04/04/2013 3:06PM

Dave Tuley: Louisville a big favorite to take NCAA men’s title

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LAS VEGAS – Rick Pitino has the horses, but will his Louisville men’s basketball team end up in the winner’s circle?

The Cardinals are the odds-on 10-14 favorite (–140 expressed as a money line after being as high as –150, or odds of 2-3) to cut down the nets Monday night in the Georgia Dome, according to the LVH SuperBook. Michigan is the second choice at 7-2, with Syracuse at 9-2 and Wichita State at 12-1. Odds vary by sports book, of course, but Louisville has been considered the front-runner the past month and has so far backed up its overall No. 1 seed.

Louisville is a 10.5-point favorite over Wichita State in the first national seminal (aka Final Four) at 6:05 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, and the over/under has been bet up to 132 after opening a consensus 130.5. It won’t be a shocker for regular readers, but I’ll be on the underdog Wichita State Shockers as they’ve shown they can play with anyone, and while the Cardinals certainly have been impressive, they didn’t cover this big of a number in their win over Oregon. Now, I have a lot of friends in Louisville and fans of theirs in the horse racing industry, so since I’m not betting the money line I won’t mind at all if the Cardinals win the game as long as it’s not by more than 10.

In the nightcap, Michigan is a 2-point favorite over Syracuse with the over/under at 131. I’m less confident in this game as I certainly respect how well the Syracuse defense has been playing of late, but I’ve been high on Michigan during March Madness. I’m thinking my only bet will be on the under.

Wondering what the spreads will be in the title game on Monday? Well, William Hill posted those earlier this week. They opened Louisville as a 5-point favorite over Michigan and a 4.5-point favorite over Syracuse. That’s interesting since Michigan is favored against Syracuse, yet obviously the two Big East teams know each other pretty well, so perhaps that’s the reason for the lower number in that potential matchup. As of Thursday morning, the Louisville-Syracuse line had been bet up to Louisville –5.5.

If Wichita State prevails against Louisville, Michigan was made a 5-point favorite over them, with Syracuse a 4.5-point favorite over the Shockers. In this crazy college basketball season and NCAA tournament (though note that favorites and underdogs have split 30-30 against the spread), I’m sure I’ll be on the dog regardless of the matchup if the number is that high.

NHC Finals host plans qualifiers

The Treasure Island Resort & Casino has renewed its contract with the NTRA to host the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship on Jan. 23-25 (with a new three-day format and a “final table” to determine the champion), and it also is hosting three qualifying tournaments this spring.

The first one is this Sunday for horseplayers who are in town for the Santa Anita Derby and other racing this weekend, and conveniently the day between the Final Four and the NCAA title game, with the others slated for Sunday, May 5 (the day after the Kentucky Derby), and Sunday, June 9 (the day after the Belmont Stakes).

The entry fee is $500 with all entries returned as prize money. Contestants make 12 mythical win-and-place wagers with six races being mandatory and the remaining six being player’s choice from the contest tracks of Aqueduct, Keeneland, Oaklawn, and Santa Anita. The top three finishers will qualify for NHC15. The $50 membership fee for the NHC Tour must be paid prior to the tournament to be eligible to win those seats. Details are available at ntra.com/nhctour

◗ Next weekend is the next tournament on the Vegas contest circuit with the Handicapping Championship at the Orleans on April 11-13. The entry fee is $500.

Boyd Gaming, the parent company of the Coast Casinos that are widely known for their handicapping tournaments, has added the Sam’s Town Live Money contest on June 7-8 with a $200 entry fee and a $300 live money bankroll. The other Coast contests remain intact this year with the Gold Coast Summer Classic ($400 entry) on July 25-27 and the Fall Classic at the Orleans ($500 entry) on Oct. 10-12. The Horse Player World Series, which has been held in February the last few years, moves to March 27-29 next spring.

◗ The other tournaments in Vegas this spring/summer are the Pick the Ponies at the LVH ($500 entry, $450 if paid by the early bird deadline of  4 p.m. Monday, April 22) and the $200,000 Guaranteed WYNN Las Vegas Challenge ($2,000 entry fee) on Aug. 2-3.

Derby futures update and a prop

We’re in the midst of the major prep races and heading into this weekend, the Wynn Las Vegas has Orb and Verrazano as the 7-1 co-favorites for the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 4, less than a month away. Revolutionary is right behind them at 8-1, with Flashback at 11-1, Itsmyluckyday at 12-1, and Hear the Ghost at 15-1. Everyone else is 20-1 or higher.

A major change this year is in the point system used to determine Derby starters as opposed to graded stakes earnings. John Avello at the Wynn has an interesting prop that asks: “Based on the Kentucky Derby Points System, the minimum number of total points needed by any horse to make and run in the 2013 Kentucky Derby.” The over/under is 29.5, with the over favored at –140 and the under at +120.

Tiger favored again at Masters

Tiger Woods continues his comeback (both on and off the golf course) and is now the 3-1 favorite at the LVH to win next weekend’s Masters, with Rory McIlroy a distant co-second choice at 10-1 along with Phil Mickelson. After the PGA Championship last August, Jeff Sherman at the LVH opened Woods as the slight 11-2 Masters favorite with McIlroy at 13-2. They were 6-1 in November, but Tiger’s odds have steadily dropped ever since while McIlroy’s have risen.