Loyola-Chicago, underdog bettors ride hot streak to Final Four

Updated March 25, 2018 - 8:25 pm

Sister Jean joked on Twitter that she gave up losing for Lent. Underdog bettors apparently did, too, as they’ve been riding an NCAA Tournament hot streak that rivals the improbable run enjoyed by Loyola-Chicago and its 98-year-old team chaplain.

When Kansas defeated Duke 85-81 in overtime Sunday as a 3½-point underdog, it capped a 16-4 ATS streak for ‘dogs — including 11 outright wins — in the past 20 NCAA Tournament games.

Sharps on underdogs in Final Four

Some early sharp bettors expect the run to continue in the Final Four. Wynn Las Vegas sports book opened Michigan as a 6-point favorite over Loyola-Chicago in Saturday’s national semifinals before smart money on the Ramblers moved the number to 5.

“I can’t see the Michigan-Loyola game going much lower than 5,” Wynn Las Vegas sports book director Johnny Avello said. “It’s possible we could see 4½ or it might go back to 5½.”

Big bet on Kansas over Villanova

The Westgate sports book opened Villanova as a 5½-point favorite over Kansas in the other semifinal before some early action on the Jayhawks moved the number to 5.

“We had one of our house players make a really big bet on Kansas plus 5,” Westgate sports book manager Ed Salmons said.

Ramblers bettor turns $1K into $75K

The No. 11 Ramblers rolled to a 78-62 win over Kansas State as 2-point underdogs Saturday to match the lowest-seeded team ever to reach the Final Four.

South Point oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro tweeted that one happy customer wagered $1,000 to win $75,000 on Loyola-Chicago to win the South Regional.

“And it was not Sister Jean,” Vaccaro wrote.

Loyola-Chicago futures loom large

There are plenty of futures tickets on the Ramblers at up to 2,000-1 odds to win the NCAA title.

Wynn Las Vegas had Loyola-Chicago at 2,000-1 before the tournament and one bettor wagered $10 to win $20,000 at that price while another has a $5 ticket to win $10,000.

“It’s a nice ticket to have,” Avello said. “You can hedge.”

Salmons listed futures odds on more than 140 college basketball teams before this season. Loyola-Chicago wasn’t one of them. But the Westgate took some action on the field at 200-1.

“We’re definitely a loser on the field option,” he said.

Kansas covers after two bad beats

While No. 1 seed Villanova improved to 4-0 ATS in the tournament with Sunday’s 71-59 win over Texas Tech as a 6½-point favorite, No. 1 seed Kansas finally rewarded its backers after two brutal bad beats.

Seton Hall hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer March 17 to get a backdoor cover in an 83-79 loss to the Jayhawks, who closed as 5-point favorites.

Kansas also closed as 5-point favorites over Clemson on Friday, when it blew most of a 20-point lead with 10:50 left in an 80-76 win. Despite needing two 3-pointers to tie, Gabe DeVoe settled for a short jumper with five seconds left and Kansas then avoided getting fouled as time expired.

Why didn’t Florida State foul?

Many Michigan bettors are still smarting over Florida State’s debatable decision not to foul at the end of Saturday’s night’s 58-54 win by the Wolverines, who closed as 4½-point favorites after the line sat at 4 for most of the day and also sat at 3½.

Florida State trailed by four with 12 seconds left after P.J. Savoy missed a 3-pointer. But the Seminoles inexplicably let the clock run out as countless bettors in Las Vegas sports books screamed for them to foul.

Wynn Las Vegas lost big on the game as it was heavy on Florida State plus 4½ and refunded most Michigan bets that pushed at 4. Avello, like many others, said he has no idea why the Seminoles didn’t foul.

“It makes no sense to me,” he said. “In pro basketball, they really don’t foul when they don’t have a chance. But down 4 with 12 seconds left, even the pros would’ve fouled in that spot.

“You have to play it to the very end. It’s to go to the Final Four. I don’t understand it.”

It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

Kind of like Loyola-Chicago and Sister Jean.

For the record, Lent ends the day before the NCAA championship.

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

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