As we close in on the start of the Sweet 16 on Thursday, the action at Las Vegas sports books has moved the lines in the direction of three underdogs and one favorite.
Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito broke down each game:
Loyola-Chicago vs. UNR, 4:07 p.m.
Opening line: UNR -2.5
Current line: UNR -1.5/-1
“This number has come down a little bit. The big question here is which Cinderella team is going to continue to dance. I don’t think it’s a big surprise that Nevada got there, but Loyola is kind of a Cinderella darling story. They give up a lot of points, but they’re third in the nation in field-goal percentage.”
Texas A&M vs. Michigan, 4:37 p.m.
Opening line: Michigan -3
Current line: Michigan -2.5
“That line is coming down a little bit, too. There has been some play on A&M. The question is can Michigan find their offense? That’s a big key. They haven’t really looked that good.”
Kansas State vs. Kentucky, 6:37 p.m.
Opening line: Kentucky -6
Current line: Kentucky -5
“There has been a little bit of action on Kansas State. Kentucky is playing as good as anybody in the tournament right now and really hasn’t been challenged yet. But this Kansas State team might be the best team they’ve faced over the last six or seven games.”
Florida State vs. Gonzaga, 7:07 p.m.
Opening line: Gonzaga -5.5
Current line: Gonzaga -6/-6.5
“The one favorite (Thursday) that is getting some play is Gonzaga. Gonzaga is better on both sides of the ball, but this Florida State team was outplayed almost the entire game against Xavier and still pulled off the big upset. There might be some value if the number continues to go up.”
Kansas State (+5.5) over Kentucky
Sharp bettors took Kansas State at plus 6.5 and plus 6, and handicapper Kelly Stewart (@KellyInVegas) also is backing the underdog despite several trends in favor of Kentucky, which has won and covered its past five games and has never lost to Kansas State (9-0).
“Kansas State is one of the best defenses Kentucky has faced all season,” she said. “I’m taking the better defense plus the points.”
Kansas State shut down Creighton, one of the highest-scoring teams in the country, in a 69-59 win in the first round, then eliminated Maryland-Baltimore County in an ugly 50-43 win in the second round.
Kentucky held off Davidson (78-73) before blowing out Buffalo (95-75), and Stewart said there’s a recency bias.
“What does the betting public remember last?” she said. “How absolutely ugly Kansas State’s game was against the Retrievers and how Kentucky absolutely dominated a Buffalo team that upset Arizona.”
Kentucky is on a 9-1 over run.
Kentucky (-110) to win South Regional
Handicapper Bruce Marshall prefers to take Kentucky to win the South Regional, where it would face the winner of UNR-Loyola-Chicago in the final. It’s available at minus 110 at the Westgate sports book.
“It’s an interesting price. If Kentucky beats Kansas State, you could have a great chance to middle that with Loyola or the Wolf Pack getting 6 or 8 points and cover your Kentucky bet,” said Marshall (Goldsheet.com). “There’s a good chance to win both. I’m surprised Kentucky is that cheap.”