NBA announced last night that it was suspending its season because of the Coronavirus. As of this writing late Wednesday, the NHL and NCAA Tournament will still be played, with the latter deciding to not allow fans in the stands. But that could all change in the coming days or even hours.
What we do know is that, despite the Coronavirus pandemic, this has been a seminal week for the legalization of sports betting in America. In yesterday's newsletter, we discussed how Illinois went live with legalized betting on Monday. Yesterday, another sports frenzied state went live as well: Michigan.
The MGM Grand in Detroit was the first sportsbook to open its doors and accept legal wagers on Wednesday. Betting is also beginning at Greektown, with the other 23 casinos within the state expected to join in the coming months. FanDuel is launching the grand opening of their sportsbook at Motor City Casino today. Lions legend Barry Sanders is expected to place the first legal bet.
Online betting is set to begin in Michigan in 2021. Tax revenue generated from sports betting will go to funding Michigan's schools, first responders and infrastructure projects.
With Illinois and Michigan now live, we are up to 16 legal states offering sports betting in America. The list includes Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Oregon. This means nearly one-third of America now accepts legal wagers.
Montana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Colorado and Washington D.C. have all passed sports betting bills, but are not yet operational.
Thursday's action features 50 college basketball games and 10 NHL games, at least for now. For an updated breakdown of sharp action across the marketplace, be sure to tune in to the VSiN Market Insights Podcast with Josh Appelbaum. It will be posted at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Now let's discuss a trio of conference tournament games receiving sharp action on Thursday.
1 p.m. ET: Alabama (16-15) vs. Tennessee (17-14)
This SEC Tournament Round 2 matchup takes place at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. On paper, this looks like a layup with the Volunteers. Alabama has lost two in a row and three of their last four, most recently getting crushed by Missouri 69-50 as 2-point dogs. Meanwhile, Tennessee has won two of their last three games and recently upset Kentucky 81-73 as a 8.5-point dog. The Vols also have a slightly better record. However, this game opened as a true pick'em and have moved to Alabama -1 despite a majority of bets backing Tennessee. This signals sharp reverse line movement with pros hammering the Crimson Tide at a pick'em. Ken Pom projects Alabama to win by one point (75-74). If you missed the pick'em, Bama bettors might rather bet the Tide on the moneyline so that a 1-point game doesn't result in a push. This is a revenge spot for Bama, which lost to Tennessee 69-68 on Feb. 4.
2:30 p.m. ET: Butler (22-9, ranked 24th) vs. Providence (19-12)
This Big East Tournament quarterfinal matchup takes place at Madison Square Garden and features two teams peaking at the right time. Butler has won three straight, most recently beating Xavier 72-71 as a 2-point dog. Providence is one of the hottest teams in the country winning six straight games, including a 93-55 shellacking of DePaul as a 10-point favorite its last time out. This line opened with Butler listed as a 1.5-point favorite. Normally the public would hammer the ranked team with the better record laying a short spread. Not this time. We're actually seeing two-thirds of bets grab red-hot Providence getting 1.5 points. Savvy pro bettors, however, look to be fading the trendy dog. Some books even opener at -1 and moved to -1.5. Ken Pom has Butler winning by three points (67-64). These teams have split their two matchups this season with Providence winning 65-61 on February 1 and Butler winning 70-58 on Jan. 10.
9:30 p.m. ET: West Virginia (21-10, ranked 22nd) vs. Oklahoma (19-12)
This Big 12 quarterfinal will be played at the Spring Center in Kansas City. After stumbling in the second half of the season, West Virginia rebounded to win its last two games, including a 76-64 win over 3rd-ranked Baylor as a 1.5-point favorite its last time out. Oklahoma is also playing well as of late winning three of its last four games, most recently defeating TCU 78-76 as a 1-point dog. This line opened with West Virginia laying 3.5-points. The public sees WVU with a better record and higher ranking but also likes a hot Oklahoma team getting points. However, despite tickets being split, we've seen the line jump up to Mountaineers -4, signaling some sharp action hitting WVU at -3.5. Ken Pom projects West Virginia winning by four points (70-66). This is a double revenge spot for the Mountaineers as Oklahoma has won both matchups this season (69-59 on Feb. 8 and 73-62 on Feb. 29).
Remember: the betting market is fluid and changes as sharp action comes in. Be sure to monitor the latest odds via our FREE VSiN College Basketball Live Odds page.