NCAA Tournament: Final Four Sharp Bets and Line Moves

Jason Lake

Monday, March 28, 2016 2:00 PM UTC

Monday, Mar. 28, 2016 2:00 PM UTC

Everyone's scrambling to put the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels in their March Madness basketball picks. But there's no way the Tar Heels are the best value on the NCAA Tournament Odds board.

Après huit, le déluge. We've made it to the Final Four of the 2016 NCAA men's basketball Tournament, which means our work is almost done – only three March Madness games left on the schedule. Too bad, because this is also the time when recreational bettors take over the marketplace and make our job so much simpler. Think of it like the Conference Championships in the NFL. Everyone wants to bet on these games; the more money casual fans bring to the table, the more we get to take from them. In the long run, at least.

One guess who the “squares” are betting on this week. Hey, good guess. The North Carolina Tar Heels (32-6 SU, 19-18-1 ATS) are the only No. 1 seed left in the Tournament. They're the most popular team remaining, as well. And as we go to press, they're massive 9-point favorites for Saturday's semifinal versus the No. 10 Syracuse Orange (23-13 SU, 20-15 ATS). Some books have already moved North Carolina to -9.5 on the NCAA tournament odds board. Our consensus reports show 56 percent of early bettors laying wood on UNC.

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":3004446, "sportsbooksIds":[1096,93,19,92,238,169], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]

Tarred and Feathered
Ridonkulous. It's possible that North Carolina “is” the best of the four teams left at the Big Dance, depending on whose stats you look at. But it's hard to justify putting the Heels in your NCAA tournament picks at these prices. As a rough guide, FiveThirtyEight gives the Orange a 30-percent chance of winning Saturday's game (8:49 p.m. ET, TBS). That works out to around North Carolina –6 on the point spread, using the NBA conversions at Wizard of Odds.

No doubt there are more accurate ways of projecting Saturday's game, but this should give you a pretty good idea of how much profit margin there should be in this matchup. In these situations, the prudent thing to do is make larger bets, perhaps even as high as 10 percent of your bankroll if you feel you have a 57/43 edge on the market. That's just science. Also, consider waiting until closer to tip-off, anticipating a better price on Syracuse as even more bettors jump on the UNC bandwagon.


Wild Is the Wind
Saturday's “other” game (6:09 p.m. ET, TBS) pits the No. 2 Villanova Wildcats against the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners, and we can see the betting public at work moving the point spread toward the popular Sooners. The oddsmakers had Oklahoma as a 1.5-point favorite at the open; at press time, the Sooners are 2-point favorites at most locations, with some at -2.5. Again, our consensus reports have 59 percent of early bettors on Oklahoma.

Given the Tournament format, we can't give the early birds the benefit of the doubt, especially when regular folk had all day Sunday to open their wallets and/or purses before going back to work on Monday. Villanova looks like a simple enough NCAA basketball pick, but we'll give it some thought here at the home office and get back to you later this week.

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":3004242, "sportsbooksIds":[1096,93,19,92,238,169], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]

Jason's 2015-16 record as of Mar. 28: 26-17 ATS, 1-4 Totals

comment here