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Michigan leads dog run into Big Ten title game

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

Jaren Jackson Jr.'s face says it all after Michigan State's loss to Michigan in the Big Ten semifinals.
© USA Today Sports Images

Michigan still on fire after bullying #2 Michigan State. Will play #8 Purdue Sunday. Also, Duke crushes North Carolina in the second half, and the Cleveland Cavaliers may be an auto-fade again. Welcome to this special Sunday edition of VSiN City.

Big Ten Tournament: Michigan’s stellar run continues, as dogs move to 9-2-1 to take a bite out of the Big Apple
Who’s playing better basketball than the Michigan Wolverines the past few weeks? Check out these dominant stats against the #1 seed in the Big Ten tournament, and the #2 team in the Associated Press national poll…

#15 Michigan (plus 5) 75, #2 Michigan State 64 
Two-point Pct: Michigan 55%, Michigan State 45%
Three Pointers: Michigan 9/25, Michigan State 7/25
Free Throws: Michigan 24/33, Michigan State 9/10
Rebounds: Michigan 36, Michigan State 33
Turnovers: Michigan 9, Michigan State 8
Estimated Possessions: Michigan 68, Michigan State 67
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Michigan 14-13-16, Michigan State 6-4-6
Market Watch: Oddsmakers finally started giving Michigan respect at the opener of plus 3.5. We showed you yesterday that recent pricing would have suggested Sparty around -5 given “market” Power Ratings. The “market” lived up to those past expectations by pounding the favorite up to -5, and -5.5 or higher in a few public-heavy books. Way too much love for Michigan State’s perceived blowout potential in recent weeks.

A big edge in free throw attempts for the dog was polluted by late desperation tactics from Michigan State. Michigan was 11 of 15 from the line in the last few minutes You can see that the Wolverines were much better inside the arc (55% on deuces), and once again showed off their “defense and rebounding” chops. Even slight edges are impressive when you’re facing the #1 seed in your tourney on a neutral floor. This was a double-digit win and cover over an opponent many believe is well-suited to thrive in March. 

This result continues the recent tendencies we discussed yesterday. Michigan has now won eight straight games, going 7-1 against the market. That includes sparklers so far in this event over previously red-hot Nebraska and nationally respected MSU. Sparty is now 2-8-2 ATS its last dozen, casting more doubt on why this team is so nationally respected! MSU didn’t impress in its quarterfinal win over Wisconsin as a double-digit favorite, nor here. In short, Sparty may have peaked too early while Michigan is peaking at just the right time. 

(A reminder that our possession estimates use the formula shots…minus offensive rebounds…plus one-half free throw attempts…plus turnovers.)

#8 Purdue (-8) 78, Penn State 70
Two-point Pct: Penn State 32%, Purdue 52%
Three Pointers: Penn State 8/22, Purdue 11/21
Free Throws: Penn State 22/27, Purdue 15/22
Rebounds: Penn State 36, Purdue 32
Turnovers: Penn State 8, Purdue 11
Estimated Possessions: Penn State 65, Purdue 65
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Penn State 31-40-28, Purdue 5-5-3
Market Watch: The first number up was Purdue -6, a bucket below prior pricing. Penn State was finally getting market respect. Short lived! Sharps and the public alike pounded Purdue at -6, -6.5, -7, and -7.5. A few stores even tested Purdue -8.5 before tip-off. Apparently, Penn State’s “short-handedness” was seen as a big anvil playing its third game in three days.  

If you didn’t watch the game…that’s a misleading final score. Purdue led by as many as 17 points in the second half, and by 14 in the final moments. Penn State hit a pair of late three-pointers to vulture a push (or winning for late dog bettors at plus 8.5). A massive 50-26 run from 3:39 left in the first half (Purdue down 28-21) to 5:11 left in the game (71-54 Purdue) settled the issue. 

Penn State’s probably still on the wrong side of the bubble despite those strong computer ratings. Purdue can make its case to earn a #1 national seed by beating Michigan Sunday. Underdogs go 1-0-1 ATS Saturday in this event, bringing the tourney tally to 9-2-1 ATS with one game left. 

Big Ten estimated “market” Power Ratings: Purdue 86, Michigan State 86, Ohio State 82, Michigan 81, Penn State 78, Maryland 77, Nebraska 76, Indiana 76, Wisconsin 75, Northwestern 73, Iowa 73, Illinois 73, Rutgers 70, Minnesota 69.

