Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 at 12:00 PM
The NIT has been quite a fun and profitable betting experience for underdog lovers. None of the top seeds advanced to the Final Four that will be played Tuesday Night at Madison Square Garden in New York. In fact, all four survivors had to win on the ROAD in the quarterfinals to advance. And, at some point in the process, all four had to beat their section’s #1 seed on the road.
At least we know that all four remaining teams are excited about being in this tournament. That helps handicappers focus on team strengths and weaknesses rather than worrying about any motivational factors. Teams who didn’t seem very enthused like Louisville, Notre Dame, and USC are long gone.
Here’s a look at how sharps (professional wagerers) have been betting Tuesday’s semifinals so far, and how they might bet between now and tipoff.
Western Kentucky vs. Utah: 7 p.m. on ESPN
Some stores opened at pick-em, others Western Kentucky -1. Sharps have bet the favorite up to -1.5 at most spots. I do see a couple of two’s out there as I prepare this report. Sharps clearly see Western as the superior team, coming off big road wins at USC and Oklahoma State. This is a team with a chip on its shoulder. Utah got to play two home games before going on the road to upset St. Mary’s. That’s slightly less impressive because the Utes enjoy a strong home court edge.
That said, I do think underdog bettors will step in if the two becomes more common. It’s been a dog tournament. And, a “major conference” dog facing a “mid-major” favorite is going to appeal to old-school sharps in a game rated near a toss-up. So, sharp money definitely hits Western Kentucky at pick-em, -1, and still some at -1.5. Sharp dog money on Utah will likely begin to show at the full two.
The Over/Under opened at 142. It’s come down to 140 since then (late opening stores went up at 140). I’m hearing quants were behind that move because Utah plays a relatively slow style, and it’s easier to force that kind of tempo in a neutral court playoff game (which you’ve seen a bunch in the Big Dance already).
Penn State vs. Mississippi State: 9:30 p.m. on ESPN
An opener of Penn State -2 was bet up quickly to -2.5. We’re now seeing a game-day tug-of-war between Penn State -2.5 and Mississippi State +3. If the public is going to bet a team in this TV doubleheader, it’s going to be Penn State. The Nittany Lions had some good TV results in the Big 10 tournament that was played on this floor a few weeks ago. And, wins over Notre Dame and Marquette were televised last week. Mississippi State doesn’t have the same kind of following, though its blowout win at Louisville was very impressive. Right now, I’m seeing it this way.
Penn State -2: many sharps and the public like the favorite
Penn State -2.5: the public still likes the favorite
Penn State -3: sharp dog lovers will come in on Mississippi State at this price
Possibly a tug-of-war all day because this is the later of the two starts. It’s possible there will be enough public money to make the game stick at three. Squares (the public) want to bet favorites in TV games, they want to bet the most prominent favorite, and they’re in the mood to bet college basketball because there are so few games left.
On the Over/Under, the first total up offshore was 137. That was bet down to 135, which is where many other spots opened. Any move off the 135 has been bet back to it. Looks like we’ve settled at a number the sharps think is right. We’ll have to see if the public gets involved here. Less likely because squares like betting team sides more than totals.
My next report is scheduled for Friday, when I outline sharp betting in the NCAA Final Four. That means I won’t be back in time for the NIT championship. How are sharps likely to bet Thursday night’s finale matching Tuesday’s winners? Obviously that depends on the lines. I can tell you that there is a lot of sharp respect for Penn State based on recent form and recent familiarity with this site. The Wise Guys will be looking at the Nittany Lions at a value price if they make it to Thursday. Otherwise, they’ll read and react to Tuesday’s action. It’s important to remember that this is the first “neutral site” action for any of these teams in this event. Strengths could become more prominent, or weaknesses exposed under the high-pressure spotlight.
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Thanks for reading. See you again Friday around lunchtime.