- Searching for the craziest backdoor covers and last-second mishaps impacting the total to happen so far in the NCAA tournament? Look no further.
Ah, March Madness. Nothing beats a buzzer beater in the NCAA tournament right? Well, for degenerate gamblers like yours truly, a shot down seven points as time expires can be just as sweet. People giving you weird looks when you’re screaming at a TV on a made free throw that makes it a nine-point lead instead of eight with less than 10 seconds left… priceless.
Few things compare to sweating out a bet on a March Madness game, and it only amplifies when the late-game score is maddeningly close to the spread or total you wagered on. With that being said, here were the five most insane gambling moments from the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.
5. Nevada moneyline vs. Cincinnati
The underdog Wolf Pack were anywhere from +325 to +400 on the moneyline, and it got ugly quickly. Cincinnati raced out to score the game’s first 10 points, and was up by 12 at the half. That lead ballooned to 22 points with 11 minutes remaining in the game.
Those who wagered on Nevada moneyline on Friday already had one unbelievable win after the Wolf Pack came back from a 14-point second-half deficit to win in overtime. But it seemed nearly impossible that a comeback of larger magnitude would happen. Even Nevada +9 bettors were probably close to ripping up their ticket.
Instead, the lead dwindled to single digits after Cody Martin converted a three-point play with 8:31 left. Another Cody Martin and-one with 3:53 showing made it a one-possession game. Fifty-four seconds remained when Cody’s twin Caleb Martin tied the game at 73 on a three-pointer. Finally, Josh Hall put Nevada ahead for the first time all game with nine seconds left, as his floater made it 75-73. Cincinnati turned the ball over on its final possession, giving Nevada—and Nevada moneyline bettors—a stunning victory. Just remember, no one is safe in March, whether it’s No. 1 seeds against No. 16 seeds or teams with 22-point second-half leads.
4. North Carolina/Texas A&M 1H under 70.5/71/71.5
The Tar Heels and Aggies combined for 67 points in the game’s first 17 minutes and 26 seconds, so those on the first-half under were not feeling too good about their chances. Then, an offensive dry spell that lasted nearly two-and-a-half minutes ended with a TJ Starks three-pointer to give Texas A&M a 42-28 lead with 12 seconds until the half.
Theo Pinson’s three was off the mark and Starks grabbed the rebound right before the horn. Yet, what seemed like a win for under backers quickly became another stress-induced couple of minutes because Starks was called for a travel for walking off the court with the ball instead of staying put with a second remaining. Inexplicable.
North Carolina had a baseline inbounds opportunity with 0.4 seconds on the clock. The pass was thrown to Sterling Manley, but he missed a point-blank shot at the basket to give those who took the under one final, victorious exhale.
3. Kansas/Seton Hall over 155 and Seton Hall +4.5 vs. Kansas
In the final minute, Kansas was leading Seton Hall 71-64 in Wichita. The spread was very much alive on both sides, but the total seemed out of reach. Then, a stretch of fouls and made buckets miraculously saw this over cash. In all, the teams made all 12 of their combined free-throw attempts and made all six shots from the field.
The sixth and final basket didn’t matter for the total—the score was 83-76 after Devonte’ Graham’s free throws with six seconds left—but Myles Powell’s three at the horn gifted Seton Hall backers an incredible backdoor cover. Announcer Brad Nessler proclaiming the shot was “too little, too late” only added salt to the wound for those who put their money on the Kansas spread.
And if you want to see bettors reacting to the finish...
2. Davidson +6/+5.5/+5 vs. Kentucky
Davidson was a trendy No. 12 pick over No. 5-seeded Kentucky. It didn’t give us a memorable upset, but it turned into pure chaos for bettors.
This was a classic “it mattered where you got it” game. Davidson opened at +6, but it closed at Kentucky -4.5.
Up nine, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ended up with a loose ball in his hands and slammed it home with 23 seconds left—cue to the people who bet on Big Blue Nation unsuccessfully pleading at the time “JUST RUN OUT THE CLOCK!” Nonetheless, Kentucky led by 11 with 23 seconds left, and everyone felt resigned to the fact that their bets were seemingly over. Until they weren’t.
Kellan Grady got fouled with 19 seconds left, and made two from the charity stripe to cut the deficit back down to nine. Gilgeous-Alexander lost the ball on the ensuing inbounds and Grady took advantage by nailing a three to cut Kentucky’s lead to six. That’s when degenerate nation began a worldwide sweat. Davidson fouled once again, and Kevin Knox hit both free throws to make it 78-70 Kentucky with 10.5 seconds to go.
Davidson’s final possession was a whirlwind of emotions. Jon Axel Gudmundsson had already racked up six points in the final minute, but airballed a three. However, Oskar Michelsen grabbed the offensive rebound, and dished it out to a hero (or villain) in red named KiShawn Pritchett who hit a triple with 0.6 remaining. A 78-73 final, and a meaningless finish that was anything but. (Watch from 9:24 on in the video below)
1. Xavier 1H -12.5/-12 vs. Texas Southern
Don’t want to deal with the end-of-game spread hoopla like Kentucky/Davidson and Kansas/Seton Hall? You’re certainly less susceptible to foul-fests and chucking up desperation threes if you bet on the first half. That doesn’t mean immunity to awful beats after 20 minutes however, and Xavier-Texas Southern provided gamblers with the craziest win/push/loss of the tournament’s first four days depending on what you got the number at.
While it wasn’t a historic No. 1 seed vs. No. 16 seed result, the ending of this first half in Nashville provided heart-pounding action as well. After grabbing an offensive rebound with 45 seconds left until the halftime horn, the Musketeers had the ball up 49-31. Eighteen points. J.P Macura missed a three with 38 seconds left (can’t fault him for the 2-for-1 attempt there) and the rest is history.
Demontrae Jefferson will forever live in gambling lore for his performance in the final 10 seconds. Texas Southern’s 5’7” sophomore point guard drove to the rack and picked up an and-one with 6.3 seconds showing on the clock. After knocking down the free throw, Texas Southern trailed by 15. Still fine, right? Right?
Jefferson stole Xavier’s inbounds pass at midcourt, raced to the basket and laid it in off the glass, with the basket glowing red quickly after. BUT WAIT, WHY IS A REF SIGNALING FOR A FOUL? WHY IS XAVIER FOULING THERE? Sure enough, Jefferson gets his second three-point play and now Texas Southern trails by 12 at the half.
A culmination of shock, euphoria and disgust sweep over Vegas, while many across the country don’t understand the pandemonium regarding a 12-point halftime score. That is the true madness of March, folks.