As expected, bookmakers are receiving heavy betting action on the favorite, 2-seed Kansas State Wildcats over the underdog, 7-seed BYU Cougars.
This corresponds with www.sportsbook.com’s betting trends, currently reporting a 68%:32% ratio in favor of Kansas State at (-4.5). Twenty-four hours ago, the betting trends reported a 92%:8% ratio in favor of Kansas State at (-4.0). We can see that bookmakers have adjusted the line a half point to reach a closer balance in bets, but still rather unbalanced.
We know the bookmakers have a process (line movement) to balance the bets in order to eliminate betting risk from the books. We believe the bookmakers’ non-balancing of bets are predominantly intentional, and an indicator of risk tolerance, and positioning. In simple terms, this tells us, the bookmakers like the Cougars’ chance of covering the spread and are comfortable exposing themselves to that risk.
With another twenty-four hours left until tip off, and the current unbalanced 68%:32% ratio, we like the underdog BYU Cougars (+4.5) pick at www.sportsbook.com.
BYU’s first round game resulted in a double overtime victory over the Florida Gators (99-92). It was their first NCAA March Madness tournament win since 1993. Cougars star shooter Jimmer Fredette hit two 3-pointers in double overtime, and finished the game with 37 points.
Fredette must have a big game in order for BYU to keep up with Kansas State. He proved he can carry the team, scoring over 30 points in eight games, including 45 points and 30 points performances in the Mountain West Tournament. Fredette and the Cougars are extremely impressive statistically, ranking third in the nation in 3-point shooting, and first in free throw shooting at 78.6%. This year, the Cougars set a Mountain West tournament record for free throws, shooting 88.9% (48 of 54).
In addition to his scoring responsibilities, Fredette and company will be challenged by Kansas State’s two speedy guards, Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente. The two Kansas State guards average a combined 35 points per game, and run transition ball as good as any team tandem in the nation. In their first round game against North Texas, Pullen and Clemente combined for 32 points, but even more impressive, committed only two turnovers in the (82-62) victory.
Kansas State coach Frank Martin will definitely review the BYU vs. Florida film and recognize the trouble BYU had keeping step with Florida’s quick guard Kenny Boynton late in the game. Expect Coach Martin to be aggressive with Pullen and Clemente, designing a game plan to capitalize on their speed and BYU’s lack of speed.
We believe the X-factor in this game will be free throws. BYU leads the nation in free throw shooting at 78.6%, and should be effective at the line. On the other hand, Kansas State shoots less than 67% from the line, a huge disadvantage when the end of the game comes down to fouls and free throws, especially against a spread. This ‘Free Throws’ X-factor gives BYU an edge in terms of covering the spread.
We are not counting on an outright victory, just a covering of the spread by BYU. We like aligning our picks with the bookmakers and we like the underdog.
On www.sportsbook.com, the pick is BYU (+4.5).