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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Friday, March 16, 2018 at 10:15 AM

If you’ve been reading my coverage of the sports betting markets through the years, you’ve learned to recognize what I’ve been calling “tug-of-war” spots where the sharps (professional wagerers) are on one side, the squares (the public) are on the other…and the line is moving back-and-forth a half-point at a time depending on who bet mort recent.

Squares are taking the favorite at -2.5, sharps are betting the dog at +3. Squares are taking the favorite at -7.5, sharps are taking the dog at +8. Squares are taking the popular TV team at -13.5, sharps are taking the dog at +14.

This is no small thing because so many games are landing near the number. Oddsmakers often get credit for being geniuses when a game lands on a number. “How does Las Vegas do it?” the mainstream media says. “Ohio State was favored by -8, and they won exactly by eight.”

Well, let me tell you, sports books hate when games land right on the number. Not only do they have to refund all the push bets. But, they probably lost to the side of the tug-of-war that got the best of it. Ohio State did go down to -7.5 for awhile in that one I just mentioned. Sharps who bet the dog at +8 pushed, but squares who laid -7.5 cashed their tickets.

Why are we seeing so many tug-of-war games? Sports books are jam-packed with tourists who have made special trips (once-a-year, or once-in-a-lifetime) to come out and bet the first weekend of the Dance. The public almost always lines up on favorites. If they do line up on a dog (like Loyola of Chicago vs. Miami), they ALL agree that’s a dog worth lining up on. Sportsbooks have to encourage two-way action or they’ll be risking a catastrophe if the bulk of the favorites cover. The lines move to were sharps see plus-EV bets going the other way. Hence, tug-of-wars with heavy two-way action

Why are so many games landing close to the number? First, it’s a year of relative parity where a lot of similarly “pretty good” teams are facing each other. You’re going to get competitive basketball when that happens. It’s only logical that the market will have tight lines in games that are supposed to be competitive. Secondly, it’s deep in the season…so all elements of the market (except the worst public bettors) know the relative quality of these teams. If you keep your own Power Ratings, they’re going to be solid. If you do computer ratings, they’re going to be solid. What we saw Thursday was relatively consistent, evenly matched teams performing to normal expectations in a market that knows what those expectations are.

As a bettor, you need to realize what’s happening here and bet accordingly.

*Don’t bet too many favorites. That’s what squares do and you don’t want to bet like a square. If you do like a favorite, try to bet it early before the line moves against you. And, make sure you have a real edge that the favorite can exploit, rather than just going off a game you watched a few weeks ago where that team looked really good. Squares bet based on the best a team can rather than its normal game.

*Consider underdogs, particularly those who are getting an extra half-point to a point late in the process. Oddsmaker openers are good, and are often already shaded a tick against favorites anyway. Waiting will typically give you points that are going to matter once or twice a day in your portfolio. That can turn a 4-3 record into 5-2, or a 3-3-1 record into a winning day. You can bet more aggressively with “defensive dogs,” or those who have great guards. Think about the moneyline for those where winning outright pays extra.

*Try to position yourself for extra profit in advance of line movement. Let’s say you like a dog, but you’re confident that the public is going to pound the favorite. Maybe you can get in early on the favorite at -3.5 for one unit, then come back for two units on the underdog at +5. You were going to bet one unit on the dog anyway. Now, you’ve still got one net unit risked on the underdog. But, if the game lands on FOUR, you win THREE units. And, if the game lands on five, you actually pick up a unit because your dog bet pushes while the favorite bet wins. Playing the market like this may be the single biggest factor that separates sharps from squares.

The first full day of the Big Dance didn’t go as well as I had hoped. But, I’ll be coming back strong Friday and all through the weekend with my personal picks. You regulars know that college basketball is my favorite sport to handicap and bet. The NCAA Tournament is my favorite event of the whole calendar year.

You can purchase my nightly BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155. If you can’t make it out here to Las Vegas to experience the thrills of the tournament in person, I’ll do my best to make you feel part of the action.

Thanks for reading. See you again early next week with reactions from the first weekend heading into the Sweet 16.  

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