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The Madness is upon us in Las Vegas, and for those of you that haven’t visited this time of year, we all say welcome to our fair city and taking your NCAA Tournament party to a level never achieved.

For those returning who know what I’m talking about, thanks for coming back and bringing all of your friends.

The party got started early behind the counter Sunday night with bookmakers around the city posting spreads when match-ups were announced. One of the first shops to post numbers was the Golden Nugget downtown.

“Our numbers were solid,” said Nugget sportsbook director Tony Miller. “We had the phones lighting up as we posted them. There were only six or seven games that ran a full point, but nothing higher than that so I’m happy with what we posted.”

Miller had a local celebrity bettor forcing numbers to move quick. He came from his address right across the street.

“Derek (Stevens) made 16 plays split between us and the South Point for $11,000 each,” said Miller. (As of column deadline.)

Stevens is the owner of the D Hotel and Casino across from the Nugget and he’s a huge Michigan State fan. When getting your party planning started, make sure you visit the Long Bar at Stevens’ D. It’s the party you’re looking for, and the bar really is long, as in longest in town. For those from back east, think Sully’s in Boston by the Garden.

“We had numbers posted as soon as we saw the matchups on TV,” Miller said.

Michael Gaughan’s South Point was also posting director Chris Andrews’ numbers immediately as the match-ups were announced.

CG Technology vice-president of risk management Jason Simbal said his initial large wagers were “Butler (-1) and UCLA (-3) from respected players.”

UCLA is now -3.5 in Tuesday’s play-in game against St. Bonaventure and Butler is up to -1.5 against Arkansas in Friday’s match.

Some of the teams that made it and did not shocked some of the bookmakers.

“We were really surprised Saint Mary’s and USC didn’t make it based on our ratings,” said Miller, “and we were also surprised Oklahoma got the invite.”

The Golden Nugget college basketball ratings have been adjusted throughout the season with the conglomerate effort of Miller, assistant manager Aaron Kessler and supervisor Sean Van Patten. Kessler is a wizard of odds and for some additional info he also carries a crooner’s karaoke voice. Van Patten used to help the city set his sweet numbers when he worked for Las Vegas Sports Consultants.

Fantastic job, guys!

And a piece of advice, friends. If you bet at an establishment, get your drink tickets and establish a gratuitous relationship with your cocktail server and bartender. It just makes things so much smoother and gives peace of mind in that area.


Kansas gets to play close to home in Wichita, Kansas and then, if they make the next round, they’re close by home in Omaha, Nebraska. Rock-Chalk-Jayhawks is 10-to-1 to win it all at William Hill sportsbooks, which have six percent of all championship tickets written on them and five percent of the overall cash pooled.

Hot & Not

Teams hot: Davidson, Houston, San Diego State, Buffalo, Kentucky.

Teams struggling: Wichita State, Rhode Island, Auburn, Oklahoma, Purdue, Arizona State.

Barking dogs

Houston comes in winning 12 of last 14 (11-3 ATS), which includes Sunday’s 56-55 loss, but covers Cincinnati (-4) in the AAC Final. But they’re facing a team even hotter in San Diego State that’s unleashed with a true rating that hasn’t caught up yet. The difference maker this season has been senior guard, Trey Kell.

Since missing three games in early February, the Aztecs have won nine straight (8-1 ATS), concluding with an 87-75 win Saturday in the MWC Final where he scored 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting. San Diego State lost two of those games on the road without him. An example of his importance came back in December, when he helped beat Gonzaga 72-70. I’m on San Diego State +4.

Best value

Here are a few plays I have based on an entire season of results with an understanding that some of the numbers have to be posted due to popularity or unfamiliarity with certain teams at a higher level of competition:

Kansas State (+2) vs. Creighton;

Wright State (+13.5) vs. Tennessee;

Georgia State (+15) vs. Cincinnati;

Alabama (PK) vs. Virginia Tech;

Marshall (+12.5) vs. Wichita State;

Texas Tech (-11.5) vs. SF Austin;

NC State (+2.5) vs. Seton Hall;

Michigan State (-13) vs. Bucknell.

Seeding results

The No. 1 seed has gone 132-0 against the No. 16 seed since the current format began in 1985, but the No. 8 seed is only 67-65 over the same span. Play close attention to the 5-12, 6-11, and 7-10 match-ups on Thursday and Friday.

Some upsets are surely going to happen, so taking some points in those spots isn’t the worst decision to be made. Taking some money-lines in those spots would be bold, as well.

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