04/03/2008 11:00PM

Dogs the play with Final Four so balanced

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LAS VEGAS -- Ones for all, and all four ones.

The Final Four is this weekend in San Antonio with all four No. 1 seeds making it out of their respective regions for the first time. North Carolina, Kansas, Memphis, and UCLA have been atop the college basketball rankings all year, and now they get to determine who is the top team on the court (college football fans would love such closure!). Anyway, after the final foursome was set, the Las Vegas Hilton made North Carolina the 8-5 favorite to tear down the nets with the other three teams all at 3-1.

As of noon Thursday, every sports book in Las Vegas had Memphis favored by 2 points over UCLA in Saturday's first semifinal with a total of around 134 1/2. In the nightcap, about an equal number of books here had North Carolina -3 vs. Kansas with half at 3 1/2. That game is expected to be much higher-scoring, with the total hovering around 159.

Just like any other major sporting event, proposition wagers have

started popping up all over town to add to the excitement on the "games within the game."

In addition to the first-half line of Memphis -1, the Hilton also has Memphis as a -115 (risk $1.15 for every $1 you want to profit) to score 10 points first and a separate bet with Memphis -120 to reach the 20-point mark first. Other props that would be fun to cheer for have the total 3-point field goals made by both teams set at over/under 12 and the largest lead by either team at over/under 12 1/2.

Star players also figure prominently in prop wagering. For instance, the point total for Memphis's Derrick Rose is set at 16 1/2, and total points plus rebounds for UCLA's Kevin Love is set at 28 1/2. There's even a quirky prop asking if UCLA's Darren Collison will miss a free throw. The "no" is -170 with the "yes" at +150. If he doesn't attempt a free throw, "no" is the winner.

In the nightcap, North Carolina is -120 to score 10 points first and -130 to score 20 points first. The over/under for the number of 3-pointers made is also 12 1/2, with the largest-lead prop increased to 15. UNC's Tyler Hansbrough's total points is over/under 22, with Kansas' Brandon Rush targeted at 17 1/2 points plus assists.

These teams are pretty balanced talent-wise, so I will be on both underdogs Saturday with UCLA +2 and Kansas +3 1/2. It's hard to say who I'll take in Monday's title game, but if North Carolina makes it I'll probably be taking the points against the Tar Heels one last time. Despite Hansbrough's great career, if push comes to shove with everything on line, I'm still not convinced he can take a punch.

Chase for Stanley Cup about to begin

The NHL regular season wraps up Sunday with the playoffs starting next week. As of press time, the full 16-team Stanley Cup tournament

hadn't been determined. However, when the field is set, the odds should be close to what Las Vegas Sports Consultants had earlier this week: Red Wings (11-2); Ducks (5-1); Sharks (7-1); Penguins and Canadiens (10-1); Senators (11-1); Rangers, Devils, Wild, and Hurricanes (18-1); Stars (20-1); Flames and Avalanche (30-1); Bruins and Canucks (35-1); Flyers and Predators (40-1); Capitals (50-1); and Oilers and Sabres (60-1). Note: I've listed 20 teams as they were on the bubble, so the surviving teams' odds will be slashed as they make the cut.

World Series moved to February

The Handicapping Championship at the Orleans, a $500 buy-in event, wraps up this Saturday at the Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas with the top 50 finishers qualifying for the Horseplayer World Series. This past January, the World Series was held the same weekend as the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship during the bye week between the NFL's conference title games and Super Bowl. But this upcoming year the World Series is being moved to Feb. 19-21. Horseplayers who don't qualify can buy in for $1,000.

The Coast Casino family of books will be hosting a one-day tournament at Sam's Town Hotel & Gambling Hall on April 17. There is a $100 entry fee with the top 5 finishers earning World Series berths. Similar one-day tourneys will be May 15 at the Suncoast and June 5 at the Gold Coast.

The remaining major tournaments scheduled for the Coast properties this year include the Gold Coast Summer Classic on July 24-26, and the Fall Classic at the Orleans on Oct. 9-11.

Rampart/Cannery resumes contest

The Rampart in Summerlin and its satellite race book at the Cannery in North Las Vegas are resuming their free once-a-month $5,000 handicapping contests on April 13. The contest requires a player's card to participate and selections must be made before each race. There are actually two contests in one. The main pool of $3,500 gives players points based on the parimutuel payoffs of their horses. The top scorer wins $2,000, with $750 for second, $350 for third, $250 for fourth, and $150 for fifth. The other contest is a show pool with contestants earning one point for each horse that finishes in the money. The contestants with the highest score split the $1,500 prize, which sports book director Eric St. Clair said usually involves three to five winners each getting $300 to $500.