Sharp money forcing major odds movement for Friday’s college conference tournaments

It’s another day of wall-to-wall conference tournament basketball, with a boatload of interesting games from coast to coast. That includes another meeting of one of the greatest rivalries in the game. Covers checks in on where the action is for four of today’s contests, with insights from Scott Cooley, odds consultant for offshore sportsbook

No. 14 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 6 North Carolina Tar Heels – Open: -3; Move: -3.5; Move: -4
For the second time in a week, these ACC bluebloods collide, this time in the tournament semifinals at 7 p.m. ET. North Carolina is on a 6-1 SU run (5-1-1 ATS), including a season-ending 90-83 home victory over Duke Saturday to push as a 7-point favorite. The Tar Heels (27-6 SU, 17-13-2 ATS), seeded No. 1 in the ACC, then opened the tournament with a 78-53 rout of ninth-seeded Miami as 8.5-point chalk Thursday.

Unlike North Carolina, fifth-seeded Duke (25-8 SU, 13-18-1 ATS) didn’t get a bye to the quarterfinals and has already played two games in the ACC tournament. The Blue Devils topped No. 12 Clemson 79-72 laying 6.5 points in Wednesday’s second round, then knocked off No. 4 seed Louisville 81-77 as 2-point  underdogs Thursday.

“We saw steady sharp money on Duke against Louisville, but the initial action for this classic has come on the Tar Heels, which prompted a move to -4,” Cooley tells Covers. “Currently, we have 75 percent of the tickets and 70 percent of the money on North Carolina.”

Michigan State Spartans vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers – Open: +1; Move: Pick; Move: -1; Move: -1.5; Move: -2

Tom Izzo is trying to string together enough wins to get Michigan State back to the NCAA tournament. The Spartans (19-13 SU, 17-14 ATS) had a very up-and-down regular season, but at least got the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten and a bye into Thursday’s quarterfinals. Michigan State took advantage of that, hammering No. 13 Penn State 78-51 as a 6-point favorite.

Meanwhile, Minnesota (23-8 SU, 18-11 ATS) got the double-bye in this tournament with an 8-0 SU and 7-1 ATS run late in the season. That streak ended in the season finale, a 66-49 loss at Wisconsin as an 8-point dog, but the Gophers still secured the No. 4 seed and are getting the early money in today’s game.

“The Gophers have had a pretty good run at the window of late, and bettors have taken notice,” Cooley says. “We have nearly 70 percent of the tickets on Michigan State, but moved to a pick ‘em because of the smart money on the Minny side.”

Gophers action continued to flow from there, moving Minnesota to a 2-point favorite for this 2:30 p.m. ET contest. Cooley also said the total moved from 138.5 to 137 due to sharp action on the under.

No. 16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. No. 17 Florida State Seminoles – Open: -2; Move: None
Notre Dame got the double-bye in the ACC tournament as the No. 3 seed and enters this semifinal matchup on runs of 7-1 SU and 7-2 ATS. The Fighting Irish (24-8 SU, 17-8-1 ATS) opened this tournament as 3.5-point underdogs to No. 6 Virginia in the quarterfinals, but rolled to a 71-58 victory Thursday.

Florida State (25-7 SU, 17-11-2 ATS) nabbed the ACC’s No. 2 seed to also secure a bye into the quarterfinals. The Seminoles held off No. 7 seed Virginia Tech 74-68 as 8-point favorites to reach Friday’s 9 p.n. ET semifinal.

“We made the Noles a short chalk, but we’re expecting the public money to be on Notre Dame after its big victory Thursday,” Cooley says. “I think there could be some wiseguys looking for a good number if it drops anywhere under -2.”
No. 3 UCLA Bruins vs. No. 7 Arizona Wildcats – Open: +2.5; Move: None

UCLA is among the hottest teams in the country, ripping off 10 consecutive victories, though the Bruins got all they could handle in Thursday’s Pac-12 quarterfinals. Steve Alford’s third-seeded squad (29-3 SU, 16-16 ATS) blew a couple of double-digit leads against crosstown rival and No. 6 seed Southern California, barely holding on for a 76-74 victory as a 10.5-point favorite.

Arizona (28-4 SU, 16-14-2 ATS) is the No. 2 seed in this tournament and has won seven of its last eight games, with the lone loss a 77-72 home setback to UCLA as a 2.5-point chalk. The Wildcats pulled away from No. 7 seed Colorado for a 92-78 quarterfinal win laying 7.5 points Thursday. While Arizona is the higher seed, it opened as a 2.5-point underdog for Friday’s 11:30 p.m. ET matchup.

“What a great game to end Friday evening, and there will be no shortage of action for this one,” Cooley says. “The ‘dog has dominated this series of late, and this feels like another tossup from a handicapping standpoint.”

To Cooley’s point, the underdog has covered the last seven in this rivalry and 12 of the last 13.
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.  


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