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Yale upset, Colorado-Florida finish leave sportsbooks ‘electrified’

For the second straight year, the Ivy League champion crashed the March Madness party, busting brackets and tearing up tickets at sportsbooks.

No. 13 seed Yale, a 14½-point underdog, stunned No. 4 Auburn on day two of the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, a year after No. 15 Princeton eliminated No. 2 Arizona.

The Bulldogs, who were +650 on the money line, rallied from a 10-point deficit midway through the second half and held on for a 78-76 win after a frantic final seconds in which the Tigers missed three shots, including a 3-point try by K.D. Johnson with one second left.

At the same time, Florida tied Colorado at 100-all on Walter Clayton Jr.’s 3-pointer with 11 seconds left. The Buffaloes (-1½) then won it, 102-100, on a jumper by KJ Simpson that bounced off the rim five times before dropping through the net as roars reached a fever pitch at packed Las Vegas books.

“Those two finishes really electrified the day. That really defined what March Madness is all about,” Westgate SuperBook vice president Jay Kornegay said. “The games get the blood flowing. If we get some close finishes, it just energizes the room. That was certainly the peak of the day.”

Yale’s upset was the biggest win of the day for the SuperBook.

“Almost every money-line parlay included Auburn, so there’s no doubt our best-case scenario going into the game was an outright win by Yale,” Kornegay said.

Caesars Sportsbook also won on the game overall, but lost on the money line.

“We always do on the Cinderella teams,” Caesars vice president of trading Craig Mucklow said.

Caesars took a $1,500 money line bet on Yale (6-1) that paid $9,000. The book also took two in-play money-line wagers on Yale: $1,000 to win $4,500 (+450) and $4,000 to win $14,000 (+350).

Station Casinos also took a hit on the Yale money line.

“Yale wasn’t great,” Red Rock Resort sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “It just seems like now we get a lot of money-line play on all these (underdogs) because of the prices.”

Big favorites deliver

Double-digit favorites went 6-1 against the spread as Connecticut (-27½, beat Stetson 91-52), Purdue (-27, beat Grambling State 78-50), Houston (-24, beat Longwood 86-46), Marquette (-15, beat Western Kentucky 87-69), Baylor (-14½, beat Colgate 92-67) and Duke (-12½, beat Vermont 64-47) all cashed tickets.

Duke, which closed the game on an 8-0 run, was the biggest winner for the betting public at Caesars, where one bettor wagered $130,000 on the money line to win $18,000 and another bet $63,000 to win $60,000 on the Blue Devils ATS.

“There was an absolute ton of bets today. It feels like it’s more interest this year. There were definitely far bigger bets,” Mucklow said. “It’s the biggest betting weekend of the year. It will eclipse the Super Bowl.”

Purdue, which led by nine at halftime, covered when Carson Barrett hit a 3 with 37 seconds left and Grambling missed a 3 with nine seconds to play.

Marquette trailed by seven at the half before outscoring Western Kentucky by 25 in the second half.

Favorites went 9-7 against the spread Friday and 18-14 ATS in the first round.

Mountain West meltdown

The biggest losses for bettors at Station Casinos were on a pair of Mountain West teams in conference tournament champion New Mexico and 2023 national runner-up San Diego State.

The No. 11 Lobos (-2) were crushed 77-56 by Clemson, while the Aztecs (-6) beat Alabama-Birmingham but didn’t cover in a 69-65 win.

“There was a lot of action on New Mexico,” Esposito said. “Every ticket seemed to be on New Mexico.”

The Mountain West got six teams into the tournament, but four — Boise State, UNR, Colorado State and New Mexico — were eliminated in the First Four or first round.

“The Mountain West and the (Southeastern Conference) have really struggled so far in the tournament,” Esposito said.

The SEC was 1-5 before Alabama (-8½, beat College of Charleston 109-96) and Texas A&M (-1, beat Nebraska 98-83) won and covered in dominant fashion. The Pac-12 is off to a 5-0 start.

And now there are 32.

“Tournament time is great,” Esposito said. “The crowds and the atmosphere is second to none.”

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

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