Wisconsin’s 65-62 win over No. 1 overall seed Villanova on Saturday was the biggest upset of the NCAA Tournament and cost a bettor at the South Point $50,000 on a losing Wildcats-Gonzaga money-line parlay.
But the heaviest action by far was on Arizona’s 69-60 win over Saint Mary’s. In fact, veteran South Point sports book director Chris Andrews said the matchup generated the largest handle of any basketball game he can remember.
“For Final Fours or anything,” he said. “Money just poured in on both sides of this game. Big money. There were a couple $20,000 bets both ways.”
The Wildcats closed as 5-point favorites at the South Point after the line opened at 3½ and moved as high as 5½.
“The first push was all Arizona, but then a ton of wiseguys played back on Saint Mary’s, which somewhat surprised me,” Andrews said.
Bettors were all over the Wildcats at Boyd Gaming, which also reported the biggest handle of the tournament on the game. But sports book director Bob Scucci said the house recouped some of its losses at halftime after Arizona, trailing 30-29, failed to cover the 3-point first-half spread.
“They were coming in really heavy on Arizona minus-3,” Scucci said. “The public lost on that one, but (on Friday) we got killed in first halfs. All the big favorites like North Carolina and Kansas, we got murdered on.”
The loudest roar of the day rang out at Las Vegas sports books when Nigel Hayes scored on a reverse layup with 11.4 seconds left to put the No. 8 seed Badgers ahead for good against Villanova. Wisconsin cashed at plus-230 on the money line — the Wildcats were minus-270 — but bettors lost big overall when the first top seed was eliminated.
No. 11 seed Xavier also won outright as a 7½-point underdog, whipping No. 3 Florida State 91-66 while cashing plus-270 on the money line.
“They were the two big ones for the sports books, mostly Villanova, because they knocked out some money-line parlays and teasers,” Scucci said.
Bettors also lost on Gonzaga, a 10½-point favorite over Northwestern that won but didn’t cover in a 79-73 win after squandering most of a 20-point second-half lead.
Wiseguys and the betting public lost on Notre Dame, which fell behind 10-0 and never recovered in an 83-71 loss to West Virginia, a 2½-point favorite.
Sharp bettors also lost on Middle Tennessee State at the South Point, as the Blue Raiders, getting 2½ points, were eliminated in a 74-66 loss to Butler.
“They blasted us Thursday on Middle Tennessee State, the darlings of the tournament,” incomparable South Point oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro said. “I’d like to put up a prop asking where Middle Tennessee State is, but you couldn’t say the middle of Tennessee.
“If you said, ‘Jimmy, Middle Tennessee State, where are they at? I’d say, ‘The middle of Tennessee.’ That’s all I know.”
If that prop is posted, bet big on Murfreesboro. If it loses, blame Google.
Vaccaro was incredulous that a bettor wagered $20,000 on Louisville to win $500 on the money line Friday in its 78-63 win over Jacksonville State.
“My generation would say, what the (expletive)? Are you nuts?” he said. “The money-line parlays have gone crazy the last 10 years. I never used to get those type of things.”
Favorites went 5-3 against the spread Saturday, and over-unders went 4-3-1. The over has cashed in 30 of 44 tournament games (30-12-2), including the First Four.
Bettors also have been cashing an intriguing “first team to 15 points” prop at MGM Resorts. They won on Xavier (plus-145), Wisconsin (plus-140) and Saint Mary’s (plus-125) Saturday after cashing plus-425 on Jacksonville State and plus-650 on Mount Saint Mary’s on Thursday against Villanova.
“That was a big one,” Rood said. “We lost the equivalent of a college football game just on the first 15 minutes when Villanova was sleepwalking.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@.com or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.