To most college basketball fans, Oregon State's resume going into the NCAA men's tournament was a common one.
Heading into its conference tournament the Beavers were a 14-12 team, 10-10 in the Pac-12, and got hot for three days to win the Pac-12 tourney title and steal a big dance bid. We've seen that happen before with mediocre power-conference teams. They were a No. 12 seed in the NCAA men's tournament and not worth much attention when filling out a bracket.
To bettors, the Beavers were a wonderful secret that had been paying off for a couple months.
On Jan. 16, Oregon State was a 6-point underdog against Arizona State and won 80-79. That started a remarkable run that most people never noticed. From that game through Sunday's win over Oklahoma State to make the Sweet 16, Oregon State is 17-3-1 against the spread. That's an absolutely unbelievable record against the number. What's even crazier is that the Beavers were underdogs 18 times in those 21 games. They were five-point favorites against Washington, two-point favorites against Washington State and one-point favorites against Cal during the regular season (they covered twice and pushed against Washington State).
Against-the-spread records aren't necessarily predictive, because oddsmakers adjust to hot teams and there's natural regression too (that's another reason Oregon State's two-month run ATS is so great). But what it could have done, in a case like Oregon State, is tip off anyone that the Beavers were undervalued. A team that has covered 15 times in its last 18 games as an underdog is doing something to beat the number. What looked like a fluke run in the Pac-12 tournament was surely a surprise but maybe not that much of a fluke. Knowing Oregon State was that good against the spread would have made it easier to take them as an eight-point underdog in the first round against an underwhelming Tennessee team or on Sunday night as six-point underdogs against Oklahoma State.
Oregon State is a 6.5-point favorite at BetMGM against Loyola Chicago in its Sweet 16 game on Saturday. Loyola is a fantastic team that just dominated No. 1 seed Illinois. Yet, it might be wise to take a look at Oregon State and the points. If you figured out the Beavers weeks ago, you're playing with a lot of house money anyway.
Underdogs continue to rule
In this crazy season, maybe we should have known one of the craziest tournaments ever was coming.
On Sunday, underdogs stayed hot against the spread.
That brings the count to underdogs with a 28-15 record against the spread, with the under winning at a 24-17 clip.
Over the last five tournaments, the best ATS record lower seeds have put up through two rounds is 28-20, according to Matt Eisenberg's tournament guide. We like to remember all of the underdog stories from the NCAA tournament, but underdogs have rarely covered at a rate like this. Throw in how many underdog moneylines have cashed and it has been a wild start to this March Madness.
Illinois' loss pushes Gonzaga's odds down even further
Coming into the tournament, if you had to pick one team that looked like it could beat Gonzaga, it probably would have been Illinois.
Illinois didn't make it to the second weekend. Loyola Chicago had a phenomenal performance in knocking off the Illini. That makes the Bulldogs' path easier, and BetMGM's odds reflect that.
Gonzaga is down to +175 to win the tournament, a shockingly low number for a team that still has to win five games to cut down the nets. That low number isn't undeserved though; Gonzaga looks as good as advertised. Baylor is down to +450 to win it all as the second favorite.
Rough day for bettors
There were eight games on Sunday, and four had at least 60 percent of the money bet on them: Illinois (75 percent), Baylor (77 percent), West Virginia (65 percent) and Oklahoma State (64 percent). That's a 3-1 day for the books on the games they were sweating most.
Additionally, of the five over/unders that had at least 70 percent of the money on one side, four of them went in favor of the house. That made it a rough day for high seeds and bettors on Sunday.
Sunday's worst beat
Texas Tech bettors thought they were headed to overtime against Arkansas. The Red Raiders were two-point favorites and covering in overtime seemed possible. Texas Tech broke free for what looked like a wide open layup in the final seconds.
Arkansas survived. The Razorbacks get Oral Roberts next, and while the No. 15 seed Golden Eagles have been far better than anyone expected this tournament, Arkansas probably is fine seeing a 15 seed on its schedule in the Sweet 16. That could have easily been Texas Tech facing a 15 seed with an Elite 8 spot on the line.
For Texas Tech, and those who bet them, it was a rough way to end a great game.
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