Kentucky Represents Huge Liability for Sportsbooks

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The Final Four has arrived and Kentucky remains undefeated and one of the four. The Wildcats are the odds on favorite to end the season undefeated and win the national championship.

Shortly after Duke defeated Gonzaga to finalize the Final Four participants, bookmakers across Vegas and online made Kentucky the 5 to 6 or -120 favorite to win the national championship.

Kentucky is 38-0 and looking to become college basketball’s first team to go undefeated the entire season since the Indiana Hoosiers did so in 1976. However, if Kentucky does so, there are a number of books that will take hits on props bets and futures that were played months ago by bettors.

Last summer some books offered odds for Kentucky to go undefeated at 50 to 1. There were large sums of money that came in on the Wildcats and the books are now behind the eight ball for between high six figures and low seven figures if Kentucky wins.

Wisconsin will face the Wildcats and Duke will play Michigan State on Saturday. Both Duke and Wisconsin are currently 7 to 2 to win the national championship, will Michigan State a No. 7 seed in the tournament is at 8 to 1 to win the national title. Only a few weeks ago, Michigan State was a 100 to 1 long shot to win the national title. There were some takers for Michigan State at 100 to 1, but not as many as Kentucky as 50 to 1 several months ago.

Duke is 4.5-point chalk against Michigan State on Saturday. The Blue Devils defeated Michigan State November 18 as 8.5-point chalk in the State Farm Classic. Duke’s coach Mike Krzyzewski has an all time record of 8-1 against Tom Izzo the head coach for Michigan State.

One book had two bettors take Duke at 8 to 1 on a $50,000 bet and at 7 to 1 on a slightly smaller bet, which gives them a large sum of liability if the Blue Devils win the national title.

Kentucky opened as 6.5-point chalk in the other Final Four game against Wisconsin. The early betting has bet the line down to Kentucky -5.

At this point, nearly six times more money since the line opened has been bet on the Wisconsin Badgers. This is not the first time bettors went against Kentucky. In their West Virginia game in the Sweet 16, 96% of all money line bets were in West Virginia to win. The Wildcats won easily doubling the West Virginia score 78-39.

The betting public fared well this weekend on the Elite Eight as just one underdog was an outright winner.

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Arizona Meets Wisconsin in Rematch from Last Year’s …

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The West Region final tips off tonight from the Staples Center in Los Angeles between the No. 2 ranked Arizona Wildcats and the No. 1 seeded Wisconsin Badgers.

The current line has Arizona favored by 1.5 points with the point total sitting on 133.5.

Wisconsin is playing a second rematch in this tournament as, the Badgers eliminated Oregon for the second consecutive year. Now, the team meets Arizona who they knocked out of the tournament last season 64-63 in overtime.

In that win, Wisconsin erased an early deficit of eight points and took a lead of 5-points late in the game. The game eventually went to OT and Frank Kaminsky the talented big man for Wisconsin scored 6 points in the extra period to win the game.

Arizona defeated Xavier 68-60 to reach this point. The win was Arizona’s 14 straight.

Arizona did not cash as a favorite by 11.5 points.

Over the past five games played, Arizona is 2-3 against the number after going 13-2 ATS in 15 games prior to that.

Wisconsin’s win on Thursday was its 9 straight. The Badgers covered 6-point chalk in its 79-72 win over North Carolina.
The Badgers are an underdog for just the first time all season. Last season they also were given points in their 74-73 loss to Kentucky in the Final Four as a dog of one point.

Last season against Arizona, the Badgers were 3.5-point dogs and triumphed by 1 point.

The Badgers were 0-4 against the number to end February, but have gone 5-3 ATS over their past 8 games. The three ATS losses were on spreads as a favorite by 12 or more points.

Arizona did not have Brandon Ashley their 6-foot-9 forward in last year’s tournament game. This season he is scoring 12 points per game and hauling down 5 rebounds. He will likely play head to head with Kaminsky.

In Elite 8 Saturday’s the last decade, the underdog is 14-6 ATS. Wisconsin is 8-3-1 against the number in its past 12 games in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona is 15-5 against the number in its past 20 games overall.

With both teams mirror images of one another in a number of ways, especially when it comes to defense this game is hard to pick.

Arizona has revenge on its mind and has had one year to let it bother them.

The Wildcats not only did not have Ashley but nor did they have freshman sensation Stanley Johnson last season against Wisconsin.

I like Arizona and the UNDER.

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Tonight’s Games in the Sweet Sixteen

Bob Huggins
Bob Huggins

Can Bob Huggins and his Mountaineers pull off the upset of Kentucky?

