Upset Weekend: The Top College Basketball Teams Fall As March Madness Looms

Hear the sound of the trumpet. Savor those vocal high notes. Add a drumroll.

March Madness is in full rehearsal three weeks out with a slew of upsets. 

Three of the top four teams bit the dust and five of the top 10 went down in the biggest upheaval weekend of the college basketball season.

What a prelude to the buzzer-beaters and bracket shredding that usually mark the first round of March Madness.

The New Jersey sports betting crowd got a sneak peek at the delirious chaos.

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The Carnage

Dog bettors rejoiced over the weekend.  The number 1 team in the country for the last couple months, Baylor – BOOM. The Bears were downed by third-ranked Kansas 64-61.

The second-ranked team, Gonzaga – BOOM. The Bulldogs were throttled by BYU 91-78.

And what about San Diego State? 

The Cinderella Kids, the only unbeaten team from a field of 353 in the entire season?  Fourth-ranked in the nation. Playing at home against UNLV.

And … BOOM. Down went the Aztecs for the first time all year, losing to UNLV 66-63.

For good measure, seventh-ranked Maryland was throttled by Ohio State and ninth-ranked Penn State bowed to Indiana.

NJ sportsbooks weigh in on March Madness betting

Otherwise, it’s been a year of pleasant surprises.

Regardless of the crash these teams suffered over the weekend, some injected new enthusiasm into the college-hoop scene.

San Diego State was one of them. The Aztecs picked up sentimental steam among the bettors according to Nick Bogdanovich, Director of Trading for William Hill Sportsbook (now Caesars Sportsbook).

Bogdanovich told NJ Gambling Sites that San Diego State began the year as high as 100-1 to become the national champion, but became more popular as its undefeated streak mounted.

San Diego State was an 18-1 futures pick by mid-February.

“There is a ton of money in the pool on San Diego State and I hope they go deep into the tournament,” Bogdanovich said.

“If they win it all, yes, we’ll get hit, but at the same time, I love the fresh face. They captured the imagination of the bettors because they keep winning and cashing spread tickets.”

San Diego State has an easier schedule than most and hasn’t been forced to play high-ranking teams. Nonetheless, the Aztecs caught fire with the bettors.  Bogdanovich said one of the team’s recent weekend games dumped a big loss on the book.

“They were the biggest decision of the day,” Bogdanovich said.

“People just pounded them. We took a loss but we know the bettors take the winnings and often play something else.”

That made sense in the brick-and-mortar world of Las Vegas books and its online menu because San Diego State is a West Coast team. Nevada bettors flock heavily to NFL teams like San Diego and San Francisco, making the geography factor relevant in most sports.

Bogdanovich said Baylor also ranks high with NJ sports betting customers, but it has been harder for this team to sneak up on the bettors.

Baylor had been the nation’s top-ranked team for much of the season and its odds have reflected the expectation that this team will continue to do well.

The loss to Kansas indicated the Bears were not invincible, but that they weren’t a fraud either. That contest was close.

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FanDuel shares college basketball betting action

Officials at FanDuel Sportsbook tracked some recent Baylor and San Diego State activity.

The company concludes that Baylor has seen a gradual betting uptick and then a heavy spike as wins mounted. They looked at a game in November versus February and saw an increase of 800% in handle and 450% on the moneyline.

San Diego State recorded a more modest wagering gain throughout the season because its West Coast schedule knocks out some potential East Coast betting. That changed a bit as the team rose through the rankings.

A recent contest against New Mexico saw more than a 100% increase in handle and 70% of bet count on the moneyline versus a game in November.

The Big Dance: There’s still time

While Kansas, Duke, Florida State, and Maryland are known to bettors and hold top 10 positions, but how about Dayton?

The Flyers have been captivating and held the fifth spot before upset weekend. They will pick up at least one spot in the rankings.

And there was Penn State in the ninth slot before Sunday.  Was.

Bettors in New Jersey and Pennsylvania have been jubilant to place big money on the Nittany Lions for something besides football, even if the basketball team now gets pushed out of the Top 10.

The 11-25 spots have been a revolving door, filled with familiar clubs:

  • Kentucky
  • Seton Hall
  • Louisville
  • Villanova
  • Butler
  • Auburn
  • Creighton
  • Colorado
  • Iowa

These squads have taken turns rising to the 10 slot and getting knocked down by a loss.

This sets up the run to the Big Dance. Many teams are good. Some are great. None are utterly dominant.

On the board at DraftKings

Gonzaga was 6-1 to win it all at DraftKings Sportsbook after the weekend smoke cleared.

Kansas was 7-1. Baylor stood at +850.

Brigham Young surprised Gonzaga, winning handily, but is 60-1 to capture a championship and 20-1 to reach the Final Four.

Bettors expect the top-rated teams to at least breeze through the early post-season competition.

Gonzaga is a 2-1 favorite to reach the Final Four. Hard to make money with that pick right now. Kansas is -134 and Baylor is -115. Duke is +175.

SugarHouse: Touting conference winners

SugarHouse Sportsbook has an interesting menu of conference tournament winners.

These are timely futures not only to bet but to examine teams heading into the Big Dance the following week. Some conferences have multiple teams entering the championship tournament.

In the ACC, Duke is +200, while Florida State at +315 and Louisville, at 335, follow.

Timing is important in the Big 12. The Kansas victory over Baylor flip-flopped their tournament odds. Kansas went from +150 to +200 and Baylor moved from +150 to +200, reflecting the fact that Kansas should now be a slight favorite.

It won’t be easy to get value for Baylor or Kansas, but some can be found by betting either of them after a loss.

Villanova paces the Big East board at +250, while Butler and Creighton stand 3-1. Providence, which upset then 10th-ranked Seton Hall in early February, is 12-1.

Oregon paces the Big 12 at +150 with Arizona, +225, not far behind.

About the Author

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.