Sharps, Aztecs no match for UConn star Walker

It took some time to become a believer in Kemba Walker and his solo scoring show. But I took the lead and bet Connecticut early this week with an expectation the late, sharp action would follow.

Sometimes it’s OK to be on the wrong side of the line move.

By midafternoon Thursday, the money from the pros was flowing in on San Diego State. The line shifted two points to Aztecs minus-2 at every sports book in Las Vegas.

Walker stuck a dagger in the sharps, scoring 36 points to lift the Huskies to a 74-67 victory and converting several wiseguys into believers.

“We took quite a bit of San Diego State money, and we took some big bets,” said Mike Colbert, M Resort sports book director for Cantor Gaming. “For San Diego State to be (minus-2), it didn’t seem right. When we went to 2, I thought we would get a bet, and it just never came. We didn’t see a sharp bet on UConn.”

The first day of the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend was sweet for the books as the sharp bettors went 0-for-3 with Brigham Young, Duke and San Diego State.

The Blue Devils got stuffed into oblivion by Derrick Williams-led Arizona 93-77, and seeing Mike Krzyzewski’s smirk get wiped away in the massacre was priceless.

“Our two biggest decisions by far were UConn and Arizona,” Colbert said. “Duke was obviously bet heavily, with sharps and squares both on Duke.”

Cal Neva sports book director Nick Bogdanovich and the Las Vegas Hilton’s Jay Kornegay each echoed those betting patterns: The big money was on Duke and San Diego State.

The professionals also supported Jimmer Fredette, and BYU’s backers absorbed a sickening beat. The Cougars, who closed as 2½-point underdogs, fell to Florida 83-74 in overtime.

That game was a double whammy for some. The extra five minutes also sent the score over the total of 148½, and sharp money showed under the total.

There was positive news for the betting public, as Colbert said “some square money” on the Gators kept the result from being too lopsided.

Predictably, Fredette also snuck over his proposition total of 31½ points, but the BYU star was on tired legs and needed 29 shots to score 32 points. He connected on only 3 of 15 3-pointers. The Cougars played better and lasted a game longer than I expected, but all they really did was beat teams seeded No. 14 and No. 11 to reach the Sweet 16.

The bettors on Wisconsin got what they deserved. There was no evidence the Badgers deserved to be 4½ or 5-point favorites over Butler, and the Bulldogs continued to make believers.

Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack helped Butler drop the hammer on the Badgers, 61-54. The wagering was two-way, but the game was one-sided, as the Bulldogs led by 20 in the second half.

Three of four underdogs won outright Thursday, and BYU should have covered. Colbert anticipates a different theme to emerge today, saying, “I think I like all four favorites.”

He recommends siding with Florida State as a 3½-point favorite over Virginia Commonwealth and Ohio State laying 6 points to Kentucky.

The Buckeyes, the last team standing from the Big Ten, won’t be upset victims. Also today, Kansas is a 10½-point favorite over Richmond, and North Carolina is a 4½-point favorite over Marquette. Could the Tar Heels be following Duke home?

Walker and Williams were by far the most impressive performers Thursday, but only one will reach the Final Four.

Williams powered his way to 32 points and 13 rebounds to knock out defending champion Duke. Walker scored 12 straight points during a late Connecticut run that all but buried San Diego State.

The Aztecs missed too many free throws, lost their composure while drawing two technical fouls and never could stop Walker, who was not a one-man show. Freshman Jeremy Lamb added 24 points, and his key 3-pointer with 1:43 left turned out the lights on San Diego State’s greatest season.

Connecticut opened as a 2-point favorite over Arizona, and in Saturday’s other regional semifinal, Florida is a 2½-point favorite over Butler.

“Walker basically is refusing to lose right now,” Colbert said. “UConn is going to be a tough, tough out.”

Duke, however, went out with surprising ease. It was sweet to see.

Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts the “Las Vegas Sportsline” weeknights at midnight on KDWN-AM (720) and thelasvegassportsline.com.

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