Somehow, the NCAA Tournament went from one of the most mediocre talent balances of college basketball teams ever to the most competitive Sweet 16 in tourney history. Apparently, that’s what happens when favorites go 16-0 straight-up for the first time ever in the Round of 32.
There were plenty of money line parlay winners for the books to lament about. Still, that doesn’t mean that the first weekend of games was memorable.
No buzzer-beaters and several blowouts left only one semi-long shot left in the field in 12th-seeded Oregon, which had danced plenty in the past and hardly seems to fit the slipper as one of the nation’s hottest covers. While Auburn was the only other non-top four seed to make it to the second weekend.
The drama is now there, however, after Duke appeared vulnerable, Virginia got past the first weekend in after two seasons, and Gonzaga looked as poised as ever.
But it was beyond that trio that has bettors so excited for this week, as a case could be made for nearly every team left in the field to have a legitimate chance at reaching the national championship game, and half of the remaining teams with likely a five percent chance or better to win the title.
Often, some of these high-profile, elite programs will end up spread losers as publicly-back teams. But it should be noted that six teams in the Sweet 16 — Michigan St., Virginia, North Carolina, Houston, Gonzaga, and Oregon — are among the 10 best point spread teams in the nation this season.
Here’s a look at the matchups and how the early wagering has gone:
Florida St. vs. Gonzaga: The Bulldogs are not the popular pick here early as bettors likely remember last year’s 75-60 Seminoles win. Around two-thirds of the action was on FSU in early wagering, while the over was receiving an overwhelming amount of the money on the total.
Purdue vs. Tennessee: The Vols were taking nearly two-thirds of all the action and over 80 percent of the money in early accounts but bookmakers weren’t impressed with the support, as they held the line at -1. The public lean was coming in on the over at just more than 60 percent.
Texas Tech vs. Michigan: In a game between elite defensive teams, public money was sided on the under at just over 70 percent despite a near-even split in tickets. These two teams have combined to go 28-41-1 to the under this season.
The public appears neutral on the side, although UM the Wolverines received a small tick up from oddsmakers to -2. UNDER
Oregon vs. Virginia: Around three-quarters of the totals tickets were coming in on the over, but the under was receiving a small majority of the money, as the opening number of 119 received two-way steam. Public tickets were leaning to Oregon but it was Virginia that ticked up one point.
LSU vs. Michigan St.: The total here has dropped from a high of 151.5 on a pair of steam moves and about two-thirds of the public money. Tickets on the side were relatively mixed, although the Tigers were drawing more than nearly two-thirds of the public money.
Auburn vs. North Carolina: This total had the most drastic move after some widely-reported steam on the over helped drive the number higher after the consensus 160.5 opener. The public ticket and money were on the Tar Heels but books moved the side one point in favor of the Tigers.
Virginia Tech vs. Duke: Tech won the much-talked-about first meeting in which Zion Williamson was sidelined, but remember, the Hokies were without Justin Robinson. Hard to ignore Duke’s 10-25-1 run to the under this season as the money was extremely heavy on the low early on, though books hardly moved the number. Spread money was also heavy on the Hokies. VIRGINIA TECH
Houston vs. Kentucky: These two teams combined to go 27-42-2 to the under this season and the public came with a solid two-thirds of the action on the low driving the number down one point. Houston is 22-12-2 ATS this season but the spread and money line action were relatively split early on.
Last week: 2-2
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