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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 12:06 PM

We’ve been working the phone lines very actively the past few days to get as good a read as possible on what sharps are thinking in the Sweet 16 games. We’ll discuss the four Thursday games in this report. Then we’ll be back around midday on Friday to do the same thing for last four games in this round.

Whenever you get to the most competitive games in any event (be it March Madness, the NFL Playoffs, the World Series), you don’t get full unanimity from the Wise Guys. When we say “the sharps are on” a certain team, we’re talking about the “majority” as a general rule from this point forward. And, as you long time market followers know, a half point or a point can make a hug difference. Perhaps the sharps who like a favorite bet it at -5.5, and the sharps who like the dog don’t bet it until +6. Or, you have the same sharps betting both sides of the same game at different prices looking for a middle (favorite at -5.5, dog at +6.5, weighted toward the side they prefer the most if there is one).

Please keep that in mind as we discuss the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games this weekend. We’re planning to do four reports…one each day…just as we did for you last weekend.

 

TONIGHT’S GAMES IN BOSTON

WISCONSIN VS. SYRACUSE

This game opened at Syracuse -4 with a total of 119. The total moved first, with Over money driving the number up to the 120.5 or 121 we’re seeing at press time. We are hearing some Under guys were looking to come in at 121…so it wouldn’t be a surprise if this game settled either at 120 or 120.5. A slow game is expected…but the totals guys have consistently been hitting the Overs in slow games figuring they’ll win more than half (and knowing that overtime never hurts an Over bet).

The team side mostly sat at four all week…but we are seeing some 3.5’s here on Thursday morning. We’d say the bulk of sharp interest is on the underdog here. But a lot of those guys are thinking about the dog outright on the moneyline because this is in a sweet spot for an upset linewise. Some of the other logical dogs are getting eight points or more, where the outright win is less likely.

That being said, some sharps do like Syracuse. We believe this line would have dropped from four immediately if that wasn’t the case. It’s probably best to say that the majority of sharps as individuals like the dog…but the Syracuse guys are willing to bet bigger in a way that the market cancels out. If you like Wisconsin, take the +4 now. If you like Syracuse, wait to see if you get a -3.5.

CINCINNATI VS. OHIO STATE

This one opened Ohio State -7.5 with a total of 131. The Under was hit hard at that number given Cincinnati’s physical play and Ohio State’s tendency to slow down vs. slow teams. We’re seeing 129 at press time. Under bettors loved 131 and liked 130. The money stopped at 129. The public prefers Over betting because they’d rather root for points than defenses, so that line may inch back up now that the public is in sportsbooks placing bets.

What we’re hearing about the team side is that most sharps prefer Cincinnati in a defensive game, but are waiting to see if they can get +8 after the public bets. The fact that this line hasn’t moved towards the favorite tells you that sharps don’t like that side. If they had, the 7.5 would have disappeared quickly because sharps know the public prefers betting big name favorites. That DIDN’T happen. So, we’re looking at patient dog preference that’s waiting to see if something better comes on game day.

 

TONIGHT'S GAMES IN PHOENIX

LOUISVILLE VS. MICHIGAN STATE

An opener of Michigan State by 4.5 was bet up to -5, which helps make the point we were just talking about with Ohio State. When sharps like a favorite, they act quickly. But, this line hasn’t found any traction above five…so that’s where the dog money is going to come in. Were the public to move this line higher, sharps would hit Louisville at +5.5…and some may settle for +5. We’d say the majority of sharp interest is on the favorite…but it’s a slight majority and every half point is seen as valuable in what could be a defensive battle.

The total opened at 124, and was bet up a point from 125. That’s in the range for defensive battles…and you know that sharps have been betting Over the low totals all tournament. Free throw parades, overtime, they figure the percentages favor clearing the hurdle. Sharps aren’t expecting a wide open track meet…they see it as a defensive game that oddsmakers have slightly underestimated in terms of point production.

MARQUETTE VS. FLORIDA

Marquette received the early interest here as a small favorite. They opened at -1 and our now -2 in most stores we’ve been monitoring. Again, sharps bet favorites early and wait on dogs. Florida money hasn’t come in yet at +2, which is telling. The public is just as likely to bet Florida here because there a big name team that’s had a lot of success in this event in recent years. Could be a rare case on a game day where public money comes in on the dog before tipoff, and the sharps are then re-hitting a cheap favorite. For now, we haven’t found the number yet that brings the sharps in on the Gators. Perhaps a tick to -2.5 will make that happen. Be sure you’re monitoring the lines this afternoon for late developments.

The total has been bet up from 146 to 147, suggesting a fast-paced game with some three-point pop. This one really sticks out like a sore thumb on a day with more defensive matchups on the floor. After watching a few hours of pushing and shoving, this game should be worth staying up for.

Back again Friday to talk about the next set of games. Tonight’s card is Big East heavy, with teams from that conference represented in all four matchups. Friday will bring traditional powers like Kentucky, Kansas, and North Carolina to the floor, along with upstart Baylor and four Cinderella hopefuls.

Don’t forget that guidance from the best handicapping minds in Las Vegas is just a few clicks away here at the VegasSportsmasters website. Thursday selections will be up in the afternoon well ahead of first tip for credit card purchase. Be sure to check the ad boxes to see which if your favorites has a Game of the Year caliber selection on tap for this evening!

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