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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 12:21 PM

Big day in college basketball with the semifinals in the ACC, Atlantic 10, SEC, and Big Ten (which means superpowers North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, and Ohio State are in action!) and conference championship games all over the ticket. Let’s see how the sharps invested their money in early action. This should not only be a guide for what sharps are thinking about the most important teams right now…but also for how they’re likely to bet next week in the Big Dance.

CONFERENCE USA

Memphis received strong support in this early tip-off. The lined opened at -11 for this favorite playing on its home court, and was bet up to -12. We can tell you that some of that was based on probable Marshall fatigue after having such a tough path to get here. But, sharps do like Memphis from what we’re hearing in terms of potential next week. They’re a team we expect to get market support when they first see action in the Dance.

ACC

Not much sharp action here. Duke did rise from -2 to -2.5 in its game with Florida State. Sharps often fade Duke as a favorite in the postseason. But, this is a very low line…and Duke has been playing well enough for some rating systems to show a -3 or a -4 here rather than a -2. Value bets on Duke from math guys is the likely explanation for this line move. North Carolina opened at -10 and stayed there…which is a sign of respect at least because the market tends to move toward big underdogs in “middle” games of a three-day sequence. You’ll see that in a moment with Kentucky. You regulars know that a lack of movement can be a sign of respect. That’s the case here. The general tendency for double digit dog money didn’t play out, which means sharps do respect North Carolina heading into next week.

ATLANTIC 10

Xavier opened +6 against Saint Louis, and was bet down to +5.5. Not a big move…but a vote against a Saint Louis team that may or may not be one of the 16 best teams in the nation. It’s amazing how many computers are showing them that high. The market has a slight preference for Xavier’s pedigree. Nothing of note early in UMASS/St. Bonaventure.

SEC

Kentucky opened at -9.5, and came down to -9 or -8.5 depending on where you shop. That’s what we were referencing earlier. It’s interesting that oddsmakers wouldn’t even stick a ten on this game for an opener because they knew sharps would hit the dog at double digits. Sharps hit the dog anyway. Pricey favorites have trouble stringing together three straight blowouts even when they win their conference tournaments. Kentucky wasn’t sharp yesterday. Sharps think Florida can hang with them today. Nothing happening yet in Vandy/Ole Miss. Keep an eye out for line moves during the day before tipoff. That’s not the kind of matchup squares (the public) will bet.

BIG TEN

Clear support for Michigan State over Wisconsin. The game opened -3, and was bet up to -4. The Spartans were clearly being disrespected in the line during their recent hot streak. They sent a message in their first round game yesterday. Sharps like this team a lot in general. We’re hearing that more than a few are picking the Spartans to win it all down the road. It may be telling for the Dance that sharp money came in today on Michigan State, but against Kentucky. We should also note that the total moved here quite a bit, from an opener of 115 to 118. The other game, Ohio State-Michigan, has been quiet.

CHAMPIONSHIP NOTES

*Nothing happening early in Arizona/Colorado…two teams who weren’t supposed to make it this far. One will clinch a berth in the Big Dance along with California. Washington is in danger of falling out of the brackets since we have a surprise representative here.

*Missouri received enough interest in the Big 12 against Baylor to move an opener of -3 up to -3.5. This has a chance to be a very entertaining game given the styles of play. If you asked us which Saturday game is most likely to “look” like the NCAA Tournaments marquee rounds, it’s this one. Two potential Elite 8 or Final Four teams who play aggressive basketball.

*Nothing happening early in Ohio-Akron in the MAC or New Mexico-San Diego State in the Mountain West.

*Sharps loved Louisville against Notre Dame Friday, and have come back on them in the Big East championship game against Cincinnati. An opener of -1.5 is up to -2.5. The Cards can be shaky as big favorites because of their inconsistent offense. So, the sharps may NOT like Louisville in the first round of the Dance next week depending on who they draw. Sharp money on the Cards at cheap prices is a likely occurrence.

*The Big West title tile has seen Under money come in at the opener of 134. It’s now 132.5 or even 132.

*You may not have heard that WAC favorite Nevada was upset by Louisiana Tech Friday. Tech received support as a medium dog in the finals. Tech opened +8, but is now +7.5 against New Mexico State in the latest Saturday tipoff.

Our next market report will come next week once the sharp action has settled against the opening numbers in the Big Dance. We’ll do our best to take you day-by-day through the tournament, keeping you posted on developments as they happen. We probably won’t deal much with the NIT until the later rounds. We do encourage you to monitor those line moves on your own. Big line moves will reflect sharp interest because the public doesn’t bet the early round of the NIT. But, that sharp interest may be more connected to home court advantage in a given game rather than the teams themselves. In the Dance, sharps are telling you what they think of the teams…and how they expect those teams to perform if they advance.

If you’d like some help picking winners this weekend, sign up with the sharpest minds in Las Vegas here at the website.  You’ve seen in the ads that various VegasSportsMasters are firing on all cylinders right now. Be sure to check out the new video posted by Kelso Sturgeon Saturday morning.

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