It’s finally here. The first game of the 2018 NCAA tournament (sorry, the First Four doesn’t count) is set to tip at 12:15 p.m. ET. Because lines have been out since Sunday night, there’s been plenty of time for recreational bettors to reload sportsbook balances and start firing away on their favorite matchups. Not surprisingly, with so much public money hitting the market, today’s Round of 64 games are attracting huge betting handles.
Using our proprietary betting and money percentage data, we’ve broken down three of today’s most popular plays among public bettors.
NC Greensboro vs. Gonzaga (-12.5)
1:30 p.m. ET
With 74% of the action coming in on Gonzaga, this matchup is currently the most popular public play of the day, pushing the opening line of -12 up to -12.5.
Why the public loves Gonzaga: When it comes to programs other than blue bloods, Gonzaga is arguably the most recognizable name due to multiple Cinderella runs before establishing itself as a perennial top-25 team. Recreational bettors looking for early action see the Zags playing UNC Greensboro, which has zero name recognition, making it easy to lay the points.
South Dakota State (+7.5) vs. Ohio State
4 p.m. ET
In a game drawing a massive handle, public bettors are all over the underdog South Dakota State Jackrabbits. Seventy-three percent of spread tickets and 79% of dollars wagered have taken South Dakota State, which has dropped the number from +8.5 down to +7.5.
Why the public loves South Dakota State: The 28-6 Jackrabbits have won 19 of their past 20 games and are getting 7.5 points against a Buckeyes team that has lost three of their last five matchups. South Dakota State is clearly the most popular underdog of the day, and you know what they say about trendy dogs in the NCAA Tournament?
St. Bonaventure (+5) vs. Florida
9:57 p.m. ET
St. Bonaventure opened as a 5.5-point underdog and is garnering 69% of spread tickets and a whopping 82% of spread dollars.
Why the public loves St. Bonaventure: The Bonnies earned their way into the Round of 64 by beating UCLA as a 2.5-point underdog in a First Four matchup. This is very fresh in the minds of public bettors who are happy to back the Bonnies against the Florida Gators, who have lost four of their past seven games.
Top Photo: Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Chris Holtmann reacts as he coaches against the Penn State Nittany Lions; credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports