Orleans set for another WCC tournament

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The first of four college basketball tournaments scheduled for Las Vegas over the next two weeks tips off this weekend with the WCC taking over the Orleans Arena for the 10th straight year. The First Round begins Friday and the Championship Game is Tuesday night, which will likely be a rubber match between No. 1 seed Gonzaga (27-4) and No. 2 Saint Mary’s (27-4), again.

In the previous nine tournaments in Las Vegas, it’s been either Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s winning. The Zags have won the past five tourneys and 15 of the past 19 overall. San Diego won it twice (2003, 2008) and Saint Mary’s also won it twice (2010, 2012) in the years Gonzaga didn’t.

The two bullies of the WCC won on each other’s court this season. The Zags have won 11 straight since losing 74-71 on Jan. 18 to the Gaels, who were getting 7.5-points. The Zags got revenge two weeks ago at Saint Mary’s, 78-65, as a 1-point underdog. It was just the third time this season Gonzaga was a dog – 0-2 ATS in the previous two – and first time in WCC play.

Coach Mark Few has built himself an amazing tradition and it’s quite possible his best coaching job is happening this season. Despite losing four players who each averaged double-figure scoring, including his leading scorer, leading rebounder and leading assist-man, the Zags went 17-1 in WCC play.

Last year’s 37-2 Zags team had a couple NBA draft picks and they went to the National Championship Game. However, Few’s imprint is all over the place on this year’s team: take care of the ball, take smart shots and defend well.

Last season they buried teams and went 23-11-2 against the spread even though the Zags had one of the most rapidly rising rating adjustments in the nation. This season they’re only 12-16 ATS, including just 7-11 ATS against WCC teams. Their rating is dropping, but not enough to make them less than a 2-to-5 favorite to win the tournament again.

I have a feeling this season Saint Mary’s has something for the Zags on Tuesday night. Coach Randy Bennett’s team has averaged 26.3 wins a season the past decade, including 29 each of the past two seasons. Saint Mary’s went 12-15 ATS and also went 19-6 to the Under. They’re currently on a run of staying Under the total in 12 straight games. Tight Defense!

While it may be presumptuous to assume Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s will be playing each other Tuesday night, BYU, San Diego or San Francisco don’t match up well with them, neutral court or not, even though the Dons pulled off a 70-63 upset against Saint Mary’s in a letdown spot following the Gaels’ home loss to the Zags.

Look for the Zags to be 4 or 4.5-point favorites over the Gaels if that Tuesday Championship Game happens. I’ll be taking the points, the money-line and the Under as well. The future price on Saint Mary’s to win the tournament before it tips off will also be attractive.

Next week we get to do it all over again as Las Vegas welcomes the WAC, Mountain West and Pac-12 for their conference tournaments.

Phone is best call

Something I recommend for all you visitors age 21 or older is to go get a phone account set up at one of the casinos – almost all of them have account wagering now – so you can bet the game while it’s playing live right in front of you. It’s not part of the reason why all these conferences chose Las Vegas as a destination for the alumni and family to mingle and gather, but it’s definitely unique and adds to the vast Las Vegas experience. Enjoy the city my friends. No place like it. Go Gaels!

Baseball props!

The first pitch of MLB’s Spring Training happened Friday in Florida and Arizona, and right on cue with its wide array of props for the 2018 season was the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook on Sunday night. They’re ready and waiting for all you sharp baseball minds to come and take a whack.

The first thing that stood out to me in the odds to win divisions was the Indians being the largest favorite (1/6) on the sheet. I figured the Nationals (1/5) would get the nod in a division that features the lowly Marlins (200/1) and Phillies (10/1). The most competitive division figures in the AL East are again with the Yankees (10/11) a slight favorite over the Red Sox (6/5).

The Westgate also offers YES/NO props on each team to make the 2018 playoffs. Will the Yankees make the playoffs? YES is -400 with NO at +300. Will the Giants make the playoffs? YES is +150 and NO is favored at -180. I like the Giants a lot this season with Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria and the Westgate posted their season win total at 82.5.

My favorite Westgate offers are the player props. Reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve has been set with a hit total at 191.5. How can you bet Under with a guy who has had 200 or more in each of his last four seasons?

Injuries creep up on the best of them, which is why Under 39.5 homers for Giancarlo Stanton looks good. The reigning NL MVP hit 59 last season only because he played a career-high 159 games with 692 at-bats. But he’s injury prone and has had 516 at-bats or less in six of his eight seasons. I still can’t wait to watch him and Aaron Judge, who is set at 35.5 homers, in the same Yankees lineup.

One more thing, I’ll take Madison Bumgarner Over 13.5 season wins. I love the Giants this season, and they’ve won the World Series in three of the past four even years. Yes, I know that even year stuff is getting old, but the nucleus is there and Bruce Bochy is the best manager in baseball.

I can’t wait for the season to begin.

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