Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Thursday, March 28, 2019 at 12:00 PM
Sharps have had several days to make their intentions known in Sweet 16 showdowns scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Let’s run through all eight marquee matchups. Games are presented in order of tipoffs at each site.
7:29 p.m. ET: Purdue vs. Tennessee (-1.5)
9:57 p.m. ET: Oregon vs. Virginia (-8.5)
There’s not much love for either side in the opener. Generally speaking, some sharps like Tennessee at -1, particularly the math-based quants. Others like Purdue when +2 comes into play, particularly those who don’t trust Tennessee head coach Rich Barnes in the NCAA Tournament. The line spent much of the week at Tennessee -1.5, always getting pulled back there at any stores that tested different directions. We’ll see what the public does before tip off tonight. Normally, you’d expect them to take a cheap favorite on TV. But, in this case, the favorite just blew a 25-point lead last time out vs. Iowa, while the underdog routed Villanova. I’m thinking a tug-of-war between Tennessee -1.5 and Purdue +2 is most likely. Dog money would come in much harder if public action drives the line to +2.5. That’s a very important half-point for betting purposes. in what’s expected to be a close game.
Virginia has been at -8.5 most of the week. Offshore sites opened at -7 or -7.5, while Vegas was more like -7.5 and-8. Quants bet Virginia right away. If you go back through the game logs, you’ll be surprised how often Virginia wins low scoring games by A LOT of points. Dog lovers are hoping public action will bring +9 into play. Remember that Oregon won the Pac 12 tournament here in Las Vegas, and has been playing its best ball of the year in recent weeks. I’m not sure squares (the public) will hit this favorite at the higher price. They keep hearing how low scoring the game is supposed to be. We’ll probably either sit at 8.5 all day. Differing sharp contingents would fade any move off the 8.5.
7:09 p.m. ET: Florida State vs. Gonzaga (-8)
9:39 p.m. ET: Texas Tech vs. Michigan (-1.5)
Gonzaga moved to -8 Thursday morning, just before I started putting together this report for you. That’s very likely from public betting because sharps wouldn’t wait that long to bet a favorite they liked. In fact, there was some early sharp money on the DOG at +7 right out of the gate. Gonzaga is a high energy blowout team that the public can easily get behind as a single-digit favorite. Sharps that respect “defensive dogs” (particularly from a major conference getting points against a mid-major) will now wait and see what they can get. I know some guys who are very happy to take +8, but are hoping for +8.5. Probably a tug-of-war between squares and sharps in FSU/Gonzaga.
Michigan was painted -2 most of the week, but is now painted -1.5. this morning. Obviously the Wise Guys didn’t like the Wolverines at -2. Looks like they finally decided the public wasn’t going to back Michigan, and they stepped in on Texas Tech with two. Again, sharps REALLY pay attention to half points in games that are supposed to be close. Nobody wanted to miss the full two if it was going to go away. We’ll see what the public does at -1.5. I’m guessing we’ll see a tug-of-war between Michigan -1.5 (squares) and Texas Tech +2 (sharps). But, if the public still doesn’t want the Wolverines, we could move toward pick-em.
7:09 p.m. ET: LSU vs. Michigan State (-6)
9:39 p.m. ET: Virginia Tech vs. Duke (-7)
Sparty has been a pretty solid -6 all week. Any stores that test half-point moves get hit with action in the other direction. Six has been a magnet. Michigan State is a favorite the public likes to bet in the Dance. If Thursday’s chalk wins, I would expect squares to re-invest on Friday’s favorites. LSU’s talent is well-respected here in Las Vegas. I know a few dog lovers who are hoping to see at least +6.5 before tipoff.
Duke opened as high as -8 or -8.5 offshore. That was quickly bet all the way down to Duke -7. Any stores testing -7.5 after public money see sharps jump back in. So, we know that the Wise Guys like Virginia Tech at +7.5 or better pretty strong. I’m hearing they like how Tech’s talent matches up with Duke’s offense. The Blue Devils were lucky to get past Central Florida, and may be in for another big fight here.
7:29 p.m. ET: Auburn vs. North Carolina (-5)
9:57 p.m. ET: Houston vs. Kentucky (-2.5)
In Auburn/UNC, the five has been a magnet through the week. Stores testing moves a half-point in either direction are brought right back. This is a funny matchup because both teams like to run on offense. I’ve heard pundits saying they like Auburn to score an upset because the pace will play right into their hands, but I’ve heard other pundits pick Carolina to win a blowout for the same exact reason. I think the closing line will depend on how favorites do between now and then. Carolina will go to -5.5 or -6 if Thursday’s favorites romp. If we have a reversal from last weekend with dogs starting to do damage, closing at five (or even lower) becomes more likely.
In the Kentucky game, you probably know that everyone’s waiting to hear about injured star P.J. Washington. If he can come back near 100%, this line will move to Kentucky -3 and beyond (possibly as high as -4). But, if he can’t go, we’ll probably stick at -2.5. Oddsmakers opened on the assumption that he wouldn’t be ready.
Thanks again to all of you who have been sending me comments about my recent appearance in the New York Post. I’ve heard from a lot of old friends. It was fun helping the South Point out with their opening lines back on Selection Sunday. I had no idea that would become a national story!
You can purchase my 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. College basketball is my favorite sport to handicap and bet. I can’t recall ever seeing Sweet 16 bracket this loaded with so many great teams.
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back late Saturday morning to talk about how sharp betting in all the Elite 8 matchups. See you then.