Speaking of huge runs putting a game away…

ACC Basketball: #5 Duke wins second half 49-29 to avenge earlier loss to #9 North Carolina
Throughout an ugly first half, Duke naysayers were readying their “OVERRATED” chants in their living rooms. The Blue Devils were down at the break 35-25 while in both a bounce-back spot off a loss to Virginia Tech and a revenge spot after a loss earlier this season in Chapel Hill. How could the team play so poorly in those scenarios? They couldn’t, for long. 

#5 Duke (-8) 74, #9 North Carolina 64 
Two-point Pct: North Carolina 46%, Duke 51%
Three Pointers: North Carolina 8/31, Duke 9/25
Free Throws: North Carolina 4/5, Duke 9/20
Rebounds: North Carolina 42, Duke 46
Turnovers: North Carolina 14, Duke 14
Estimated Possessions: North Carolina 72, Duke 70
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: North Carolina 8-9-8, Duke 3-2-4
Market Watch: Generally speaking, most stores opened at Duke -7, took some early sharp money on North Carolina to bring plus 6.5 to the board in many spots, before the public came in hard on Duke to lift the game all the way up to -8 (with a few -8.5’s out there). Love for chalk in many of the biggest matchups of the day, suggesting the general public noticed the refrigerator calendars have flipped over to March! Time to bet again. 

There’s a lot to like about Duke’s advantages across the board. But don’t let it slip by that this was another great defensive performance. That’s 64 points allowed in about 70 possessions, less than one per. North Carolina joined the list of teams who are having trouble draining treys against the new Duke defensive approach. The only blemish for the Blue Devils is that 9 of 20 mark from the free throw line. 

Earlier this week, we talked about the string of Unders Duke has been playing. It’s up to SIX straight. And, the margins are incredible. Not just six Unders…and not just six Unders by double digits…but six Unders by more than 15 points, with five coming by 21 or more points. 

Duke’s games have stayed Under by…
21 vs. North Carolina
26.5 vs. Virginia Tech
39 vs. Syracuse
16.5 vs. Louisville
22 vs. Clemson
37 vs. Virginia Tech

Also Saturday in the ACC:
Georgia Tech (-3) beat Wake Forest 64-56
Miami (-3.5) only beat Virginia Tech 69-68
Syracuse (pick-em) beat #18 Clemson 55-52
Florida State (-9) Boston College 85-76
#1 Virginia (-8.5) only Notre Dame 62-57
NC State (-1.5) beat Louisville 76-69

ACC estimated “market” Power Ratings: Duke 87, Virginia 86, North Carolina 82, Notre Dame 80 (Colson back), Clemson 79, Florida State 79, Louisville 79, Virginia Tech 79 at home…78 on the road, Miami 78 at home…77 on the road, NC State 77, Syracuse 76, Boston College 73, Wake Forest 73, Georgia Tech 73, Pittsburgh 61.

Assuming the dregs are taken out of the ACC tournament early, we’re going to see some very competitive basketball in the later rounds. 

SEC Basketball: Florida closes with a flourish, but Auburn and Tennessee share the title
We’ll run the box score from Florida’s win over Kentucky because that was the matchup of the day according to computer rankings. Perhaps this will turn out to be the most important results of the day in terms of the postseason if Florida can bottle this formula. Elsewhere, Auburn and Tennessee both won to earn regular season co-champion honors. 

Florida (-5.5) 80, #23 Kentucky 67 
Two-point Pct: Kentucky 43%, Florida 55%
Three Pointers: Kentucky 6/16, Florida 10/24
Free Throws: Kentucky 13/22, Florida 14/20
Rebounds: Kentucky 36, Florida 34
Turnovers: Kentucky 13, Florida 10
Estimated Possessions: Kentucky 66, Florida 65
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Kentucky 25-15-25, Florida 21-20-27
Market Watch: An opener of Florida -4 was pushed to as high as -6 in many spots before a late buy back on Kentucky settled the closing number at Florida -5.5 most everywhere. Not clear in the computer ratings nor recent pricing why the Gators would get THAT much support at a price clear of the value of home court advantage. Turned out to be justified. 

We’ve been repeating ourselves all year with Florida. They can look like Final Four material when the treys were falling (which they were here during a big first half surge). They look more like a #8-9 seed (or worse) when the bombs are clanking off the rim. That sets bettors up for a potential spoiler spot in the Dance if Florida shoots well as a dangerous dog. But running the table is difficult for offenses that are this erratic. Eventually the bad game takes them out. Something to watch in the SEC tourney next week too. 

