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Sportsbooks need Baylor over Gonzaga in NCAA title game

Updated April 5, 2021 - 7:43 am

Gonzaga is one win from completing the first perfect college basketball season since Indiana in 1976.

But if Las Vegas sportsbooks get their way, Baylor (27-2) will hand the Bulldogs (31-0) their first loss in Monday’s NCAA championship game.

Gonzaga is a consensus 4½-point favorite over the Bears, who are by far the best outcome on futures bets for the books.

“Baylor is a big number for us if they win,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said.

Baylor cruised to a 78-59 win over Houston as a 5-point favorite before Gonzaga barely passed its toughest test against UCLA.

Jalen Suggs banked in a buzzer-beating 3 to bail out the Bulldogs in a 93-90 overtime win over the 11th-seeded Bruins as 14½-point favorites.

One of the biggest shots in NCAA Tournament history also bailed out William Hill from a big loss. “We would’ve lost seven figures if UCLA had won outright,” Bogdanovich said. “They were taking 7-1 on the money line like it was going out of style.”

William Hill needed Gonzaga to win outright despite taking a $770,000 money-line wager to win $70,000 on the Bulldogs (-1,100).

The Westgate, South Point and BetMGM lost on the Final Four, though it would have been much worse for MGM had a bettor hit a $100,000 money-line bet to win $800,000 on the Bruins (8-1).

A South Point bettor won $30,000 on a $270,000 money-line bet on Gonzaga, and a Westgate bettor won $6,000 on a $72,000 money-line bet on the Bulldogs.

But not all big money-line bettors escaped with wins. A William Hill bettor lost a $43,831 money-line parlay of Gonzaga (-1,100) and the Connecticut women’s basketball team (-1,400) when Arizona upset the Huskies 69-59 on Friday. The parlay would have paid $7,400.

“Most of the time they are free money,” Bogdanovich said. “But the ones that aren’t take years off your life or a lot of cash off your bankroll. All it takes is one to put a dent in you.”

The South Point took sharp money on Gonzaga -4 and Baylor +4½. William Hill opened Gonzaga -5 before lowering the line to 4½, and Bogdanovich said the early action was “dead even” on each side. The total dipped from 160 to 159½.

Handicapper Paul Stone likes Baylor to cover, in part, for being fresher than Gonzaga after the Bulldogs’ physically and emotionally draining win. “Since bettors are often influenced by so-called recency bias, I fully expect Baylor will be the public side,” said Stone (@PaulStoneSports). “Still, I like the Bears plus the points.

“I think Baylor wins outright and spoils Gonzaga’s dreams of a national championship and perfect season.”

Bogdanovich also expects Baylor to prevail. “Baylor is one of the better teams I’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “I think they’re the best team.”

After Gonzaga saw its string of double-digit wins end at 28, Westgate vice president of risk Ed Salmons said the value is on the Bulldogs.

“I would lean Gonzaga. I think you’re getting a lower than advertised price than you would’ve got,” he said. “It’s tough, because Baylor goes deeper than Gonzaga. But at the end of the day, when the bank shot goes in for them, this seems like it’s Gonzaga’s year.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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