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Top-10 betting facts from the NCAA Tournament

23 March 2009

Paging Cinderella! Paging Cinderella!

Where are you?

That's the question many fans of the NCAA Tournament are asking this morning since the word "upset" was somehow left out of equation during the first two rounds of the Big Dance. It appears the selection committee has done a bang-up job this year because as we enter the Sweet 16 portion of the tournament, things have gone pretty much to form. For the first time, 14 of the top 16 teams in are still alive and kicking after two rounds of play.

That's right, there's no Davidson or George Mason crashing the party this year. In fact, the only double-digit seed to make it to the Sweet 16 is Arizona, and it's tough to pin the Wildcats with the "underdog" label since they have four Final Four appearances and the 1997 national championship trophy on their resume. The only other team still alive that was seeded lower than four is Purdue, a five seed that won the Big 10 Tournament this year and is another perennial player in the Big Dance.

Other than that the powers of college basketball flexed their respective muscles over the last four days. Programs with storied traditions and rosters full of McDonald's All Americans are the ones that will take the court again beginning Thursday, not the upstart programs that we all love to see pull off an upset or two. Heck, four of the head coaches in the Sweet 16 are already in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Will this chalk-eating trend continue? Nobody knows for sure, but what we do know is that a true Cinderella story probably won't be materializing since midnight has already struck for those types of teams.

So, before the Sweet 16 becomes the Elite 8 and eventually the Final Four this weekend, let's take a look at 10 interesting betting facts from the first two rounds.

10. Low seeds continue to falter
As anyone who has watched more than five minutes of ESPN during the last two weeks can tell you, a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed and that record remained intact this year. But what you may not know is that you have to go all the way back to 2001 to find a No. 15 seed that prevailed over a No. 2 seed in the first round (Hampton over Iowa State) and overall No. 15 seeds are now 4-96 in Round 1.

9. The favorites won, but didn't always cover, in Round 1
Sure you're bracket is in great shape if you took all the favorites in Round 1. But if you went to the betting window with all of the teams laying points on Thursday and Friday, your bankroll wouldn't exactly be bursting at the seams. After seeing favorites go 44-20 in Round 1 the last two years, the underdogs were barking much louder this year as the chalk only covered the spread in 14 out of the 32 first-round games. And nine of those underdogs won the game outright.

8. Dogs went silent in Round 2
After causing all of that havoc in Round 1, the underdogs didn't do their backers any favors in Round 2, because on Saturday and Sunday the favorites got their revenge. Only one underdog won outright in Round 2 and that was Purdue, which was a 1-point dog to Washington. In other words, it was hardly an upset. Overall, favorites went 11-5 against the number in Round 2.

7. 'Over' players were rewarded in Round 2
The over/unders were equally split in Round 1 with 17 overs and 15 unders, but that changed dramatically in Round 2 when the over came in on 12 of the 16 games. So if you're the kind of guy who instinctively plays the favorite and the over, congratulations. You're sitting pretty right now after cashing 23 of your 32 tickets on Saturday and Sunday.

6. Dayton over West Virginia was the biggest upset
If you look at point spreads and not seedings, the biggest upset of the tournament was when 11th-seeded Dayton beat West Virginia in Round 1 as 10-point underdogs. The two biggest upsets if you go by seeding were 13th-seeded Cleveland State over Wake Forest and 12th-seeded Western Kentucky over Illinois, but since Wake Forest was an 8-point favorite and Illinois was favored by only five, Dayton takes the cake for the biggest "shocker" of the tournament thus far.

5. Three 'long shots' remain
Taking a look back at Bodog's odds to win the tournament before the event began, the three longest shots still alive are Arizona (125-to-1), Xavier (80-to-1) and Purdue (40-to-1). Every other team in the Sweet 16 started at 30-to-1 or less to win the tournament, including the defending champion Kansas Jayhawks, who came in at 28-to-1.

4. UConn was the most impressive No. 1 seed
Connecticut was the best team in the tournament during the first two rounds. Not only did the Huskies win its two games by a combined 82 points but they also covered the spread by an alarming 52 points – beating Tennessee-Chattanooga 103-47 as a 20-point favorite and taking down Texas A&M 92-66 as a 10-point favorite. UConn opened as a 6.5-favorite over Purdue in the Sweet 16.

3. The other No. 1 seeds were not so impressive
Take UConn's two impressive point-spread victories out of the mix and the other three No. 1 seeds went just 2-4 against the spread in the first two rounds. Louisville and Pittsburgh cost their backers in both games and both were in serious danger of losing their respective games on Sunday. Like UConn, North Carolina went 2-0 at the betting window, but even the Tar Heels' 14-point victory and cover as a 12-point favorite on Saturday night against L.S.U. was in doubt for much of the night. The Heels put the game away by ending the game with a 21-10 run.

2. The power conferences struggled
If you take the Big 12 out if the picture for a moment – which is what we'll do because that's the subject of our No. 1 entry on this list – the other five power conferences didn't look so "powerful" against the spread in the first two rounds. The ACC, Big East, Big 10, Pac-10 and SEC went an unimpressive 20-29, or just 40%, against the spread. The Big 10 (4-7) and SEC (1-3) had the worst records of those conferences.

1. The Big 12 was printing money
Fans of the Big 12 who like to bet the games are smiling wide right now. While the Big East and ACC get most of the love from the Dick Vitales of the world, the Big 12 has three representatives in the Sweet 16. But even more impressive is the fact that the conference went a bookie-busting 11-1 against the spread in the first two rounds. The only loss was Texas A&M to UConn on Saturday. Other than that, the Big 12 put a hurting on Las Vegas with 11 tickets cashing. Who says the Big 12 is a football conference?

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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT