Public stands tall through March Madness

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After not being able to carry any real momentum during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, bettors came out firing with a vengeance during the Sweet 16 round. Fortunately for the sportsbooks, they were able to avoid epic losses that might have occurred if the same type of results happened with all the rowdies in town the week prior. Still, Thursday and Friday’s results put a hurtin’ on several books.

Favorites had gone 25-23 against-the-spread in the first four days, but Thursday’s Sweet 16 round saw them go 4-0 ATS and then 3-1 ATS on Friday. CG Technology VP of risk management Jason Simbal said the one dog that covered Friday, Syracuse over Gonzaga, was the only dog between the two days the public supported. “We went 0-8 in those games,” he said.

Those Friday games, highlighted by North Carolina covering -5.5 over Indiana, were brutal for the house because of all the carryover parlay risk from the favorites going 4-0 the day before. After each of those Friday games were posted the risk just kept mounting as five and six team team parlays were cashing regularly. Some books reported losses over six-figures, but others managed to escape.

“Our overall results on Thursday and Friday were good even though we lost on the college games,” said MGM resorts sportsbook hub manager Jeff Stoneback. “We had some big house players taking the dogs with us to balance things out, but the big key was the NBA really coming up big for us on both days, making us break even on Thursday and a small winner on Friday.”

Had those type of results happened a week earlier with the massive crowds in town, losses might have topped seven figures at a few places.

“It’s a noticeably different type of crowd,” said Stoneback. “It’s an older, more mature and subdued crowd – less of a party atmosphere than the week before and also less 8-team parlays being wagered.”

But just as most things go for the books, the tide turned quickly during the Elite 8 round Saturday when both underdogs, Villanova and Oklahoma, won outright.

“We had a really good day Saturday then an okay day Sunday,” said Stoneback. “Saturday was helped not only by the dogs winning, but we also took a six-figure parlay that had Kansas on the moneyline. Sunday had far less action than either of the four days just because it was Easter.”

Kansas would lose 64-59 to Villanova Saturday as 2-point favorites. Oklahoma routed Oregon, 80-68, as a 1.5-point underdog.

The public got there Sunday with North Carolina again in its 88-74 win as 10-point favorites over Notre Dame, but they lost with Syracuse winning 68-62 over Virginia (-8.5) in a stunning come-from-behind victory. It made the day kind of a wash for most bet shops.

The Tar Heels are becoming the public’s favorite team now as they’ve covered its last three quite easily and seven of its last eight overall. They are 9-point favorites over Syracuse in Saturday’s late game and Villanova is -2 over Oklahoma in the early game.

Future risk: “Our worst case scenario is Syracuse (8/1) winning it all,” said Stoneback. “We do the best with Villanova (12/5)and next best is Oklahoma (7/2).” Carolina is the 10/11 favorite.

Syracuse is the worst case scenario for most books, especially over at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook where at one point in mid-January the Orange were 1,000-1. SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay tweeted out they had four takers at that price. They currently have Syracuse at 10-1.

Best Value: If looking for the best betting value for this week’s Final Four games, you should head over to the South Point sportsbook and take advantage of their -105 reduced juice split rather than the -110 offered everywhere else. It’s a great move by the book because the extra volume the promotion creates far outweighs the loss of the juice. The -105 juice is also available by phone, so even if they don’t have the spread your’re looking for on one of the games, you can sit and wait from the comfort of your home, or work, for your desired number to finally pop up and make the wager. With baseball starting next week, you’ll want to have a phone account anyway because they offer some of shortest splits in town.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Twitter: @MicahRoberts7 Email: [email protected].

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