Two convincing wins from the survivors of this Saturday’s Final Four has set the stage for tonight’s matchup between the Michigan Wolverines and the Villanova Wildcats for the NCAA Championship. Saturday was without surprise, as both favorites won while both surpassed market expectation, covering their respective spreads with ease.
For tonight’s game, on a two-day turnaround, we’ll have to be extremely wary of public bias, for we know that a large percentage of the betting market watched these games themselves, and perceptions will greatly influence the Championship market. Once again, we should also be cognizant of the fact that recreational money holds as much weight as does that of the professionals, in such a high-profile affair.
Therefore, in our search for value on this one final game of the College Basketball season, we’ll keep all this in mind as we take our familiar plunge into the off-shore betting market. Hopefully, upon our ascension from this deep dive, we’ll have come up with the best bets to be made on this Championship game, in line with the sharp action, if there is indeed any of the sort.
1 Villanova vs. 3 Michigan
Off-shore Open: Villanova – 6.5 -109 Total: 145
Off-shore Consensus: Villanova – 6.5 -115 Total: 144.5
Betting Consensus: 64% Villanova Total: 65% Over Money line: Nova 51%
As one of highly favored teams to win it all from the start of the Tournament, the one-seeded Villanova Wildcats have made the road to San Antonio look easy, covering all five games in double-digit victories, traveling a road without much adversity. Michigan, on the other hand, traveled a much more adverse path, needing a last-second buzzer-beater to get by Houston in the round of 32 and in squeaking by Florida State with 58 points of offense in the Elite 8. As a result of these disparate roads, the perception of Villanova is that of a Powerhouse, with the Wildcat stock now perhaps at its season-long pinnacle.
In this NCAA Championship game, the betting world is predictively bullish on that skyrocketing Villanova stock, coming in on the Wildcats at a 64% as of this morning. Bookmaker officially opened Nova as a 6.5-point favorite, with nine percent juice, a one-cent discount from your standard -110, while the rest of the market opened at a range of -6.5 -110, all the way up to -7 -115. And while action has steadily poured in on Villanova – once as high as a 68% consensus – the number has remained quite steady for the most part with little significant movement. Many of the books posting 6.5 -110’s have increased the price on juice, and some have even tested the waters at 7, but the market has eventually made its way back to the current consensus of Villanova -6.5 -115. The hesitancy with which the books have shown in moving this number could mean one of two things: either the books are comfortable at 6.5 taking Nova money with a slightly higher tax, knowing that this number is where it should be, or there have been nibbles by sharp bettors on Michigan, causing pause in moving the number. I’m willing the guess the former, especially when I see a couple of the major off-shores such as Pinnacle and 5Dimes willing to offer reduced juice on both sides of 6.5, welcoming spread money. I will say though, that with several of the major off-shore recreational shops such as Bovada, MyBookie, and Heritage at 7, while Pinnacle, BetCris, and the Greek (higher limit shops) are at 6.5, I’d be more inclined to call Michigan the “sharper” of the sides. And while the reduced 7’s available at Bovada and Heritage look attractive from a spread perspective currently, this still definitely is a situation where, if wanting to take the Wolverines, you do so as close to tip as possible; for, if the consensus thus far is any indication, late recreational money should favor Villanova to a large extent.
The total appears to be showing some tell-tale signs of sharp action, with 65% of the bettors so far on the over and the total dropping at some shops a half of a point. Many of the 145’s are still available out there, but many of these are also charging a hefty tax on the under, while Pinnacle, 5Dimes, and BetOnline are already down to 144.5. Bovada is the lone ranger at 145 that is charging an increased price on the over at 145 -115, so the split is clear, and taking that reduced 145 on the under would be probably be your best bet currently on the total. Still with 65% on the over, this is another situation where under bettors would be well advised to wait until just before tip, giving the recreational over bettors plenty of time to work their magic with this number.
As far as betting the outright winner of this game on the money line, it appears that professionals are making a case for laying better than 3 to 1 on the Wildcats to win. While the action has been about split so far, prices have increased a bit on Villanova for most shops, and with the range of prices at -290 to -330, some of the higher limit shops, such as Pinnacle and BetCris are at the higher end of this range. Bovada is offering the cheapest price at -290, therefore it’s apparent that there is a sharp/public descrepancy on the money line. This is the case with most championship games, however, and sharp bettors know that in waiting as long as they can before tip, they can often get a discounted price on the favorite’s money line, relative to the spread, playing back at the recreational money that will look to bet a little to win a lot on the outright underdog winner.