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OVERwhelming opening week of March Madness

Mar 21, 2017 3:12 AM

No wonder every seasonal sports bettor wants to come to Vegas for March Madness. The sportsbooks – and their withered oddsmakers –were handing out free money during the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

You’ve heard the cliché answers from that sports gambling expert guy who tells you the junket squares that come in, along with the public in general, always wants to bet the OVER.

No one wants to root for a low-scoring result, but there were the bookies suffering through most every tourney game, likely on the losing end of another public OVER.

The OVER went 34-17-1 during the first week of the tournament and even with a rapid correction of as many as 3 to 5 points over the openers on the weekend, BMs found it hard to keep up.

The trend didn’t develop right away as the play-in games and Thursday’s opening four-game session resulted in an eight-game split on the totals. But by the end of Friday, 22 of the next 28 games went OVER the number, making party-goers of young crowds ready to parlay their chances in the round of 32.

And they were going OVER in the first half, too.

Usually, wise-guy buy-back will keep such a run under control during your average regular season week of college hoops. But with long lines and ticket writers punching out over 1,000 slips or more on an overtime shift, head linesmen were left toting the PR line about how great it is to have such big crowds in the sportsbook.

It wasn’t all bad news, however, as favorites, talked up somewhat in the general media as faring well because of their straight-up success, went just 23-29.

Still, the square run certainly saved a number of bets for the annual getaway in a party that has become big – if not bigger – than Super Sunday.

Thursday

Michigan (-1.5, 147) vs. Oregon (CBS, 4:09): Michigan’s momentum is real and Derrick Walton, Jr. is leading the mission, as the Wolverines took the early money. Tickets were coming in overwhelmingly on the OVER in early wagering. 

West Virginia (+3, 148) vs. Gonzaga (TBS, 4:39): There are going to be doubters and detractors when Gonzaga reaches this point, but the Bulldogs still carry a 23-10 ATS mark this season. Professional bettors seemed interested in the Mountaineers early, as tickets were mixed, but money was heavier on WVU. The Total was bet up early from 146.5. GU, 79-75

Purdue (+4.5, 156) vs. Kansas (CBS, approx. 6:40): Oddsmakers were willing to hold the line despite an early onslaught of KU money. Maybe they were likely to trust their instincts that led to a 13-18 ATS mark this season for the now tournament favorites (4-1), while the Boilers were a terrific bet at 19-10 versus the number. Jayhawks’ Josh Jackson vs. Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan in a marquee matchup. KU, 82-78

Xavier (+7, 145) vs. Arizona (TBS, approx. 7:10): Despite money coming in on the Wildcats, this one moved to the dog after the opener of -7.5, while another total here already bet up early, as this one opened 143.5. U of A is now the fourth choice in the field at 5.5-to-1, while XU enters the Sweet 16 as the longshot at 100-1. Arizona, 77-72

Friday

Butler (+7, 152.5) vs. North Carolina (CBS, 4:09): Money was coming in on Sunday night on the Tar Heels despite tickets coming in favor of the Bulldogs. Butler was a pretty strong cover during the season, going 20-13, but UNC went 19-16 ATS. Heels are now the second choice overall at 4.5-to-1. UNC, 80-76

South Carolina (+4, 126) vs. Baylor (TBS, 4:29): Madison Square Garden doesn’t get Villanova or Duke, but coach Frank Martin’s Gamecocks are probably the closest thing to Cinderella this year, currently listed at 50-1. USC scored 65 points in the second half against Duke to send the East Region into a tizzy. The Bears’ Johnathan Motley and Manu Lecomte took care of the other USC – the Trojans – on Sunday night. BU, 70-63

UCLA (+2, 174) vs. Kentucky (CBS, approx. 6:40): The Bruins won in Lexington against the then top-ranked ‘Cats, 97-92, as UCLA had six in double figures. Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox combined for 44 points for UK that afternoon. Even with freshman stars Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf, the Bruins’ recipient of success due to their unselfishness is junior 7-footer Thomas Welsh, who is red hot from 15-feet in. UCLA, 89-87

Wisconsin (+1.5, 131.5) vs. Florida (TBS, approx. 7 p.m.): The Gators were a pretty strong money maker at 20-13 ATS, while the Badgers were attracting the bettors’ attention on Sunday night. This is one game where early bettors were taking the UNDER by a considerable margin, although oddsmakers were holding steady. Both teams were solid UNDER plays during the season by a margin of five games each. UW, 67-63