s time to get back into action for the Sweet 16. I’ll cover all eight matchups for Thursday and Friday on this report. I’ll be back over the weekend to look at how sharps are betting the Elite Eight pairings.
Using the same format as last week…I’ll go in Nevada rotation order for the host cities, but then tipoff order at each site so it’s easier for you to follow along as the games are being played.
THURSDAY IN KANSAS CITY
(3) OREGON vs. (7) MICHIGAN: 7:05 p.m. ET on CBS
This one opened at pick-em even with the difference in seedings. Michigan has been playing a lot better than your typical #7 seed. Oregon suffered an injury in the Pac 12 tournament that hurt them in the eyes of the market. Both sharps (professional wagerers) and squares (the public) liked Michigan at pick-em. We’re now seeing -1 at most places, with -1.5’s up in the board at a few spots. I think Oregon money would definitely come in at +2, and might at +1.5 in the hours before tipoff if it becomes more widely available.
The Over/Under opened at 146, and has been bet up to 147. I’ll save us some time for these other Thursday totals. Basically every total went up a point from the openers as the market continues to marvel at all the Overs that have occurred so far. These late-game flurries have seen a ton of points in desperation time. Squares want to bet Overs. Sharps took early positions in advance of that, and may come back strong on Unders if things move too high in these Thursday matchups.
(1) KANSAS vs. (8) PURDUE: 9:35 pm ET on CBS
Kansas really looked great last week, causing an opener of -4 to move up to -5. The market looks to be giving Kansas at least a couple of points for home court advantage because they draw so well in Kansas City. They usually play well there too, but didn’t in the Big 12 tourney this year. On a neutral court, this might have been just -2 or -3. Though, I think the public would have hit the Jayhawks at those prices no matter where the games were played. I do think sharps will play back on the dog at +5.5 or better.
THURSDAY IN SAN JOSE
(1) GONZAGA vs. (4) WEST VIRGINIA: 7:35 pm ET on TBS
Looks like a very active tug-of-war is brewing between Gonzaga -3 and West Virginia +3.5. Gonzaga is going to get a lot of “locals” support again this weekend even though the team failed to cover both lines last weekend. A number of -3 seems really cheap to Gonzaga fans who have been winning at much higher numbers all season. Dog lovers and many analytics guys really like West Virginia in this spot. They are significantly more battle-tested entering the contest, and were seen as equal to or better than Gonzaga much of the year in many computer estimates. So, the potential for HEAVY action both ways.
(2) ARIZONA vs. (11) XAVIER: 10:05 pm ET on TBS
Some pundits were surprised Arizona opened at -7 considering how well Xavier had been playing. Arizona was only -4 vs. St. Mary’s. But…that was more a reflection of respect in the markets for St. Mary’s. The market has actually moved up to -7.5 because of local support for Arizona in Nevada, and because skeptics don’t think Xavier can keep this up. Arizona hasn’t been “playing over their heads” with recent success, while Xavier looks like they probably were vs. Maryland and Florida State. Dog money would appear pretty aggressively if +8 came into play though. And, it still might on game day if +7.5 is seen as the likely apex. This was a spot were favorite players felt they had to act early, while those preferring the dog thought it better to wait.
FRIDAY IN NEW YORK
(3) BAYLOR vs. (7) SOUTH CAROLINA: 7:25 pm ET on TBS
An opener of Baylor -3 has been bet up to -3.5. We haven’t seen signs of a tug-of-war just yet. Sharps are hesitant to ask a team to play well on the heels of a huge upset. Can South Carolina bring the same intensity they had against Duke (while playing in their own home state?!). It might take the full four to bring in strong dog support. Sharps who liked Baylor because of their conference pedigree and defensive intensity were happy to get the three. Remember that Baylor has a tricky defense to deal with for those getting a first look, while South Carolina has been inconsistent on offense this season. That may be why the total hasn’t budged yet. Tougher to play an Over here because of the dynamics involved.
(4) FLORIDA vs. (8) WISCONSIN: 9:55 pm ET on TBS
Probably a tug of war between Florida -1.5 and Wisconsin +2. Though, some sharps are hesitant to ask Wisconsin to play great twice in a row off the upset of Villanova. This is a smart, veteran team that is less likely to fall apart under the spotlight. Florida’s gaining more market respect with the decent showing so far from the SEC. Probably split action in Nevada between now and tip-off. The total has either stood pat at 131.5 or dropped to 131. In this environment of so many auto-Overs, that’s almost a strong vote for the under in itself. The quants DIDN’T bet the Over here. Tells you something.
FRIDAY IN MEMPHIS
(1) NORTH CAROLINA vs. (4) BUTLER: 7:05 pm ET on CBS
Just like in the Arizona game, the popular betting favorite opened at -7 and was bet up to -7.5. Really a tricky one to call because Carolina can run away and hide when things are going well. But, they actually struggled down the stretch with erratic Arkansas last weekend. Now they’re playing a smart, disciplined underdog that might be able to take them out of their comfort zone. Dog lovers would definitely come in at +8 if squares push the game that high between now and Friday night. The Over/Under is up a tick from 152.5 to 153.
(2) KENTUCKY vs. (3) UCLA: 9:35 pm ET on CBS
This may end up being the most actively bet college basketball game ever (for now, anyway). Many Vegas stores report that last weekend’s Arizona/St. Mary’s game was actually the biggest betting game they’d ever seen in college basketball. This one could easily top it. Interest is extremely high this year…and now you have two of the most famous programs in sports history going head-to-head…in the last game on the clock to tip off. The only difference is that there are fewer tourists in Nevada on Sweet 16 weekend than on the opening weekend.
We’ve already seen a flip of favorites. Kentucky opened at -1.5. UCLA is now at -1 at most stores. Sure, some of that is “local” interest for a popular West Coast team. But, squares are having trouble loving Kentucky after the Wildcats failed to cover against Northern Kentucky and Wichita State. Tough to tell now if it’s going to settle at pick-em or UCLA by 1. We know for sure that sharps liked UCLA at +1.5, +1, and pick-em. What will it take to bring in Wise Guy Kentucky money?
A big totals move here, with an opener of 169.5 coming all the way down to 165.5. My take on that is that sharps who wanted to bet on Kentucky’s defense to rise to the challenge chose to play Under the very high total rather than the team side. Those who wanted to bet on UCLA’s offense just bet the Bruins and not the total.
The lack of upsets last week has created some great matchups this week. And, where there were upsets, it’s not like Wisconsin and Michigan are a step down from Villanova and Louisville in terms of Big Dance star power. Nevada is on pace for an all-time record handle. No reason to see that slowing down.
If you’d like some help picking winners in the college postseason, you can purchase my daily selections 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 late Friday to talk about sharp betting in Saturday’s Elite Eight.