Interest up, if not betting with NCAA Tourney

Mar 17, 2009 4:10 PM
On The Mark by Mark Mayer |
last week
NCAA
PCT
8-5
36-33
52.2

First round NCAA basketball games are unsurpassed for college junkies. Only this year, we’re all wondering whether there will be more watchers than bettors.

"I expect betting to take a bit of a decline," said Jay Rood, director of race and sports operations for MGM Mirage properties. "It’s hard to buck that (economic) trend, but I think we will have a lot of people here with the government discouraging a lot of travel to Mexico."

Of course, the view from Las Vegas on the tourney usually differs with how the NCAA committee selects the 64 +1. The committee rated Louisville the overall No. 1 seed. Las Vegas did not. Here it’s North Carolina.

"Actually we had UNC at 9-2 but it has come down to 7-2," Rood said. "We have Louisville and Pittsburgh at 4-1 and Connecticut at 6-1. It was surprising to see Louisville as the overall top seed, but given the Big East strength you can’t argue too much."

As far as teams being shafted, Rood joins a lengthy list that felt the Mountain West got the short end.

"It’s a quality basketball league and to see the Big 10 get seven teams is a little ridiculous," Rood said. "I would throw out every Big 10 team from possibly winning it all."

If you think the first round lines are a bit low involving some of the top seeds, you’re not alone.

"I am a little surprised Pitt and Memphis were not favored by close to 30," Rood said. "The public has gotten a lot more savvy over the years and values the points. Maybe the books cutting the numbers down is the right thing to do."

Among Rood’s surprise teams are Siena, Arizona St and Cal-Northridge. "I think Northridge will represent its league very well," he said.

As for our bracket, we have Pitt, UNC, Louisville and Memphis reaching the Final Four with Pitt beating Memphis in the final. But I’m sure we’ll rip up that sheet next week when we hit the Sweet 16.

Thursday, March 19

LSU -2 vs Butler: The Tigers were a nice surprise in a weaker SEC, but there’s that 30-point loss to Utah we can’t forget. Butler is the Gonzaga of the Midwest. Solid. BUTLER.

California -1 vs Maryland: The Terps take their run to the ACC final another step against a Cal team that is just too inconsistent. MARYLAND.

UCLA -6 vs VCU: Commonwealth was a team we were tipped off to at the start of the year as a real sleeper. An upset of UCLA is no surprise. VCU.

Memphis -20 vs Cal-Northridge: The Tigers are probably brooding about not being a No. 1. This line is surprisingly low. MEMPHIS.

Texas -3½ vs Minnesota: The Longhorns are an impressive team physically and may just have too much for the upstart Gophers. TEXAS.

Duke -22 vs Binghamton: The first Dance for Binghamton and it’s with Duke, which has never lost an NCAA tourney game in Greensboro. DUKE.

Illinois -4 vs W. Kentucky: The Hilltoppers are a great buy again as an underdog. We will be looking at money line here. Illinois stole Penn State’s invite. W. KENTUCKY.

Clemson -5 vs Michigan: You saw how excited Michigan fans were on the CBS selection show and they should be. Clemson off Georgia Tech debacle. Not good. MICHIGAN.

Friday, March 20

Marquette -4 vs Utah St: Only thing worse for Marquette than losing its top guard is going to Boise. Utah State with 30 wins is very capable of pulling off the upset. UTAH ST.

Ohio St -3½ vs Siena: This Siena bunch rated a No. 9 seed, which is very impressive for a small-market school. And it’s deserving. Buckeyes in trouble here. SIENA.

Xavier -11 vs Portland Ste: Again the Boise thing should really help Portland St, which did beat Gonzaga. Xavier foreign to these conditions. PORTLAND ST.

Kansas -10 vs N. Dakota St: All of North Dakota will be coming down to Minneapolis and they are going to see a game. Kansas is solid, but could be in for a real fight here. ND ST.

Missouri -13½ vs Cornell: The Big Red won the Ivy, but that’s not saying much with both Penn and Princeton down. Missouri solid as the Big 12 tourney champ. MISSOURI.

Arizona St -5 vs Temple: The Owls won the Atlantic 10 tourney and are playing their best ball of the season. Arizona State is offensively challenged at times. TEMPLE.

Florida St -3 vs Wisconsin: The Seminoles made their very first ACC tourney final and should get past a Wisconsin team that just barely got invited. FLORIDA ST.

USC -2 vs BC: A second Pac 10 vs ACC matchup in the first round. Even though USC won the Pac 10 tourney, it wasn’t expected. BC just barely lost to Duke heading here. BC.

ROAD TO DETROIT
odds c/o Hilton
FAVORITE:  UNC 4-1
school
odds 
Louisville
5-1
Pittsburgh
7-1
Connecticut
7-1
Memphis
12-1
Duke
15-1
Michigan St
15-1
Oklahoma
15-1
Syracuse
15-1
Gonzaga
25-1
Wake Forest
25-1
Villanova
30-1
Kansas
35-1
Purdue
35-1
UCLA
35-1
Missouri
35-1
Washington
40-1
Arizona St
40-1
West Virginia
50-1
Florida St
50-1
Clemson
100-1
LSU
100-1
Xavier
100-1
Tennessee
100-1
Texas
100-1
Arizona
100-1
Marquette
100-1
Oklahoma St
100-1
Boston Col
100-1
Utah
100-1
USC
100-1
California
100-1
Illinois
100-1
Wisconsin
100-1
Butler
200-1
Temple
200-1
Maryland
200-1
Mississippi St
200-1
VCU
200-1
Michigan
200-1
Texas A&M
200-1
Ohio St
200-1
BYU
300-1
W. Kentucky
300-1
Minnesota
300-1
Siena
500-1
Dayton
500-1
Utah St
1000-1
Cleveland St
1000-1
N. Iowa (field)
200-1
Morehead St(f)
200-1
N.Dakota St (f)
200-1
Robt Morris (f)
200-1
Chattanooga(f)
200-1
Cornell (f)
200-1
Cal-Nrthrdge(f)
200-1
E. Tenn St (f)
200-1
Portland St (f)
200-1
American (f)
200-1
Binghamton (f)
200-1
Radford (f)
200-1
Akron (f)
200-1
S.F. Austin (f)
200-1
Morgan St (f)
200-1
Alabama St (f)
200-1