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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 11:33 AM

As expected, plenty of drama on the first day of Elite 8 Action Saturday. Louisville and Ohio State have advanced through to the Final Four scheduled next Saturday in New Orleans. Today, Kentucky, Baylor, North Carolina, and Kansas are hoping to join them.

Sharps (professional wagerers) haven’t been very aggressive in the Sunday matchups outside of one total. Part of that may be that they’re not exactly firing on all cylinders as a group right now. Oddsmakers have done a pretty fair job of anticipating who they were going to like and defending against the action. Plus, many recent results (in terms of the spread) have felt kind of randomized by either three-point shooting or free throw discrepancies (as anyone who lost Syracuse and/or the Under vs. Ohio State will tell you).

Sharps attack when the going is good, but stay relatively conservative if they don’t see value. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the sharps are thinking about today’s two marquee matchups.

 

SOUTH REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP IN ATLANTA

BAYLOR VS. KENTUCKY

The biggest move of the day as we go to press is on the OVER in this game. An opener of 146 has been bet up to 148. You saw the run-and-gun nature of Kentucky-Indiana the other night. The game landed on192 against a Vegas total of 145 even though each team only made five three-pointers! Baylor has no problem playing at that pace. In fact, Baylor, much more than Indiana, has the athletes who can play at that pace and keep it going for 40 minutes. This total may go up even more before tipoff. Squares (the public) prefer betting Overs…and they all watched Kentucky-Indiana the other night.

On the team side, an opener of Kentucky -7.5 has been bet up to -8. You regulars know that sharps bet favorites early and underdogs late as a general rule. So, there is some sharp sentiment there on the favorite from what we’re hearing. But, it’s worth noting that the line didn’t’ move higher than eight. True passion for Kentucky from sharps would have seen a move to -8.5 or even -9.

This suggests to us that there is a collection of sharps out there who will take Baylor if the public comes in on Kentucky and moves the line higher. By NOT betting Kentucky at -8, sharps are telling us who they’d be betting at +8.5 or +9. That’s something worth keeping an eye on. If you want to think like a sharp and bet like a sharp…and you like Baylor…you may want to wait a bit today and see if the public gives you better than the eight that’s on the board at press time. If you like Kentucky, this may be the best you see.

So, Kentucky and the Over is the preferred combo at the moment, coming off their 102-90 win over Indiana. We’ll see how the day unfolds before tipoff.

 

MIDWEST REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP IN ST. LOUIS

KANSAS VS. NORTH CAROLINA

There hasn’t been much betting interest here from sharps because they’re waiting to see whether or not North Carolina will be at full strength…or at least at better strength than they were in the Sweet 16 against Ohio. Sharps have always handled injuries very intelligently. They wait for news, then they bet very quickly once they have confirmation. Every player has value, therefore confirmed news about a player’s status is going to offer value. But, when there’s no news yet, all you’re doing is guessing. Sharps don’t guess, they act faster than everyone else once the guessing is over.

Kansas opened as a 2-point favorite, and is still laying that number on the assumption that there won’t be a lineup change for Carolina. If there is, we may see a drop to NC +1.5 or maybe even +1. Normally, we tell you that a lack of action on a favorite at the opener is defacto support for the dog. In this case, sharps are waiting for news rather than the public.

The total opened at 144, and has been bet down to 143 or 142.5 depending on where you shop. This is understandable given the scores in the Sweet 16 games. North Carolina-Ohio only made it to 138 even though they played dive extra minutes. Kansas-NC State only reached 117 in a slow, defensive minded battle. Sharps are assuming Carolina won’t be racing through this one given their situation. They thought 144 was way too high.

Remember, sharps have been hitting almost every Over in this event. An Under move is more meaningful in that light. We said that yesterday with Ohio State-Syracuse. That game ended up going Over because of 51 made free throws not because sharps misread the game. Whistle-happy refs added about 15-20 free throws to what normally would have been expected (at least!).

Thanks for being with us the last four days for these special reports on the Big Dance. We’ll check in again with you during the week for more indicators about sharp betting action in the basketball. And, you can be sure we’ll be here next Saturday to talk about the national semifinals.

Don’t forget that guidance from the best handicapping minds in Las Vegas is just a few clicks away here at the VegasSportsmasters website. Be sure to check the ads on the home page to see which of our handicappers has posted a major release. We can already tell you that Wayne Root has posted a PARLAY OF THE YEAR for today’s card. And, Kelso Sturgeon has not one, but TWO bit 50-unit bombshells in college action.

The NCAA Tournament makes March the most important betting month  in Las Vegas every year. Be sure you’re getting the best plays on the board from the VegasSportsMasters!

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