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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Monday, April 3, 2017 at 9:45 AM

Richie Baccellieri: How Sharps Are Betting the NCAA Championship

We're down to the final game of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. What's been the most heavily bet Big Dance in Vegas history is going to finish with a BANG because the two survivors have strong betting constituencies.

*Favored North Carolina is always a public betting favorite. This year, in particular, some deep-pocketed public bettors have been making some very big bets on the Tar Heels on a round-by-round basis. It's unlikely that's going to stop for the championship game!

*Gonzaga has a lot of "locals" support in Nevada as a West Coast team, particularly in a year like this where the program has a chance to make history. It sure didn't hurt that many in the public were riding the Gonzaga bandwagon during the regular season to cover after cover.

And, that's even before you get to the fact that both of these teams were #1 seeds...or that they were basically co-favorites at the beginning of the tournament to go the distance. Well, Duke crashed that party to a degree because of some big betting from the public. In terms of SHARPS, North Carolina and Gonzaga were a virtual dead heat in Power Ratings when the event began.

Time to review how sharps have been betting this much-anticipated wagering showcase...


GONZAGA vs. NORTH CAROLINA: 9:20 pm ET on CBS

The first number up was North Carolina -2. As I prepare this report for you Sunday afternoon Las Vegas time, the number is painted -1.5 everywhere. I fully expect a tug-of-war to develop between North Carolina -1.5 and Gonzaga +2. The biggest Carolina bettors are either going to lay the -1.5 or bet NC on the moneyline at around -125. Either way, books will want to balance the action by encouraging Gonzaga money and bringing the two back into play.

Again, this should be a HEAVILY bet game because supporters of both teams will find the right prices appealing. Gonzaga fans think this is a pure toss-up, or even that they should be the favorite by a point. North Carolina fans are confident the team will make up for last year's championship loss with a victory. Laying -1.5 or betting the moneyline seems like nothing to them. So, BIG ACTION.

There isn't likely to be any injury news that comes into play. No reason to wait beyond shopping for the best price. Everyone knows what price they're looking for. Sharps pretty much fall along the same lines. There are betting models that show it's basically a true pick-em (with a handful like 538's publication showing Gonzaga as the favorite.) Sharps believing in those analytics are already in at +2, and will buy some more if the two comes back into play. Sharps who rate teams based on depth of individual talent are happy to take NC -1.5 because they have it a bit higher.  

The Over/Under opened at 152.5 after Saturday's semifinal games landed on 150 and 153 (Over by a dozen points for Gonzaga/South Carolina, right on the number for North Carolina/Oregon). It was bet up hard by the quants who saw that Gonzaga started with racehorse basketball vs. both South Carolina and Xavier in their last two games. We're now seeing 154.5 in most stores.

Will it go up even more on game day? That's possible. But, this is a VERY high total already. And, the public is pretty adamant about its preferred side, whoever that happens to be. Not nearly as much passion about this total. Under money from sharps might start coming in at 155, and would definitely come in at 156. For now, it's the quants against the oddsmakers on that opener. We'll have to wait and see if the public jumps on the Over or just stands pat with their big team side bets.  

There's no individual sports betting event bigger than the Super Bowl. The whole of March Madness is now a lot bigger than the Super Bowl. But, Monday night's championship game is shaping up to become one of the largest college basketball one-game handles ever. The stars have aligned perfectly to drive this handle through the roof.

I definitely have an opinion about how people should play this one. I'll release that selection for clients on game day. You can always purchase my daily selections right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure to ask about rates for my NBA and MLB packages.

I'm saddened that my favorite sport to handicap and bet is coming to an end. But, I have to admit it's a thrill to see how big this Gonzaga/North Carolina game is going to be in Nevada sportsbooks. Let's close out the season with a bang...then keep working hard to cash tickets in the NBA and Major League Baseball.

Thanks for reading today and all through the tournament. These sharps reports will resume right before the NBA Playoffs begin. Best of luck Monday night! See you again soon.