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It’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans and if you’ve ever been there for the wild (and I mean wild) days heading into Fat Tuesday well, it’s just too hard to explain.

Sports bettors’ Mardi Gras will be the closest we can get to the real one and ours is called March Madness. The road to the “Big Dance” begins this week with conference playoffs, starting with the Horizon Conference on Tuesday.

The home team favorites in tourney play have gone 37-25-2 ATS and the dog is 2-5 ATS. The winner will get a shot to play in the big time. Wisconsin Green Bay and Cleveland State look to be the two teams to beat and the home loving Youngstown State could surprise.

On Wednesday the Ohio Valley Conference will start its tournament in Nashville, Tenn., at the Municipal Auditorium. Belmont, with a record of 23-8, leads the way in this little conference while the fans will be siding with 16-15 Tennessee Tech.

Thursday the Missouri Valley Conference gets into action featuring the undefeated Wichita State Shockers who have breezed through these lightweights in another attempt at the brass ring. The Shockers made it to the Final Four last year so look for them to crush whoever they play in the opening round.

However, Wichita has had little success when meeting up with any of the top four seeds in the conference tourney, having gone 1-18 SU and 6-13 ATS. Be careful laying the big points as they go deeper. Note: The last time the Shockers won this MVC tournament was back in 1987. These games will be played at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Also on Thursday the West Coast Conference starts play at the beautiful Orleans Arena right here in Las Vegas. The Zags have owned this tournament, winning 10 of the last 13 years and playing in all 13 title games.

Gonzaga looks to be there again, but will need to be at their best to beat BYU. Pepperdine is a proven road team, winning six times away from home, and they could be dangerous.

Also on Thursday the Metro Atlantic start their conference playoffs at MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass. The main players in this tournament will be 17-3 Iona, fresh off a convincing win this past Sunday, and No. 2 seed Manhattan who beat Canisius. After that this conference is very wide open.

On Friday the Colonial Athletic Conference will start round one at the Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Md. Lots of changes in the conference this year such as moving to Baltimore. That will favor Towson as they are just a short jaunt from the arena. Towson has gone 13-4 ATS in this tournament when it was played in Richmond.

The new kid on the block is Charleston in their first year in this conference jumping from the Southern Conference. They have four starters back from their 24 win team of last year.

The Big Dance starts on Thursday, March 20, and if you have never been in Vegas for the opening round it’s a sight to see.

Baseball totals: As promised in last week’s column let’s take a look at two total wins that look to be very good wagers if you love betting these season totals like I do as you have a rooting interest the entire season.

PHILS UNDER 78½: Philadelphia does have a good starting three in the rotation to start the season with Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and AJ Burnett. The question is, if the year starts going downhill due to poor performance and injury, do the big three end the season in Philly or go on the trade block to a contender?

Third base is a big question mark while the rest of the infield and the catcher are 35 and older. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley both have had their stays on the DL in recent years. The NL East will be a dog fight between the Braves and the Nats so look for Philly to not to win more than 76.

ORIOLES OVER 80½: The best of the best in the manager department in Buck Showalter will get this team winning early and often despite being in a top division with some real good teams. The addition of Ubaldo Jimenez and rising star Dylan Bundy can only help this high scoring team.

Baseball has really evolved over the years. There was an incident way back involving the late Ralph Kiner. He once treaded into dangerous territory going into the office of Branch Rickey and asking for a raise.

Rickey looked him in the eye and said “Ralph, we finished last with you and can do the same without you.”

Yep, the game has changed or is it the mentality of it all?

Richard Saber, a former director of race and sports at the famed Stardust book, is GamingToday’s horse racing and sports handicapper.  Follow Richard on Twitter @SabesBet. Contact Richard at [email protected].

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