Field slight favorite over Kentucky

ByDavid Purdum ESPN logo
Monday, March 16, 2015

Kentucky or the field? It's the biggest storyline in Las Vegas heading into the NCAA tournament.

Shortly after the brackets were released Sunday, multiple sportsbooks posted the undefeated Wildcats as even money to win it all. By the time the market settled Monday morning, the field was a slight favorite over Kentucky.

The field was a minus-130 favorite over Kentucky at William Hill U.S. The Wynn and Westgate SuperBook each opened the Wildcats at even money to win the tournament, but adjusted Kentucky to 21-20 and 11-10 in their respective futures pool by Monday morning.

At 7-1, No. 1 seeds Duke and Wisconsin have the next-best odds behind Kentucky at the SuperBook. Duke, the top seed in the South Region, awaits the North Florida-Robert Morris winner in the round of 64. Wisconsin, the No. 1 seed in the West Region, would face Kentucky in the semifinals. Villanova, the fourth No. 1 seed, is 8-1 to win it all.

Other notables as of Monday morning: Arizona 8-1, Virginia 10-1, Gonzaga 18-1, North Carolina 25-1, Kansas 40-1, Baylor 60-1, Iowa State 40-1, Notre Dame 50-1, Oklahoma 75-1, Michigan State 60-1, Utah 75-1 and SMU 75-1.

Eastern Washington and Valparaiso are the biggest listed long shots at 2,000-1 at the SuperBook. The field is 200-1.

Las Vegas sportsbook operator CG Technology was the first shop to post point spreads for the opening NCAA tournament games Sunday. No. 2 seed Arizona opened as the biggest favorite on the board, by 23 points over Texas Southern. Villanova is a 22-point favorite over Lafayette.

That will change, however, after Kentucky's opponent is decided. The Wildcats will be massive favorites over the winner of Manhattan-Hampton in the first round. Duke was a 47-point favorite over Florida A&M in a 1999 first-round game, the largest NCAA tournament point spread in the past 20 years.

Ten teams -- Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Villanova, Georgetown, Iowa State, Arizona, Virginia, Oklahoma, Kansas and Wisconsin -- opened as double-digit favorites, not including the matchups awaiting winners from the First Four games. Double-digit favorites are 64-7 straight-up in the first round and 81-9 straight-up overall in the past six NCAA tournaments, according to

Ohio State, the 10-seed in the West Region, is the only team to open as a favorite against a lower-seeded team. But that could change. The Buckeyes opened as one-point favorites at CG Technology. No. 11 seed Texas opened as a pick-'em against No. 6 Butler. The Purdue-Cincinnati matchup also opened at pick-'em.

Kentucky enters the tournament as one of the most resounding favorites in decades. Last April, shortly after the Wildcats lost to Connecticut in the championship game, Kentucky opened at 12-1 to win this year's title. Money has poured in on the Wildcats ever since. At the SuperBook, more money was bet on the Wildcats to win the national championship than any other team.

Several books have been offering prop bets on Kentucky's standout season. The William Hill sportsbook made the Wildcats 50-1 long shots to finish the season undefeated in June and is now facing a significant six-figure liability on it.

For the past several weeks, the Wynn had been offering Kentucky versus The Field national championship prop. The biggest bet the Wynn executive director John Avello took on the prop was $50,000 on the Wildcats.

"The wiseguys are on 'the field,'" Avello said, "but the big bet was on Kentucky."

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