NCAA Tournament odds: Sports betting wins big after weekend upheaval

After a frenzied opening weekend at NCAA men’s basketball tournament bettors are ready to place some action on the Sweet 16 round.

But first, let’s take a look at lessons learned from opening weekend and look forward to the lines for Sweet 16 games (with all odds via FOX Bet).

The opening weekend saw a No. 1 seed – the Baylor Bears – and a pair of No. 2 seeds (Kentucky Wildcats and Auburn Tigers) ousted from the tournament. The three surviving No. 1s — the Gonzaga Bulldogs, Arizona Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks — escaped with tough single-digit second-round wins.

“I think the tournament so far has really lived up to the narrative that we had, that it’s wide open,” said FOX Bet chief commercial officer Jacob Blangsted-Barnor. “Normally we have a team or two as small favourites, but this year anyone can win, all the top seeds have been scared off or knocked out.”

When it comes to sports betting and gambling, people flocked to Las Vegas for March Madness this weekend.

“This was our biggest March spree yet in terms of the handful and number of tickets written,” said BetMGM chief commerce officer Jeff Stoneback. “For us, 2019 (pre-pandemic) was a banner year. This year we easily surpassed that. The trend continues: every year we write more and more posts.”

Blangsted-Barnor said he considers John Calipari’s Wildcats the best player this year and wouldn’t be surprised if the North Carolina Tar Heels pull off another upset.

“The biggest shock for me has to be Kentucky. It’s a team that three of our talents had in their Final Four picks, so to be out so early was a huge shock,” Blangsted-Barnor said. “Going into the next round, UNC feels like the better underdog with a shot to upset, having already knocked out Baylor and now facing a UCLA team that I long thought was shaky this year.”

Stoneback said St. Patrick’s Day (March 17, the first day of the 64-game round) was good for sports betting as the No. 15 seed Saint Peter upset Kentucky in overtime and the No. No. 5 Saint Mary’s routed No. 12 Indiana, a five-time NCAA champion. The next day, No. 11 Notre Dame upset No. 6 Alabama.

“On St. Patrick’s Day, Saint Mary’s and Saint Peter’s were our two biggest winners,” Stoneback said. “And Notre Dame played the next day, and that was our biggest winner.”

The remaining No. 1 seeds – Gonzaga, Arizona and Kansas – are popular with bettors.

“Gonzaga is our only responsibility in the tournament, and Arizona isn’t great for us,” Stoneback said.

Blangstead-Barnor likes the road to the title game for the Jayhawks as the second and third seeds from the Midwest Region were eliminated.

“I think Kansas looks like probably the strongest team from what we’ve seen so far,” he said.

Are you riding with the Tar Heels for another upset this week? Or are you going chalky with the Jayhawks? If you want to get a few bucks on the Sweet 16, head over to FOX bet to place your bets.

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