Here are my thoughts on tonight’s Sweet Sixteen action.

West Virginia (+13.5) vs Kentucky – In case you didn’t notice, this kind of a big game. It’s not your ordinary Sweet Sixteen game simply because of what’s at stake. The Kentucky Wildcats are four wins away from the first unbeaten season since the mid-‘70’s Indiana Hoosiers.

If I’m the Mountaineers, I look at this line and immediately I’m playing the “disrespect” card. Bob Huggins’ team has beaten some good clubs this year including fellow Sweet Sixteen teams NC State and Oklahoma as well as Kansas.

WVU will dial up the heat with pressure defense but will Kentucky’s guards crack?

Trends: UK is 8-3-1 against the spread in their last 12 games… West Virginia has gone 19-13 ATS this season… The Mountaineers rebound better offensively by a margin of 16.5 to 12.9.

The Pick: I like West Virginia getting a bunch of points.

Brey

Mike Brey has to put his emotions aside and get his Irish focused on the Shockers.

Wichita State (-1.5) vs Notre Dame – This is easily my most difficult game to pick for tonight. Wichita State is so tough and they get every loose ball while Notre Dame can shoot the lights out if you aren’t careful.

I’d be remiss if I ignored the fact that ND Coach Mike Brey is dealing with the loss of his mother who passed away just prior to their game this past weekend. Will it factor in? I don’t think so but certainly his attention isn’t 100% on the Shockers.

At the same time, WSU Head Coach Gregg Marshall has to know his name has been tossed about for several openings or “potential” openings. Will this distract him? Hard to say.

Trends: The Shockers are 18-14-1 against the spread this year… The Irish are 15-13 ATS this season… Notre Dame has won five in a row.

Xavier (+10.5) vs. Arizona – The Musketeers are probably the team flying lowest below the radar in the Sweet Sixteen but any basketball fan knows this is a very good program. In both wins of the tournament, Xavier had to defeat teams with momentum. In the opener they beat an Ole Miss team that hung 90+ points on BYU and then had to beat the feel good story of week one Georgia State.

As good as Xavier is, they will need near perfection to beat Arizona. The Wildcats have won 20 of their last 21 games and are riding a very talented group of starters and role players. If the Musketeers will have a chance, they need to limit Arizona’s field goal shooting. The Wildcats are 6th in the country at just a shade under 49% on the season.

Trends: The Wildcats have won five straight games… The Musketeers are 17-17-1 against the spread this year… Arizona is 23-13 ATS this season.

The Pick: Give me Xavier and the points as they give the Wildcats some trouble early.

North Carolina (+6) vs Wisconsin – The Big Ten Champs got a bit of a wake-up call from Oregon in the round of 32. While I don’t think the Badgers were ever in harm’s way, it was a good dose of reality for them heading into a game with a traditional power. Wisconsin will go as Frank Kaminsky goes.The seven-footer is a match-up nightmare because of his ability to shoot from the outside and he’s an excellent passer as well.

Tar Heels’ Head Coach Roy Williams has already said the team will play tonight without sophomore center Kennedy Meeks who’s dealing with a knee problem. He reportedly practiced in Los Angeles during the team’s first practice there. Despite him being in a slump recently, his presence on the court is important.

Trends: The Badgers are 18-17-1 against the spread this season… The Tar Heels are 20-16-1 ATS in the 2014-2015 season.

The Pick: I like the Badgers to cover behind some stifling defense.

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Favorites Strong Run Cannot Slow Sportsbooks Down

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The favorites were able to close out the NCAA Tournament round of 64 on the run, but the slew of underdogs that came out on top in Thursday’s 16 games helped sportsbooks keep smiling as the tournament headed into the round of 32 this weekend.

During the round of 64, the favored team was victorious in 25 of the final 26 games including winning 15 of the 16 games played Friday. That run started when Xavier who was favored, defeated Ole Miss on Thursday and continued on until Friday’s last game when Dayton an underdog defeated Providence.

The favorites are winning, but not always by enough to cover the number. Underdogs were 8-8 against the number Friday and 20-12 against the number over the two first days of the NCAA Tournament.

Thursday was a huge day said one sportsbook. According to some, the day was the biggest single day win for the sportsbooks in memory.

Including the Tuesday and Wednesday First Four matchups, the underdogs covered the number in the tournament’s first 10 games. Favorites were 4-12 ATS on Thursday. Two No. 14 seeds UAB and Georgia State won straight up over No. 3 seeds as double-digit dogs, damaging the brackets and ripping apart moneyline parlay across the board.

