Penn State and Utah advance to the NIT finals. Plus, a market update from the Big Dance, and a look at MLB Win Totals and World Championship odds as the 2018 baseball season fast approaches. No time to rest in VSiN City!
NIT Final Four: Utah rallies from behind, Penn State rallies from ahead in Tuesday night victories
Big scoring runs from the eventual winners in both NIT semifinal games played Tuesday. Let’s take ‘em in the order they were played…
Utah (plus 2) 69, Western Kentucky 64
Two-point Pct: W. Kentucky 38%, Utah 56%
Three Pointers: W. Kentucky 7/24, Utah 5/16
Free Throws: W. Kentucky 11/14, Utah 18/23
Rebounds: W. Kentucky 32, Utah 38
Turnovers: W. Kentucky 6, Utah 13
Estimated Possessions: W. Kentucky 67, Utah 66
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: W. Kentucky 45-56-52, Utah 57-52-65
Market Watch: The game opened at pick-em or Western Kentucky -1, and it would rise to a close of -2. The Over/Under opened at 142, and would drop to as low as 139.5 before closing at 140.
If you didn’t watch the game, you might be surprised to learn Western Kentucky jumped off to early leads of 8-0, 14-3, and 18-5…seemingly justifying market support for that side. Utah would win the rest of the first half 27-14, and the rest of the game 64-46 to advance to Thursday night’s finals.
You can see that inside play was the deciding factor, consistent with our discussion earlier this week about how two-point shooting differential is looming so large in this year’s postseason. Western actually made more treys, while both had comparably disappointing long-range percentages. Western also had less than half as many turnovers. Utah won thanks to rebounding, and dominance inside the arc that created a scoring edge of 54-43 on “1’s and 2’s.”
A good sign for the Utes that they didn’t have to rely on anything fluky to get this big neutral court win. They won’t be falling flat off a shooting “over their heads” from outside. Solid stuff on the road vs. St. Mary’s to get here, and then against the Hilltoppers Tuesday. The computers we follow (two of the three anyway) and the sharps who bet the favorite proved too optimistic about Western Kentucky.
Penn State (-2.5) 75, Mississippi State 60
Two-point Pct: Mississippi State 46%, Penn State 47%
Three Pointers: Mississippi State 3/15, Penn State 11/20
Free Throws: Mississippi State 15/21, Penn State 6/10
Rebounds: Mississippi State 34, Penn State 33
Turnovers: Mississippi State 11, Penn State 8
Estimated Possessions: Mississippi State 66, Penn State 62
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Mississippi State 48-55-56, Penn State 26-28-25
Market Watch: Penn State opened at -2, and would rise quickly to -2.5 from both sharp and public action. Jockeying on game day between -2.5 and 3 because interested underdog money would come in at the full three. The opening total of 137 would drop as low as 134.5 before rising up to a close of 136.
With 2:45 to go in the first quarter, Penn State led 13-11. With six minutes to go in the second quarter, it was 37-11! That’s a 24-0 run that put the game away immediately, leading to an extended garbage time that kept the raw stats from telling the full story. Penn State went 6 of 8 on treys during that run. Mississippi State had to win the fourth quarter 19-10 just to get within 15 at the end.
Bottom line, Penn State’s key contributors shot great and didn’t turn the ball over. The Nittany Lions’ 42 points at halftime came in a slow-paced game. Continued excellence from their late season run. Penn State will be the favorite over Utah in the finals. We’ll run an expanded preview of the championship game in Thursday’s report.
NCAA Final Four: Midweek Market Watch Update
We’re about halfway from the end of the Elite 8 to the start of the Final Four of the Big Dance. Let’s take a quick look at early betting tendencies in the national semifinals.
Michigan vs. Loyola-Chicago
Opening Line: Michigan -6, total of 128.5
First Moves: Michigan -5.5, total of 129
Wednesday Line: Michigan -5, total of 129.5 (some UM -5.5’s offshore)
Sharps who have been riding Loyola in this event were happy to take plus 6 out of the gate. If you believe that Loyola is legit…at least as a team that can compete with teams seeded within arm’s reach of #3 Michigan (Ramblers beat #3 Tennessee, #6 Miami, #7 Nevada in tight finishes, and won big over #9 Kansas State), then a number that high is going to appeal to you. Michigan couldn’t win big over #6 Houston and #9 Florida State.
