NCAA seeds don’t always line up with oddsmakers

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Thursday, about 1,000 people will line up for a seat at the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino sportsbook at the start of the NCAA tournament.

Although Michigan State is No. 4 seed this year, many at the LVH simply will not care — oddsmakers treat the Spartans like a No. 1 seed regardless.

No matter what the NCAA thinks, stats show the team will be favored against everyone (except Florida).

“We certainly can point out the committee flaws like no one else can,” Jay Kornegay, who runs the LVH sportsbook, tells Tim Dahlberg of the Associated Press. “Michigan State is a 4 seed, yet we have them as the second favorite to win it all. That doesn’t make much sense to us.”

LVH gives more respect to Michigan State than the NCAA selection did, and oddsmakers make the Spartans a 9-2 pick to win the entire tournament, second only to the 4-1 odds for Florida.

They could have gotten better odds, but bookies think the No. 4 seeded Spartans will need to provide a little more effort on the way to Final Four, unlike if they were seeded Nos. 1 or 2.

The same line of thought raised the odds on Louisville (15-1) and Michigan (25-1), two teams facing a brutal Midwest region loaded with challengers.

“The Midwest region is one of the toughest regions we’ve ever seen,” said Kornegay. “In my opinion it might be the toughest region of all time.”

Power ratings do not always agree with seedings, but there’s more than enough for bookies to appreciate this year. In the first four days of play, thousands bettors will cram sportsbooks  – loaded with fistfuls of cash — in a gambling frenzy unlike anything else, save the Super Bowl.

This year the sportsbooks will do extremely well since there is not a primary favorite.

“People every year talk about a tournament that is wide open, which to me is one where eight to 10 teams have a chance,” said Wynn resort book director Johnny Avello. “Unpredictability is the stuff that the books love, and this is one year we don’t have one team anyone can say will win it hands down.”

Florida — the most equal of all the equal teams — not only is No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll, but also odds-on pick at book rooms all along the Las Vegas Strip.

Avello lowered Florida to 3-1 due to the massive amount of money put on the Gators since posting odds last April. Florida’s favorable bracket in the South, clearing the way to the Final Four, doesn’t hurt.

“The favorite should be a team capable of winning that has the easiest route,” Avello tells Dahlberg. “And Florida has the easiest route, no question about it.”

Louisville is also an oddsmaker favorite, another team that didn’t get the expected seed. The Cardinals are under pressure to come out as No. 4 seed in the Midwest region to make it to the Final Four, and likely to be a favorite in every game Louisville plays in their region.

The reason is that Vegas bookies, unlike the NCAA, take in account recent performance as a better predictor of success — instead of looking at the entire season.

Both Michigan State and Louisville finished strong in the conference tournament, and each are in decent positions to make a run.

 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.