These five March Madness games drawing plenty of early betting action

A day after the NCAA Tournament bracket was unveiled, there were several games drawing bettors’ interest and forcing line moves. Covers checks in on where the action is with Jeff Stoneback, sportsbook manager at The Mirage on the Las Vegas Strip, and with the lines manager for offshore sportsbook

No. 13 Vermont Catamounts vs. No. 4 Purdue Boilermakers – Open: -9.5; Move: -9; Move: -8.5

When it comes to final scores, there’s certainly no hotter team than Vermont in the NCAA Tournament. The Catamounts, seeded 13th in the Midwest Region, have won 21 consecutive games, although only eight of those were lined contests, including three in the America East tournament. Vermont (29-5 SU, 4-4 ATS) edged Albany 56-53 as a 10.5-point favorite in Saturday’s conference final.

Fourth-seeded Purdue won the Big Ten regular-season title, but bowed out in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, losing 74-70 in overtime as a 2.5-point fave against Michigan. Prior to that, the Boilermakers (25-7 SU, 17-10-2 ATS) had an 8-1 SU run (5-2-2 ATS) to cap the regular season.

“This is the region where we’ve taken the most action on games,” Stoneback said of the Midwest. “Vermont opened as a 9.5-point ‘dog, and they’re getting 8.5 points now against Purdue.”

Vermont and Purdue tip off at 7:27 p.m. ET Thursday.

No. 11 Southern California Trojans vs. No. 11 Providence Friars – Open: Pick; Move: -1; Move: -3

These two teams hope to play their way into the field of 64. Providence (20-12 SU and ATS) won its last six regular-season games (5-1 ATS) to land a spot in the NCAA Tournament, despite losing its Big East tournament opener 70-58 as a 2-point underdog to Creighton.

Southern Cal (24-9 SU, 16-16 ATS) had a four-game skid late in the regular season that had some analysts thinking the Trojans wouldn’t get into the Big Dance. But the Men of Troy bounced back with three straight wins, then played UCLA very tough in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals, losing 76-74 as a 10-point pup.

“Everyone jumped on USC pretty quickly, pushing the line from pick to Trojans -1,” GTBets’ lines manager said Monday morning. “But that hasn’t deterred the action from remaining at 65 percent on USC.”

In fact, the Trojans moved up to -3 by Monday afternoon and were the only tournament team really catching the attention of professional bettors.

“We’ve seen nothing sharp yet, except on USC,” Stoneback said. “We opened USC -1, and now it’s 2.5.”

The winner of this contest, at 9:10 p.m. ET Wednesday, moves into the East Regional to face No. 6 seed Southern Methodist.

No. 15 Jacksonville State Gamecocks vs. No. 2 Louisville Cardinals – Open: -21; Move: -20

As a 15 seed, Jacksonville State is rightly a huge underdog in this 2:45 p.m. ET Friday game in the Midwest Region. The Gamecocks (20-14 SU, 17-12 ATS) won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. In the OVC final, fourth-seeded Jacksonville State beat No. 2 seed Tennessee-Martin 66-55 as a 2.5-point chalk.

Louisville (24-8 SU, 17-12-1 ATS) has been a little up-and-down of late, alternating wins and losses over its last six games while going 1-5 ATS. The Cardinals were seeded fourth in the ACC tourney, losing 81-77 to Duke as a 2-point favorite in the quarterfinals.

Stoneback said the public was on Jacksonville State early at +21, drawing that number down a point to +20.

No. 11 Kansas State Wildcats vs. No. 11 Wake Forest Demon Deacons – Open: +1; Move: Pick; Move: -1; Move: Pick; Move: -1

It’s another play-in game, this one at 9:10 p.m. ET Tuesday night, for the right to play No. 6 seed Cincinnati in the South Region. Wake Forest had a four-game run through the first round of the ACC tournament, including regular-season wins at home over Louisville and on the road against Virginia Tech. But in the second round of the ACC, the Demon Deacons (19-13 SU, 16-14 ATS) fell to VaTech 99-90 laying 3 points.

Kansas State (20-13 SU, 15-12-2 ATS) nearly made it to the Big 12 tournament championship game from the No. 6 seed. The Wildcats upended No. 3 seed Baylor in the quarterfinals, then gave West Virginia all it could handle in a 51-50 loss as a 6-point pup in the semis.

“The public is on Wake, with 3/1 parlays on the Demon Deacons and 60 percent of the side bets,” GTBets’ lines manager said. “But the sharp action has yet to come in.”

No. 12 Princeton Tigers vs. No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Open: -7.5; Move: -7; Move: -6.5; Move: -7

Notre Dame has been stout over the past month-plus, winning six in a row as part of an 8-1 SU spree (7-2 ATS) that put it in the ACC championship game. The Fighting Irish (25-9 SU, 18-9-1 ATS) then fell to Duke 75-69 getting 4.5 points.

Princeton (23-6 SU, 12-10-1 ATS) won the Ivy League tournament, dropping Yale 71-59 as a 7-point chalk in the championship game to stretch its winning streak to 19 games. The league title gave the Tigers a spot in one of the NCAA Tournament’s first games Thursday, a 12:15 p.m. ET tipoff in the West Region.

“The Irish opened as a 7.5 point favorite, and after some back and forth, the line has settled at 7,” GTBets’ lines manager said, adding Notre Dame had a 2/1 margin in bets. “Historically, the public loves betting on Notre Dame in any sport, so you might be getting some value in a 7-point Princeton ‘dog.”

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


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