According to Bovada and topbet, the sportsbooks did not make a clean sweep of the boards but they came darn close.

The public bettor is not the most sophisticated during March when celebrations of spring break collide with basketball’s March Madness. The public usually will fancy the favorites and the parlays at long odds. However, when a run of underdog covers takes place, as they did on Thursday, the books are the big winners.

Even Hampton, the No. 16 seed, the largest tournament dog in the NCAA in the past 16 years has its believers. Hampton lost as the great majority of the betting, sharp money and basketball fans in general figured they would.

However, they were 35-point dogs and lost by just 23. It was the biggest spread in the NCAA Tournament since 1999 when Duke was a favorite by 47 points over Florida A&M.

There were a number of moneyline bets for Hampton at 150 to 1 odds and all that money stayed with the sportsbooks.

The tournament continues on Saturday with eight games and another eight on Sunday to whittle the field to just 16 for the start of the Sweet 16 next Thursday.

There are sure to be many more upsets and dogs covering before this tournament has concluded.

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Who Would No. 1 Seeds Be in NCAA Tournament as of Today

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If the college basketball season ended today, who would the four No. 1 seeds be? According to odds on Bovada and topbet, the four top seeds would be Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin and Arizona.

It is near the beginning of March, which is college basketball’s most important month and just around the bend in less than three weeks is Selection Sunday.

Observers everywhere in college basketball are giving their opinions on what the 2015 Tournament field would consist of and what teams would be the No. 1, 2, 3 seeds and so on. Odds makers are betonline and sportsbook.com have also released their odds on the same.

If the season were to end today, the four top seeds based on odds we be Kentucky, which is 4 to 5 to win the national championship, Wisconsin sitting at 6 to 1, Duke at 10 to 1 and the Virginia Cavaliers at 12 to 1. The overall No. 1 seeds would hands down be the Kentucky Wildcats.

While both Gonzaga and Arizona share the same odds at 12 to 1 as Virginia, the Cavaliers would get the nod over the two because of their power ranking.

Another tie that would have to be broken for a No. 2 seed would be between Villanova and Kansas who are both at 30 to 1 to win the title. That seed would likely go to Villanova based on two things. The power rankings and on Monday night the Jayhawks lost to Kansas State to put their Big 12 regular season championship in jeopardy. Villanova on the other hand has won 8 straight including two over teams that were ranked at the time.

Of course, it is very early for answers to who will be the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. There are two weeks left of the regular season followed by conference end of the season tournaments and the remaining games along with conference tournament outcomes will influence the selection committee going forward.

Kentucky has a tough game against Arkansas this weekend, while Wisconsin must play No. 14 ranked Maryland Tuesday night. Therefore, anything can still happen to stir up the pot and likely will before it is all over.

Four Projected No. 1 Seeds
KENTUCKY 4 to 5
WISCONSIN 6 to 1
DUKE 10 to 1
VIRGINIA 12 to 1

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A Look at Favorites and Long-Shots As I Pick the Final Four

Donovan
Donovan

Billy Donovan points the way to Florida's third basketball championship.

The NCAA Basketball Tournament starts today and like the rest of you, my brackets are completed and have been submitted. I’m certainly not going to bore you with every one of my picks but in case you want to throw some last minute money on a team I’m going to give you the odds on the favorites and a couple of long-shots as well as my Final Four.

Florida 11/2 – I really don’t care how good or bad a conference is. If you go unbeaten in conference play you’re doing something right. This has been the most consistent team all year long despite having a very average offense. The defense is very good and Coach Billy Donovan has solid senior experience.

Michigan State 7/1 – The Spartans have become the overwhelming pick to not only get to the Final Four but to win the whole thing as well. Their run through the Big Ten Tournament masked some of the issues that plagued them in the season including their bevy of injuries. Are they peaking at the right time?

Louisville 13/2 – Speaking of peaking at the right time, the defending National Champs blitzed the field in their conference tournament and quite frankly, deserved a higher seed. Louisville will have experience on their side but they are under .500 in single-digit games and their free throw shooting is brutal.

Miller

Sean Miller has the Wildcats in prime position for a title run.

Arizona 9/1 – Since losing forward Brandon Ashley the Wildcats have gone 9-4. They were 21-0 prior to that. Despite the loss, I still think the ‘Cats are a threat because of their defense. If they can get just enough offense from their guards and big men they have a serious shot.

Virginia 10/1 – The Cavs aren’t exactly a scoring machine but they make up for that loss of points with stifling defense. They have held opponents to around 55 points per game. In the big dance, you win with defense, rebounding and a solid backcourt and Virginia has all three.

