Last Saturday and Sunday were historic in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Betting favorites went a perfect 16-0 straight up. The only “seed upset” was #5 Auburn beating #4 Kansas in the Midwest Region. But, Auburn closed as a 2-point favorite on betting boards. The only team seed worse than #5 still alive is #12 Oregon in the South Region. Oregon was favored over #13 seed Cal-Irvine.
That dense cloud of chalk (Las Vegas slang for favorites because point spreads used to be written on chalk boards) in the round of 32 has set up what might be the most exciting Sweet 16, Elite 8, and Final 4 ever. Though, it’s worth wondering, could the lack of upsets just mean that a whole bunch of shoes are about to drop these next few days?
Every money line tells you what “the market” thinks about upset potential in each game. Let’s quickly run through Thursday’s card from that perspective. Games, point spreads, and notes on sharp betting are presented in tip off order.
*Florida State (+7.5) vs. Gonzaga (CBS, 7:09 p.m.): The top seed in the West is about a 3-to-1 favorite to play Saturday. Closing money lines should settle around Gonzaga 75%, Florida State 25% to win the game. Seminole support as a “defensive dog” could show before tip-off. FSU ranks in the top 10 nationally in “adjusted defensive efficiency” according to stat guru Ken Pomeroy. Sharps would love the dog at +8 if the public drives this favorite higher.
*Purdue (+1.5) vs. Tennessee (TBS, 7:29 p.m.): This is the tightest spread of the night (and the whole Sweet 16), so Purdue has the most upset potential by default. The market says Tennessee is about 52% to win straight up, Purdue 48%. Neither sharps nor the public have been betting the Volunteers at this very low price, suggesting a true coin flip.
*Texas Tech (+2) vs. Michigan (CBS, 9:39 p.m.): Another projected nail biter, with Michigan 54%…Texas Tech 46% to advance. Of course, this could flip with the prior game before evening action begins depending on game-day betting. A hint for reading sharps…whenever a line stays “painted” on the same number across computer screens for this long, you can assume that sharps will fade public moves in either direction. Pro bettors aren’t involved yet…and would take Michigan -1.5 or Texas Tech +2.5.
*Oregon (+8.5) vs. Virginia (Friday, TBS, 9:57 p.m.): Virginia is the biggest favorite in the entire Sweet 16 because it faces the only double-digit seed. The Cavaliers are 79% to win Thursday night, compared to 21% for the Ducks. Basically a four-to-one favorite. Virginia was popular with all bettors at the earliest openers of -7 and -7.5. It might take the full nine for sharp dog lovers to take any stands.
History suggests favorites can’t dodge the laws of math forever. Do you see any dogs that will bite Thursday night?
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