The betting favorites in the NCAA tournament went on a historic run over the weekend, leaving a Sweet 16 bracket full of blue-blood chalk.
For the first time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, all 16 betting favorites won in the round of 32, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Three times, in 2009, 1995 and 1991, the favored team had won 15 of 16 games in the round of 32, but this was the first year in which the chalk went undefeated.
Many of the favorites won in blowout fashion, too: Eleven of the 16 games were decided by double digits, with North Carolina and Michigan State among five teams that won by 20 or more.
Duke, the No. 1 overall seed and consensus tournament favorite, had the closest call. The Blue Devils survived two potential go-ahead baskets by double-digit underdog Central Florida in the final seconds Sunday. It was a fortunate ending for Duke backers, including one bettor who placed a $50,000 money-line wager on the Blue Devils to win straight-up at -1,100 odds. According to bookmaker William Hill U.S., when Duke prevailed, the bettor won a net $4,545.45.
Auburn was the only lower seed to win in the round of 32. The fifth-seeded Tigers, who were 2-point favorites over No. 4 seed Kansas, dominated the Jayhawks in an 89-75 win.
The run of favorites provided a needed lift for the betting public, who got off to a costly start to the tournament, when underdogs went 20-12 against the spread on Thursday and Friday. Favorites bounced back over the weekend, going 10-6 against the spread in the round of 32.
Sportsbooks from Las Vegas to New Jersey reported solid winning days on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Sunday, however, was a different story for some books. MGM and the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas said Sunday was their first losing day of the tournament.
“No complaints from me,” Chris Andrews, sportsbook director at the South Point Casino, said.