This was a battle of Top 25 teams according to the respected computers we follow, if not the pollsters. Disappointing regular season finale for Kentucky (particularly on defense), who had shown better form of late. 

Also in the SEC Saturday:
LSU (-1.5) beat Mississippi State 78-57
Texas A&M (-5) beat Alabama 68-66
#14 Auburn (-11) beat South Carolina 79-70
#16 Tennessee (-9) only beat Georgia 66-61
Missouri (-3) beat Arkansas 77-67
Vanderbilt (plus 3.5) shocked Ole Miss 82-69

SEC estimated “market” Power Ratings: Auburn 82, Florida 82 at home…81 on the road, Tennessee 82 at home…80 on the road, Kentucky 81 at home…80 on the road, Texas A&M 80 at home…79 on the road, Arkansas 79 at home…78 on the road, Missouri 79 at home…77 on the road, Mississippi State 78 at home…77 on the road, Alabama 78, Georgia 76, South Carolina 74,  LSU 75 at home…74 on the road, Vanderbilt 75 at home…74 on the road, Ole Miss 74. 

The SEC tourney is going to be wide open. Auburn has stumbled a bit lately due to injuries. All sorts of danger right behind them on that list. Who isn’t a sleeper?! Probably not Vandy nor Ole Miss in terms of running the table. Anything can happen round-by-round in 40-minute elimination sprints. 

Big 12 Basketball: Shorthanded Texas upsets West Virginia from square on the bubble
ESPN kept emphasizing through the telecast that Texas would be 98% to make the Big Dance if it upset West Virginia Saturday afternoon based on BPI data. Just over a 50/50 coin flip if the Longhorns fell. Can’t say that the whole world agrees with that “virtual lock” assessment after this win. A bad opener next week for the burnt orange could make things dicey again. 

Texas (plus 5.5) 87, #20 West Virginia 79 (in overtime) 
Two-point Pct: West Virginia 50%, Texas 56% 
Three Pointers: West Virginia 7/26, Texas 11/19
Free Throws: West Virginia 10/11, Texas 18/28
Rebounds: West Virginia 32, Texas 37
Turnovers: West Virginia 6, Texas 14
Estimated Possessions: West Virginia 72, Texas 71
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: West Virginia 13-8-9, Texas 40-37-42
Market Watch: The opener was either West Virginia -4.5 or -5 depending on the store. The line rose and settled at -5.5. A few spots tested WV -6 only to see Texas money hit that number. Looks like multiple market influences overrated the impact of Mo Bamba’s absence. 

It’s weird to see Texas shoot lights out. They’re very shorthanded at the moment. But it’s certainly possible that getting Mo Bamba OUT of the lineup helped free up flow and movement. He can be a bit of a ball stopper, particularly since trying to shoulder a larger scoring load while also impressing NBA scouts. Important to note how slow this game was. Those possession counts include overtime. So, low 60’s in regulation. Both offenses did a good job of running their sets before eventually attacking the basket successfully. Difference was that Texas uncharacteristically made a bunch of treys. 

West Virginia still isn’t playing like a National Championship threat even though it keeps being priced that way. The Mountaineers can win really big against mistake-prone opponents who lose their composure. Keep your composure, and it’s just not that hard to beat these guys. Be sure you evaluate opposing guard play in the Big 12 and NCAA tourneys. 

Also in the Big 12 Saturday:
Kansas State (-2.5) beat Baylor 77-67
#12 Texas Tech (-4) beat TCU 79-75
Oklahoma State (plus 3.5) blitzed disinterested #6 Kansas 82-64

Big 12 estimated “market” Power Ratings: Kansas 85, West Virginia 84, Texas Tech 82, TCU 81, Oklahoma 81 at home…80 on the road, Kansas State 79, Baylor 79, Texas 78 (76 without Bamba), Oklahoma State 78, Iowa State 73 at home...72 on the road.

Kansas looked like it was docked a point (justifiably it turns out) in the lame duck letdown spot. The Jayhawks will probably move back to an 86 for the Big 12 tournament. Among the teams qualifying for “they haven’t been as good as that number down the stretch” are Oklahoma (3-12 ATS its last 15), Texas Tech (4-8 ATS its last 12 when not playing Oklahoma), and West Virginia (3-7 ATS its last 10 when not playing Texas Tech or Oklahoma). Feels like almost the whole conference peaked early. Somebody could sneak through to go deep in the Dance. Still largely names in a hat. 

