March Madness is here.
Thursday is the first day of the most anticipated tournament in the sports world as well as the sports betting world. According to the Wall Street Journal, experts estimate that more than $7 billion is wagered on the NCAA tournament, beating the amount gambled on the Super Bowl by $1 billion.
With that being said, the odds for the tournament will be under some heavy scrutiny leading up to tipoff of the big game. Here is a look at the point spreads for the first-round games in the East region.
The Syracuse Orange are one of the best teams in the tournament and are very deserving of the No. 1 seed in the East. However, before playing a game, the Orange suffered a setback when it was announced that superstar center Fab Melo has been ruled ineligible for the tournament.
That is the most likely cause for the shift on betting odds for this game. The line opened at -16 in favor of the Orange and has since been bet down to -15 in most places. No. 1 seeds have made a habit of winning the opening games by double-digits, but Syracuse will be tested by J.P. Primm and the pesky Bulldogs.
Head coach Frank Martin and the Kansas State Wildcats opened up as six-point favorites over the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. The line has had a slight move toward the Golden Eagles and now can be found at -5 at several sports betting outlets.
Martin brings an experienced team to the tournament who has won at least one tournament game in the last three appearances. Southern Miss will be hard to bet on as an underdog considering they come into this game on a 0-7 against the spread streak.
Harvard is making its first appearance in the tournament in 376 years! That is not enough to impress the odds-makers, though, as they opened with Vanderbilt as six-point favorites.
Vanderbilt has a recent history of struggling in the NCAA tournament. Last year, the Commodores fell to Richmond in the second round as a No. 5 seed, and in 2010, they were dumped as a No. 4 seed in a loss to Murray State.
This could be the reason that the odd is moving in favor of Harvard. The latest odds show Vanderbilt as low as a five-point favorite.
Montana is a very good team, but as a No. 13 seed in the tournament, it is getting little respect from the odds-makers. The Wisconsin Badgers opened as nine-point favorites in this game, and that is slowly rising; it is now 9.5 in several betting outlets.
Despite the line move, SportsInsights.com, a sports betting consensus site, reports that 60 percent of the betting money is on Montana.
Cincinnati finished the season with an impressive run in the Big East tournament. Despite the run, though, they are listed as just two-point favorites against the 11th-seeded Texas Longhorns.
Although 83 percent of the early sports betting money is on the Bearcats, the line has not changed. This could be due to the fact that the Longhorns are 1-6 against the spread in the last seven games played on a neutral court.
Florida State shocked the ACC by winning the conference tournament, while St. Bonaventure was doing the same thing in the Atlantic 10.
This line opened with the Seminoles listed as six-point favorites, and that number has been bet up to 6.5, with more than 85 percent of the betting money on the favorite.
That number could be tested, as the Noles are 4-9 against the number in their last 13 neutral site games as a favorite.
Gonzaga once again got the short end of the stick, as the NCAA committee has sent the Zags to the East Coast for their first-round game against the West Virginia Mountaineers. The line opened as a pick 'em in most locations, but recently the Zags have become slim one-point favorites.
The Zags have struggled to cover as of late, and they are 4-10-1 against the number in their last 15 games overall.
Jared Sullinger leads the Buckeyes into the first round against Loyola, and as expected, they are listed as double-digit favorites. They opened as 17-point favorites, and the line has been bet up to 17.5 in several locations with 77 percent of the betting public backing the Buckeyes.
With tipoff just one day away, the Madness is about to begin!
James Brown is a B/R featured columnist and can be followed on Twitter. Feel free to contact James at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also a contributor at Bookie Blitz, a sports picks website.
For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here.