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NCAA March Madness betting: Gonzaga's incredible 3 keeps many, many future bets alive

Frank Schwab
·3-min read

Everyone watching the Final Four erupted when Jalen Suggs banked in an unbelievable 3-pointer at the buzzer to get Gonzaga to the championship game. Well, everyone was excited aside from UCLA fans. And BetMGM

BetMGM was really not happy.  

During Gonzaga's quest for an undefeated season bettors kept backing the Bulldogs, to cover games and to win it all. No matter how the sportsbook shifted the odds to make bettors pay a tax to take Gonzaga, the bets on Gonzaga didn't slow down. 

Gonzaga didn't come close to covering on Saturday night against UCLA, but their dramatic, all-time classic overtime win over UCLA kept alive the many, many bets on the Bulldogs to win the NCAA championship. 

Those Gonzaga bettors had a major sweat on Saturday, and not many people expected that. Plenty of people holding tickets went crazy when Suggs hit what is instantly one of the most famous shots in NCAA tournament history. 

Gonzaga was the pick of many bettors

UCLA was a 14-point underdog, the largest spread in a Final Four game in at least 25 years. UCLA was mostly a +700 or +750 underdog on the moneyline, though the Bruins briefly went to +800 on Saturday before closing at +750 at BetMGM. 

And for a long time Saturday, it looked like UCLA would win. 

BetMGM was rooting hard for UCLA. As of Saturday afternoon, 79 percent of the money bet on the game was on Gonzaga. More than that, BetMGM had a huge liability on Gonzage in the futures market. More than one-third of all money bet on the NCAA champion was on Gonzaga. Gonzaga opened the season at +800 to win the championship and the number went all the way down to -225 before Saturday. 

Over the first four rounds, Gonzaga covered four times and covered easily in three of the four games. Only Oklahoma, which kept the game near the spread for most of the second half, came close to beating Gonzaga against the spread. 

UCLA gave Gonzaga a better game than anyone figured. 

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs (1) celebrates making the game-winning basket against UCLA. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs (1) celebrates making the game-winning basket against UCLA. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

UCLA gives Gonzaga a big scare

Gonzaga hit a shot in the final seconds of the first half and led 45-44 at halftime. It was the highest scoring first half in a Final Four since 2009, according to CBS. First half under bettors never had a chance. 

Gonzaga started the second half strong and Bulldogs bettors must have thought they had a chance to cover the big number, but UCLA wouldn't go away. The Bruins fought back to make it a game, and the drama shifted to whether UCLA could win on the moneyline. The spread really wasn't in doubt. 

In the final two minutes, an unbelievable sequence for Suggs in which he had a phenomenal block at the rim and passed it ahead to Drew Timme for a dunk, was a phenomenal highlight and not even close to his most memorable play of the night. UCLA had a chance to win in the final seconds of regulation but they were called for a charge. The game went to overtime, the first national semifinal game to go to overtime since Stanford vs. Kentucky in 1998. 

When Gonzaga's Andrew Nembhard hit a 3 with a little more than a minute to go, Gonzaga took a 90-85 lead and it seemed like that would finish UCLA's upset bid. But UCLA tied it with a little more than 3 seconds left. It seemed the game would go to double overtime. Suggs ended it. 

If Gonzaga finishes their bid for a championship on Monday night, many bettors around the country will fondly remember Suggs' shot forever. 

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