Final Four sharp money: UConn feels inevitable, Vegas sees liability on Purdue, pro bettors wait out NC State spread

LAS VEGAS — Duane Colucci, the race and sports manager at Rampart Casino, still can’t get over what he witnessed from Connecticut last weekend in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.

“Against San Diego State, at one point, the Aztecs had 20 rebounds and the Huskies had 25 offensive boards!,” he said. “A monster showing.”

That was last Thursday in the Sweet 16. Giving 10.5 to 12 points, UConn won, 82-52.

“Then the unbelievable 30-0 run against Illinois,” Colucci said. “Just great defense, they’re out-rebounding teams and UConn is just such a well-coached squad.”

Saturday, in the Elite Eight, the 8-point favorite Huskies blasted Illinois, 77-52.

The Final Four takes place Saturday inside State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

“They’re definitely going all the way,” Colucci said of the Huskies. “It’s just a matter of IF they cover. I’ve seen some savvy social-media people say, ‘Do we even have to play the rest of the games?’

“But there’s always that Cinderella chance. You never can tell. It’s why we love the NCAA Tournament, but it’s pretty much gone to form this year.”

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Final Four odds for Alabama vs. UConn, NC State vs. Purdue

In Saturday’s first national semifinal, North Carolina State (26-14) is about a 9-point underdog (146 total) to Purdue (33-4) at 6 p.m. ET, per odds boards the day before the game. At 8:45 p.m., UConn (35-3) is favored by 11.5 points (161 total) against Alabama (25-11). 

That first game’s opening total is down about a point, from a 147 opener, in Vegas. The second game’s total has been clipped by a half-point to a point, and cash has pushed the UConn spread up at least a point everywhere.

At the South Point and its sister sportsbook property Rampart, UConn is -12, with a 160.5 total. At those books, the price is -105 (rather than the usual -110) for single straight NCAA bets.

Westgate SuperBook executive vice president Jay Kornegay said early movement on these two games has been marginal.

“It hasn’t really taken off yet,” he said. “The public won’t get ahold of this thing till Thursday or Friday. The numbers are really solid right now, and the sharp guys aren’t really touching it.”

The SuperBook has heavy liability on Purdue, whose title odds were 14-to-1 in November. At that point, UConn was 18-to-1, Alabama 40-to-1 and North Carolina State 200-to-1.

“Somehow, we gotta knock them out,” Kornegay said of the Boilermakers. “We really need UConn to win it, as far as futures are concerned.”

He added that sharp bettors are probably waiting to pounce on NC State the moment that spread hits double digits, but Kornegay doesn’t envision that happening at the SuperBook.

With a 23.1-point margin of victory in these NCAAs, UConn is on pace to zap UCLA’s two-tourney record of 22.5, set in 1967 and ’68.

“They’re just peaking at the right time,” Kornegay said of the Huskies. “A 30-0 run in the Elite Eight? My god, that just doesn’t happen.”

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UConn a cover machine in March Madness

On stats guru Ken Pomeroy’s grand chart, the Huskies are first, Boilers third, Tide 12th and Wolfpack 43rd.

At BetMGM, which occupies eight Strip properties, director of trading Lamarr Mitchell noted that NC State had a 2-1 edge on Purdue in both tickets and cash. Tickets are even between UConn and Alabama, but Huskies cash has trumped Bama by an 8-1 margin.

“UConn absolutely reminds me of the year the New England Patriots went undefeated,” Mitchell said. “It didn’t matter what number we put up on New England, fans backed it and the Patriots covered,

“That’s what we’re seeing with UConn men’s basketball. It doesn’t matter what number we put up, they cover … and they cover easily. And the public is putting their money where their mouth is.”

Is NC State vs. Purdue point spread too big?

Colucci said Vegas sportsbooks probably pine for a Connecticut-Purdue title game come Monday night in Arizona.

However, he’s been enjoying this run by North Carolina State and big man DJ Burns.

In 1983, under third-year boss Jim Valvano, NC State was 17-10 and needed to win the ACC tournament to get into the NCAAs, then it beat Wake Forest, fifth-ranked North Carolina and No. 2 Virginia.

NC State won six in a row in the NCAAs, beating Houston, 54-52, for the crown.

This season’s squad, under Kevin Keatts, was 17-14 when it won five consecutive games to claim an ACC tourney title. It has beaten Texas Tech, Oakland, Marquette and Duke for the right to play Purdue on Saturday.

“They’ve been very efficient in the NCAAs and just continue to roll,” Colucci said. “NC State getting 9 points, maybe look to take them. They might not win straight up, but I think they’ll definitely be right there.

“People will take them on the moneyline and dabble in parlays. That’s a fabulous matchup and I think it will be much tighter than the nine points indicate.”

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