The long wait is finally over. March Madness returns today with Sweet 16 action. Including the NIT, we have six college hoops games to choose from today, along with 9 NBA games and 11 NHL games. For extensive Saturday betting analysis, be sure to join Michael Lombardi, Patrick Meagher and myself this morning from 10 a.m.-noon ET on The Lombardi Line. We'll be dissecting all the big matchups and updating the top lines moves and late sharp action across all the major sports. We'll also be joined by Thomas Gable at The Borgata in Atlantic City.
In the meantime, let's discuss where the money is flowing for today's four Sweet 16 games...
2:40 p.m. ET: Oregon State vs Loyola Chicago
This Midwest Region matchup features 12-seed Oregon State (19-12) against 8-seed Loyola Chicago (26-4). Since the start of the Pac-12 tournament, Oregon State has won five straight, all of which came as underdogs. The Beavers took down 5-seed Tennessee 70-56 in the first round of the Tournament and then upset 4-seed Oklahoma State 80-70. On the flip side, Loyola Chicago has won eight straight, beating 9-seed Georgia Tech 71-60 in the first round and then shocking 1-seed Illinois 71-58 in the second round. This line opened with Loyola Chicago listed as a 7-point favorite. This line has ping-ponged back and forth from 7 to 6.5 and back to 7. It looks like wiseguys are in a bit of a disagreement with some leaning Loyola Chicago -6.5 and others grabbing Oregon State + 7. Oregon State has value as a slow paced dog (20-16, 56% this NCAA Tournament). Ken Pom has Loyola Chicago winning by 7-points, which is right on the number. We also might be looking at a low scoring game. This line opened at 126.5 and has been bet down to 125.5. Some shops are even down to 125.
5:15 p.m. ET: Villanova vs Baylor
This South Region tussle features 5-seed Villanova (18-6) against 1-seed Baylor (24-2). Villanova has won and covered comfortably in their first two tournament games, taking down 12-seed Winthrop 73-63 and 13-seed North Texas 84-61. Meanwhile, Baylor has beaten 16-seed Hartford 79-55 and edged 9-seed Wisconsin 76-63. This line opened with Baylor listed as a 6-point favorite. Respected money hammered Baylor early in the week, driving this number up from -6 to -7.5. Now that the line has risen 1.5-points off the opener, Villanova is getting some buyback as a buy-low inflated line play. Ken Pom has Baylor winning by four points, which means Nova + 7.5 has actionable value. Nova also has value as a slow paced dog (20-16 ATS, 56% this NCAA Tournament). We've also seen some sharp money hit the over, driving the total up from 139 to 141.5. Both teams have been profitable to the over this season, with Nova 13-11 and Baylor 16-10.
7:25 p.m. ET: Oral Roberts vs Arkansas
This South Region showdown pits Cinderella 15-seed Oral Roberts (18-10) against 3-seed Arkansas (24-6). Oral Roberts has been the darling of the Tournament thus far, shocking 2-seed Ohio State 75-72 in the opening round and then upsetting 7-seed Florida 81-78 in the second round. Now they face another tough test against Arkansas. The Razorbacks took care of business against 14-seed Colgate 85-68 and then edged 6-seed Texas Tech 68-66. This line opened with Arkansas listed as an 11-point favorite. Pro bettors seem to think this opening number was a bit low. They've laid the points with Arkansas, pushing this line up from -11 to -11.5. Ken Pom has Arkansas winning by 14-points, which means that the Razorbacks still possess an actionable edge even with the line jumping up a half point. Arkansas will look to dominate on the boards in this one. The Razorbacks are 26th in the country in rebounding. Oral Roberts is 230th. We've also seen some under money hit this total, dropping it slightly from 159 to 158.5.
9:55 p.m. ET: Syracuse vs Houston
This Midwest Region grudge match features 11-seed Syracuse (18-9) against 2-seed Houston (26-3). Led by Buddy Boeheim (55 points in two games), Syracuse has notched a pair of upsets so far in the tournament, beating 6-seed San Diego State 78-62 and then taking down 3-seed West Virginia 75-72. Meanwhile, Houston waxed 15-seed Cleveland State 87-56 in the first round and then held off 10-seed Rutgers 63-60 in the second round. This line opened with Houston listed as a 6.5-point favorite. The public is all over Houston laying the points. However, this line initially dipped to 6 before settling back to the opener of 6.5. Essentially, this line has either remained frozen or fallen, which means all liability seems to be on the Syracuse side. Ken Pom has Houston winning by eight points, which doesn't support the market movement. One variable to keep in mind here is the health of Houston star senior DeJon Jarreau (10.9 PPG). He is expected to play but has been hobbled with a hip injury as of late. We've seen some over money hit this total, driving it up from 140 to 140.5.