Las Vegas Review-Journal betting reporter Todd Dewey will be writing a live blog Friday on the second day of the NCAA Tournament from the Westgate sports book.
5:57 p.m. — With in-progress wagering and betting on the first half, second half and props in addition to the side and total, it’s hard to always know what people are screaming about in the book. For example, I was waiting for some food at the deli when the crowd exploded and I turned to see a middle-aged man yelling, pumping his fists and high-fiving his friend with veins bulging out of his neck.
A quick glance at one of big screens showed a replay of Duke’s Jayson Tatum blocking a shot at the first-half buzzer to preserve the Blue Devils’ 52-38 halftime lead over Troy. A look at the betting board showed Duke was a 12½-point favorite over the Trojans in the first half. The Blue Devils were up nine with 50 seconds left when Frank Jackson made a jumper to extend the lead to 11. Following a Troy turnover, Grayson Allen drained a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left to push the lead to 52-38, which would cash first-half tickets if Duke held on. The Trojans still had time for a shot and Jeremy Hollimon took it hard to the hole for a potential back-door cover. But Tatum emphatically swatted that notion away.
The Blue Devils backers were at it again at the end of Duke’s 87-65 win. The Blue Devils, who closed as 19½-point favorites, led by 19 after a Troy free throw with 1:15 left. Jackson make a jumper to extend the lead to 21, and Javin DeLaurier then stole the ball on a breakaway for Duke to all but seal the cover as the crowd went wild. As he drove to the hoop for an easy layup, DeLaurier lost the ball as bettors groaned. But the ball sailed directly into the hoop, triggering one of the loudest cheers of the day. Only in Las Vegas.
2:31 p.m. — Friday’s opening game between Michigan and Oklahoma State produced the first bad beat of the tournament and the loudest roar in Las Vegas sports books. Now we have the biggest upset as Southern California, a 7½-point underdog to Southern Methodist, rallied from 10 points down in the second half en route to a 66-65 win over the Mustangs.
Elijah Stewart hit a 3-pointer from the corner to put the 11th-seeded Trojans ahead 66-65 with 36 seconds left. Chimezie Metu missed a free throw for USC with 13 seconds left to give SMU a shot to win it. Shake Milton drove to the hoop for the potential game-winner, but his layup attempt clanged off the front of the rim as time ran out and hundred of bettors erupted in the book.
SMU closed as a 7½-point favorite after opening at 6½ and the Trojans cashed at plus-310 on the money line.
1:41 p.m. — Oregon rolled to a 93-77 win over Iona as the game flew over the total that closed at 156½ after opening at 152. The Ducks also covered the 15½-point spread after the Gaels cut a 26-point second-half deficit to 13 with 4:23 left. Iona had a shot at the back-door cover but Sam Cassell Jr. missed a 3-pointer with 18 seconds remaining.
Arkansas beat Seton Hall 77-71 — covering as a 1-point underdog after opening as a 1-point favorite — with the help of a bad call. The Pirates, who were outscored 21-7 to end the game, trailed 72-71 with 18.3 seconds left when Desi Rodriguez intentionally fouled Jaylen Barford to stop the clock. Rodriguez accidentally tripped Barford on the foul, which was ruled a flagrant and gave the Razorbacks two free throws, the ball and the win.
No. 14 seed New Mexico State, an 11½-point underdog to Baylor, led 40-38 at halftime but was outscored by 20 in the second half as the Bears won and covered in a 91-73 victory. The Aggies cut a 20-point second-half deficit to 11 with 2:46 left but Baylor ended the game with a 11-4 run.
11:36 a.m. — The crowd exploded with its loudest roar of the first two days of the NCAA Tournament when Jawun Evans buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer for Oklahoma State in its 92-91 loss to Michigan. Evans didn’t celebrate the otherwise meaningless shot, but Cowboys bettors went wild as it cashed their tickets. The Wolverines were 2½-point favorites, meaning Michigan bettors suffered a brutal bad beat, the first of the tournament.
