Villanova Still In The March Madness Mix, With No. 1 Baylor Up Next

March Madness betting resumes on Saturday with the Sweet 16. And the field includes a 15. a 12 along with a pair of 11s.

And the New Jersey online dog bettors who rode those teams last weekend look for a March Madness encore.

When the NCAA Tournament action picks back up this weekend the field will have the highest number of seeds [of the remaining teams] — 94  — in tournament history. The action runs Saturday and Sunday for the next round, with the Elite Eight following Monday and Tuesday.

And then the 2021 Final Four will be set.

Villanova Wildcats are still dancing

Garden State gamblers were surprised to see Villanova shake off injuries to defeat Winthrop and North Texas. Bettors wagered heavily against the Wildcats, whose season had looked to be over when they failed to win the first round of the Big East tournament.

But now, presto, Villanova faces No. 1  Baylor and gains sizable points.

Villanova’s two victories also propelled the Wildcats from +10000 (100-1) to +4000 (40-1) for the championships futures at William Hill NJ (now Caesars NJ).

 The rise of Villanova, once the nation’s third-ranked team, was partially logical.

March Madness shock value

Oral Roberts, the No. 15 seed that knocked off Ohio State at +15.5 and Florida at +8.5 at most NJ online sportsbooks, opened as a double-digit underdog versus Arkansas.  

Oregon State, the No. 12 seed in the Midwest Region, buried Tennessee and Oklahoma State. The Beavers are a dog against Loyola of Chicago, which beat Georgia Tech and then top-seeded Illinois.

How many points is Divine Inspiration worth to Loyola? Sister Jean, its celebrated 101-year-old team chaplain, issued a pre-game prayer that went viral before the second game.  She prayed that Loyola would outrebound Illinois, noting layup and three-point percentages.

As she sat in a wheelchair, Sister Jean’s prayer was answered.

Gamblers want to know if she thinks Loyola can cover 6.5 now. And whatever happens, if Sister Jean’s team plays Oral Roberts? Does religious influence cancel out?

No. 11 Syracuse, which throttled San Diego State and West Virginia, gets a handful of points against  No. 2 Houston.

No. 11 UCLA, which needed a First-Four game rally to upend Michigan State, parlayed the comeback to wins over BYU and Abilene Christian.  The Bruins, playing with house money, battle favored  Alabama, No. 2.

Otherwise, top-seeded Gonzaga remains a prominent favorite over Creighton

Top-seeded Michigan gives points to Florida State

No. 7 Oregon and No. 6 USC meet in the closest thing to a tossup.

March Madness bettors ready to load up

Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told NJ Gambling Sites that more money is going to be wagered in the next round. 

“With less games, four per night in the next round, there will be more sizable wagers,” said Avello.  “People will be trying to do more parlays, etc., with either one team or one game. This has been a crazy tournament so far.”

Some results appear typical. Three of the four No. 1 seeds,  Michigan, Baylor, and Gonzaga, advanced to the Sweet 16. Illinois was throttled by Loyola.

What’s different is the absence of  No. 2 and 3 seeds. Second-seeded Ohio State and Iowa were vanquished. So were third-seeded West Virginia, Kansas, and Texas

That brings betting money to an unusual area.

“As a result, you still have some futures wagering being written,” said Avello. “We still have Oral Roberts at 100-1 and there has been some play.

“You could even take an Oregon State at 50-1, maybe a Creighton at 40-1. Michigan is still at +750, and it was only +800 for the start of the tournament, so the team hasn’t dropped off much.

“Even Gonzaga, the big favorite, is still +155.”

DraftKings gains split of big results

Loyola stopping top-seeded Illinois helped all books.

But Oral Roberts performed oral surgery on the DraftKing Sportsbook’s bottom line once bettors doubled down on the team’s unlikely second-round victory.

DraftKings had enticed gamblers with an odds boost of Oral Roberts to +500 for the second game. For a 15 seed, it may have seemed like a safe move.

Did bettors pounce on the +500?

“Oh yes they did” Avello said.

“In that game, we lost a ton. Gamblers were betting them on the moneyline the night before, even on Sunday. Players always look for a good dog to play. When you look back at Oral Roberts, it had played teams like Missouri, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma,” said Avello.

“They hadn’t been buried by those teams, they usually lost by about 10. Then they won several games in a row and I think the players picked up on that.”

William Hill NCAA Tournament trends

Willian Hill had the same big winning game as DraftKings, but a different big loser.

“The biggest win for the house was Illinois-Loyola Chicago for sure,” said Nick Bogdanovich, Director of Trading for William Hill US. “The biggest loser was either USC-Kansas or Gonzaga-Oklahoma. USC-Kansas was the late game and Pac-12 had been rolling, so there was a ton of support on the short line come game time.” 

For the Sweet 16, Bogdanovich noted that Arkansas and Oral Roberts are a combined 4-0 against the spread, including three outright victories as underdogs. 

These contests also feature the two highest Sweet 16 totals, with Arkansas vs. Oral Roberts at 159.5 and Gonzaga vs. Creighton at 158.5.

“Gonzaga has covered both their games, people love Gonzaga,” he said.  “They want to see a mid-major finally get it done. We’ll need Creighton for sure in that game. Then I actually think it helps Oral Roberts that they’re running into a team that also plays fast. It’ll come down to how many threes they can hit against Arkansas.”

 Bogdanovich considers Syracuse “the public dog” against Houston, who the book will need to win.

Big bets at BetMGM

Over at BetMGM sportsbook, some big bets already poured in.

One bettor wagered $100K to win $150K on Gonzaga at +150. 

Here are some notable Sweet 16 bets:

  • $451,000 to win $410,000 on Alabama -6
  • $367,200 to win $306,000 on Oregon +3
  • $306,000 to win $255,000 on Loyola-Chicago -6
  • $222,200 to win $202,000 on Florida State +3

Most bettors will gamble less and feel less pressure. But either way, we’re just getting warmed up.

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

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.