Updated on 09/16/2011 7:02AM

Believe it, bookies bemoan Duke's demise


LAS VEGAS - You would think that with Duke being ousted from the NCAA tournament Thursday night bookmakers here would be dancing in the streets.

Entering the Sweet 16 games, Las Vegas Sports Consultants had Duke as the 6-5 favorite to win the title, not far below what the Blue Devils have been all year as the preseason favorite. Around town, the most tickets were written on Duke.

Duke was seen as such a lock to make its annual trip to the Final Four that it was 1-6 to win the south region this weekend and a 13 1/2-point favorite over Indiana on Thursday. Duke looked in control most of the game against Indiana, leading 42-29 at halftime, but Indiana made a run and pulled off the upset 74-73.

That meant an awful lot of future book tickets were torn up around town. But most bookmakers were un-exultant.

"We didn't have much of a liability on Duke because we had their odds so low from the start of the season," the Stardust's Joe Lupo said. That was the consensus around town. Some bookies said they wished Duke had survived so they could knock off teams that pose more harm to their future books, such as Kent State (as high as 500-1 as recently as last month), Oklahoma (75-1 at the Imperial Palace last fall), and Kansas (15-1 at the start of the year).

While bookmakers were mostly indifferent to Duke losing straight up, they certainly loved that Indiana covered the spread. Duke opened as a 12 1/2-point favorite and professional bettors bet them down to 12. But as the week went on, Duke money flowed in steadily and the Blue Devils were bet up to 13 1/2-point favorites by tipoff. The pros had the right idea, and the public went the wrong way.

Thursday's games mostly went against the favorite-betting public, as two other dogs won outright, leading to a lot of killed parlays.

Kent State outlasted Pittsburgh 78-73 in overtime as a 2 1/2-point underdog. This game opened at pick-'em at most books, and Pitt slowly was bet to favoritism. Under bettors got burned. With Kent State leading 29-23 at halftime, it looked like a stone-cold under, with the total at 129. But the pace picked up in the second half and it went over, ending as a 66-66 tie at the end of regulation.

Kent State was a 100-1 shot at the start of the tournament, but was only three games away from the championship heading into Saturday's South Region final against Indiana.

The public fared a little better as Missouri beat UCLA 82-73 as a 1 1/2-point underdog. The Stardust opened the Bruins -1 1/2, and it was bet up to 2 by the wise guys. Some books even opened the line at 3 (probably anticipating bets from California visitors), but most books were back down to 1 1/2 by game time - and at the MGM-Mirage properties they were bet down to 1. Bettors also fared well as the total landed on 155, causing some books to get middled.

Oklahoma was the only favorite to win Thursday night and easily covered the 3-point spread in an 88-67 win over Arizona.

Oklahoma was quickly installed as a 6-point favorite over Missouri in the West Region final on Saturday, while Indiana is a 3 1/2-point choice over Kent State.

Jordan's return stirs activity

The NBA takes a back seat to the NCAA's at this time of year, but money won on the pros spends the same.

Despite all the attention given to the NCAA's, sports books were buzzing Wednesday as reports circulated that Michael Jordan might return for the Wizards in that night's game against the Nuggets.

When the Stardust came out with its overnight line Tuesday, the Wizards-Nuggets game was pick-'em. When word came out that Jordan was planning to play, the line moved to Wizards -2. The public then bet it up to 2 1/2. Jordan did indeed play, though scoring only seven points, and the Wizards rolled to a 107-75 victory.

Not many individual players have that big of an effect on an NBA line. But the Wizards have played much better when Jordan is in the lineup. They are tied for league's best spread record at 38-28-3, including 21-14-1 on the road, counting losing at Utah 94-79 on Thursday night.

* The Kings have the NBA's best record, at 49-18, and have also been a good bet with a 38-28-1 spread mark. The Kings excel at home, with a 32-3 straight-up record and a league-best 24-10 mark against the spread. They're a losing proposition on the road at 14-18-1.

Sports book notes

Oddsmakers and betting rotation publishers such as Don Best Sports and Jim Feist are keeping an eye on the NFL's plans to allow late-season Sunday games to be moved to Monday nights in order to have better games on Monday Night Football and boost TV ratings. This could cause havoc in betting schedules, which are published about six weeks before the games are played; the NFL is saying it would announce changes only four weeks in advance.

* Las Vegas Sports Consultants has released over/under regular-season win odds for baseball. Not surprisingly, the Yankees have the highest number at 96 1/2. The Mariners, who won a major league record-tying 116 games last year, are next at 94 1/2.