March Madness delivers drama; Princeton upset sinks parlays
Princeton shocked No. 2 seed Arizona 59-55 as a 15-point underdog and +850 on the money line. It’s the third straight year that a 15 seed has won a first-round game.
Updated March 17, 2023 - 8:09 pm
The NCAA Tournament never fails to deliver.
Drama. Bracket busters. Bad beats. Miracle covers.
The first of the best back-to-back betting days of the year had it all.
Princeton shocked No. 2 seed Arizona 59-55 on Thursday as a 15-point underdog and +850 on the money line.
It’s the third straight year that a No. 15 seed has won a first-round game.
Furman also knocked off No. 4 Virginia 68-67 as a 5½-point underdog and +200 on the money line. The Paladins forced a late turnover, and JP Pegues nailed a game-winning 3-pointer with two seconds left as capacity crowds at the city’s sportsbooks roared.
But overall, the upsets dealt a blow to bettors while lifting most books to a winning day.
“Anytime you’ve got Cinderella wearing that glass slipper with Furman and Princeton, it really helps carry the day,” Red Rock Resort sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “Those were both huge games for our side of the counter. They really chopped up the big money-line parlays tied to a lot of favorites.”
Furman’s upset was one of the worst games for the South Point, where it was a popular underdog play.
But Princeton’s stunner — in which it scored the final nine points and held Arizona scoreless over the final 4:43 — was a major win for all the books.
“The biggest winner was definitely Princeton winning outright. That killed so many parlays,” Westgate SuperBook director John Murray said. “I was shocked. Arizona was a very trendy pick to win it all. A lot of people I respect picked them to win it all or go to the Final Four.
“It definitely wasn’t on my list of teams that could go out in the first round.”
Despite the upsets, Murray said the SuperBook was a small loser on the day.
“San Diego State getting the miracle cover was really bad for us,” he said.
College of Charleston (+5½) bettors were dealt a brutal beat in a 63-57 loss to the Aztecs.
The Cougars trailed by four with the ball in the final seconds when Ryan Larson missed a layup. Micah Parrish pulled down the rebound for San Diego State with two seconds left and held the ball as time expired. But the referee ruled he was fouled just before the buzzer.
With 0.7 seconds left, Parrish went to the line and made the first free throw.
As bettors at the Westgate yelled for him to make it or miss it, depending on which side they had, Parrish sank the second free throw for the miracle cover.
“I was really surprised they didn’t just let the game run out,” Murray said. “But that’s just one of those that didn’t go our way. We just move on to Friday.”
Underdogs went 8-8 against the spread with five outright wins.
In the opening game, Maryland (+2½) erased an early 13-point deficit in a 67-65 win over West Virginia.
The South Point won on the game, but the Westgate took a hit.
“We needed West Virginia pretty big,” Murray said. “We had some big house players on Maryland.”
Missouri (+1½) beat Utah State 76-65, and Penn State (+2½) whipped Texas A&M 76-59.
One of the loudest roars of the day was reserved for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (+24½), which covered in a 96-75 loss to No. 1 seed Alabama.
The Islanders trailed by 24 with eight seconds left and appeared content to dribble out the clock, much to the dismay of bettors who had them at the opening line of +23. But then Ross Williams drained a 3 at the buzzer to cash all tickets on the underdogs as the crowd exploded.
“That and the bucket by Furman, those were two of the loudest eruptions,” Esposito said.
Ten of the 16 games went under the total, including the final one of the night between Penn State and Texas A&M that left over bettors feeling so unsatisfied.
The total was 135½. After Tyrece Radford made a 3-pointer for the Aggies to make it 76-59 with 53 seconds left, bettors needed one more basket to win their over wagers. But Kanye Clary missed a layup that rimmed out, and Evan Mahaffey missed the putback dunk attempt.
Radford then missed a 3, and Penn State ran out the clock to close out the first day of the madness.
Favorites that covered included Kansas (-21½, beat Howard 96-68); UCLA (-17½, beat UNC Asheville 86-53); Texas (-13½, beat Colgate 81-61); and Duke (-5½, beat Oral Roberts 74-51).
Now we get to do it all over again Friday.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.