The Sweet Sixteen is here! This year’s NCAA Tournament has provided us with upsets galore, which has been great for underdog bettors. We get some more terrific matchups this weekend, so it will be interesting to see if the dogs can keep barking on the betting side.
Prior to making your wagers, it's worth reading up on which sides are drawing sharp and public action from an oddsmaker’s point of view.
To learn more about the betting markets for this weekend, we talked to Johnny Avello, sportsbook director of DraftKings for his insights.
Villanova vs. Baylor (-7.5); Total 142
Baylor has been one of the best teams in the nation all year long, so them making it this far was a given. Villanova on the other hand, not so much after they lost their leader in point guard Collin Gillespie to injury.
Betting wise, Avello said Baylor is one of the few favorites getting money this weekend.
“We’re seeing 85% of the action on Baylor, mostly public money,” per Avello. “Villanova is on a great run and you never want to underestimate Jay Wright.”
The total had moved a ton since the line opened, so I asked him about it.
“The total has jumped big from 137.5 to 141 and it will probably be higher by tip-off,” Avello said. “It was a mix of sophisticated and unsophisticated money that caused the move.”
He was right, as of writing this article, the total had already moved to 142.
Oral Roberts vs. Arkansas (-11.5); Total 158.5
Oral Roberts is one of the best stories of the tournament. The 15th seed upset both Ohio State and Florida on their way to the Sweet Sixteen. OR faces a tougher test in a tough Arkansas team, but that hasn’t stopped bettors from backing them.
“We’re seeing all Oral Roberts money so far,” the oddsmaker said. “The public likes the Cinderella story here and are on them again against a good Arkansas team.”
Avello said again because the team's win over Florida was one of the biggest losses for their book since the tournament started.
Oregon State vs. Loyola Chicago (-6.5); Total 124.5
Two teams that not many penciled to get here matchup in what should be a grinder of a game.
“The money is on the dog here in Oregon state,” he said. “We opened the line at 7 and now we've dropped it to 6.5.”
Avello pointed out the run Pac-12 teams are having and how that's affected the public’s mindset going into this weekend. He also stated that some sharps liked the +7 number, so it's a mix of both public and wiseguys money on Oregon State.
We also both agreed that we love Loyola Chicago as a team, but it’s very different being a favorite as opposed to a big underdog like they were against Illinois.
As for the total, it has bounced around.
“We opened at 127 and then dropped it to 125.5,” Avello said. “But, since hitting that number, its been all OVER money.”
DraftKings is also seeing a good amount of money being bet on Oregon State’s moneyline.
Syracuse vs. Houston (-6.5); Total 141
The red-hot Orangemen face off against a Cougars team that has quietly been one of the best teams in the nation all season long.
“We’re seeing a lot of Syracuse money as we opened this line at 7 and it got hit immediately,” he said. “This is one of those games where some sharp guys hit 7, because they liked the number.”
Avello pointed out that teams usually panic vs. the zone once they get down early. Case in point West Virginia.
The total has been hit OVER by the public.
Florida State vs. Michigan (-2.5); Total 143.5
Two teams with contrasting styles face-off in this one. It would’ve been fun to see Michigan with their senior forward Isaiah Livers who is out because of injury in this game. The Wolverines sure could’ve used him in this battle.
“This is one of those games where we are seeing action on both sides, but a little bit more on Michigan,” per Avello. “We opened it at 2.5, and then it went to 3, and now it is back to 2.5."
He thinks it will settle there until tip.
As for the total, the UNDER was hit hard as soon as they put the number up.
“We opened around 148 and we’ve had to drop it to 144, as we got sharp action on the total,” Avello said. “This is the one they were on early where sharp guys took that number early and continuously hit it.”
Creighton vs. Gonzaga (-13); Total 157.5
Can anyone stop the ‘Zags from winning the title this year? The Bulldogs have been the favorite to win it all since the season started, but face a Bluejays team that can score.
“Creighton isn’t getting any money on the spread,” he stated. “We have over 80 percent of the money and moneyline on Gonzaga.”
He did indicate that a few people sprinkled some money on the Creighton moneyline because they like the 7-1 payout possibility. But, otherwise, it’s all Gonzaga money so far.
Oregon vs. USC (-2); Total 138
Two Pac-12 teams collide here in what should be a great game. Both teams disposed of their opponent’s in the last round quite easily and they are familiar with each other.
“We saw some money come in on USC -1.5, so we went up to 2.5 and then saw some buy back on Oregon,” Avello explained
“Total wise, we can't find a bet on the under 138,” per Avello. “We are thinking about moving it up to 139.”
UCLA vs. Alabama (-7); Total 146
UCLA is firing on all cylinders right now but they face an Alabama team that is balanced and stacked in their own right.
Avello said ‘Bama is another favorite that is getting hit.
“We got Alabama money at 5, 5.5, 6 and 6.5,” he said.
The total has been all public OVER money.
“UCLA loves to play uptempto and ‘Bama can score,” Avello stated.
Every oddsmaker I spoke to last week said they were heavy on Illinois futures. Them going down was a huge win for all of the sportsbooks.
“Illinois losing was a win because bettors were on them big in futures, but also on the moneyline, side, and everything you can think of against Loyola,” Avello explained. “Bettors had no faith in Loyola, which was our biggest win of the tournament by far for the book.”
Let the Madness continue!
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