HomeSports2024 Men's NCAA Tournament: 10 early March Madness betting thoughts

2024 Men’s NCAA Tournament: 10 early March Madness betting thoughts

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Let the madness begin!

The 68-team field is all set for the 2024 NCAA Men’s Tournament and the opening-round betting lines are finally starting to settle after about two hours of the odds screen getting lit up like a Christmas tree.

I’ll be posting my favorite first-round plays in the coming days here on FOX Sports, but first, I wanted to hit some initial leans, market moves and general thoughts on the best damn betting event in America.

Here are 10 early thoughts for March Madness.

1. UConn’s region is certainly something

All the Huskies have to do to return to the Final Four is outlast the Big Ten, Big XII and SEC tournament champions. Seriously. UConn wouldn’t have to play all three of them, but those top four seeds are hands down the best of any region. College basketball wizard Ken Pomeroy ranks UConn first in the country with Auburn fourth, Iowa State fifth and Illinois tenth.

Sheesh.

UConn is still as high as -120 to cut down the regional nets in Boston.

2. You’re paying a premium on conference champions

Speaking of conference champions, you’re not exactly ordering off the value menu when betting a team like Auburn or Illinois in the early rounds.

Meanwhile, peep that 6-11 matchup in the Midwest.

DraftKings opened South Carolina as a 1.5-point favorite over Oregon. If you think that’s low, Chris Andrews and his crew opened it PK at the South Point in Las Vegas. The respect is real, although that number would’ve probably been closer to -3 a few days ago before Oregon’s Pac-12 title run.

3. Sharps are sizing up Samford against Kansas

The Jayhawks should have Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar back in the mix for their first-round game, but that hasn’t stopped wise guys from backing Samford early. FanDuel opened Kansas -9.5 and that line lasted about 45 seconds. An hour later, the Westgate SuperBook opened Kansas -6.5.

I’ll be really interested to see where this number closes on Thursday.

4. $10,000 bets were plentiful on Sunday

The South Point was the first Vegas shop to post NCAA Tournament games late Sunday afternoon, and they were taking $10,000 limits at the counter. “We had plenty of 10 dime bets,” sportsbook director Chris Andrews told FOX Sports. “They bet me Morehead State, Long Beach, Alabama and Akron.”

5. It’s the “Pardon My Take” battle in the first round

Wisconsin vs. James Madison.

Cheese vs. Constitution.

Big Cat vs. PFT Commenter.

What a content juggernaut this will be for Barstool Sports’ top podcast. Big Cat’s Badgers are 4.5-point favorites against PFT’s 31-3 Dukes out of the Sun Belt. James Madison is shaping up to be a trendy underdog pick and one national pundit says the Dukes are going to the Sweet 16.

We’ll see.

“I need this win so bad,” Big Cat said via text.

6. Lots to like about Kentucky’s draw

Vegas Stats and Information Network (VSIN) morning show host Mitch Moss is probably the only person with more Kentucky national title stock than me right now. So we’re going to look like total idiots if the Wildcats get bounced as 13.5-point favorites against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies.

Big picture, Marquette is good, not great and while I love Houston’s defense, I don’t like teams that can’t score. It’s not my thing. The Cougars will inevitably have that game where they score 59 points and lose a heartbreaker.

Also, Kentucky would avoid UConn until the national title game, which was probably the highlight of my day, just ahead of paying $22 for a cheeseburger.

“If they put me in charge of putting the brackets together this year based on all my Kentucky futures, I don’t think I could’ve put together a better draw myself,” Moss told FOX Sports.

7. Ready to bet against Tom Izzo?

Chris “The Bear” Fallica is.

“Mississippi State +2.5 was my first bet,” the Bear Bets host told me. “I think Michigan State is more along the lines of being a double-digit seed. The SEC was a much stronger conference than the Big Ten and the Spartans will have trouble scoring. And the whole January, February, Izzo thing is overplayed.”

Surely there’s a world where the Bulldogs go off the favorite.

8. Purdue narratives, while lazy, are tough to ignore

Purdue chokes every year.”

I bet you know somebody who says that.

Granted, the Boilermakers haven’t made a Final Four since 1980 – a 44-year drought – and everybody remembers last year’s embarrassing loss to Fairleigh Dickinson in a 1-16 matchup. However, Purdue’s guards are all a year older and if Zach Edey makes his free throws, they should reach the Elite 8.

And remember, I was all about them choking last year.  

9. I’ll probably flip on my bracket by Saturday

What else is new? It’s been a yearly tradition to fill out a bracket – one bracket only – since I was about nine years old. That said, I’ll flip on that thing like you wouldn’t believe. Three years ago, my bracket had Illinois making the Final Four, but when the Illini met Loyola in the Round of 32, I bet Ramblers +7 hand over first. It’s important to separate church [bracket] and state [bets] when you’re betting on the tourney because matchups are everything.

10. Come on Big Blue!

If Kentucky channels its size, talent and scoring ability, they’ll crash the Final Four. I wholeheartedly believe that. Obviously, it’s scary how young they are, but John Calipari hasn’t had this much NBA talent since the 2015 team with Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Willie Cauley-Stein and Aaron and Andrew Harrison. That team lost to Wisconsin in the national semifinal.

Let’s see what happens. 

Sam Panayotovich is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and NESN. He previously worked for WGN Radio, NBC Sports and VSiN. He’ll probably pick against your favorite team. Follow him on Twitter @spshoot.



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