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Cinderella teams make it to Big Apple instead of Big Dance

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

Did Cinderella save her dramatic postseason entrance for the NIT? 

Tuesday’s Final Four at Madison Square Garden features a pair of potential Cinderella’s, followed by a pair of Big 12 rivals looking to atone for disappointing regular seasons. 

Let’s see how sharps have been betting a twin bill involving two virtual market toss-ups…

Lipscomb (-1) vs. Wichita State (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET)

Both of these pre-tournament longshots conquered brutal gauntlets to get this far. Nothing but road games…and both knocked off the #1 seed in their quarter of the brackets. Wichita State covered its point spreads by a combined 37.5 points in upsets of Furman, Clemson, and Indiana.

Lipscomb covered by a combined 34.5 points in upsets of Davidson, NC-Greensboro, and North Carolina State. 

That’s 6-0 straight up and ATS on the ROAD, beating market expectations by more than 70 points!

An opener of Lipscomb -2 fell to -1 after initial sharp support for Wichita State. All early action should be considered sharp for a game like this. The public doesn’t bet NIT games “early,” and it’s not like “squares” know much about either team. 

Oddsmakers tried to gauge sharp sentiment and erred a little high. It’s worth noting that the number wasn’t driven all the way to pick-em. That suggests money on Lipscomb would come in at pick-em or better if the public wants Wichita State on game day. 

Note that Wichita State’s hot run goes back several weeks. The Shockers are 13-3 ATS their last 16 games. Lipscomb missed out on a Dance bid when getting upset by Liberty in its conference final. Liberty would go on to knock off Mississippi State in the Big Dance. Whoever wins will be a tough out in Thursday’s finals. 

TCU (-1.5) vs. Texas (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET)

Nobody was gifted a spot in this Final Four. But, both TCU and Texas had it much easier than the Cinderella stories. The Lone Star entries played all of their games at home. Texas failed to cover two of its three spreads, surviving close wins over South Dakota State and Xavier (in overtime). TCU was more impressive with a 3-0 ATS sweep that beat the market by 22.5 points.

That might be why sharps hit TCU hard at the opening line of 1. Favorites flipped, and TCU entered the week laying -1.5 points. Pro bettors emphasizing recent form see the Horned Frogs as the superior side. It doesn’t hurt that these teams ended the regular season against each other, with TCU winning impressively 69-56 in Austin. 

In the hours leading to tip off, the public may prefer backing more well-known Texas head coach Shaka Smart. Sharps will re-invest on TCU if -1 or better comes back into play.

All told, it’s still two virtual coin flips. Sharps know that every half-point matters in close games. They bet Wichita State and TCU for value early. Still time for another slipper to drop if the public moves the lines.



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