The Wolverines were up by seven with 23 seconds left before the Cowboys tried to extend the game by making shots and fouling. D.J. Wilson made two free throws with 3.7 seconds left to put Michigan ahead 92-88 and seal the win. But the cover was still in doubt. As Evans rose up for a 3, the standing-room-only crowd held its collective breath before erupting when the ball swished through the hoop for a classic backdoor cover.
11:03 a.m. — Bettors were all over the Oregon-Iona over, pushing the total from 152 late Thursday night to 156½ before the 11 a.m. tipoff. It’s on an over pace through the first five minutes with Oregon ahead 14-6.
But the crowd in the book has been focused on the Michigan-Oklahoma State matchup, erupting for every basket by the Wolverines, who closed as a 2½-point favorite and are leading 82-77 with 2:53 left.
No. 3 seed Baylor, which closed as an 11½-point favorite, trailed No. 14 New Mexico State by two at halftime but have outscored them by 15 to start the second half and lead 60-47.
6:49 a.m. — And a Happy St. Paddy’s Day to ya!
Didn’t we just do this? The exhilarating and exhausting first four days of the NCAA Tournament already are starting to blend together as we pound a pot of coffee before embarking on another marathon session at the sports book.
The Irish are lucky to still be alive in the tournament after almost getting knocked out by Princeton in Thursday’s opening game.
That would’ve been the biggest upset of Day One, when a pair of 2-point underdogs produced the only outright upsets in Xavier’s win over Maryland and Northwestern’s victory over Vanderbilt.
Matthew Fisher-Davis’ head is probably hurting Friday more than anybody coming off a full day of betting and boozing in Las Vegas. He was the poor kid from Vanderbilt who mistakenly thought his team was down one instead of up one in the final seconds and intentionally fouled Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh, who made two free throws to give the Wildcats the win.
That was the worst beat from the first 16 games of the tournament. A No. 16 seed still hasn’t defeated a No. 1 seed, but two 16-seeds covered on Thursday to extend a trend that has seen 16-seeds go 12-6 against the spread over the last five years.
No. 1 North Carolina is a 26½-point favorite over Texas Southern at 1 p.m. Friday and No. 1 Kansas is a 23½-point favorite over UC Davis at 3:50 p.m.
Wagering update: There are 16 games Friday. Michigan is a 2½-point favorite over Oklahoma State in the 9:15 a.m. opener. The other early games are Baylor (-12½) vs. New Mexico State at 9:40 a.m.; Arkansas (-1) vs. Seton Hall at 10:30 a.m.; and Oregon (-15) vs. Iona at 11 a.m.
Westgate sports book director Jay Kornegay said Thursday that the sharps and so-called public squares are both on the Wolverines, coming off a four-game run to the Big Ten tourney title. The high-flying Cowboys are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games as underdogs.
Friday’s Best Bets
(Best bets: 2-0 Thursday; All bets: 2-2-1)
Oregon-Iona Over 152 (11 a.m.): Both teams hail from high-scoring conferences and should score a lot of points in a wide-open game. Iona, which scored at least 90 points in nine games this season, has gone over in 15 of its past 21 and won’t have to worry about facing injured Ducks shot blocker Chris Boucher. Oregon has gone over in six of seven.
Seton Hall (+1) over Arkansas (10:30 a.m.): The Pirates have hit their stride, winning five straight games before suffering a two-point loss to Villanova, in the Big East Conference tournament semifinals. When the line is three points or less in an 8-9 matchup, the underdog — in this case No. 9 Seton Hall — has covered 11 straight (including Northwestern on Thursday).
Rhode Island (pick) over Creighton (1:30 p.m.): The Rams are riding an eight-game win streak and playing their best basketball of the season after winning the Atlantic 10 tournament, while the Bluejays have lost seven of eight since losing point guard Maurice Watson in January to a season-ending injury.
Other plays Friday: Marquette (+1½) over South Carolina; New Mexico State (+12½) over Baylor
(This betting blog will be updated throughout the day).
Follow all of our NCAA Tournament coverage online at reviewjournal.com/MarchMadness.