Las Vegas becomes March Madness Hoops Central
March 13, 2019 3:01 AM
by Richard Saber
As the college hoops season winds down, the first instinct is to look ahead to the betting bonanza that is March Madness.
But before teams can “go dancing,” they need to navigate their conference tournaments.
And this year, Las Vegas will once again be hosting several of these tournaments — the Pac-12, Mountain West and the WAC.
I could not be more excited about these three being here in Las Vegas. Is it because it will be an opportunity for me to go and watch an eye-glazing amount of live basketball? No, those days are long behind me. I now much prefer the uncrowded comfort of my living room, where I have a permanent reserved seat and no line in the bathroom. Instead, I am very excited about what these tournaments bring to the city I have called home for the last 40-plus years.
Of course, there is the obvious economic benefit, but, the meaning and value of these tournaments go far beyond that. While Las Vegas has, for decades, played host to tens of millions of visitors each year, it had always been held at arms length by professional and college sports, deterred by the negative images surrounding gambling in general, and sports wagering in particular.
But, just as teams make “a march to the championship,” Las Vegas has been on its own “march to respectability” and mainstream acceptance. Now, with the Golden Knights and Raiders calling Las Vegas home, perhaps the prospect of an NBA team in the future, college football bowl games and college basketball conference basketball tournaments already being held here, Las Vegas is proudly moving from the shadows to the sunshine, with nothing but more things to come!
Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll see a basketball regional final or even a Final Four here. For now, we’ll make do with the three conferences playing ball in town this week. The WCC, which featured the top-ranked team in the country in Gonzaga, began its tournament last Thursday. That tourney wrapped up Tuesday night at the Orleans.
The first round of this conference begins on Wednesday with four games at beautiful T-Mobile Arena. As we mentioned above, the economic benefits these tournaments bring to Las Vegas and especially this league cannot be understated as the Pac-12 has drawn over 80,000 in attendance the last two years and that in itself is just great.
I believe this tournament more so than most is totally wide open. The Washington Huskies are the No. 1 seed with Arizona State No. 2, Utah No. 3 and Oregon State No. 4.
Keep a wagering eye out for No. 9 seed Arizona (read my Winners for Wednesday selection). Also, No. 2 seeds have had the best success of late going 11-3 ATS since 2014, so keep an eye out for Arizona State. Meanwhile, No. 7 seeds have gone 2-8 ATS the last six years, UCLA, this year’s seventh seed, looks like a bet against. No. 7 and No. 8 seed underdogs have gone just 3-20 when getting two for more points, so add USC, which is seeded eighth, to the bet against list.
The first round of this conference also starts on Wednesday at Thomas and Mack Center with three games. The bottom six seeds will be battling it out with the first game at 11 a.m. No. 1 seed Nevada will go to the Big Dance even if it loses this tournament, so the other teams, like UNLV, which theoretically has home-court advantage with the tournament being played in Las Vegas, will need to win it all in order to get a bid.
No.2 seeds have really been betting way to go as those seeds have gone 9-2 SU and 8-2-1 ATS the last 10 games. Utah State is the second seed at the MW tourney and the Aggies own a win over Nevada. No. 6 seed Air Force has been a great betting ‘dog, going 9-1 ATS when getting 10 or less points. Don’t overlook the Falcons.
This conference’s tournament begins on Thursday at the beautiful Orleans Arena, just a great place to watch and bet hoops.
There are just eight teams in the WAC and of the eight, only three have any shot at winning it and getting that NCAA bid. No. 1 seed New Mexico State, No. 2 seed Grand Canyon and No. 3 seed Utah Valley are those teams. New Mexico State will be favored in all games and they should win this low-level conference as they did last year.
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