Vegas books are keeping a close eye on the Wichita State Shockers as we head into March.
Multiple college basketball pundits, including Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis, have said the Shockers possess Final Four-potential. A Virginia Commonwealth-like run would not be good for at least one Vegas sportsbook.
The Shockers have gone from +25,000 (250/1) to +4,000 to win the national championship in the last three weeks at Caesars Palace.
“Most of these guys don’t ever expect to cash a ticket on some of these longshots like Wichita State; they just want to be in position to make money [by hedging],” said Caesars senior sportsbook analyst Todd Fuhrman. “Anyone who bet Wichita State--and you could have had them at 250/1 three weeks ago—all you need them to do is get into the Sweet 16, and you’re going to turn a profit.”
Fuhrman acknowledged on his blog taking some bets on the Shockers at 250/1.
Michigan State and Vanderbilt are two other teams Fuhrman would prefer not experience one shining moment at the Final Four in New Orleans. But a miracle run by Southern Cal would hurt the most.
“If USC wins the national championship, I’ll start eating fire for a part-time career,” joked Fuhrman. “But I’m not too worried about that.”
All teams will remain on the betting board until they are eliminated from the conference tournaments. Bettors can expect some serious shifting in the title odds, though, once the NCAA tournament bracket is released on March 11.
“Once we see the strength of the regions, you’ll see some drastic adjustments, especially with teams seeded No. 4 to No. 7,” said Fuhrman.
Current favorites to win national title at Caesars Palace as of Monday afternoon:
Michigan State 5/1
North Carolina 7/1
Syracuse vs. Kentucky
The No. 1 Wildcats and No. 2 Orange are the only teams to be favored in every game. But the betting market favors Kentucky.
John Calipari's team has been favored by 20-plus points 12 times, a fact that's led to a 10-17-1 record against the spread. Only five major-conference teams have worse marks against the spread than Kentucky.
In contrast, Syracuse has been favored by 20-plus points only twice. The Orange are 16-13 against the spread.
Pete Korner, owner and head oddsmaker for The Sports Club in Las Vegas, told Covers.com that Kentucky would be around a "2 or 3-point favorite" over Syracuse.
Conference win totals
On Nov. 8, Caesars posted conference win totals on 24 college basketball teams. Sixteen of the teams have already been decided, with eight already exceeding their win projections in conference play and the other eight failing to reach theirs.
But there are two big decisions left on the board – Duke and UCLA.
Fuhrman opened the Blue Devils at 13.5 wins. If/when Duke (12-2 ACC) beats Wake Forest on Tuesday, it will set up a deciding game for Caesars against North Carolina on Saturday.
“I’d really like Duke to lose to North Carolina,” said Fuhrman.
It’s a similar situation on UCLA. Fuhrman reported taking multiple limit bets on the Bruins over 11.5 wins in Pac-12 play this year. The action balanced out a little when public money came in on the under when the Bruins stumbled out of the gates with losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee. But Fuhrman is still rooting for UCLA (9-7) to collapse in home games against Washington and Washington State.
“I want UCLA to end with nine conference wins, if they could,” said Fuhrman.
NCAA tournament opening spreads
The sportsbooks at the Las Vegas Wynn expects to be the first Nevada shop to post lines on the NCAA tournament opening round. Sportsbook director John Avello told Covers.com Monday that he's planning on opening spreads on each of the 34 first and second-round games Sunday night after the bracket is released on March 11.