Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 11:56 AM
We’ve saved our market reports this week until the very end so we can take a close, round-by-round, look at what professional wagerers are thinking about teams you’ll be watching in the Big Dance. A good set of important teams will be taking the floor Thursday. Then, EVERYONE will be on the floor Friday as the bye teams finally see action.
We’re not going to talk about every Thursday game in this report. We’ll be focusing on two things:
*Did the sharps show an early tendency at the line opener?
*Did that tendency involve a team that’s going to the Dance?
Let’s take the conferences in rotation order…
Northwestern received some support at the places that opened -2 in their game with Minnesota. That line moved up a half a point, but not any further. Note that the Wildcats are trying to win their way until the NCAA’s for the first time ever. Purdue was bet up from -8 to -9 at the places that opened low. But, when it reached -9.5 in their game with Nebraska, the line came back down to nine.
It’s actually far from a sure thing that anyone playing today in the ACC will make the Dance! The four top seeds are locked in. ESPN’s Bracketology currently has fifth seeded NC State and sixth seeded Miami of Florida on the outside looking in. Both of those teams got early support from sharps, though that was possibly position-taking on the assumption that ESPN bubble hype would drive public money. NC State is now -12.5 or -13 over Boston College after an even 12 was the earliest number up. Miami is all the way up to -7 vs. Georgia Tech. That’s way above the very earliest numbers, and still up from the standard openers of Miami -6.
The first really good games of tournament week go today in the Big East…who got a head start on everyone. Syracuse opened at -7.5 but was bet down to -7. That’s support for an underdog that’s playing its third game in three days. Everyone remembers what UCONN did last year. And, we’re hearing from many sharps who think Syracuse peaked too early, and won’t play as well as its seed this week or in the Dance.
Georgetown received some support at an opener of -3, even though they played yesterday and Cincinnati has the bye. We’re seeing the Hoyas by -3.5 in most places now. Not much interest early in the day for the night games…Louisville/Marquette and South Florida/Notre Dame. It’s currently expected that all eight Big East teams on the floor today will go Dancing next week. Our contacts suggest there’s not much passion for any of these teams from sharps given what happened last year, and given how shaky many of these teams have been in recent weeks. If you’re thinking of fading the Big East NEXT week, be sure you’re on the alert for the opening numbers going up. You’ll have some company.
Baylor received some support at the earliest openers against Kansas State. That line keeps hopping between Baylor -2 and -2.5. Kansas State money comes in at +2.5. Baylor money will hit the two. Sharps are split in their opinion, and betting those opinions. Texas opened at -1 vs. Iowa State. We’re seeing pick-em in most places as of press time. Odd for a bubble team to NOT get support, as this is a must-win game for Texas. We mentioned last weekend that sharps aren’t fond of Texas. They didn’t feel the need to take positions to exploit potential public money either.
Alabama and Mississippi State are the only SEC teams playing today who are expected to make the Dance. Not much interest from sharps on those teams from what we’ve been hearing. They’re more closely watching hard charging Tennessee who plays tomorrow against the winner of the Auburn-Ole Miss game.
Only two teams are currently projected to make the Dance from this league. But, Oregon is on the bubble, and Arizona is knocking on the door of the bubble. Some believe UCLA has a chance to get on the bubble given their computer rankings with a good weekend. So, this is an interesting tournament at the Staples Center even if it may not influence the Dance next week. Not much sharp action to report early…but it is worth noting that UCLA is -3 over Arizona on a semi-neutral court…even though Arizona has a better seed and is higher up on the Dance ladder. Sharps have been betting UCLA, and oddsmakers have adjusted. In this case…earlier sharp action on UCLA led to a higher than expected opener.
Sharp money offshore has moved lines against host UNLV (from -10 down to -9.5 in a night game against Wyoming, and top seed New Mexico (from -15 down to -14.5 vs. Air Force in the nightcap). That UNLV move is interesting because the Rebels have played so well at home this year…and their hosting the tournament. Let’s keep an eye on that.
More Friday morning, as powers like North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, and Ohio State finally see their first action of the week. We’ll keep checking in with our market sources in Las Vegas and offshore too for insights regarding tendencies that may not be showing up in line moves because sportsbooks are locking in their lines and taking positions.
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