Don’t be afraid to back March Madness favorites

Mar 20, 2019 3:00 AM

Are we really fading the public when we bet against some of the most popular teams in the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament?

Don’t be sure so that your favorite underdog isn’t already the choice of seasonal bettors just coming out of their football funk.

Early bettors were taking a steady stream of underdogs, but that doesn’t mean the public isn’t ready to fire on their favorites before tip.

It might be wise to consider backing some of the favorites which are not such public darlings, both at the window and in our bracket pools.

Also, consider that the first round games went under the total in last year’s tournament by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

Let’s take a look at some of the teams that are taking a majority of the money against their more high-profile opponents according to a consensus review of public betting percentage reports, as well as reports of sharp moves on sides and totals according to market-tracking screens (in rotation order).


St. Mary’s vs. Villanova: Sharps got involved early on the total, steaming the over on a 129 opener up to 131.5, which flies in the face of overwhelming public money on the under. Public money was also heavy on the Gaels’ money line.

Old Dominion vs. Purdue: The Boilers took some widely-respected steam on Monday as sharps laid 12 points and are included in a lot of public parlays. Although tickets were relatively split, indications are that ODU was taking a majority of the money, both spread and money line.

Murray State vs. Marquette: The Racers are a popular public ‘dog, taking close to two-thirds of the spread action and an overwhelming amount on the money line. The public also appears extremely heavy on the over.

Vermont vs. Florida State: The Catamounts are a public ‘dog choice, drawing a majority of cash on the spread and money line. This total got steamed right away up from 133 and although the public agrees with two-thirds backing the over, money reportedly is considerably under.

Yale vs. LSU: More public sentiment for an underdog after the Bulldogs’ high-profile, high-scoring win versus Harvard, but it was LSU that took some widely-reported steam at -7. Yale has attracted nearly two-thirds of the spread action and even a greater percentage of the ML play.

Seton Hall vs. Wofford: The Terriers may be touted as the public’s underdog coming into the tournament, and although they are receiving a slight majority of the spread tickets, the money count is relatively even. The public is reportedly heavy on the Wofford money line.

Abilene Christian vs. Kentucky: Widely-reported steam came in on ACU at +22, but it has been strong money on UK minus-the-points ever since. Totals tickets are shaded to the over, and although overwhelming money is on the under, the number remained steady.

Minnesota vs. Louisville: Public money reportedly is overwhelming on the under here, but note that the total has ticked slightly higher. Reportedly, about two-thirds of the public tickets are on the Cards.

Bradley vs. Michigan St.: The Braves are taking a significant amount of the public money, which resulted in a move off of a +20. The totals tickets were shaded under but this total moved higher off an opener as low as 132.

Florida vs. Nevada: More than three-quarters of the public tickets were on the over, but sharps reportedly moved several times on the under, which likely will balance the book. Widely-reported steam also came in on the Gators when the line touched +3.

Montana vs. Michigan: Steam came in on Montana at +16 and the early money has been very strong on the Grizzlies, particularly on the money line. This total also got hit under a couple of times once it touched 132.5, though totals tickets were split.

New Mexico St. vs. Auburn: Another early public underdog with the Aggies, who opened as high as +9, but bettors were also coming in heavy on the NMSU money line. Totals tickets were leaning over but the money was relatively split.

Northeastern vs. Kansas: Two-thirds of the tickets and an even higher percentage of the money came in on the Huskies to take three points off an opening number as high as +10. Even some respected steam at -7.5 could’t stem move to the ‘dog. The public was going over at nearly a 7-to-3 ratio.

Baylor vs. Syracuse: More than two-thirds of the action and even more on the money was coming in on short favorite Syracuse but sharps appeared to come in on the buy-back at +3. Steam, sharp action and the public drove this total sharply under from an opener of 135.


Central Florida vs. VCU: This game generated the most number of significant market events in early betting. The total got steamed over 125 but buy-back came in at 127 and nearly three-quarters of the money was on the under. Sharps moved on VCU early, but the Knights got steamed twice on Monday.

Gardner-Webb vs. Virginia: Two-way steam reported on the total but more than two-thirds of the public money was on the over. Unlikely many of the small conference ‘dogs, the Cavs were getting the slight public leans on both spread tickets and spread money.

Oklahoma vs. Mississippi: Steam came in on the under as well as more than three-quarters of the public totals tickets. The public preferred the Sooners on the money line with more than 70 percent of the tickets, but the straight-up money was decidedly on Ole Miss.

Iowa vs. Cincinnati: Reported sharp move on Iowa off a short-lived +4.5, although more than 70 percent of the early spread action — tickets and money — was on the Bearcats. Two-way sharp action reported on the total but books were more impressed with the move under the opener of 139.

Colgate vs. Tennessee: Respected sharps pounded this total under 151 as more than 3 of every 5 tickets were on the low and even a higher percentage of the money. More than 3 of 5 were also on the Vols, but ‘Gate was taking as much as 70 percent of the spread money.

Iona vs. North Carolina: A strong majority of tickets and money were on the total over, and reported steam came in on the high at 166. Spread tickets were shaded in favor of the Tar Heels, but the money was relatively split.

Washington vs. Utah St.: Sharps reportedly helped drive this total higher with three market-impacting moves over 134. Two-thirds of the spread tickets and three-quarters of the spread money were on the Aggies.

Ohio St. vs. Iowa St.: This total had widely-reported steam over 140 but the move has since gone the other way with two-thirds of the public tickets going under. The Cyclones were taking the slight majority of public action with a reported sharp tick on OSU +5.5.

Georgia St. vs. Houston: Tickets were relatively split on the total, but the money was overwhelming on the under, causing the move lower. The Cougars were taking nearly two-thirds of the spread tickets and three-quarters of the ML tickets. Houston getting used heavy in parlays.

No. Kentucky vs. Texas Tech: A pair of significant under moves turned the screen black at 138, sending the total back down closer to the 136.5 opener. The Red Raiders are an extremely popular parlay selection, although the spread action was mostly split.

Liberty vs. Mississippi St.: Game opened as high as -8 but when the overwhelming public action came in on the Flames, sharps moved in to lay -6.5. This total got steamed over at 136 despite the public tickets and money decidedly under.

Saint Louis vs. Va. Tech: Hokies a favorite that actually took some early steam at -9.5 but more than 75 percent of the public money has been on the Billikens. Still, books seem to respect the professional move. Public money also overwhelming on the under here.

Oregon vs. Wisconsin: WIdely-reported steam under in the lowest-predicted total. The public tickets are shaded to the under, as well, but a greater majority of the money is on the low. Public tickets and money leans are to the Ducks, but sharp moves reportedly have come in on both.

UC Irvine vs. Kansas St.: Anteaters were the early public move off the strength of two-thirds of the public’s ticket action. The tickets and money were decidedly on the under but this total moved slightly higher off the opener.

Here are our first-round selections:


Florida vs. Nevada (-2): Take the Gators against the other Mountain West co-champ as we look to fade any west team not named Gonzaga. FLORIDA

New Mexico State vs. Auburn (-6.5): Discounted price on the red-hot SEC tourney champ Tigers, winners of eight-straight, after the early move on the ‘dog Aggies. AUBURN


Washington vs. Utah State (-2.5): Prefer to take the Pac-12 champs getting points against the Mountain West co-champs. WASHINGTON

UC Irvine vs. Kansas State (-5): UCI’s season has been awesome but the move doesn’t seem too sharp. Lay the points with the Big 12 co-champs. KANSAS STATE

Last week: 1-2

Season: 42-56-1

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