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October 21, 2014

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NCAA Tournament by the Odds: Vegas picks for Saturday’s Elite Eight games

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas reacts in the first half of an East Regional semifinal game against Cincinnati in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 22, 2012, in Boston.

Las Vegas casino operators came awfully close to a Sweet 16 sweep in the last two days.

The first six games in the fourth round of the NCAA Tournament went as crisp as a Brady Heslip free-throw stroke for local sports books. It wasn’t until the final two games Friday night — Kentucky besting Indiana as 9.5-point favorites and North Carolina State losing but covering the 8.5-point spread against Kansas — that teams the public bet on heavily cashed tickets.

But don’t be fooled, sports books will take a 6-2 clip on sides with a smile. Six of eight underdogs covered in the Sweet 16 — Indiana against Kentucky and Cincinnati falling by 15 to Ohio State were the exceptions — which strengthen sports books’ profit margins.

This blog bucked the trend of leaking money at the counter. We also went 6-2 against the spread in the Sweet 16, hitting our top two confidence plays.

The overall record now stands at 30-26 with top entry plays a perfect 7-0. Read below for picks and thoughts on the two Elite Eight games scheduled for Saturday, and check back before Sunday’s slate for two more selections.

No. 2 Ohio State -3 over No. 1 Syracuse Syracuse is an underdog for the first time this season. It’s tempting to grab the points with the Orange, who have shown they are fine without suspended center Fab Melo. On second thought, have they really? A baffling final possession from Wisconsin in the Sweet 16 and a controversial lane violation against North Carolina-Asheville in the first round benefited Syracuse greatly in its march to the Elite Eight. Ohio State’s defense isn’t going to give Syracuse nearly as many easy looks as it got in Thursday’s game against Wisconsin.

No. 7 Florida -1.5 over No. 4 Louisville Since the regular season ended, these teams have combined to go 11-1 against the spread. Florida has the sole hiccup. It’s not difficult to see which team professional bettors like, as any shop that opened Louisville as a favorite soon switched to the other side. The bigger early money is on the Gators. The game is close to a coin flip, but it’s hard not to side with the more talented bunch. Bradley Beal, Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton get it done for Florida.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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