The opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament is in the books. In this week’s column I will be looking at several of the major betting trends and results we saw unfold in the first four days of action.
It is always interesting to look at the breakdown of each conference following the opening weekend of the tournament, and the biggest loser by far was the ACC.
The ACC boasted about being a conference so good all season long that they could have 10-plus teams in the tournament, yet the opening weekend turned out to be an absolute disaster for the conference. ACC teams were an abysmal 2-13 ATS in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament and the only two pointspread covers were Duke against Troy and North Carolina against Texas Southern, and that is nothing to be impressed about.
Eight of the nine ACC teams in the tournament are done. North Carolina is the lone remaining ACC team in the NCAA Tournament and even they had to rally from behind late to get past Arkansas in their second round game on Sunday. The fact there are three SEC teams and three PAC-12 teams remaining in the Big Dance but only one ACC team speaks to maybe the overrated nature of the ACC and the underrated nature of some of the other conferences, especially the PAC-12, which has not enjoyed a boatload of tournament success over the years.
The Big East also had a losing ATS record in the opening weekend. The top winning conferences from a pointspread perspective were the SEC (7-2 SU, 6-3 ATS), Big 12 (8-3 SU, 7-4 ATS), Big Ten (8-4 SU and ATS). The conference that performed the best in the opening weekend was the PAC-12, which was 8-1 SU, 7-1-1 ATS with USC being the only PAC-12 team to bow out prior to the Sweet 16.
The 1 seeds, outside of Kansas, were money burners in the opening two rounds. Three of the four 1 seeds, Villanova, North Carolina and Gonzaga, combined to go 1-5 ATS in their first two tournament games while the only other No. 1 seed, Kansas, went 2-0 ATS in their two games. Favorites combined for a losing 7-9 ATS mark in the second round games on Saturday and Sunday.
From a totals perspective, OVERS dominated the NCAA Tournament betting landscape, posting a 32-16 (67%) mark in the 48 first and second round games played between Thursday and Sunday.
The main reason for the influx of higher scoring games can be attributed to the fact most opening round games were played in normal size basketball/hockey arena venues that do not negatively impact sightlines for shooting, and with this being a “one and done” tournament, we are seeing teams battle to the bitter end in every game, resulting in a ton of late game scramble points and fouling that has led to plenty of points being scored in the last 1-3 minutes of these games.
Teams are more likely to keep fouling even when trailing by 8-10 points in the final stages of games in these tournament games than they would during the regular season because there is essentially no tomorrow and the season is done with another loss.
We have seen a totals adjustment being made heading into the Sweet 16 round and currently the lowest total out there is 131.5 in the game between Florida and Wisconsin – two teams ranking in the Top 20 in defensive efficiency. Six of the eight games in the Sweet 16 round have totals north of 140.
Looking ahead to the Sweet 16, Kansas is a modest 5-point favorite against Purdue. Michigan opened pick ‘em against Oregon but is currently -1.5 across the board. Gonzaga has held steady as -3 favorites against West Virginia. Arizona is a 7.5 point favorite against Xavier. Florida is holding at -1.5 against Wisconsin, which upset top overall seed Villanova as a 6-point underdog on Saturday.
Baylor is -3 to -3.5 against South Carolina. UCLA is a slim 1 point choice over Kentucky, and North Carolina (the lone survivor in the ACC) is a 7.5-point favorite against Butler.
Many great questions will be answered this weekend. Will the opening weekend strong performances of PAC-12, Big Ten and SEC teams continue in the Sweet 16? Can North Carolina find a way to salvage some kind of positive result for the underachieving ACC with a run to at least the Final Four?
We saw quite a bit of betting madness on opening weekend of the Tournament and I’d make “betting madness” the favorite to be just as prevalent this weekend when the Sweet 16 round tips off.