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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 12:01 PM

There are only two games on the card today in the NCAA Tournament. But, they are two games that could turn out to be classics based on the way Ohio State, Syracuse, Louisville, and Florida have been playing thus far in the Big Dance.

Sharps (professional wagerers) have made their early inclinations known. And, we’ve been in constant touch with our sources in Las Vegas and offshore to find out how things are likely to play out through the course of Saturday afternoon before the games tip off. Let’s take them in the order the games start today because betting action will be heavy right up until the start of both of these marquee matchups.

 

WEST REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP IN PHOENIX

FLORIDA VS. LOUISVILLE

This game is second in your schedule rotation books that were printed up weeks ago, but goes first on the clock today because CBS wanted to save Ohio State/Syracuse for the later TV window. Vegas opened the game at pick-em, even though Florida was a #7 seed that didn’t win its conference tournament two weeks ago, while Louisville was a #4 seed who DID win the Big East title. That tells you how much respect Florida has earned with its performances thus far.

And, proving more respect, sharps hit Florida! The line is now up to the Gators -1 or -1.5 as we go to press. Oddsmakers anticipated sharp support to begin with by making the game pick-em instead of Louisville as a seeded favorite. Sharps felt the line was off by a bit and still hit the SEC entry.

Let’s note though that the line hasn’t moved yet to the number two. There’s no number in basketball that’s as “key” as the number three in football. But, in games that are expected to be close, every half point does matter. We would expect sharps to buy back some on the dog Louisville at +2. And, there may be some dog lovers who are waiting to see if a +2 comes up before they get involved.

Will the public back the favorite here? Squares (the market term for the general public) generally do bet the favorite. But, BOTH of these teams here have very respected programs and very respected head coaches. It’s not clear as we go to press that the public will have an obvious preference.

The Over/Under opened at 131, and has been bet up a tick to 131.5. Given how the week has gone, there may be a set of sharps that are just betting every Over for perceived value because of the chance for late-game free throw parades or overtime.

 

EAST REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP IN BOSTON

OHIO STATE VS. SYRACUSE

This was a fascinating game to anticipate because both teams have been getting respect in the line all season, and Syracuse was the superior seed but perceived by many to be the lesser team after the suspension of Fab Melo.

That suspension seems to be looming large in this matchup because Ohio State has such a good inside game. The #2 seed Buckeyes were posted as a 2.5-point favorite over the #1 seed from the Big East. Talk about respect! And, again, the market moved AWAY from the superior seed when sharps started betting. Ohio State is now -3, though there is plenty of time for that line to move because it’s a later start.

We hearing that those two levels are setting up a potential “tug-of-war” spot in the market today…where Ohio State money backs the 2.5, while Syracuse money takes the +3. We’ve seen that a lot in the NFL since this feature was started at VegasSportsMasters a few years ago. There’s a chance that Vegas and offshore books will have A LOT of action in what’s likely to be an extremely popular betting game….with Ohio State winning by exactly three being a disaster scenario. Keep an eye on the line all day to see if it hops back and forth between those numbers, or if the bulk of the money settles in on one side.

There is a chance the public starts a bandwagon effect on Ohio State. They’re at full strength, and they were more impressive against Cincinnati than Syracuse was against Wisconsin. Squares trust the “eye test” more than they should sometimes. But, maybe the Buckeyes are the right side here because of Melo’s absence.

The Over/Under opened at 136, and has been bet down to 135.5. Even though that’s only a half point move, it feels like a lot more since so many other games have immediately jumped to the Over. That probably means the move is “stronger” than it seems at first glance. Line moves that swim against the tide are often telling you something.

That wraps up our look at Saturday’s Elite Eight games. We’ll be back around the same time Sunday to talk about Kansas-North Carolina and Kentucky-Baylor. The opening lines have Kansas as a small favorite, which makes it three of four games this weekend where the inferior seed is a betting favorite over the superior seed.

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 is stepping out aggressively today. We can already tell you that Kelso Sturgeon has a Game of the Year that’s available for credit card purchase. You know that the best brains in the business are going to get you the best bets on the board!

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