At 5:30 p.m. Las Vegas time, about an hour and a half after the NCAA tournament bracket was finalized, Tony Sinisi, head oddsmaker for the Las Vegas Sports Consultants, released his line recommendations for all 36 first and second round games.
“I’ve done all the damage I can do,” an exhausted Sinisi, who’s been setting Vegas lines for more than 20 years, told Covers.com. “It’s a quick, mad scramble. It gets a little confusing when you’re trying to fill it in while watching it on TV. I try to do it every year, but usually I give up after about two minutes. You’d think all the years I’ve been doing this I’d get better at it, but I throw up my hands quickly.”
Sinisi said he completely agreed with the No. 1 seeds and has Ohio State rated one point higher than Kansas, followed by Duke and Pittsburgh.
The Belmont-Wisconsin matchup was among the most challenging for Sinisi to handicap. It was the first time he had set a line on a game involving Belmont all season. He sent out Wisconsin -6.
“With all the data I’m using, Belmont is extremely highly rated,” Sinisi said. “When you’re dealing with an UNLV-Illinois or what have you, there’s a certain comfort level. But when you throw in the Belmonts of the world, it can get a little hairy.”
One of the biggest early line moves came on Michigan State-UCLA. Bookmaker, which was among the very first offshore books to put up lines, opened UCLA as a 1-point favorite. Within minutes, the Spartans were favored by 2.
Pete Korner, another prominent Las Vegas oddsmaker and owner of the Sports Club, sent out Michigan State as a 1-point favorite. Sinisi opened the game as a Pick ‘em.
In future odds, Korner lists Ohio State at +300 as the favorite to win the tournament, followed by Kansas at +450, Duke +500 and Pittsburgh +700.
The play-in games also made oddsmakers’ jobs a little more difficult this season. In Tuesday’s games, UNC-Asheville opened as a 3-point favorite over Arkansas-Little Rock. Clemson opened as 3.5-point favorite over UAB.
“It’s unchartered territory,” Sinisi said. “Playing Tuesday and Thursday or Wednesday and Friday, it’s something we’re going to have to see how those teams respond and how bettors react.”
On Wednesday, Texas-San Antonio is a 6-point favorite over Alabama State, and Southern Cal is a 2.5-point favorite over a Virginia Commonwealth team that most people were shocked made the field. In fact, VCU’s players and coaches reportedly didn’t even gather to watch the tournament selection show.
“One of those 11 or 12 seeds is going to knock off a 5 or a 6 because they’ve already got a tournament game under their belt,” Fran Fraschilla, a former Manhattan and St. John’s coach who is now an ESPN analyst told the New York Times
. “You get the kinks and the nervousness out and have an NCAA win to your credit, and it actually may turn out to be detrimental to the higher seed.”
Both Duke and Kansas, the two No. 1 seeds that don’t have to wait to see who wins the play-in games are 22.5-point favorites.
Duke faces Hampton on Friday in Charlotte, N. C. Kansas takes on Boston University on Friday in Tulsa.Smallest Spread
Korner released three games as Pick ‘ems: St. John’s-Gonzaga, Florida State-Texas A&M and Butler-Old Dominion.
Korner has the Texas-Oakland total at 151. Oakland leads the nation at 85.6 points per game, but also surrenders a tournament field-worst 76.6 points per game. Smallest Total
Korner released the total on Old Dominion-Butler at 121.