Though we’ve been sitting on Michigan -5 for a bit, it’s possible offshore lines of -5.5 are a harbinger of things to come. The public does like betting favorites in big TV games. And, this is a week where many offshore books go on marketing blitzes to attract new customers (casual bettors rather than sharps). Not unreasonable to assume many tourists coming to Las Vegas for championship weekend may be looking to lay some points.
The Over/Under is up a bit. Loyola played three Unders before scooting Over vs. Kansas State thanks to shooting 9 of 18 on treys and picking up some late free throws. So little margin for error on totals in the 120’s. A public mindset of “Michigan’s not going to shoot 4 of 22 on treys again” might drive Michigan and Over money through Saturday.
Villanova vs. Kansas
Opening Line: Villanova -5, total of 154.5
First Moves: Same game line, total up to 155
Wednesday Line: Villanova -5, total of 155 (some Villanova -5.5’s offshore)
A very solid line of Villanova -5 since it went up. Though, some offshores were also showing -5.5 late Tuesday evening. Same situation there involving anticipation of late-week public sentiment. This will be a heavily bet game because it’s a pair of #1 seeds squaring off in the late start. On the favorite side, many who have been riding Villanova to a string of double-digit wins won’t be scared off by a line of five. With the dog, a team as talented as Kansas could seem like a steal at that price, particularly with the Jayhawks beating Duke at a line of plus 3.5.
We can tell from the early solidity of Villanova -5 that sharps DIDN’T like this favorite at that price. They would have bet in advance of public action on the favorite. That leaves the reality that most sharps are waiting patiently to see if they can get a better price on Kansas. We can assume a “pros vs. Joe’s” divide on game day. Can’t tell now if that will be at 5.5 or higher…or if Kansas is a rare dog that will receive some public sentiment because it’s such a big-name program.
Not much happening on the Over/Under yet.
If important moves start to happen, we’ll provide updates through the week. Be sure you watch VSiN programming throughout the day for live reports from heat of the action. Our expanded “Holy Trinity” reports will run Friday of this week.
NBA: Tuesday night intensity leads to more injuries
A lot of nightly NBA schedules have been hindered by the large number of disinterested teams, whether it’s “Tank-a-Palooza 2018” that you’ve been following on “A Numbers Game” with Gill Alexander, or playoff teams resting starters or dealing with injuries. Tuesday’s slate actually had a few games that mattered to both teams! Unfortunately, two stars had to leave early after suffering injuries that shouldn’t affect the playoffs.
A quick recap of the games as they appeared in Nevada rotation order…
*Washington (plus 2) beat San Antonio 116-106
The Wizards are safely in the playoffs, though they haven’t technically clinched yet. This result might show they aren’t trying to drop down to the #7 spot in the seedings to face Boston. Hard to say, because the Spurs seemed more focused on spreading minutes around after LaMarcus Aldridge
left the game with a knee contusion. He only played 18 minutes. San Antonio had THIRTEEN players see double-digit minutes, with nobody getting more than 26. Washington led by 22 points entering the fourth quarter before the Spurs backups cut that margin down in garbage time.
*Toronto (-8) beat Denver 114-110
Important to note this was a slow game with excellent offensive efficiency. A pace factor of just 93.9 possessions. Toronto shot 38% on treys with 13 of 34 (like shooting 52% on deuces). Denver shot 43.3% on 13 of 30 (like shooting 65% on deuces). Denver led by three entering the fourth quarter but couldn’t hold on for the win. Nuggets did get the cover.
*Portland (-2) won at New Orleans 107-103
Big game both teams played like they wanted to win. Damian Lillard saw 42 minutes for Portland. Anthony Davis 39, and Jrue Holiday 40 for the Pelicans. New Orleans won the inside game behind Davis’s 36 points and 14 rebounds. But, it was a long-range squash with Portland going 10 of 32 on treys compared to just 4 of 24 for New Orleans. That’s plus 18 points right there in a game Portland only won by four. But, it is a reminder that Davis may not have enough of a supporting cast to be a real danger in the postseason. The market was pricing Portland FIVE points better on a neutral court with that line in a meaningful game. New Orleans won’t be Power Rated like a scary playoff team next month.
*Miami (plus 1.5) beat Cleveland 98-79
only played seven minutes before leaving the game after taking an elbow to the mouth. If you saw the footage, you felt the pain. Cleveland didn’t play with much fire once it was clear it would be shorthanded. Miami led by 20 at the half and coasted. Cleveland was 4 of 26 on treys, with nine different players launching long range attempts. Miami shot 57% on two-pointers. The Heat pull into a virtual tie with Milwaukee for the #7 spot in the East. Looks like there could be a big difference between finishing in #7 compared to #8 in a few weeks.
