Bettors are buying into the biggest Cinderella story left at the dance -- the prancing Peacocks from Saint Peter's. Hailing from the MAAC, the Peacocks were given a 15 seed and a first-round date with Kentucky. Saint Peter's could be found as long as 10,000-1 win the tournament last week at Las Vegas sportsbook Circa Sports. The Peacocks attracted only one "very, very small" bet at that price.
Before the tournament, the SuperBook, a multistate sportsbook, took one $10 bet on the Peacocks to win the national championship at 5,000-1 in Colorado and a couple of more bets on Saint Peter's at 1,000-1 in Nevada. Caesars Sportsbook said it took more than a handful of national title bets on the Peacocks at 1,000-1 prior to the tournament, the largest being $15, and FanDuel said it accepted nearly 100 bets on Saint Peter's at 500-1, including a $1,000 wager that would net $500,000.
The largest reported bet on the Peacocks, though, came in on Saturday, when, according to BetMGM, a bettor in Arizona placed a $4,000 wager on Saint Peter's to win the tournament at 200-1 odds. The bet would pay a net $800,000, if the Peacocks pull off the unthinkable. Coincidently, three days earlier, BetMGM reported taking a $100,000 bet on Kentucky to win the championship at 8-1 that would've paid $800,000. That money will be staying with the sportsbook, as will the $4,500 someone bet on Kentucky to beat Saint Peter's straight up at -5,000 odds for a chance at a $90 profit.
• On Thursday, the Peacocks upset the second-seeded Wildcats as 18.5-point underdogs. It's tied for the fourth-largest upset in the NCAA tournament since 1985. The Peacocks followed it up Saturday by upending Murray State to earn a spot in the Sweet 16. Caesars Sportsbook said it took a $100,000 money-line bet on Saint Peter's at +320 against Murray State, resulting in one of the bookmaker's worst results of the opening rounds. "We never learned our lesson on how much the bettors love the Cinderella story," Craig Mucklow, director of trading for Caesar Sportsbook, said.
But while bets on Saint Peter's are popping up around the nation, there's one state where the Peacocks are nowhere to be found at sportsbooks -- their home state of New Jersey. New Jersey prohibits its licensed sportsbooks from accepting wagers on games involving in-state colleges and universities. Saint Peter's is located in Jersey City.
Thomas Gable, sportsbook director at The Borgata in Atlantic City, said customers have routinely been coming up to the counter asking how they can bet on the Peacocks. "With Saint Peter's run and a lot of tourists in town who aren't familiar with the New Jersey sports betting regulations, we've had quite a few disappointed customers these past few days," Gable told ESPN on Sunday. "It's a shame you can't bet Cinderella this year in Jersey."
• The first four days of the tournament went to the books, with many of the biggest decisions going against the betting public. Sportsbook PointsBet said it won its biggest games in three of the first four days of the tournament.
• Saint Peter's upset of Kentucky produced the biggest win of the opening round for Caesars Sportsbook. The sportsbook also reported a big win on Creighton covering the spread in a 79-72 loss to Kansas on Saturday.
Mucklow, Caesars' director of trading, pointed to North Carolina's upset of Baylor on Saturday as the book's most costly decision. The Tar Heels attracted more than 90% of the money wagered against Baylor. Mucklow said he could hear the noise from the crowd in the sportsbook during the game as Baylor rallied from 25 down to force overtime, before losing. The in-game odds had Baylor at 60-1 to complete the comeback in the second half. "If you were a hotel guest trying to get any sleep during that game, with all the money on UNC, it would have been impossible," Mucklow said. "There is no better way to experience these games than at a property with everyone holding the same ticket."
• The most-popular bet on the board Thursday at PointsBet was fifth-seeded Iowa on the money-line to beat 12th-seeded Richmond straight up. More bets were placed and more money staked on the Hawkeyes than there was on any other team on the opening day of the round of 64.
Iowa was around a -560 favorite over Richmond. The Spiders won 67-63.
At PointsBet's sportsbook in Iowa, the Hawkeyes attracted the most bets and the most money wagered to win the national championship out of all the teams. The second-largest liability PointsBet faced on Thursday was Kentucky, which lost straight-up to Saint Peter's.
There were 25 overs and 23 unders in the first two rounds.
• FanDuel compared the betting on the NCAA tournament to "having a 1 p.m. NFL slate for four straight days." The sportsbook said the results have generally been "very favorable" for the house, with New Mexico State's first-round upset of UConn and Miami 's win over No. 2-seed Auburn on Sunday night producing the biggest wins. Bettors won big on Duke covering the spread with a late run against Michigan State.
• Sweet 16 lines (via Caesars Sportsbook, as of Monday):
Arkansas vs. Gonzaga (-8.5, 154)
Michigan vs. Villanova (-5, 135.5)
Texas Tech (-1, 137) vs. Duke
Houston vs. Arizona (-3.5, 145)
Saint Peter's vs. Purdue (-12.5, 135.5)
Providence vs. Kansas (-7.5, 141.5)
North Carolina vs. UCLA (-2. 142.5)
Iowa State vs. Miami (-2.5, 133)