Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Thursday, April 11, 2019 at 2:06 PM
LINES IN THE SAND: Quick work by Vinny Magliulo (left), Richie Baccellieri (center) and Chris Andrews enabled the South Point to be the first sportsbook in Las Vegas to post point spreads on the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
LAS VEGAS - Three wise men huddled in the back room of a casino. There were countless numbers to crunch and the clock was ticking. None of the three men cared that Tom Izzo was ticked off.
Izzo had a right to be irritated Sunday after the NCAA Tournament bracket was unveiled. Michigan State drew the second seed in the same region with No. 1 overall seed Duke, and the Big Ten champion Spartans probably deserved a better fate than a potential pre-Final Four date with Zion Williamson.
Chris Andrews, Richie Baccellieri and Vinny Magliulo were the men faced with the task of posting opening lines on the 32 basketball games that will tip off the most popular wagering event of the year in America. Andrews, the South Point sports book director, committed to being the first in the world to post the numbers while allowing gamblers to immediately fire as much as $10,000 a shot.
"It's stressful, but it really is fun," said Andrews, a classic old-school Vegas bookmaker working for a casino owner, Michael Gaughan, who's anything but conservative and corporate.
Selection Sunday sets the stage for TV talking heads such as Dick Vitale to be dramatic. Oddsmakers are businesslike and unemotional, paying no attention to how teams are seeded or which teams were snubbed by the NCAA Selection Committee. Oddsmakers produce numbers that represent cold, hard truths. And then gamblers take their shots one way or the other.
"We disagree on some numbers, we talk about it and put the numbers up," Andrews said. "You know you're going against sharp guys."
Andrews huddled with Baccellieri, who sports a graying goatee and is holding a handwritten chart filled with numbers. He's an oddsmaking veteran who quotes "Goodfellas" and could be a character in the movie. Magliulo, the Gaughan Gaming sports book director and VSiN oddsmaker, resembles a younger Robert De Niro, with a calmer demeanor.
"When you bet, you want to bet with conviction," Magliulo said. "When you book, you want to be confident in your numbers."
No matter how confident oddsmakers are in their numbers, some numbers will move. As soon as the South Point opened the lines Sunday, sharp bettors started firing. Other books - including Caesars, MGM Resorts, Westgate and William Hill - followed with their own numbers. That's how the bookmaking game is played. Andrews was willing to take the risk of opening for business first and offering larger wagering limits.
"Right now," Andrews said, "who's playing better than Oregon?"
The Ducks have won and covered the spread in eight straight games, including four in a row to win the Pac-12 conference tournament in Las Vegas. Oregon, a No. 12 seed, opened as a 1½-point underdog to fifth-seeded Wisconsin. The line briefly moved to three before a wave of action on Oregon flipped the favorite to Ducks -1 by Monday morning.
Andrews said sharp money, including a bet in the $8,000 range, showed early on Mississippi as a two-point favorite over Oklahoma. Most of the early money is sharp, with the public masses getting involved later in the week.
Baccellieri's biggest disagreement with the betting market was in the Seton Hall-Wofford game. He made the line pick 'em, then the Terriers, who bomb 3-pointers and boast a Stephen Curry-like sharpshooter in Fletcher Magee, were bet to three-point favorites over the Pirates.
"Don't get me wrong, Wofford is a really good team," Baccellieri said. "But that number is too high."
The small-conference Terriers have become too popular to play the underdog role, and the same goes for Buffalo, which will play the Arizona State-St. John's winner.
The 68-team field presents several other potential Cinderella types.
Yale, a 14-seed, attracted early money as an 8-point underdog to LSU; Old Dominion, a 14-seed, opened as a 13½-point underdog to Purdue before the number was bet to 12 at the South Point; Vermont, a 13-seed, drew action as an 11½-point underdog to Florida State before the line dipped to 10; UC Irvine, a 13-seed, opened as a six-point underdog to Kansas State and the number was bet to five; New Mexico State, a 12-seed, is a 6½-point 'dog to Auburn.
The No. 12 seeds are always popular upset picks - and another to watch is Ja Morant-led Murray State, a 4½-point underdog to Marquette.
Reprinted courtesy of the NY Post:
By Matt Youmans: senior editor for VSiN and cohosts The Edge, weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on SiriusXM and VSiN.com.