Virginia Cavaliers win first ACC Title in 33 years

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We haven’t seen a team finish the regular college basketball season undefeated since 2004 with St. Joseph’s, but No. 2 Wichita State’s 68-45 win over Missouri State on Saturday put them in rarified air.

What may even be more shocking than the undefeated season by the Shockers is they have covered 21 of their 28 lined games, more than any team in Division I. At the beginning of the season the LVH Super Book posted them at 100-to-1 odds, but on Monday you could get only 10-1.

Also looming are those Wahoos (aka Virginia), which won the ACC regular season title for the first time in 33 years. The Cavaliers are 15-1 at LVH.

Now back to Wichita State, whose big question as the Missouri Valley Conference tournament begins and then the NCAA’s in two weeks, is whether the Shockers can keep the momentum going. The Linemakers’ Kenny White thinks that will be a tough task.

“Sure they could win, but there is definitely no value at 10-to-1,” says White. “There are about 15 teams that will be favored over them and you have to question the level of competition they’ve played this year – they didn’t beat one top-25 team all season.”

The Shockers (31-0) best win all season was against Saint Louis on Dec. 1 at a time when the Billikens weren’t ranked, but are now No. 17.

“The good thing they have going for them is that they’ll be a No. 1 seed (in the NCAA’s) and will get a No. 16 and then a No. 8,” said White, “but if they get to the sweet 16, they’ll likely be an underdog the rest of the way. If they match up against a team like Oklahoma State, they’ll get killed.”

Bettors hope the gravy train doesn’t run dry with Wichita State who has covered their past five games and 11 of their last 14. The good news for those wanting to continue supporting Wichita State is most of the team is still intact that made the Final Four last season. They’ve been through this before and in a college basketball era where the best players are usually freshman and sophomores, age and experience are a huge advantage.

Lights, camera, action: I found a new appreciation for John Avello on Sunday night after watching him MC his Oscars Party at the Wynn Las Vegas sports book. I’ve known Avello for 20 years and always respected his knowledge and the way he was always walking his race room talking with his players.

I even tried to copy some of his moves for my own race book, but what I saw from him on Sunday night completely took my level of respect for him to a new level.

Avello ran a flawless Oscars party with a couple hundred film buffs in the crowd and made it entertaining for all by offering drinks, food and Le Reve show tickets in between commercial breaks through trivia, singing and mock acceptance speeches.

John could have had one of his supervisors do the MC work, but since no one knows more about movies, he took the microphone himself and did a job that Ryan Seacrest would be envious of.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see some old friends show up. Las Vegas legends like Richie Baccelleiri, Vinny Magliulo, Jimmy Mastroianni, and Yolanda Acuna were equally impressed with the job Avello did. It was a grand slam and an event that more books should take notice of and try to duplicate. The only problem in trying to recreate it is there is only one John Avello.

Remembering Jai Alai: Walk into any Vegas book, observe and listen for an hour while multiple games are going on. Someone from the crowd will suggest a controversial call or decision went against them because officials were crooked or players had another agenda.

All of it is garbage, but that’s the mentality a few of the bettors get locked into when losing. That takes me back to a time when we booked a little known sport that was full of rumors.

There was once a time in Las Vegas that we used to book jai alai. It was the early 90’s and I was just starting out as a ticket writer at Circus Circus. Everyone seemed to have some kind of opinion about the sport, but they rarely bet it, which is why it didn’t last too long on our wagering menu.

Most of the opinions people offered were centered around the jai alai players getting together before the matches and figuring out what the best payouts would be, pooling their money together, and then playing the matches with the intent on hitting their wager.

I heard so many tall tales from bettors of all ages about how the matches were all fixed, many who hailed from Miami where jai alai is – or was – huge, and without having first-hand knowledge myself, I’d just tell them, “Well, if that’s the case, then let’s hope you’re on the side they are on.”

If they did actually bet, it was only $2, which I guess is enough amount bet to complain when eventually losing. Of course, the loss on a $2 wager gives one other person the right to claim “the fix was on.”

The only sound reasoning I ever got about jai alai being on the “up-and-up” was from a co-worker of mine at Circus Circus, Hugh Citron, who actually was a jai alai player himself for a short while in Miami. Admittedly, he wasn’t one of the star performers or well-known names, but he’d come to the rescue of the sport every time one of the $2 bettors cried, “Fix!”

“There were some things that happened in the past, like in the 50’s and 60’s, and that legend just grew over the years as it was passed down over generations,” said Citron, who is now a supervisor at the Stratosphere sports book.

“I would ask these guys to show any proof of match-fixing, and their reply was usually from second- or third-hand sources with never any proof. I was around the players before the matches and never saw anyone run down an odds sheet or pool their money together. These guys were total professionals with a desire to win in the sport they had dedicated themselves to for life.”

Anytime you get gambling involved in a sport where one bettor wins and another loses, the losing guy can always cry “fix” because it makes them feel better about their crummy pick as if “I’m so skilled at picking games, the only way I could lose is if something wasn’t on the level.”

Here in Nevada, our race and sports book industry relies on the integrity of the events we book. We are the first ones to alert the appropriate agencies if something looks fishy with the betting patterns, something those sports would never figure out on their own.

The sports leagues that are fighting interstate wagering know this as well, and know Nevada does a great job of protecting that area. Some of our guys here actually consult the leagues in the area of gambling.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].

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