As the NCAA Tournament winds down to the final two contestants, there are no more upstarts to speak of, but rather just two No. 1 seeds at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Covers checks in on the opening line for Monday night’s national championship game, with insights from Scott Shelton, supervisor and oddsmaker at The Mirage sportsbook on the Las Vegas Strip, and Scott Cooley, odds consultant for offshore sportsbook Bookmaker.eu.
No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs (+2)
North Carolina is in the championship game for the second straight year, hoping to get over the bitter pill it swallowed in 2016, when it lost to Villanova on a last-second 3-pointer. The Tar Heels (32-7 SU, 19-16-3 ATS) barely held off No. 3 seed Oregon in the Final Four on Saturday, notching a 77-76 victory as a 4-point favorite.
In its five NCAA Tournament wins this year, North Carolina is 2-2-1 ATS.
Gonzaga (37-1 SU, 23-10-2 ATS) finally reached its first Final Four and now its first national title game. The Bulldogs blew a 13-point second-half lead against No. 7 seed South Carolina, hanging on for a 77-73 victory Saturday while falling short as a 6.5-point chalk. In fact, Mark Few’s squad – among the best in the nation during the regular season with a sparkling 20-6-1 ATS mark – has only cashed once in the Big Dance (1-3-1 ATS).
“We’ll probably need Gonzaga, just because North Carolina is such a public team,” Shelton said shortly after The Mirage posted the Tar Heels at -2. “But Gonzaga, being here in the West, should see some action. I don’t think this line is gonna move much.”
Bookmaker.eu also opened Carolina -2 and actually moved down to 1.5 late Saturday night, while also adjusting the juice, with the Tar Heels at -115 and the Zags at -105.
“Gonzaga defined the ‘Cinderella’ mantra of college basketball, and it will always be the first to wear the glass slipper,” Cooley said. “But that doesn’t change the fact that to the public, the Zags appear overmatched against the greatest program of all time. We anticipate action on the over, but hopefully the public action will be split on the spread.”
Bookmaker.eu opened that total at 153 and indeed saw early action on the over, bumping up to 153.5, which is where The Mirage opened.
With regard to the futures, Shelton spoke to both the season-long book and to the prices posted before the NCAA Tournament began. In both instances, The Mirage and MGM Resorts books will be rooting for the Bulldogs come tip time Monday night, at 6:20 ET.
“Gonzaga is a lot better than North Carolina for us,” Shelton said, while noting it’s still a win-win situation. “We win twice as much if Gonzaga wins. We might be a good spot for a Gonzaga moneyline play. We’ll probably shade it toward Gonzaga.”
The Zags opened +125 on the moneyline at The Mirage, while the Tar Heels were at -145.
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.