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Las Vegas Sportsbook Liabilities On NCAA Basketball Final Four

James Murphy
by in NCAAB on
  • The NCAA Basketball Semifinals aka the ‘Final Four’ go Saturday evening, with the National Championship Game on Monday night.
  • In Saturday’s early game, Kansas is a -4.5 favorite over Villanova. In the late game, Duke is -4 over North Carolina.
  • The NCAA Basketball tournament is one of the biggest betting events of the year for US sportsbooks.

The NCAA basketball tournament aka ‘March Madness’ is down to just four teams. The ‘Final Four’ games are set for Saturday, April 2 at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. In the first game starting at 6:09 PM Eastern/3:09 PM Pacific, Kansas is a -4.5 favorite over Villanova. In the late game (8:49 PM Eastern/5:49 PM Pacific), Duke is a -4 point favorite over North Carolina. Both games will be broadcast on TBS in the United States.

The NCAA tournament is one of the most heavily bet events of the year at US facing sportsbooks, with the bulk of the betting coming on the first weekend of the tournament and the ‘Final Four’. This year is no exception, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Todd Dewey checked with some of the city’s bookmakers to see where the money was going. He learned that bookmakers ‘need’ one game much more than the other.

MGM Resorts director of trading Jeff Stoneback said that at his sportsbook the ‘sharps’ and the ‘squares’ were on the same side of Saturday’s early game. Both pros and recreational players are betting Kansas, making Stoneback a big Villanova fan for the evening:

“It’s usually bad for us when they’re both on the same side. because we always want to be on the side of the sharp money.”

The story was the same at Red Rock Resort–flagship property for the Stations Casino chain. Chuck Esposito has also ‘rented’ Villanova for the evening:

“It looks like we’ll be rooting for Villanova pretty big at this point.”

At the South Point, Kansas opened -3 and ‘sharps’ quickly made clear the number wasn’t high enough according to sportsbook director Chris Andrews:

“Wiseguys laid -3, -3½ and -4. We still had money at -4½.”

When South Point moved to Kansas -5, the wiseguys were ready to play the other side. An influx of ‘smart money’ pushed the line back to 4.5. That’s the most common price in the market right now. In Colorado, the major books are showing 4.5 all across the board. Same story in Nevada though there are a couple of outlier lines available at the moment with the Westgate and Caesars both showing -4. Dewey’s LVRJ article indicates that Caesars took a pair of six figure wagers on Villanova +4.5. Westgate Superbook director John Murray said that the public is all over Kansas though they have had some bigger wagers on Villanova:

“Definitely going to need Villanova, even though we have seen some bigger bets on the Wildcats. The public is all over Kansas.”

Over at VSIN, their DraftKings betting splits show the majority of the bets on Kansas with slightly more money on Villanova. That’s usually a sign that the ‘sharps’ are going against the public. The sportsbook is showing 67% of the bets on Kansas but 52% of the action on Villanova. Interestingly the total is a different matter with 81% of the money and 55% of the bets on the ‘Over’. I’ve spoken to a number of ‘sharps’ who are playing the ‘Under’ here. The total is set at 133 at DraftKings as well as at FanDuel and BetFred. At other Colorado sports you can find 132.5 (PointsBet, MGM, BetRivers) and 134 (Caesars). In Las Vegas, the board is showing Caesars at 134 and The Mirage (MGM) at 132.5.

The other semifinal game has much more balanced action according to Las Vegas bookmakers. North Carolina and Duke split a pair of games this season with Duke beating Carolina 87-67 in the first meeting and North Carolina winning 94-81 in the second game. In Nevada, Wynn and the Mirage are showing Duke -4.5 with every other major book at -4. In Colorado, the consensus number is 4 with PointsBet and MGM at 4.5. Total is 151 everywhere though MGM/Mirage and PointsBet are showing 151.5. Looking at the VSIN betting splits from DraftKings they’re showing 55% of the handle and 54% of the bets on Duke. 55% of the handle is on OV 151 but 56% of the bets are on the UN.

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