The defending national champion Louisville Cardinals got a good scare in their NCAA tournament opener from No. 13 Manhattan, pulling away for the victory in the last couple minutes, coming nowhere close to covering the spread as 16-point chalk.
Louisville will not have it any easier in its next game, when it battles the Saint Louis Billikens in the Midwest Region on Saturday in Orlando.
The point spread is huge for a 4-vs.-5 showdown and the computer agrees with the large spread. But is Louisville over-hyped by the public?
Spread and total points scored betting line
The Cardinals opened as nine-point favorites; the total was 133. (Compare lines and consensus on the Odds Shark matchup report)
Odds Shark computer pick
Why pick Saint Louis to cover the spread
With four starters back from a team that won 28 games last year, the No. 5 Billikens began this NCAA tournament in exciting fashion, rallying from 16 points down in the final eight minutes to beat North Carolina State 83-80 in overtime Thursday.
Saint Louis shot 48 percent from the field against the Wolfpack and made 9-of-18 shots from three-point range. The Billikens, who start five seniors, won the Atlantic 10 regular-season title this year, with help from a balanced attack that has four players averaging at least 10 points per game.
Saint Louis can also play some defense, holding foes to 40 percent field shooting for the season. With Thursday’s scare out of the way (they nearly fell to a 12 seed for the second straight year), they should be primed to challenge a Louisville team that some handicappers believe is over-hyped.
Why pick Louisville to cover the spread
The No. 4 Cardinals have now won 17 of their last 19 games, after fending off the Jaspers on Thursday 71-64. Louisville shot just 36 percent from the floor for the game, but got two huge three-pointers from Luke Hancock in the last two minutes to avoid disaster.
Louisville split the American Athletic Conference's regular-season title, then won the conference tournament. Some experts believe the Cardinals are under-seeded at No. 4, while some feel they get too much respect from oddsmakers based on their title run last year.
Louisville starts three seniors, shoots 47 percent from the field and limits foes to less than 40 percent shooting. They are also 4-1 against the spread when favored at this stage of the bracket.
Smart betting pick
Louisville would seem to have a seeding trend on its side for this matchup, as No. 4 seeds are 6-1 against the spread against five seeds since 2010.
But the Cardinals just didn't look like their regular selves on Thursday night, until the very end. Saint Louis, meanwhile, might be riding a wave of momentum after its come-from-behind victory Thursday. Back the Billikens, plus the generous amount of points.
Saint Louis Billikens: No. 169
Louisville Cardinals: No. 1 (per Odds Shark power ranks)
March Madness betting trends
- No. 4 seeds on 6-1 ATS vs No. 5 seeds since 2010
- Saint Louis 1-8-1 ATS past 10 games overall
- Louisville is 4-1 ATS when favored in second round since 1996