Vegas becomes March Madness tourney central

March 06, 2018 3:12 AM
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The NCAA doesn’t want Las Vegas hosting any regional events during the NCAA Tournament because they’re on some moral high ground about legal gambling. Yet four conferences have chosen Las Vegas to host their season ending college basketball tournaments where the NCAA has no authority.

We just said goodbye to the fine folks from the WCC and now we say hello to the students, alumni and familes of those participating in the Pac-12, Mountain West and WAC Tournaments. Welcome to Las Vegas and thanks for coming, again.

And yes, I understand why you want to come here and the reason conference commissioners made it happen. I’ve been to Denver when the MWC briefly held their tournament there, or Fresno for the WAC’s or the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles for the Pac-12’s. It was the same case with all – a ghost town.

No one came. The stands were empty and the March Madness atmosphere the conferences were hoping for wasn’t there.

So the commissioners fixed it. There is no city in the States that could handle three separate tournaments on the same weekend and do it so effortlessly. Las Vegas has the rooms, facilities and know-how to breeze through a busy weekend calmly like it’s any other. Vegas doesn’t stress with big events.

Last weekend, it had the Golden Knights playing Friday night at T-Mobile Arena and UFC 222 there the next night. The Sam Boyd Silver Bowl was hosting the Vegas Sevens Rugby – won by the U.S. – and then over 100,000 fans were also in town for NASCAR. And oh yeah, the WCC Tournament was going on at the Orleans Arena as well as several other big shows nightly in the casino showrooms.

No Pac 12 respect

I’m looking at the bracket experts on sites like CBS Sports and ESPN and they have the Pac-12 getting only three teams into the NCAAs while giving eight to the SEC. The Big Ten is projected to get only four.

I watched Pac-12 games regularly all season and saw a down year for sure, but it was also super competitive with home courts being a bigger edge than ever plus teams chopping each other up. The Big Ten had a similar thing occur – how are Nebraska and Penn State not listed on anyone’s bracket?

Anyway, back to the Pac-12. Arizona State is the perfect example of how tough the conference is. The Sun Devils started 12-0 with wins against San Diego State, Kansas State, Xavier, St. John’s, Vanderbilt and a huge victory on Kansas’ home floor. Those are big wins against quality conferences. They were also 10-2 against-the-spread in those games.

But as soon as Pac-12 play started, the Sun Devils had some trouble, losing their first two games at Arizona and at Colorado. They finished Pac-12 play at just 8-10, another sub-.500 league mark for Coach Bobby Hurley.

Some experts suggested ASU just played over their heads early and the slump was inevitable, but how about the notion that the rest of the conference was pretty darn competitive. Arizona, USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington all won at least 20 games like ASU. Utah and Stanford finished tied for fourth in the conference at 11-7. And Colorado beat almost everyone that came to Boulder.

But somehow only three teams? I’ve seen plenty of SEC games this season and I find the level of play collectively far below what the Pac-12 offers. They have eight with at least 20 wins and a slumping 17-14 Alabama squad that is given serious consideration to make it.

I can’t wait to see Auburn or Tennessee line up as a 3-seed against a 14 like South Dakota State or Montana. How about a 5 vs. 12 matchup with Kentucky facing the Rajun Cajuns of Louisiana? I would be good taking the points with all of those scenarios.

Same Purdue

I have grown fond of watching Purdue play this season. They do everything well on both sides of the ball and they were crushing teams, covering spreads and looking like an easy No. 1 seed.

They looked like the best Purdue team I’ve ever seen. But then, just like Coach Matt Painter’s teams have done in recent years, they fizzled down the stretch and didn’t come close to matching their accelerated rating, going just 1-10-2 ATS in their last 13 games.

Purdue concluded with a 75-64 loss to Michigan in Sunday’s Big Ten Championship Game. This might be a squad to keep betting against in the NCAA because the Boilermakers’ true rating hasn’t followed them downward all the way yet.

Watch Michigan

On the other hand, the Wolverines might be a team to keep backing in the Tournament because they’re on a roll, winning the league tourney for the second straight season. But they were hot before the tourney started and have now won nine straight, going 8-1 both ATS and to the Over.

Their true rating hasn’t caught up with them yet. At the Westgate SuperBook, they’re 30-to-1 to win the NCAA Title.