A trip to Las Vegas would be ideal for either the NFL Wild Card weekend or the opening weekend of March Madness. Posting up at a sports book to take in all the action, having a little bit of money on the games, free drinks–that sounds awesome. Unfortunately, that trip has yet to come to fruition, and with another opening weekend in the books, I’m left to ponder what might have been. The Sweet Sixteen kicks off tonight at 7:15 p.m., and I thought we’d take a look at how the sports books are handicapping the games. It’s always intriguing to see how the public reacts to the Cinderella stories, and how the lines shift throughout the week, as more and more money is put into action.
Here are some fun facts heading into tonight’s games:
- This season marks the 28th time in the last 30 seasons that a double digit seed has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.
- At least three double digit seeds have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the past five seasons.
- The Florida Gators own the nation’s longest active Sweet Sixteen streak at 4 consecutive years. UNC has the longest streak in history with 13 consecutive seasons (1981-1993).
- Florida & Louisville are now co-favorites to win the National Championship (7/2)
- Michigan State & Arizona are both (9/2) favorites.
- Tennessee went from 200/1 to 25/1; Stanford went from 300/1 to 65/1; Dayton went from 500/1 to 85/1
Note: All lines are courtesy of RJ Bell of Pregame.com
(1) Florida Gators vs. (4) UCLA Bruins
The line opened at Florida (-5.5) has since been bet down to Florida (-4.5) according to the Las Vegas Hilton.
(10) Stanford Cardinal vs. (11) Dayton Flyers
The public seems to favor the Cardinal, as the line has moved from Stanford (-2) to Stanford (-3).
(2) Wisconsin Badgers vs. (6) Baylor Bears
Wisconsin opened as 4 point favorites, thought the line moved slightly throughout the week to Wisconsin (-3.5).
(1) Arizona Wildcats vs. (4) San Diego State Aztecs
Arizona is one of the top teams remaining in the tournament, and it was surprising to see that this line opened at Arizona (-2). What is not surprising is that the line has now been bet to Arizona (-7.5)
Thursday’s lines are on par with what you’d expect, considering the fact that all of the higher seeds are favored. It was a little telling that none of the lines opened higher than 6, indicating that the experts believe that all of these games will be relatively close match-ups. The biggest surprise of Thursday’s games has to be the fact that Vegas opened the Arizona-San Diego State game with the Wildcats favored by only 2 points, but that has since leveled out to reflect public expectations.
- Florida (-4.5)
- Dayton (+3)
- Baylor (+3.5)
- Arizona (-7.5)
(2) Michigan Wolverines vs. (11) Tennessee Volunteers
The line has moved one point throughout the week, going from Michigan (-1.5) to (-2.5).
(3) Iowa State Cyclones vs. (7) UConn Huskies
Vegas opened the line at Iowa State (-1), and the line has increased minimally throughout the week to Cyclones (-1.5)
(4) Louisville Cardinals vs. (8) Kentucky Wildcats
The Cardinals opened as 5.5 point favorites, but the public bet Kentucky enough to move the line down to Louisville (-4.5)
(1) Virginia Cavaliers vs. (4) Michigan State Spartans
Virginia opened as the early favorite (-5), and this has been bet hard in favor of the Spartans (biggest movement of the week), with the line now Michigan State (-2).
Friday’s slate has some excellent games, with all but one game expected to be decided by two points or less. The higher seeds all opened the week as favorites, but the public is really jumping on the
Tom Izzo Michigan State bandwagon, resulting in a 7 point swing in the line. Tennessee is the Cinderella story of this side of the bracket (NOTE: Kentucky is not a Cinderella–when you open as the preseason #1 team and under perform, you are not eligible for this status) and they have a legitimate shot to upset Michigan and book a ticket to the Elite Eight. The Louisville-Kentucky game will be played in Indianapolis, which should be an amazing atmosphere and don’t discount the Huskies of UConn, who will be returning to Madison Square Garden, their home away from home.
- Tennessee (+2.5)
- Iowa State (-1.5)
- Louisville (-4.5)
- Virginia (+2)
What do you think about this slate of Sweet Sixteen games? Do any of the lines stand out? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.