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Bettors beat sportsbooks as favorites roll in NCAA Tournament

The betting public lost on the upset-filled first round of the NCAA Tournament. But bettors bounced back in the second round as favorites won 15 of 16 games, including all eight on Saturday.

“Saturday was like a right hook from Mike Tyson in his prime,” Caesars vice president of trading Craig Mucklow said. “It was a tremendous day for the customers. Everything they bet went their way. All the parlays cashed.

“March Madness is about the Cinderellas and the upsets. But we’re not seeing that. Not in this round.”

Favorites were 11-0 straight up and 8-3 against the spread in the round of 32 before Clemson (+4½) became the only underdog to punch a ticket to the Sweet 16 in Sunday’s 72-64 win over Baylor.

Favorites finished 11-5 ATS in the second round after No. 1 seed Houston outlasted Texas A&M 100-95 in overtime Sunday night but failed to cover as an 8½-point favorite.

The Cougars are four wins away from winning the national championship and cashing Houston furniture store owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale’s $1 million wager at Caesars to win $7.5 million.

Fellow top seeds Purdue (-11½, beat Utah State 106-67), Connecticut (-13½, beat Northwestern 75-58) and North Carolina (-3½, beat Michigan State 85-69) won and covered.

“The one upside to it is that we are going to come out of this weekend with just terrific regional matchups,” Westgate SuperBook director John Murray said. “The Sweet 16 is going to be awesome. All the best teams are moving on, basically.”

Sweet 16 spreads

On Thursday, North Carolina is a 4-point favorite over Alabama, Iowa State is favored by 2 over Illinois, Arizona is a 7-point favorite over Clemson and Connecticut is favored by 9½ over San Diego State.

On Friday, Purdue is a 4½-point favorite over Gonzaga, Tennessee is favored by 2½ over Creighton, Marquette is a 6½-point favorite over North Carolina State and Houston is favored by 4 over Duke.

Tough beats

Creighton capped off Saturday’s 8-0 sweep for favorites (6-2 ATS) with an unlikely cover. The Bluejays were a 3½-point favorite over Oregon and won 86-73 in double overtime.

Ducks backers and under bettors were dealt brutal losses. Oregon squandered a 62-58 lead in the final 28 seconds of regulation. It also forced a second overtime when Jermaine Couisnard tied it 71-71 with a 3-pointer.

Creighton outscored Oregon 15-2 in the second overtime to cover and send the game over the total of 147½, sealing sportsbooks’ fate along the way.

“You got your money line parlays that build throughout the day and you know that if you don’t get any of these (favorites) to get knocked out, you’re going to get to that last game and it’s just not going to be pretty no matter who wins,” Murray said. “On top of everything else, you end up with the favorite winning and covering and the game going over on the last game of the night.

“We won more on Thursday than we lost on Saturday, but it certainly wasn’t good.”

Overtime is also where the under (146½) went to die in N.C. State’s 79-73 win over Oakland. DJ Burns Jr. missed a short bank shot with 17 seconds left in regulation for the Wolfpack and the Golden Grizzlies turned it over before they could attempt a winning shot.

Oakland, which closed as a 6½-point underdog, salvaged an improbable cover in overtime. Trailing 79-70 with 13 seconds left, DQ Cole made a deep 3-pointer to make it 79-73. N.C. State turned the ball over before getting it back with seven seconds to play, but it wasn’t fouled as time expired.

The only other favorite that won but didn’t cover Saturday was Tennessee (-6½) in a 62-58 win over Texas.

Marquette (-4½) also won but failed to cover in Sunday’s 81-77 victory over Colorado.

Favorites are 29-19 ATS in the NCAA Tournament.

Major wagers

Caesars took a bevy of six-figure bets, many on big favorites on the money line.

“There’s too many to mention,” Mucklow said. “It’s the most popular tournament there is.”

Caesars took a $260,000 wager to win $26,000 on Connecticut on the money line (-1,000) and a $200,000 bet to win $1,000 on Duke on the in-play money line (-2,000).

The Blue Devils (-6½) destroyed James Madison 93-55.

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

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