March Mania lives up to its billing

Mar 19, 2002 7:17 AM

Sports books in Las Vegas reported brisk betting action and standing-room-only crowds for the opening rounds of the March Madness basketball tournament.

“We were packed throughout the weekend,” said Micah Roberts, sports book director at Palace Station. “We had a lot of two-way action and parlay players were out in full force.”

Roberts said the sports book “fared very well” during the opening rounds, when underdogs edged out the favorites to start the tournament.

But in second round action, players began to hit their bets as more of the favorites hit the board.

“The players did pretty well in the latter stages of the weekend,” he said.

But not well enough to really make a big dent in the sports books, according to a sports Âí­director for a mid-Strip casino.

“The house did very well the first round, but we took some small losses in the later rounds,” the bookmaker said. “But overall, it was a great weekend, and we expect the action to resume when the Sweet 16 rounds are played later this week.

Overall, the favorites were 26-20-2 against the spread when action was completed Sunday night.

The underdogs captured three of eight games ATS, which included UCLA’s dramatic 105-101 double overtime win over Cincinnati, the only No. 1 seed to fall in the tourney so far.

Nevertheless, the higher seeds own a 33-15 straight-up record heading into this weekend’s action. In most cases the higher seed is the favorite.

Teams seeded first through third in all four regions were only 10-13-1 ATS. The lowest seeded teams to reach this year’s Sweet 16 are Missouri (12), Southern Illinois (11) and Kent State (10). Missouri faces UCLA (8) in the third round at San Jose.

Some players believe the favorites begin to cover more frequently in the later rounds of the tournament.

“You should be all right betting the favored teams to reach the Elite 8 and Final Four,” the player said. “At this point, the cream begins to reach the surface.”