03/17/2014 12:47PM

Dave Tuley: Las Vegas oddsmakers, NCAA diverge on seeds


LAS VEGAS – One of the big questions heading into Selection Sunday was whether undefeated Wichita State deserved a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

The Shockers are the first team since the famed 1990-91 UNLV team to enter the tournament undefeated, and most people felt that was enough to warrant a No. 1 seed, while others said their schedule wasn’t strong enough, and surely they wouldn’t be undefeated if they were in one of the major conferences.

Well, the NCAA Selection Committee did make Wichita State a No. 1 seed, along with Florida, Arizona, and Virginia, but the committee didn’t do the Shockers any favors with their draw in the Midwest Regional. Assuming the Shockers get past the No. 16 seed (the winner of the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo-Texas Southern play-in game Wednesday), they likely will face Kentucky, the champion from two years ago and a preseason favorite, and then No. 4 seed Louisville, the defending champion whom many believe is playing the best basketball in the land.

The Las Vegas odds don’t necessarily follow the seedings. After overall No. 1 seed Florida was posted as the 4-1 favorite at the LVH SuperBook, the second choice at 9-2 wasn’t another No. 1 seed, nor a No. 2 seed, nor a No. 3 seed but Michigan State, the No. 4 seed in the East Regional. Arizona, the No. 1 seed in the West, was third on the LVH board at 6-1, and then Louisville was bet down to 7-1 after opening at 15-1. Kansas, the No. 2 seed in the South – the same region as Florida – is the fifth betting choice at 8-1.

Where are the other No. 1 seeds? Wichita State and Virginia are both 15-1, along with No. 3 seeds Duke and Syracuse. Wisconsin, the No. 2 seed in the West, is the 10th betting choice at 20-1. Michigan is the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, but its odds are higher than No. 3 seed Duke’s at 25-1.

Vegas oddsmakers also disagreed with the committee’s seeding of No. 8 Colorado over No. 9 Pittsburgh and No. 8 Gonzaga over No. 9 Oklahoma State. They made the lower seed the favorite in those two matchups, with Pitt -5.5 vs. Colorado and Oklahoma State -2.5 vs. Gonzaga.

The biggest potential seeding mistake is one that hasn’t been covered yet: UMass is the No. 6 seed in the Midwest despite losing in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, while league champ St. Joseph’s drew a No. 10 seed in the East. UMass’s opponent won’t be determined until Wednesday night’s play-in game between Iowa and Tennessee, and it’s expected that either team will be favored by 4 to 5 points over UMass.

However, for the most part, the point spreads fell in line with the seedings. No. 1 seeds Arizona and Virginia have the highest spreads in the first round, as they are -20.5 against Weber State and Coastal Carolina (Florida and Wichita State’s lines won’t be posted until their opponents are determined by the play-in games). Michigan State is favored by 14 over Delaware, and Louisville is favored by 15 over Manhattan.

Now all that debate about No. 1 seeds and bubble teams goes out the window as we just have to consider the games in front of us and fill out the bracket that’s available.

Contests geared toward locals

The sportsbooks here will be overflowing with out-of-town visitors this week, and the casinos are trying to lure them to their properties.

There are two great contests for Las Vegas locals. Station Casinos has its Last Man Standing survivor-style contest, and William Hill has its Three N Out contest. The Stations contest, which can be played at 16 locations, including all the Station-branded properties as well as the Fiestas and Wildfire chains (plus the downtown El Cortez), allows one pick against the spread each day, and you keep going until you’re eliminated. There is a guaranteed $50,000 grand prize, and entries are $25 apiece (if you buy the maximum of four, you get the fifth for free).

The William Hill contest, which can be entered at any of its 77 full-service books in the state, is similar, with entries also costing $25 (limit of 10), and you make one ATS pick each day, except that one loss doesn’t knock you out. It’s three strikes and you’re out. This one has a $25,000-guaranteed prize pool, though just like the Stations contest, it’s expected to exceed that minimum.

The problem for out-of-towners is you have to return to the properties each day a game is played, so you’d have to come back for the second weekend of the tournament and then again for the Final Four on April 5 and the national title game April 7 to have a chance. But far be it from me to deter anyone from taking a shot in a contest. If you enter and get through the first weekend without any losses, it might be worth your time and money to make return trips.

No matter how you attack March Madness – whether it’s in straight bets on the games, in contests, or just the brackets – good luck, everybody.