64 dream of San Antonio stroll

March 18, 2008 6:00 PM
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Road to San Antonio by Mark Mayer |

LAST WK
SEASON
PCT
8-2
85-82-1
50.9

If you thought the NCAA tournament committee had a difficult task, imagine what Las Vegas sports books faced crunching the numbers to meet the public’s betting thirst.

"I thought the committee did an unbelievably good job in the selection process," said Robert Walker, race and sports book director at MGM-Mirage. "It’s interesting that they took away a lot of the Cinderellas in the matchups, setting up what could be an unbelievable final eight."

As for the favorite, it depends on the book. Walker indicated North Carolina would be the top pick. The Las Vegas Hilton tabbed UCLA a 7-2 favorite, just ahead of the Tar Heels at 9-2.

"I think the Pac 10 is the best conference in college basketball," Walker said. "UCLA is the only team without a glaring weakness. Of course we’ll be pulling for UNLV, the local team."

NO. 1 SEEDS
Play-in Game
East – N. Carolina
Mt St Mary’s
South – Memphis
-7 over
West – UCLA
Coppin St
Midwest – Kansas
4:30 PT Tuesday
Dayton, Ohio

The Running Rebels opened at 200-1 at the Hilton, the same as their first round opponent Kent State. The game opened with UNLV a 1˝-point underdog at Station Casinos and the line held through Monday.

Kansas and Memphis, other No. 1 seeds along with UCLA and UNC, were 5-1 and 8-1 at the Hilton. If you believe in miracles, the Georgia Bulldogs are 1,000-1 after an incredible three wins in the last two days of the SEC tourney in Atlanta. The Dawgs opened at Station Casinos as a 6-point underdog to Xavier.

In a few cases, Vegas betting goes against the NCAA seedings. One is the UNLV-Kent State matchup. The Golden Flashes are seeded ninth in the Midwest Region. UNLV is 8, yet the early money is on Kent.

Another is the Gonzaga-Davidson game, also in the Midwest Region. The line opened pick’em, but the No. 10 Wildcats were bet up to a 1˝-point favorite over the 7 Zags.

Also in the West Region, No. 8 seed BYU was a 2-point underdog to ninth-seeded Texas A&M.

Walker’s longshots in the Big Dance to do well are Gonzaga, Indiana and Clemson. "Don’t be surprised if Gonzaga makes it to the Final Four."

Our shot at a Final Four is UCLA, Kansas, UNC and Pitt. Yes, the Panthers at 40-1! The champ, Kansas.

Regarding this week’s round, here’s what we like off the top:

Wisc -11˝ vs CS-Fullerton: The Big Ten champs were disrespected by being made a third seed. The Badgers take out their anger on their less than Titanic foe. WISCONSIN.

Davidson -1˝ vs Gonzaga: Talk about lack of respect! Davidson is talented, but the WCC is a cut above the Southern. GONZAGA.

UConn -11˝ vs San Diego: The Toreros aren’t in the Slim Gym, Weight Loss Center, the Jenny Craig or whatever you name their arena. Huskies at a nice price. UCONN.

Memphis -25 at Oral Roberts: The Tigers are a search and destroy unit. MEMPHIS.

Indiana -1˝ vs Arkansas: I like the momentum of the Razorbacks against an Indiana team that isn’t running on all cylinders with interim coach Dakich. ARKANSAS.

Wash St -8˝ vs Winthrop: Do not take the Eagles lightly, even if they play in the obscure Big South. They are no strangers to the Dance. Cougars will have all they can handle. WINTHROP.

Duke -19˝ vs Belmont: Coach K wasn’t pleased to lose to Clemson in the ACC semis. Belmont is the sacrificial lamb. DUKE.

Stanford -15˝ vs Cornell: The most intellectual matchup of the opening round. The Cardinal may come out a bit flat after a third tough loss to UCLA. CORNELL.

Kent St -1˝ vs UNLV: Rebels catch a break as an underdog. The winner likely gets Kansas, but let’s not think about that. UNLV.