Sweet Madness!

Mar 22, 2005 8:24 AM

Vermont, Bucknell, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, West Virginia. The house can’t hide its glee.

"The crowds were great here and so were the results," said Lamarr Mitchell, race and sports at MGM Grand. "I think the games are great and that the public is loving everything."

Mitchell was as happy with the numerous opening weekend upsets in the NCAA basketball tournament as with the opening of MGM’s new race and sports book, now located near Studio 54 and the Lion Habitat.

"Underdogs, favorites and a combination of everything has made for a great tournament," Mitchell said. "Seeing the favorites win and lose is good for everyone."

The books had nothing to complain about. Arizona was the lone survivor of the four No. 3 seeds as Oklahoma, Gonzaga and Kansas all went down. Even No. 2 seed Wake Forest came up short to inspired West Virginia, a seven seed, in double overtime.

Vermont and Bucknell set the tone with first round shockers against Syracuse and Kansas respectively. Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a 300-1 shot prior to the tourney, is the lowest advancing seed at No. 12.

"The house is doing nicely," said Eric St. Clair, race and sports manager at Rampart Casino. "Having a couple of underdogs move on is great for the house. It’s thrilling to see some big name teams lose. It would be brutal for us if everything were predictable."

St. Clair said he wouldn’t be surprised if the dogs did well again in the round of 16, which begins Thursday.

"On the Strip, bettors usually stick with the favorites," he said. "It’s much tougher out here because the locals are so smart. When the dogs win at an abnormal pace, the wise guys start jumping over."

The Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook, one of the largest of the March Madness betting venues, was enjoying a mostly successful early run.

"We had a good result three out of four days," said Jeff Sherman, the Hilton’s race and sports assistant manager. Friday hurt us a bit with the Georgia Tech-George Washington game. The players backed GW big and it was our worst result. But, we came back well over the weekend."

One of the biggest house wins was Villanova vs. Florida, a game that opened -2 for Nova and switched to -1 for the Gators.

"We did very well there, as well as the Illinois and North Carolina games," Sherman said. "We opened UNC -16 and it closed at 15½. Most bet the dog and UNC won, 92-65. We were happy."