We’ll pick our spots covering the NBA until the playoffs arrive. If you were with us a year ago, you’ll recall we covered both the NBA and NHL Playoffs in-depth on the fly. Looking forward to doing that again.
MLB: Regular Season Win Totals and World Championship odds (season starts Thursday!)
This seemed like a good day to run a late “preseason” look at Major League Baseball Regular Season Win totals. Games start for real early Thursday, with the Chicago Cubs visiting the Miami Marlins at 12:40 ET, 9:40 a.m. here in Las Vegas. We want you to see the numbers before the first pitch of 2018!
Let’s run them division by division. These are the numbers as of Tuesday afternoon at the South Point. That store is using -110 vigorish across the board. So, need to worry about additional juice, or trying to find sleepers that return an underdog payoff.
NY Yankees 94.5
Tampa Bay 73.5
Another projected race between the Yankees and Red Sox. That’s usually good for the sport even if casual fans get tired of the hype. The bad news is that this is the ONLY projected divisional race across the Majors this season. The closest other “race is in the NL Central, with the Cubs projected to be 7.5 wins better than St. Louis. All other divisions see double digit differentials. The good news? If form holds, the playoffs are going to be fantastic again come October.
Chicago White Sox 71
Kansas City 69.5
Currently projected to be the worst division in the Majors, with two teams in the 60’s and three at 71 or worse. Minnesota is currently projected to fight for a Wildcard, which is easier to do if you’re in a lousy division with potentially three 90-loss teams.
LA Angels 84.5
Houston is your defending World Champions. It’s no bargain to ask them to perform at peak level again. That 97.5 is the highest number on the South Point board. Bettors and non-bettors alike are interested to see if new Angels import Shohei Ohtani can be an impact player in Los Angeles. This division is tied with the NL West for most total projected victories. Oakland has the highest number for any last place team, an on-the-field honor they tied Baltimore for last season when both finished 75-87
NY Mets 82.5
Moving to the Senior Circuit, the market has Washington falling back from 97 wins to still win this division comfortably. Health is always a big question for the Mets. They can contend for a Wildcard with a settled rotation. Another fall from grace is likely if they can’t keep stars off the Disabled List. Big drop expected for Derek Jeter’s Marlins after an offseason house cleaning.
Chicago Cubs 93.5
St. Louis 86
Some drama in this race deep into the season last year. And, the potential for a replay if the Cubs can’t keep up with the sport’s elites. This is projected to be the most condensed division based on South Point’s numbers, with only 20 games spanning best to worst.
LA Dodgers 95.5
San Francisco 80.5
San Diego 72.5
The loaded Dodgers are clear of the field. But, we are seeing that the Wildcard race could be very interesting this season. Arizona made it all the way to 93 wins last year, with Colorado not far behind at 87. San Francisco took a hit when Madison Bumgarner suffered a broken pinkie in his pitching hand last week.
You may not have noticed…the full number of wins adds up to 2,435 for the 30 teams. There are only 2,430 possible wins if no games are lost to weather. So, bettors of Regular Season Win props who prefer “Overs” aren’t just being challenged by 11/10 vigorish, but by five extra wins of additional hurdles spread across the sport as well.
Best of luck with your picks.
We mentioned that the playoffs could be fantastic. Let’s take a quick peek at odds to win the World Series for the main contenders. The Yankees have been a hot betting attraction at the South Point. They’re currently priced as favorites as a result.
ODDS TO WIN THE WORLD SERIES
NY Yankees 9/2 (18% win equivalent)
Houston 5/1 (17%)
Chicago Cubs 5/1 (17%)
LA Dodgers 11/2 (15%)
Washington 7/1 (13%)
Cleveland 8/1 (11%)
Boston 8/1 (11%)
That’s the seven teams projected to win at least 90 games. The six projected divisional winners and Boston. Already, that group gobbles up 102% of the 100% certainty that somebody will win the championship. As we often mention with futures prices, sports books build a universe larger than 100% to create a house edge.
There’s a non-zero chance somebody will come off that radar to go the distance. The next set of challengers are San Francisco at 12/1 (8%), St. Louis and the LA Angels at 15/1 (6% apiece), Colorado and Minnesota at 20/1 (5% apiece), the NY Mets and Milwaukee at 25/1 (4% apiece), and Arizona at 30/1 (3%).
See you Thursday morning to preview the NIT Championship game and talk more baseball.
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