Big Dance a ‘huge’ finale

March 27, 2001 7:28 AM
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The Madness ends this weekend, but not without some fireworks.

"It will be huge," Mandalay Bay sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said of the Final Four atmosphere in Las Vegas.

"The big name teams will be there. With the two games on Saturday, it will be busy. I wish we had a tournament every week."

Duke and Maryland meet for the fourth time this season. Duke opened – 5 or –5½ Saturday afternoon, depending on the book. Caesars Palace opened it at –5. The game was bet up to –5½ by Saturday night. At other casinos, the reverse happened.

On Sunday afternoon, Michigan State opened as a 1-point favorite, but was immediately bet to a pick. Arizona was a 1-point favorite at just about all places by Monday afternoon.

Sports books weren’t as packed as the first two rounds, but the excitement was still there.

"It was extremely busy here," Bogdanovich said. "It was pretty darn close to the first weekend. It was jammed. You can only fit so many people in one area."

Las Vegas Strip casinos seemed busier, but it wasn’t bad anywhere.

"It was a fair weekend," said Gold Coast sports book director Bert Osborne. "It’s been a normal tournament. Nothing outstanding. Everyone comes in for the first weekend because there are so many games."

In the round of 16, favorites went 6-2 (or 7-1 if using opening lines) against the spread. Arizona opened –9½ against Mississippi in Friday’s Midwest Region semifinal. The Wildcats won by 10 as the line closed Arizona –12. In the Elite Eight round, favorites went 2-2 on most closing lines.

One game the house would like to forget was Duke defeating UCLA by 13 Thursday in the East Region semifinal. Most books opened the game Duke –12 and closed 12½ or 13. The Mirage was one that closed 13.

"That was the worst game of the weekend because it fell on 13," Osborne said.

Bogdanovich concurs. "That was a disaster."

According to Osborne, USC’s Thursday victory over Kentucky in the East was a big house win.

In the East final, Duke was a 14- to 14½-point favorite against USC, but only won by 10. Maryland was a 2½- to 4-point underdog in Saturday’s West Regional final 14-point win against Stanford.

"That was a big win for the house," Bogdanovich said.

Another bad game for the house was Michigan State’s 7 point win over Temple in South Region final Sunday. The line opened Michigan State –7½ and closed 6½ at most books.

"That was a bad game because it landed on 7," Bogdanovich said.

The public seemed to figure out the Arizona-Illinois Midwest Region final. Illinois opened a 1-point favorite and closed Arizona –1½ at most books. Arizona won by six.

Over-unders haven’t leaned either toward the house or the bettors.

"Totals just haven’t been a factor so far," Osborne said. "We win some, they win some."

Was having two Southern California teams alive last weekend a factor in bringing in more bettors?

"It’s hard to tell," Bogdanovich said. "It probably had something to do with (the large crowds)."

Women’s tournament

There might be a slight increase in wagering on the NCAA women’s tournament — but not much.

"Those games are so insignificant," Osborne said. "We put the games up on TV, and people watch them and bet them a little bit."

The big underdogs did well in the third round. The East Region’s top seed, Connecticut, opened –21 and closed at –19½. They only won by 14 against North Carolina State. Tennessee, the Mideast Region’s top seed and a 13½-point favorite, lost to Xavier by 15 points.