Wichita State 10/1 – What can you say? The Shockers are 34-0; score 74 points per game while giving up almost 20 points less per game. They have plenty of experience from last year’s Final Four run and play very efficient basketball. Do you trust their weak schedule though?

Kansas 10/1 – The Jayhawks will begin the tourney without Joel Embiid for at least the first round and possibly more. I would go so far as to say I don’t think you’ll see him at all. KU is just 2-3 since his back injury and their turnovers need to be reduced. Andrew Wiggins can carry this team but how far?

Duke 12/1 – My concern with the Blue Devils is rebounding and going cold. They rely so heavily on the three-point shot that going cold is a death sentence. Jabari Parker can take over games at times but he will need help to advance the Dookies very far.

Long-Shots (50/1 or Lower)

Ohio State 66/1 – The Buckeyes started so well this season and never really seemed to recover from their mid-season swoon. Thad Matta can flat-out coach in the tournament so keep an eye on them.

Providence 200/1 – The Friars come in as hot as anyone having blown through the competition to win the Big East. They aren’t real deep which is an issue but they rebound well and knock down their free throws as well.

North Carolina State 300/1 – The Wolfpack picked up a couple of big wins in the ACC Tournament to get themselves into a play-in game. They took advantage by beating Xavier to make the Big Dance. They must improve their three-point shooting and foul shooting to have a legitimate chance.

Tulsa 1,000/1 – The Golden Hurricane has won 11 straight games and is coached by Danny Manning who once carried Kansas to a National Title. Why couldn’t he do the same from the bench?

FINAL FOUR PICKS: Florida, Arizona, Louisville, Iowa State.

NATIONAL CHAMPION: Florida. Good defense, leadership, coaching and consistency add up to a title.

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Conference Tournaments Offer Wagering Opportunities Too

NCAA
NCAA

Don't wait for the Big Dance! Start March Madness with some conference tourney wagering.

While many conference tournaments are already underway across the country, the ‘big boys’ start their tournaments next week. We are just nine days from Selection Sunday and while the little conferences have their say in who will represent them, the larger conferences have no such worries.

Conferences like the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and so on know they will have multiple schools getting into the big dance while conferences like the Ohio Valley or SWAC are more than likely looking at just one team, the conference champion, getting in.

Fair or not, that’s the way basketball in the collegiate ranks works. It’s also why we as fans pay so little attention to these tournaments until their championship games are set. Even then our interest is little and is much more focused on the major conference tournaments ahead.

If you are already foaming at the mouth at the thought of filling out your NCAA brackets then I have something to tide you over. Many of you are already doing this but I know many of you aren’t and you are missing out!

I’m always on the lookout for numerous ways to gamble around the office. It’s a good way to build morale and goodwill in the workplace. All too often, we assume that there is nothing to do between the Super Bowl and the NCAA Tournament and I’m telling you that just isn’t so.

Depending upon where you live in the United States, you should be holding a conference tournament pool based on your nearest major conference.

If you live in Texas then you should be hosting an office pool for the Big 12 Conference Tournament or perhaps the SEC Tournament for you A&M folks.

If you’re in the upper Northeast you should have an American Athletic Conference Tournament pool or ACC if you’re in New York, Boston or Western PA.

Big Ten

Get a bracket just like this for all the major conferences and get your co-workers involved.

I think you get the idea….

What you’ll want to do is just set up a very standard bracket. For the Big Ten, you can print them right off at BigTen.org. The amount of money you decide per entry is up to you and hopefully you’ve been your office’s ‘gaming commissioner’ long enough to know whether $2 per sheet is good or if $20 per sheet is the number.

I suggest filling out the bracket as you would any NCAA bracket but there a couple of things to consider. Because you’re dealing with a small amount of games, you might want to give point values to each round of the conference tournament.

This will help eliminate some potential ties but it won’t alleviate all of them. Therefore, you’ll need a tie-breaker and I have two such ways of going about this.

The most standard practice is to go with “Write in the final score of the conference championship game.” You could use point spread first or use closest in terms of total points for the tie-breaker as well.

The other option for tie-breaker (or as a second tie-breaker if you have a small number of players) is to have each entrant choose the tournament’s most valuable player. This can be quite fun because almost always we see teams make runs to the conference title game that we never saw coming.

That means a larger pool of players to potentially choose from.

Regardless of what you do, don’t wait around for Selection Sunday and March Madness. Get the madness going sooner by wagering on conference tournaments next week. Good luck!

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