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Bettors roll in Elite Eight as Cinderella reaches Final Four

The betting public gave sportsbooks some of their March Madness winnings in the Sweet 16.

They won it all back in the Elite Eight.

Popular favorites Connecticut and Purdue covered while punching their tickets to the Final Four. The slipper also still fits on North Carolina State, a No. 11 seed that upset Duke on Sunday to advance to the national semifinals for the first time since 1983.

Connecticut is an 11½-point favorite over Alabama on Saturday in the Final Four in Phoenix. Purdue is favored by 9½ over N.C. State in the other national semifinal.

“I’m not sure how competitive these games will be at this point. I’m not sure anybody can be competitive with Connecticut,” Westgate SuperBook director John Murray said. “If anybody can give Connecticut a game, it’s going to be Purdue. But I don’t know if they can.”

Defending national champion Connecticut ran its double-digit win and cover streak in the NCAA Tournament to 10 games. It crushed San Diego State by 30 on Thursday as a 12½-point favorite. It then whipped Illinois by 25 on Saturday as an 8½-point favorite after going on an astonishing 30-0 run.

“I considered Illinois to be a pretty good team and Connecticut just crushed them,” Murray said. “A 30-0 run? I’ve never seen anything like that.”

The Huskies became the seventh NCAA champion to go 6-0 ATS in last year’s title run. They are now two wins and covers away from repeating the feat. Six wins in their streak have been by 23 points or more. None have been by fewer than 13 points.

“The public is really backing UConn,” Red Rock Resort sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “This team looks like a confident bunch. They’re deep and they never take their foot off the gas. They’re awfully good.”

Playing favorites

Purdue improved to 4-0 ATS in the tournament. It beat Gonzaga 80-68 on Friday as a 4½-point favorite, then erased an early 32-21 deficit in a 72-66 victory over Tennessee on Sunday as a 3½-point favorite.

The Boilermakers are two wins away from following Virginia’s lead and winning the national title a year after losing to a No. 16 seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“This has been one of the better tournaments for the bettors this year,” Esposito said. “The kind of roll Connecticut has been on covering every game and how well Purdue has played. Predominantly, there have been more favorites covering than we’ve seen in the past.”

Favorites are 35-25 ATS (58.3 percent) overall. They went 29-19 ATS the first two rounds, including 11-5 ATS in the second round. Underdogs won five of eight games in the Sweet 16 before favorites covered three of the four Elite Eight games. Alabama, which knocked off North Carolina on Thursday as a 4½-point underdog, beat Clemson 89-82 on Saturday as a 3½-point favorite.

“The Sweet 16 was one for the sportsbooks, but the Elite Eight was definitely one for the customers,” Caesars Sportsbook vice president of trading Craig Mucklow said.

Caesars got off the hook of a possible $7.5 million payout to Houston furniture store owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale when Houston lost to Duke on Friday. McIngvale lost a $1 million wager at Caesars on the Cougars to win it all.

‘Mighty fine slippers’

N.C. State now represents the book’s largest liability. It was a 250-1 long shot before the start of the first round to win the national title.

“We moved to 175-1 pretty quickly after a run of bets on them,” Mucklow said.

Bettors won six figures from Caesars on the Wolfpack to win the South Regional at 60-1 pretournament odds. N.C. State, which won five games in five days to win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, has won seven straight games as underdogs. That includes Sunday’s 76-64 win over Duke as a 7-point underdog.

The Wolfpack eliminated Marquette 67-58 on Friday as 7½-point underdogs as well.

“Not only do they end up winning these games, but pretty easily,” Murray said. “This has got to be in the ranks of the best runs ever.”

N.C. State, led by big man DJ Burns Jr., was still 35-1 at Caesars to win it all Sunday morning.

“Every bet on the bet ticker was on N.C. State to win outright,” Mucklow said. “Everybody’s calling them a Cinderella, but you’d be an April fool to write them off.

“They’re playing so well. They’re playing with house money.”

Connecticut is the -190 favorite at the SuperBook to win the title and Purdue is +225. Alabama is 18-1 and N.C. State is 20-1.

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

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