When Michigan sports betting opened last March, there was reason to celebrate, and lots of action on the board.
Former Michigan State star Mateen Cleaves bet on his Spartans to win the NCAA Tournament during a ceremonial first bet at Greektown Casino on March 11.
First-year coach Juwan Howard and Michigan also had a chance to make a run in the Big Ten Tournament and prime for a deep run of their own. The rivals will first meet Thursday in Ann Arbor and then Sunday in East Lansing.
By March 12, with all three Detroit casino sportsbooks open for business and ready for a March Madness rush, the NCAA Tournament was cancelled because of the pandemic and the “new normal” had begun.
But with so many grim one-year anniversaries around, Michigan sports bettors finally have big college basketball games – and solid college basketball teams – to bet on.
Michigan, (potentially) Michigan State filling a void
It’s been a year of firsts for the Michigan sports betting scene, with online sports betting added to the mix on Jan. 22.
After last seasons’s NCAA Tournament was cancelled, March Madness will be no different.
The Michigan and Michigan State basketball teams will represent a new first: The first major games of consequence for any Michigan-based teams since sports betting launched last March.
(When was the last time a Detroit pro team played a game of any real consequence? It’s a scary thought…)
The Spartans will be playing a little desperate the rest of the way, and the Wolverines have a real chance at a national championship.
After Tuesday’s win against Indiana, DraftKings has Michigan State as a -152 pick to make the field and +122 to be left out.
Michigan is the nation’s No. 2 team, have an inside track at a top seed, and could win the title that evaded Howard as a player during the Fab Five days.
In-state basketball fans have a chance to bet on their teams, celebrating big basketball wins with a little extra cash.
Or, there’s another option.
Emotional hedge could be in order
For fans who have conditioned themselves to expect the worst, emotional hedging is also on the table.
Say Michigan gets to the Final Four and has a shot at the buzzer to beat Gonzaga and go to the title game.
Franz Wagner goes up for the winner… it looks good…
It rolls off.
You’re devastated. An outstanding season is over.
But let’s say, to prepare for your heartbreak, you put a bet down on the Zags moneyline to mitigate your pain.
You might be down, but at least you made some money for your misery.
Spartans fans could also consider betting against MSU starting now.
If Tom Izzo has a traditional Tom Izzo March run, you might lose a little money. But the celebrations for Spartans success might be worth the lost stake.
Oakland trying to get in on the act
The Oakland University men’s team is two wins away from making the Big Dance with an automatic bid.
The Horizon League team is headed to Indianapolis on Monday for the conference tournament’s semifinals and finals. The Golden Grizzlies (11-17), seeded fifth, will meet Northern Kentucky in a 9:30 p.m. EST semifinal, following the Milwaukee game against Cleveland State.
And if Oakland can get through Tuesday’s conference championship game, there’s nothing like rooting for an early-round upset.
Longtime Oakland coach Greg Kampe is still gunning for his first non-play-in NCAA Tournament win. The Golden Grizzlies haven’t been to the tourney since 2011. They have the battle scars this season, taking Michigan to overtime this season and also falling to Xavier, Purdue, Oklahoma State and Michigan State.
Meanwhile, the season for Antoine Davis and Detroit came to an end Tuesday night in a devastating loss to Northern Kentucky.
Not a peep from the Michigan MAC teams
This time of year, you can usually rely on at least one of Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan or Western Michigan to be relevant in the Mid-American Conference race. Not this year.
The three directional schools will not even qualify for the eight-team MAC tournament next week in Cleveland.
Western is ninth, Central is 10th and Eastern is 11th in the 12-team league.
Michigan women, Hillmon taking center stage
Though Michigan sportsbooks have not been posting games, you can bet on women’s college basketball here. Division I games are approved for wagers by the Michigan Gaming Control Board.
Typically, games start getting posted deeper into March.
The state has a strong candidate for a deep run with the Michigan women, who are ranked No. 12 by the Associated Press.
Coach Kim Barnes Arico and Michigan will wrap up the regular season this weekend. Then, the Wolverines will play in the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.
The women’s NCAA Tournament will then be held in San Antonio from March 21 through April 4.
Junior Naz Hillmon is one of the nation’s best players. She will have a chance to show it this month on the big stage.