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Bettors bank on over trend to extend to Sweet 16

Updated March 22, 2017 - 11:07 pm

Email sent to me Saturday from a reader: “You are not doing well on your picks. Have you thought about another career something you might be good at?”

Now that’s funny.

I’m a big fan of comedy and sarcasm, but the main reason I was able to laugh that off was because I went a respectable 7-5 against the spread in our contest in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

In hindsight, we all should have blindly bet the over on every game of the first two rounds, as the over-under record was 34-16-2, including 13-3 on Friday, when 15 of 16 first-half totals went over as well.

“The theme of the first four days was over. People jumped on them, and the decisions kept getting bigger and bigger,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “In the NCAA Tournament, you have neutral courts and unfamiliar shooting sites. They let them play a little more, and they’re big games, so players are a little nervous and start off a little slow. Usually you get plenty of unders.

“For whatever reason, this year they’re track meets.”

Following the lead of the NBA, college basketball teams are firing 3-pointers at a record rate, and the 30-second shot clock has increased tempo and scoring. Another factor that has helped push numbers over the total in the tournament is teams extending games by fouling.

The betting public is banking on the over trend to extend to the Sweet 16.

“Most of the action is public money again on all the overs,” Boyd Gaming sports book director Bob Scucci said. “The public is realizing a lot of these teams are extending the games. Even if they look like dead unders, you get to the end of the second half and nobody is willing to throw in the towel, even if they’re down big.”

We’re going with Oregon-Michigan over 147 as our best bet in the Sweet 16. Both teams are loaded with 3-point shooters. The Ducks have gone over in eight of their past nine games, and the sizzling Wolverines in four of five after eclipsing the number in 10 straight earlier this season.

Here are two other best bets from handicappers Ken Thomson (Sportsxradio.com) and Lance Blankenship:

UCLA-KENTUCKY OVER 165½, 6:35 p.m. FRIDAY

The number has dropped from the opening total of 168, as two of the nation’s highest-scoring teams have trended under lately. But Thomson, a Las Vegas radio host, expects them to run and gun as they did in the Bruins’ 97-92 win over the Wildcats in Lexington, Kentucky, in December:

“Are (coaches John) Calipari and (Steve) Alford going to play a slow-down game? No way. When they get up and down the floor, both teams feel they have the advantage because they have the horses to run it. They’ve gone under because they’ve had higher totals with teams that would not run with them. Calipari and Alford let their players play their style. It makes no sense for either one of these teams not to run. I think it hits 175 to 180.”

PURDUE (+5) VS. KANSAS, 6:35 p.m. THURSDAY

Blankenship, formerly of Vegas Insider, stands to win more than $395,000 in futures bets on the Boilermakers if they win the national title. He’s not hedging his bets here, as he expects Purdue to earn the outright victory behind burly Caleb Swanigan and Co. and cash plus-190 on the money line. We’ll settle for taking the points, as the line has climbed to 5½ behind an avalanche of public money on the Jayhawks. Scucci said bookmakers will be big Boilermakers fans in this one, and so will we.

“I’m on the complete opposite page of everybody. All I hear people talk about is Frank Mason (III) and Devonte’ Graham and how this time of year all you need is guards,” Blankenship said. “Kansas is weak under the basket, and Purdue is going to get them in early foul trouble and they’re going to win. Watch Swanigan have a monster game.

“Everybody goes nuts about Mason. He’s not that good. I’m 45 and I could score 10 points in the Big 12. It’s an overrated conference. He’ll be negated by (the Boilermaker guards). Kansas has no chance at pressing Purdue. They have very good ball-handlers, they play physical ball, they’re really big, they’re rebounding well and it’s a gym Kansas doesn’t shoot well in. I’m positive Kansas is going to get dumped.”

Unlike me, Blankenship has another career he’s good at and can fall back on if his picks don’t do well. He owns a roofing company near Pittsburgh.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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