NCAA Tournament Vegas Roundup: Sharp Bettors Hit Montana, Purdue
Sandra Dukes, USA Today Sports.
LAS VEGAS — It’s definitely the calm before the storm here in Vegas.
Early March Madness betting lines don’t create the same frenzy as, say, the Super Bowl, but that’s because sharp bettors have an idea of what the matchup could be for the Super Bowl.
March Madness is not like that, it’s a much slower burn that culminates in a betting frenzy that begins on Wednesday.
That being said, there was still some notable betting action right after the lines were set for Round 1 of the NCAA Tournament and I spoke with a few bookmakers around Las Vegas to make sense of the early betting trends and to expound on a few of the potential dark horses.
“I really like Belmont,” Kevin Todd, a supervisor at William Hill, said. “Sure they could get tripped up by Temple in the play-in game Tuesday but assuming they win that game I can easily see them getting past Maryland and LSU after that. They are definitely a legit Sweet 16 candidate.”
Todd also noted he’s keeping an eye on Murray State (who isn’t?) and one team that’s sort of flying under the radar — the defending national champions from Villanova.
“Villanova is on such a hot streak right now,” Todd noted. “I know some of the sharps are already pushing Purdue in their Final Four brackets but I’m not sure I see anyone serious in the Wildcats’ way right up to Minneapolis.”
Derek Wilkinson, a supervisor at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, noted that he thinks Belmont will be a popular pick by both sharps and squares if the Bruins can get past Temple.
“I also like Old Dominion, they’ve been a solid, consistent team most of the year,” Wilkinson said. “I’m also a little interested in seeing what Saint Louis is capable of because that conference is very underrated.”
As far as futures, Todd noted that they took a $10,000 bet on UNC at +800 that moved the line to +650 and another one on Virginia at 6-1.
The real noteworthy bets will start coming in throughout the week, but the bookmakers have already seen some interesting action around a bunch of games:
No. 7 Nevada (-1.5) vs. No. 10 Florida
Wilkinson: “We’ve taken some sharp action on Florida already. The line hasn’t moved just because we know we always get a lot of local money on Nevada. Personally, I think the Gators are going to win this game and I imagine that line will drop a little, despite getting public money on Nevada.”
No. 3 LSU (-8) vs. No. 14 Yale
Wilkinson: “We’ve seen some smaller, sharp bets on Yale. No big bets yet, but I think this line is going to drop some more. I wouldn’t be surprised if Yale wins outright. The public will be on LSU just because they’re a big name, but the smart money is on Yale in this one.”
No. 7 Wofford (-3) vs. No. 10 Seton Hall
Todd: “We took a $7,700 bet on Wofford at -3. I think with all the buzz on Wofford the whole season, even though they came from a very weak conference, will only grow as we lead up to this game. When people see their strength of schedule only losing to North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kansas and Mississippi St, the fact they’ve already taken on the big boys shows they’re ready for bigger things.”
No. 7 Louisville (-5) vs. No. 10 Minnesota
Wilkinson: “We have a lot of Minnesota haters in this back room. The sharp money is on Louisville for sure. We’ve already taken some limit bets on them, from both wise guys and house players. I’m anticipating this line to go up over the next couple of days.”
Todd: “We wrote a $5,500 bet on Louisville (-4.5). I find this game interesting since it’s Rick Pitino’s son who coaches the Golden Gophers. Could be a revenge spot for canning his dad. I don’t like it.”
No. 2 Michigan (-15.5) vs. No. 15 Montana
Wilkinson: “Although I’m confident Michigan is going to win, 16 is a lot of points. We took a sharp bet on Montana earlier, but I think that’s just because the spread is so high. I’d look for this line to drop a little more and maybe settle around 14 or 14.5.”
No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Oregon (-1)
Wilkinson: “This opened at Wisc -1.5 and is already at Oregon -1. We debated on who to favor in this game just because we weren’t sure which way the public would sway. We’ve already taken some sharp action on Oregon and the line has moved pretty dramatically. I think it’ll get up to around Oregon -2 or -2.5 by game day.”
No. 3 Purdue (-12.5) vs. No. 14 Old Dominion
Wilkinson: “The market has moved this line up to -12.5, but I’m not sold on it. I think we’re going to get some late, sharp money on Old Dominion once that line moves a little higher. Old Dominion has impressed me this season and I think 12 is too many points for them to get.
No. 5 Auburn (-7) vs. New Mexico State
Wilkinson: “We’ve taken a few, smaller sharp plays on New Mexico State and the line has dropped a little. I think the public action will be pretty evenly split on these two, but the sharps will like the Aggies. Personally, I like Auburn but I’m an SEC lover being from South Carolina so I always support those teams.”
No. 6 Iowa State (-6) vs. No. 11 Ohio State
Wilkinson: “We’ve taken some house money on Iowa State, but I’m looking for the upset in this one. I think we’ll get some sharp money on Ohio State soon and that line will come down some.”