Over the popular play in Arkansas/UNC showdown, total continues to rise

Three days ago, the NCAA Tournament had 64 teams. That number will be down to 16 by tonight. Covers checks in on where the action is for today’s eight-game slate, with insights from Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill US in Las Vegas, and Scott Cooley, odds consultant for offshore sportsbook Bookmaker.eu.

No. 7 Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 2 Louisville Cardinals – Open: -2; Move: -2.5; Move: -3; Move: -3.5

Michigan got a big scare during a runway incident on its plane en route to the Big Ten tournament. But coach John Beilein’s troops have been doing all the scaring since, winning five in a row as part of a six-game overall win streak (5-1 ATS). The Wolverines (25-11 SU, 16-17 ATS) won the Big Ten tournament in the process, and opened the NCAA Tournament with a thrilling 92-91 victory over No. 10 Oklahoma State as a 2.5-point favorite.

Louisville (25-8 SU, 17-13-1 ATS) has alternated SU wins and losses over its last seven games, going 3-4 SU and just 1-6 ATS. In Friday’s NCAA opener against No. 15 seed Jacksonville State, the Cardinals won 78-63 but fell short as 18.5-point faves.

“The sharps are on Louisville, and the public is on the over,” Bogdanovich said, noting the total opened at 140 and is up to 142.5. “There’s good handle on this game.”

No. 10 Wichita State Shockers vs. No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats – Open: -2.5; Move: -3.5; Move: -4; Move: -4.5; Move: -4

Three years ago, Wichita State got a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the selection committee rewarded the mid-major by giving perennial power Kentucky the No. 8 seed in the same region. The Shockers didn’t make it out of that second-round game, losing 78-76 as a 4.5-point favorite. Now, the roles are nearly flipped on seeding and the pointspread.

Wichita State is on a 16-game winning streak (11-5 ATS), rolling to the Missouri Valley Conference tournament title, then opening the NCAA Tournament on Friday with a 64-58 victory over No. 7 seed Dayton. But that was hardly an upset, as the Shockers (31-4 SU, 18-13-1 ATS) were favored all week and went off as 6.5-point chalk.

Kentucky (30-5 SU, 18-17 ATS) is on a nice little tear of its own, winning 12 in a row (6-6 ATS). The Wildcats, the SEC’s regular-season and conference tourney champs, held off upstart No. 15 seed Northern Kentucky on Friday, 79-70 as a hefty 20-point favorite.

“After Wichita State was a wagering darling in the opening round, the script has flipped for its second matchup,” Cooley said. “Kentucky is garnering a ton of steam, as we are now 2 points higher than where we opened. The Wildcats are commanding the wager and money handle at a 70 percent clip.”

No. 8 Arkansas Razorbacks vs. No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels – Open: -10; Move: -10.5; Move: -10; Move: -10.5; Move: -11; Move: -11.5; Move: -11

North Carolina was the runner-up in last year’s NCAA Tournament, but knows getting back to that title game is no guarantee. Just ask its opponent from the 2016 final, Villanova, vanquished by Wisconsin on Saturday, also in an 8 vs. 1 matchup. The Tar Heels (28-7 SU, 18-14-2 ATS) plastered No. 16 seed Texas Southern 103-64 in Friday’s tournament opener, easily cashing as a 26.5-point fave.

Arkansas (26-9 SU, 18-15 ATS) made it to the SEC tourney final before losing to Kentucky and is 9-2 SU, 8-3 ATS in its last 11 games. The Razorbacks opened NCAA play with a 77-71 victory over No. 9 Seton Hall in a pick ‘em game on Friday.

Bookmaker.eu’s bigger concern with this game is the total, which has jumped from 160.5 to 163.

“It’s never a good thing when the sharps and squares are on the over, and that’s the case here, with more than 70 percent of the handle on that side of the total,” Cooley said. “Also, the Tar Heels have seen some smart action and a load of public action, so we’ve got some liability on that side of the matchup.”

Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.


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