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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 30, 2012 at 1:23 PM

We’re down to the last three games of the college basketball season. In this report, we’ll outline what sharps are thinking in the two Final Four games set for Saturday in New Orleans. We’ll be back with a special report on Monday to analyze sharp action in the National Championship game matching Saturday’s winners.

We have a very interesting foursome this year in that ALL have been considered “public” teams at certain points of the season, and in certain situations in this tournament.

KENTUCKY is clearly the odds-on favorite now to win the whole event. The public knows that…and the public has been making good money betting the Wildcats throughout this tournament (after a garbage time non-cover vs. Western Kentucky anyway). But…

OHIO STATE had that role during much of the regular season. They were hyped as best in the country often during the early months of the season. The Buckeyes were favorites in their Elite Eight game over Syracuse even though the Orange was the #1 seed in their regional. Ohio State is also a public team. Yet…

KANSAS traditionally gets a lot of respect in the Vegas market, and a lot of support from the public!

LOUISVILLE is seen as the weekend’s darkhorse, which is amazing for a team that won the Big East tournament, and for a program that has such a great Big Dance pedigree. Sharps in particular liked Louisville in recent days because they play such intense defense.

With that as the backdrop, let’s see what sharps are thinking and betting in Saturday’s action. Our notes will be based on line moves and discussions we’ve been having with trusted sources on both sides of the line in Las Vegas and offshore.

 

KENTUCKY VS. LOUISVILLE

This game opened at Kentucky -8, and has been bet up to Kentucky -8.5 or -9 depending on where you shop. Our sources tell us this was mostly a “position-taking” strategy from sharps who assume the public is going to bet Kentucky on game day. Now, there are some sharps who do think Kentucky is the class of the field, and they bet the -8 early figuring that would be the best number they were going to get. Some of the guys who like Louisville are waiting for a +9 (or maybe more given media hype about Kentucky). But, a meaningful percentage of the guys who like Louisville actually bet Kentucky -8 hoping to set up side or middle possibilities when the line went to +9 for Louisville. They will come back over the top on Louisville for more than they bet on Kentucky.

You longtime readers of this feature at this website are familiar with that strategy. It was talked about a lot during the NFL. Imagine for a second that you want to bet Louisville. Would you prefer?

 

1 unit on Louisville +9, or

 

1 unit on Kentucky -8

2 units on Louisville +9

 

You’re out of pocket risk is the same on Louisville either way. You’re risking about a unit depending on your juice. But, if Kentucky wins by exactly eight, you win two units instead of just one. And, if Kentucky wins by exactly nine, you win one unit instead of pushing. This is why sharps are sharps! They bet intelligently and squeeze out extra profits with roughly the same amount of risk.

Bottom line, sharps who liked Kentucky got in at -8. Sharps who like Louisville took position early and are hoping to come back over the top at +9. If the market doesn’t afford them that opportunity, they’ll settle for +8.5.

The total here has been bet Under pretty aggressively. An opener of 138.5 is down to 136.5. Both of these teams play great defense. Their regular season meeting landed in the low 130’s. The backdrop in New Orleans may be challenging for shooters. Sharps thought 138.5 was too high, as was 137.5 and 137. Under support stopped at 136.5.

 

OHIO STATE VS. KANSAS

We haven’t seen much action in this one. Ohio State opened at -2.5 and sits there as we write this. The total is either sitting at its opener of 136.5 or is up a tick at 137 depending on where you shop.

What does this mean? Well, it means that the sharps don’t like Ohio State at this price, or the line would have moved to at least -3 and stayed there. Sharps bet favorites early when they like favorites! The lack of movement suggests sharps prefer the underdog and are hoping they can get at least +3 after the public bets on game day. We don’t have a situation here where a key player’s status is in doubt (which was the case with North Carolina last week). Sharps aren’t waiting for news. Sharps are waiting for moves!

With the total…a half point move certainly doesn’t reflect passion for a play. And, so many tourney games have moved up from their openers this year that it feels like par for the course from the groups who just decided they were going to bet Overs this year (telling that the first game swam against that tide).

Sharps generally like dogs and Unders in big events. That would seem to be the general consensus Saturday. Not unanimous by any means. But, consensus sentiment for the two dogs and the Under in the battle of Kentucky.

Don’t forget that guidance from the best handicapping minds in Las Vegas is just a few clicks away here at the VegasSportsmasters website. They’ll be battling and beating the game day lines for clients with selections that go up Saturday morning. Be sure to check the ads on the home page for details about possible GAME OF THE YEAR releases.

Saturday is the final day of March. The MADNESS won’t be over until Monday Night though. We’ll see you again Monday afternoon for notes on the national championship showdown.

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