NCAA Tournament Sharp Report: March Madness Games Pros Are Already Betting

NCAA Tournament Sharp Report: March Madness Games Pros Are Already Betting article feature image

John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Virginia Commonwealth Rams head coach Mike Rhoades

  • NCAA Tournament first-round matchups are set, and professional bettors are wasting no time getting down on soft opening lines.
  • Using The Action Network's betting tools. we examine which March Madness games are attracting sharp money.

Selection Sunday has come and gone, meaning we now know the entire 68-team field that will make up the 2019 NCAA Tournament. With first-round matchups now available, sportsbooks wasted no time posting betting lines for Thursday’s and Friday’s slate of March Madness games.

While recreational bettors — those who take a casual approach to betting and are more interested in fun or “action” than long-term profits — normally wait until later in the week to place their wagers, professionals are already getting down on a handful of games.

In fact, with soft openers offering wiseguys value aplenty, sharps have caused a handful of significant line moves based on their action alone.

Let’s take a look at which NCAA Tournament first-round games are already attracting smart money in early betting.

#11 St. Mary’s vs. #6 Villanova

Thursday, March 21
7:20 p.m. ET | TBS

According to The Action Network’s public betting data, this unassuming matchup between St. Mary’s and Villanova is the most heavily bet game of Thursday’s NCAA Tournament slate.

There’s still plenty of time for more action to come in before the Round of 64 tips, and recreational bettors primarily wait until closer to gameday to place their March Madness wagers, indicating that professionals have already found something they like in this matchup.

This over/under opened at 129 and 57% of bets on the total have hit the under, while 55% of money is on the over.

While not a massive discrepancy considering both tickets and money are hovering around the 50% mark, Sports Insights’ Bet Signals triggered a Steam Move at Over 129, revealing that sharp bettors immediately hit the over in this matchup, forcing oddsmakers to adjust the total up to 131.5

Sharp angle: Over (129 to 131.5)

#12 Liberty vs. #5 Mississippi State

Friday, March 22
7:27 p.m. ET | truTV

NCAA Tournament 12-5 games are typically popular upset picks, but wiseguys are eyeing this over/under, not the spread or moneyline.

Oddsmakers opened this total at 135 and it’s been kicked up to 136.5, and even 137 at some sportsbooks. While our contributing books have yet to report money percentages for this over/under, SI’s Bet Signals provide a clue as to what’s driving the early line movement.

Once again, sharps wasted no time steaming this over at 135.5, driving the entire market up a couple of points to the current numbers.

Sharp angle: Over (135.5 to 136.5/137)

#9 Central Florida vs. #8 VCU

Friday, March 23
9:40 p.m. ET | CBS

While the two matchups above are similar in that professionals are getting down on overs, sharps have jumped on the spread for UCF-VCU. This line opened between a pick’em and VCU -1 depending on the sportsbook you reference, but there’s no ambiguity regarding which side the pros are betting.

Seventy-two percent of tickets are on the Knights, but 55% of real money wagered has come in on the Rams, suggesting that the larger bets are falling on VCU.

SI’s Bet Signals concur, triggering a Reverse Line Move on VCU, revealing one instance of sharp money moving this line against the majority of bettors who are on Central Florida.

Sharp angle: VCU (pick’em to -1)

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