Oddsmakers laced up their dancing shoes Sunday waiting for the NCAA tournament field to be announced so they could begin the frantic process of setting spreads and totals for the biggest betting week of the year.
Around 9 p.m. ET Sunday night, lines for the opening matchups of the tournament began to trickle out but oddsmakers started their work the second the Selection Sunday show concluded. They quickly printed off the brackets and schedules and started crunching stats and figures for Tuesday and Wednesday’s play-in games as well as the second-round matchups on Thursday and Friday.
“Those play-in games are probably the toughest,” Peter Korner, founder of the Nevada-based odds service The Sports Club, told Covers. “We don’t know a whole lot about some of those play-in teams. Other than those, we match stats for stats and figure out how high do you want to go.”
Korner bounces his projected spreads and totals off his panel of oddsmakers and they debate which numbers suit their clients the best, factoring in public opinion and expected sharp betting patterns.
The No. 1 seeds with second-round matchups already set – Gonzaga and Kansas – obviously have the highest spreads of the opening rounds. The Bulldogs, the top seed in the West Regional, are suggested 22-point favorites over No. 16 Southern. The Jayhawks, the No. 1 seed in the South Regional, are 20-point chalk versus No. 16 Western Kentucky. No. 3 Florida is also a 20-point favorite versus No. 14 Northwestern State.
As for the tightest spreads on the board, Korner’s oddsmakers sent out a “pick’em” for two No. 7-versus-No. 10 matchups: Illinois vs. Colorado and Notre Dame vs. Iowa State. The play-in game between La Salle and Boise State was also sent out as a pick.
For fans of high-scoring hoops, the biggest total on the board belongs to the game between No. 8 North Carolina State and No. 9 Temple, which garnered a 152-point number. Both teams have a potent offense, averaging a combined 150.3 points per game, and rank among the bottom in defense.
“We wanted to go with whoever had the highest for that game,” Korner says of the NC State-Temple total. “It’s a game that’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.”
The lowest over/under on the board is the 122-point total for the game between No. 3 Saint Louis and No. 13 New Mexico State. The Billikens rode their stout defense – ranked 18th in the country – to the A-10 championship while the Aggies allowed only 62.1 points per game this season.
“The toughest totals are the ones where you have one high-scoring team versus a team that plays low,” says Korner. “We usually go with the team that has the strength and should control the flow of the game. But it’s like the playoffs, we are thinking ‘low, low low’.”
Here’s the full list of odds for the opening games of the 2013 NCAA tournament:
March 19, 2013
Liberty vs. North Carolina A&T (-3, 127)
St. Mary's vs. Middle Tennessee State (+3, 131)
March 20, 2013
La Salle vs. Boise State (Pick, 138)
James Madison vs. LIU Brooklyn (-1, 147)
March 21, 2013
No. 9 Missouri vs. No. 8 Colorado State (+2.5, 143)
No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State (-3, 135)
No. 13 New Mexico State vs. No. 4 Saint Louis (-10, 122)
No. 14 Valparaiso vs. No. 3 Michigan State (-9.5, 128)
No. 12 Akron vs. No. 5 VCU (-5.5, 138)
No. 13 South Dakota State vs. No. 4 Michigan (-12, 141)
No. 12 California vs. No. 5 UNLV (-3, 126)
No. 13 Montana vs. No. 4 Syracuse (-15, 130)
No. 11 Bucknell vs. No. 6 Butler (-4.5, 124)
No. 14 Davidson vs. No. 3 Marquette (-3.5, 131)
No. 16 Southern vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (-22, 127)
No. 9 Wichita State vs. No. 8 Pittsburgh (-5.5, 125)
No. 11 Belmont vs. No. 6 Arizona (-5, 142)
No. 14 Harvard vs. No. 3 New Mexico (-11.5, 127)
March 22, 2013
No. 10 Cincinnati vs. No. 7 Creighton (-1.5. 124)
No. 15 Albany vs. No. 2 Duke (-19, 133)
No. 16 Western Kentucky vs. No. 1 Kansas (-20, 135)
No. 9 Villanova vs. No. 8 North Carolina (-4, 137)
No. 11 Minnesota vs. No. 6 UCLA (+3, 133)
No. 14 Northwestern State vs. No. 3 Florida (-20, 136)
No. 10 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 San Diego State (-2, 135)
No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast vs. No. 2 Georgetown (-14, 126)
No. 9 Temple vs. No. 8 North Carolina State (-4, 152)
No. 10 Colorado vs. No. 7 Illinois (Pick, 128)
No. 15 Pacific vs. No. 2 Miami (-13, 127)
No. 10 Iowa State vs. No. 7 Notre Dame (Pick, 142)
No. 15 Iona vs. No. 2 Ohio State (-13, 142)
No. 12 Mississippi vs. No. 5 Wisconsin (-3.5, 128)
Odds courtesy of The Sports Club.