Bet Smart: NCAA Tournament First Play in Games – Metro US

Bet Smart: NCAA Tournament First Play in Games

Temple at Houston
Temple at Houston. Getty Images


Is that music getting closer? The 2019 Big Dance is about to begin!

Fairleigh Dickinson has trekked from Teaneck, New Jersey to Dayton, Ohio for the NCAA Tournament’s first first play-in game Tuesday vs. Prairie View. Both are #16 seeds. That’s followed by what’s already a much-anticipated battle of #11 seeds featuring Belmont and Temple.

Let’s look at both matchups from a market perspective

*Fairleigh Dickinson vs. Prairie View (TruTV, 6:40 p.m.)

Low profile teams like these aren’t a significant part of regular season betting action. So, oddsmakers are quick to move their openers if they believe sharps might be taking a strong position. Soft openers around pick-em moved initially to FDU, lifting the line to -1.5. By the time you read this, informed money may have shown more interest.

Respected computers see this as a virtual toss-up. Ken Pomeroy (kenpom.com) ranked FDU #208 nationally entering the new week, Prairie View #209. The NCAA’s “NET” ranking system had it #203 and #205. That suggests a pull back toward pick-em if there’s a further drift away from equilibrium.

There will be a test of wills regarding tempo. Pomeroy ranks Prairie View as one of the 40 fastest teams in the nation after adjusting for opponents. FDU is slightly below average in adjusted pace. Who can pull whom out if its comfort zone?

The winner will be a huge underdog to top West seed Gonzaga later this week in Salt Lake City.

*Belmont vs. Temple (TruTV, 9:10 p.m.)

Soft openers offshore and in Nevada were in the range of Belmont -3 to -4. That tells you right there that oddsmakers thought the Bruins were better than a bubble caliber team. Your game day line will tell you which direction pro bettors preferred to “sharpen” the number.


If you’ve been following the Big East, it’s easy to deduce a sense of where Belmont stands in the big picture. Belmont is from Murray State’s conference. Murray State opened as a +4 Dance underdog to Marquette. That’s about the same point spread as Marquette vs. Seton Hall in the Big East semifinals last week. So, think of Murray State as equal Seton Hall. Belmont was -2 over Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference finals. Belmont should be about a bucket better than Seton Hall on your Power Ratings scale.

Is the market giving too much credit to the likes of Belmont and Murray State? That could be one of the compelling stories of the entire first week. Both are positioned to make a statement, but either could be exposed.

Tuesday, Belmont/Temple should be a track meet. Belmont is even faster than Prairie View, while Temple moves at an above-average pace.

The winner of Belmont/Temple matches up with #6 Maryland Friday in Jacksonville. These teams are grouped in the same quarter as #3 LSU, and the same half as #2 Michigan State in the East regional.

Back Wednesday to preview St. John’s/Arizona State and North Carolina Central/North Dakota State. Intense Dance coverage from VSiN will continue throughout the single greatest betting event on the sports calendar!


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