Sportsbooks have ‘best day of tournament’ as popular teams lose
After bettors won big on Fairleigh Dickinson’s upset of No. 1-seeded Purdue in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, they were dealt a dose of March sadness Sunday.
Updated March 19, 2023 - 10:02 pm
After bettors won big on Fairleigh Dickinson’s upset of No. 1-seeded Purdue in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, they were dealt a dose of March sadness in the second round.
Sportsbooks had a monster day Saturday, when Duke and Kansas were eliminated and UCLA won but didn’t cover.
Bettors also lost Sunday, when No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson fell short in its bid to reach the Sweet 16 in a loss to Florida Atlantic as an 8-1 underdog on the money line.
“Saturday was, by far, our best day of the tournament so far,” Westgate SuperBook director John Murray said. “It will probably be our best day of the whole tournament.
“We had a really, really outstanding day on Saturday because Duke lost and then Kansas lost. Those were two really significant wins. We also had a nice win with Northwestern covering against UCLA.”
Bruins bettors were burned by the dreaded backdoor cover when Boo Buie was fouled with 7.2 seconds left and made all three free throws as the Wildcats covered as 8-point underdogs in a 68-63 loss.
Arkansas (+3½) erased a 12-point second-half deficit in a 72-71 win over the defending national champion Jayhawks.
Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman, who took off his shirt after the upset, takes his topless act to Las Vegas on Thursday. Arkansas is a 4-point underdog to Connecticut in their West Regional semifinal game at T-Mobile Arena.
Tennessee (+2½) defeated Duke 65-52 to kill countless tickets.
“They bet Duke like they knew the final score,” Red Rock Resort sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “The way Tennessee was missing one of its key players and kind of limped into the tournament and how Duke was playing so well, it was one of the biggest, if not the biggest game of the tournament.”
Fairleigh Dickinson, a 15½-point underdog to Florida Atlantic, erased an early eight-point deficit and led midway through the second half before the Owls took the lead for good with 8:37 left in a 78-70 win.
No. 15 seed Princeton is headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1967, when 23 teams made the tournament. The Tigers followed their first-round upset of Arizona with a 78-63 win over Missouri as 6½-point underdogs and +235 on the money line.
A bettor at the BetMGM sportsbook at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi, lost a $344,126 parlay of Missouri (-6½) and Alabama (-450) on the money line.
No. 1 seeds Alabama and Houston covered en route to the Sweet 16. Murray said sharp bettors backed the Crimson Tide -7 over San Diego State and Xavier +4½ over Texas, which is down to -4.
Bettors lost Sunday on Kentucky (-3½), which fell 75-69 to Kansas State, and Marquette (-2½), which was eliminated by Michigan State 69-60.
Favorites are 28-24 ATS in the tournament, including the First Four.
In Sunday’s final game, Gonzaga (-4½) bettors suffered a bad beat at the end of the Bulldogs’ 84-81 win over Texas Christian.
After Rondel Walker made a 3 for TCU to pull within 82-78 with five seconds left, Gonzaga’s Hunter Sallis was fouled with 0.7 seconds left and made both free throws for an 84-78 lead and apparent cover.
But Damion Baugh let the ensuing inbounds pass roll past midcourt for the Horned Frogs before quickly picking it up and draining an otherwise meaningless 3 at the buzzer that was very meaningful for bettors.
Under bettors have cashed at a 67.3 percent clip in the tournament, including the First Four, going 35-17 even after only two of eight games Sunday stayed under the total.
“That’s kind of been a big part of our success,” Esposito said. “Michigan State is the third-best 3-point shooting team in the country, and they went 2-for-16 (Sunday).
“I don’t know if it’s the depth perception in some of these arenas. But we may have to re-evaluate the totals and shave them down.”
The total is 139½ for the Arkansas-Connecticut game at T-Mobile.
In the other matchup in Las Vegas, UCLA is a 1-point favorite over Gonzaga, and the total is 145½.
“UCLA and Gonzaga will be the centerpiece game of the Sweet 16 here in Vegas,” Murray said. “I think we’ll have huge volume.”
Esposito also expects a larger wagering handle than usual on the West Regional games.
“With the games being here on Thursday and Saturday,” he said, “my guess is they will be some of the biggest bet games in the tournament.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.