Alabama failed to cover a 16.5-point spread in a 13-point win over Iona in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. It was a second straight loss against the spread for the Crimson Tide, who didn’t cover -5 in a win over LSU in the SEC Championship, and a rare ATS losing streak for one of the nation’s most profitable teams.
Alabama enters the Sweet 16 with 18 ATS wins this season, tied for ninth among all teams, sixth among tournament teams, and fourth among remaining tournament teams. And they rank third among remaining teams in ATS plus-minus, covering the spread by an average of 4.3 points per game, ranking behind only Oregon State (+5.9) and Houston (+5.2). One bettor is so confident the Tide will cover the spread on Sunday vs. UCLA and earn a 19th ATS win this season, they wagered $451,000 on Alabama.
Shortly after Alabama beat Maryland in the Second Round on Monday night to clinch their first Sweet 16 berth since 2004, they opened as a 6-point favorite over UCLA. While the Tide are 1-1 ATS in the tournament, UCLA is 3-0 with covers in the First Four vs. Michigan State, First Round vs. BYU, and Second Round vs. Abilene Christian. For the Bruins, it’s a rare blip of ATS success after a poor regular season (11-14) and years of ATS volatility.
One of six single-digit spreads in the regional semifinals, the Alabama-UCLA spread increased by 0.5 points to Alabama -6.5 but not before the mid-six-figure wager was placed on BetMGM. As of Wednesday, it’s the largest wager placed on any Sweet 16 game and would return a profit of $410,000.
“After a solid opening weekend where the sportsbook saw significant action, BetMGM customers are already wagering strongly on the Sweet 16 matchups,” said Seamus McGee, a BetMGM sports trader. “With some great matchups and storylines, we expect another busy weekend in the sportsbook.”
Other strong wagers include $367,200 on Oregon (+3) vs. USC and $306,000 on Loyola Chicago (-6) vs. Oregon State. The Oregon bet, which came before the line dropped to +2.5, would return $306,000 in profit, while the Loyola Chicago bet, made before the line increased to -7, would return $255,000 in profit. The largest national championship bet placed on a Sweet 16 team is $100,000 on Gonzaga (+150) to win $150,000. The Bulldogs remain the heavy favorites for their first championship; only Baylor (+450) is higher than +900.
For fun: If those three Sweet 16 bets were placed on a three-team parlay, a bet of $1,124,200 (at +595) would return $6,697,900 in profit. With the winnings, the bettors could pay 83 percent of the $8.1-million salary Kentucky paid John Calipari to miss the NCAA Tournament.
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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM