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Early NCAA Tournament Sharp Report for Six First-Round Games

March 15, 2021 12:53 AM

Today, a new week begins with a relatively quiet betting slate featuring 8 NBA games and 10 NHL games. For an updated breakdown of Monday's betting action, be sure to tune in to the VSiN Market Insights Podcast with Josh Appelbaum. It will be posted at 12:30 p.m. ET. I'll also be joining Michael Lombardi and Patrick Meagher on The Lombardi Line at 1:30 p.m. ET to offer a market update.

Now back to March Madness...

Conference tournaments are over and now the real fun begins. The NCAA Tournament bracket has been unveiled and now bettors will have a few days to catch their breath and do some homework as they prepare for the first round games beginning on Thursday. For those of you looking to get a head start on March Madness, check out my latest article for VSiN detailing My Top 10 NCAA Tournament Betting Tips (you must be a VSiN subscriber).

In the meantime, let's discuss where early money is flowing for several NCAA Tournament first-round games...

Friday 4:30 p.m. ET: Oregon State vs Tennessee

This Midwest Region matchup pits 12-seed Oregon State (17-12) against 5-seed Tennessee (18-8). The Beavers come in red-hot, having knocked off UCLA, Oregon and Colorado in the conference tournament to win their first ever PAC-12 championship. Meanwhile, Tennessee beat Florida in the SEC tournament quarterfinals and then fell to Alabama 73-68 in the semifinals. This line opened with Tennessee listed as an 8-point favorite. Some shops even opened at 8.5. Respected money has sided with the Beavers early on, dropping this line to 7.5. Ken Pom has Oregon State losing by seven points, which means the current number with the hook still provides some actionable value on the Beavers. One big injury to monitor here is Tennessee senior forward John Fulkerson (9.5 PPG). He is questionable with a facial injury. 

Friday 9:40 p.m. ET: Syracuse vs San Diego State

This Midwest Region showdown features 11-seed Syracuse (16-9) against 6-seed San Diego State (23-4). Syracuse got bumped by Virginia 72-69 in the ACC tournament quarterfinals while San Diego State ran the table to win the Mountain West, beating Utah State 68-57 in the championship game. This game opened with San Diego State listed as a short 2-point favorite. Sharps have pounced on the favorite and laid the points with the Aztecs, pushing this line from -2 to -3. Ken Pom has San Diego State winning this game by three points. With the spread right on the projected number, bettors eyeing San Diego State may prefer to back them on the moneyline. Both teams are averaging roughly 75 PPG on offense. The difference comes on defense. San Diego State is only giving up 60 PPG while Syracuse is allowing 70 PPG. 

Friday 9:20 p.m. ET: Rutgers vs Clemson

This Midwest Region grudge match pits 10-seed Rutgers (15-11) against 7-seed Clemson (16-7). Rutgers beat Indiana 61-50 in the Big Ten tournament second round before falling to Illinois 90-68 in the quarterfinals. On the flip side, Clemson suffered an early second round exit in the ACC tournament, falling to Miami 67-64 and losing straight up as 8-point favorites. This line opened at a pick'em or Rutgers -1 depending on the book. Right off the bat, this opening line speaks volumes. If Clemson is the higher seed and has a better record, why aren't they favored? If it looks fishy, there's a reason behind it. Any book that opened at a pick'em went to Rutgers -1. And some books are juicing up the Rutgers -1 to -115, signaling a possible rise to -115. This signals sharp money backing Rutgers. Ken Pom has the Scarlet Knights winning by two points.

Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET: UC Santa Barbara vs Creighton

This West Region matchup features 12-seed Santa Barbara (22-4) against 5-seed Creighton (20-8). Santa Barbara has won five straight and is 18-1 over their last nineteen games. Santa Barbara cruised through their conference tournament to win the Big West in dominant fashion. Meanwhile, Creighton reached the Big East final but got crushed by Georgetown 73-48, losing outright as 8.5-point favorites. This line opened with Creighton listed as a 7.5-point favorite. Wiseguys have pounced on underdog Santa Barbara getting the points, which has dropped the line from 7.5 to 6.5. Ken Pom has Creighton winning by seven, which is right on the number. Creighton's offense is in a funk their last two games. After averaging 77 points all season long, Creighton scored just 48 and 56 points respectively in their last two games. Now they face a stout Santa Barbara defense only allowing 62 PPG, which is 19th-best in the country. 

Saturday 7:10 p.m. ET: Maryland vs Connecticut

This East Region matchup pits 10-seed Maryland (16-13) against 7-seed Connecticut (15-7). Maryland beat Michigan State 68-57 in the 2nd round of the Big Ten tournament before falling to Michigan 79-66 in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Connecticut crushed DePaul 94-60 in the Big East quarterfinals then lost a nailbiter to Creighton 59-56 in the semifinals. This line opened with Connecticut listed as a short 2-point favorite. Sharp money has sided with the Huskies, pushing UConn from -2 to -2.5. Some shops are even juicing up the -2 to -115, signaling a possible rise to 3. Ken Pom has UConn winning by two points. As a result, bettors interested in backing the Huskies may prefer a moneyline play instead of the spread. Ken Pom has UConn ranked 16th compared to Maryland 31st. The Huskies will look to dominate on the boards in this one. UConn is 60th in the country in rebounding while Maryland is 303rd. 

Saturday 7:15 p.m. ET: Ohio vs Virginia

This West Region showdown features 13-seed Ohio (16-7) against 4-seed Virginia (18-6). Ohio is humming right now, having dominated their conference tournament and won the MAC championship as a 5-seed. On the other hand, Virginia barely beat Syracuse 72-69 in the ACC tournament quarterfinals and then had to exit the tournament early due to COVID concerns. This line opened with Virginia listed as a 10-point favorite. Pros have steamed the underdog Bobcats, forcing oddsmakers to drop this line from 10 to 8.5. Some shops are even inching down to 8. Ken Pom has Virginia winning by seven points, which still provides an actionable edge to Ohio at the current number. This is a massive contrast in styles, as Ohio is offensive minded and averaging 81 PPG (17th most in the country) while Virginia is defensive minded, giving up only 61 PPG (6th-best in the country). 

More NCAA Tournament Moves

Michigan State -1 to -1.5 vs UCLA

Georgetown + 5.5 to + 5 vs Colorado

Winthrop + 6.5 to + 6 vs Villanova

North Texas + 7.5 to + 7 vs Purdue

Houston -19 to -19.5 vs Cleveland State

Eastern Washington + 11.5 to + 11 vs Kansas

Grand Canyon + 15.5 to + 14.5 vs Iowa

Iona + 17.5 to + 17 vs Alabama

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