Big East Basketball: Xavier clinches top seed in conference tournament
We’re not going to run any Saturday boxscores from this conference because there wasn’t a blockbuster matchup or result. We did want to update the “market” Power Ratings for you in advance of the coming tournament. 

Saturday in the Big East:
#3 Xavier (-7.5) failed to cover in a 65-62 win at DePaul
Providence (-6) failed to cover in a 61-57 win over St. John’s
#4 Villanova (-19) beat Georgetown 97-73
Marquette (-1.5) beat Creighton 85-81
Seton Hall (-2) beat Butler 77-70

Big East estimated “market” Power Ratings: Villanova 88 at home…87 on the road, Xavier 81, Butler 78, Seton Hall 77, Creighton 77, Marquette 76, Providence 76, St. John’s 73, Georgetown 72, DePaul 70.

Pretty amazing that Villanova couldn’t win the regular season crown given its pricing distance from the field. Betting markets aren’t close to being sold on Xavier as a true top four team nationally. St. John’s closes 5-2-1 ATS keyed by a big upset over Duke. A chance to play spoiler next week in a Big East tourney that’s going to feature some bubble talk in the middle of the pack. 

NBA: Fading the Cleveland Cavaliers has turned back into a printing press!
For weeks, you could rack up a nice rate of return just by fading the Cleveland Cavaliers every time they took the floor. The market kept pricing them like Eastern champions even though they weren’t playing anywhere near that level. Defense, in particular, was a big problem with the roster as it was constructed at the time. 

Isaiah Thomas was a locker room poison who couldn’t guard anybody. After a trading barrage that included jettisoning Thomas to the LA Lakers, Cleveland temporarily looked like champions again.

February 11: Cleveland (plus 4.5) won at Boston 121-99
February 13: Cleveland (plus 3.5) won at Oklahoma City 120-112

Talk about sending a message! Outright road victories over playoff teams that beat expectations by 26.5 and 11.5 points. Futures prices launched the Cavs back to the top of the East. LeBron James was likely to earn another trip to the league finals. 

The hype fizzled quickly. Cleveland is now 1-5 ATS since that win at OKC, including outright losses as favorites to Washington, San Antonio, Philadelphia, and now Denver. 

Denver (plus 4.5) 126, Cleveland 117 
Two-point Pct: Denver 55%, Cleveland 58%
Three Pointers: Denver 19/35, Cleveland 9/24
Free Throws: Denver 13/15, Cleveland 16/21
Rebounds: Denver 35, Cleveland 41
Turnovers: Denver 9, Cleveland 9
Estimated Possessions: Denver 97, Cleveland 96

Horrible defense again. This was actually played at a below average pace! Denver scored 126 points on fewer than 100 possessions. Cleveland was efficient themselves, but not enough to keep up. Denver had no trouble setting up open looks, and did so without turning the ball over. On night two of a back-to-back that was also the Nuggets’ fifth game in nine nights since the All-Star Break. Denver had failed to cover its prior four entering Saturday evening. 

Cleveland falls to an unbelievable 6-25-1 ATS on its home floor this season, and is 19-42-1 ATS overall. The locker room may be getting along better (though JR Smith’s soup-throwing episode casts some doubt on that). The defense is still in trouble against playoff caliber weaponry. 

Houston (-8) 123, Boston 120 
Two-point Pct: Boston 46%, Houston 53%
Three Pointers: Boston 13/24, Houston 19/49
Free Throws: Boston 19/21, Houston 26/30
Rebounds: Boston 38, Houston 40
Turnovers: Boston 12, Houston 9
Estimated Possessions: Boston 104, Houston 101

Wanted to get this one in because it was the showcase TV game of the night. Quite a thriller. But that was largely because Boston was a sharp 13 of 23 on three-pointers while James Harden was just 3 of 12. Pencil in norms, and we’re near the Las Vegas point spread or on Houston’s side of it. 

Also wanted to update a story we’ve been following. The Detroit Pistons loss/non-cover in Miami Saturday night dropped them to 2-12 ATS since the Blake Griffin trade. In the playoff race, #8 seed Miami now has a four-game lead over #9 Detroit with 19 games to go for each. The Eastern entries are virtually locked into invitations unless somebody collapses or Detroit finds a miraculous solution to its ill-fitting roster construction. 

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