Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Friday, March 17, 2017 at 4:06 PM
Richie Baccellieri: How Sharps Are Betting Saturday's Dance Card
There were so few outright upsets in Thursday's first round action that lines solidified very quickly for Saturday's second round matchups. Oddsmakers knew where the lines should open because so many pairings featured known TV programs. Almost every game is within a bucket or two from pick-em because there's so much parity amongst the major conference contenders this season.
Let's go game by game to see if sharps have been able to find a way to shave of some edges. As we've been doing all weekend, we'll go in schedule order of the locations, but tipoff order at each location.
(4) WEST VIRGINIA vs. (5) NOTRE DAME: noon ET on CBS
West Virginia opened at -3. Since then we've seen a tug-of-war between Notre Dame +3 and West Virginia -2.5. The analytics guys have had West Virginia in their top eight all season, while Notre Dame was further off the pace. So, the quants will lay -2.5 with the Mountaineers, while dog lovers and some members of the public step in on the Irish +3. (Hey...Friday was St. Patrick's Day...some bettors HAVE to take the Irish if they're in a sportsbook on St. Patrick's Day!) There wasn't a lot of early total betting. I'll only mention Over/Unders in the game that moved more than a point of the opener.
(1) VILLANOVA vs. (8) WISCONSIN: 2:40 pm ET on CBS
The opener of Villanova -5 has been bet up to -5.5. The public will prefer this favorite. And, some sharps are down on the Big 10 this season (though Michigan continues to play great). I
(3) would expect dog money to come in if +6 comes into play. Dog lovers may have to settle for +5.5.
FLORIDA STATE vs. (11) XAVIER: 6:10 pm ET on TNT
Florida State opened at -5.5, and was bet up to -6. Oddsmakers are trying to figure out how much the public and sharps are going to weigh home state advantage in this doubleheader. Florida State had trouble shaking Florida Gulf Coast Thursday night, while Xavier continued to play well...beating Maryland Thursday after a strong showing in the Big East tourney that included a win over Butler. Yet, playing in Orlando has to count for something. My sense is that sharp dog money is waiting to see how high this might go before stepping in. Some respected money is already in on Xavier +6.
(4) FLORIDA vs. (5) VIRGINIA: 8:40 pm ET on TNT
Florida opened at -1.5. It's possible this would have been a dead pick-em on a more neutral court. Virginia might have been the favorite a few weeks ago. But, the Cavaliers have mostly disappointed down the stretch, while the Gators were more impressive in their opener. I think the quants will step in on Virginia if +2 becomes more widely available. Possibly a tug-of-war developing between the public on Florida at -1.5 or better, sharps on Virginia at +2 or more.
(4) BUTLER vs. (12) MIDDLE TENNESSEE: 7:10 pm ET on TBS
Tricky one here because odddsmakers really underestimated Middle Tennessee last year and this year in the Dance. Guys behind the counter thought they were giving MTSU respect with a low dog opener vs. Minnesota. Sharps and the public drove the #12 seed all the way to a favorite over the #5 seed, and the Blue Raiders still coasted to a cover anyway. Butler opened at -4.5. We're now seeing a solid four everywhere after early betting. Sharps will definitely jump back in on MTSU +4.5 if it comes back into play. It might not.
(4) PURDUE vs. (5) IOWA STATE: 9:40 pm ET on TBS
Purdue opened at -1, and that's been fairly solid ever since. I would expect at least some sharp money to fade any move off the one in either direction. Purdue at pick-em will appeal to some because Purdue has the more impressive full season math. But, Iowa State is so on fire right now that they'll definitely get support at +1.5 or more. I wouldn't be shocked if an Iowa State bandwagon starts during the day Saturday as more squares have time to think about their bets. The public likes riding hot hands.
IN SALT LAKE CITY
(1) GONZAGA vs. (8) NORTHWESTERN: 5:15 pm ET on CBS
Northwestern looked so bad down the stretch in the game they won over Vandy, that the market had to open Gonzaga as a double-digit favorite. Villanova/Wisconsin is a #1 seed facing a #8 seed Big 10 school, and that line is about half of this one. Gonzaga opened at -10.5 and was bet up to -11. Squares, particularly locals in Nevada, have made big money this year asking Gonzaga to win blowouts. Sharps hit the favorite early knowing they could buy back on the dog later if they wanted at a higher price. I wouldn't be shocked if this line edged higher through the day Saturday. That might depend on how much money squares still have in their wallets after Friday's results are all in.
This is the game with a big totals move. The opener of 134.5 has been bet up to 136.5. Quants obviously got a big grading...and squares visualizing a Gonzaga blowout anticipate the favorite scoring a lot of points.
(2) ARIZONA vs. (7) ST. MARY'S: 7:45 pm ET on TBS
I can tell you that the city of Las Vegas and the whole state of Nevada are really looking forward to this game. Arizona has a strong betting contingent here every season. This year they also won the Pac 12 tournament last week at the new T-Mobile Center. St. Mary's has mostly looked great this year except when playing Gonzaga. Sportsbooks are just hoping the action splits and they can pocket the big profit off the vigorish. An opener of -2.5 has been up to -4. But, the line didn't really stay on the 2.5 or 3 very long...so exposure to a middle isn't very great. I now anticipate a tug-of-war developing between St. Mary's +4 and Arizona -3.5. Those numbers will generate action from the respective constituencies. Sportsbooks will be LOUD during this one, particularly if it stays as tight as the market is predicting throughout.
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See you again tomorrow at the same time to study sharp betting in the eight Sunday matchups.