03/11/2007 11:00PM

NCAA bracketology for bettors


LAS VEGAS - A basketball team has five players on the court, and the team at Las Vegas Sports Consultants has five college basketball oddsmakers.

Ken White, Tony Sinisi, John Harper, Mike Seba, and Dan O' Brien had their game faces on during the NCAA selection show Sunday at 3 p.m. Pacific. While you and your friends might have been watching the show on CBS and discussing who might advance over a few beers, the LVSC five were on the clock. They supply odds to most of the sports books in Nevada, which tweak them to reflect their own opinions and clientele.

The influence of these five oddsmakers is in the numbers offered throughout the gambling world. Many people believe that the offshore books have more impact these days on the marketplace, but no one posted any numbers before LVSC sent out its recommendations Sunday night, and the lines across the board didn't vary much from LVSC's.

White, who is LVSC's chief operating officer and head oddsmaker, said that though he gets most of the credit, it's a team effort.

"The five of us watched the selection show together and we make notes and discuss a few matchups as they come up, especially if one of us really like a team," he said. "Then, after the show at 4 p.m., we go our own ways and make our own numbers on each game. We put a time limit on it of 45 minutes, and this year we all met it - and got back together at 4:45 p.m. to go over the Midwest and West brackets. That took about 20 minutes, then we did the East and South, and we got done at 5:25 p.m."

After the numbers were entered in the system and double-checked, they were sent to clients about 15 minutes later. CRIS, the offshore giant, put up its numbers at around 5:50 p.m., and then the MGM-Mirage books here in Las Vegas put up theirs.

Florida, the defending national champion and the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region, was the biggest favorite LVSC sent out in the opening round, at -28 vs. Jackson St. The east's No. 1 seed, North Carolina, was sent out -26 vs. Eastern Kentucky, and south No. 1 seed Ohio St. was -22 vs. Central Connecticut St. No line was available on Kansas, the No. 1 seed in the west, since the Jayhawks opponent was yet to be determined, the winner of Tuesday's play-in game between Niagara and Florida A&M.

The odds on the top teams in the rest of the regions pretty much fell in line with their seedings, as No. 2 teams were favored between 14 and 21 points over No. 15 teams, No. 3 seeds were favored between 9 1/2 and 13 1/2 points over No. 14's, and No. 4 seeds were all between 7 1/2 and 9 over No. 13's.

The trend stopped with the No. 5 vs. No. 12 seeds. While Tennessee was sent out at -10 vs. Long Beach St., the others were Virginia Tech -2o1/2 vs. Illinois, Butler -2 1/2 vs. Old Dominion and USC -1 vs. Arkansas. It's been well-documented that at least one No. 12 team usually knocks off a No. 5 - it's happened eight of the last nine years, and White said the trend will likely continue this year.

"We really don't look at seedings when setting the odds, so it just happened this way, but maybe the committee is trying to set up good 5-12 matchups.

"I'll say I don't think Butler should be a No. 5 seed; they should be a 7 or an 8."

The Butler-Old Dominion game was one of the games that the LVSC staff had the widest range of opinion. White said he actually made Old Dominion a 1-point favorite while O'Brien had Butler -4 1/2. With the other oddsmakers falling in between, they settled at on the 2 1/2.

The 7-10 and 8-9 games are always ripe for debate, and the LVSC team certainly disagreed with the selection committee on many of those games. While No. 7 seed Boston College is -3 vs. Texas Tech, LVSC sent out the Indiana-Gonzaga and Nevada-Creighton games as pick-'em and made hometown team UNLV a 2-point underdog as a No. 7 seed vs. No. 10 Georgia Tech.

No. 8 seed Arizona is -2 vs. Purdue, but No. 8 Kentucky-vs.-No. 9 Villanova was sent out pick-'em, while No. 9 Michigan St. is -2 vs. No. 8 Marquette and No. 9 Xavier is -2o1/2 vs. No. 8 BYU.

Odds to win not one game, but all six

LVSC made Florida the 7-2 favorite to repeat as NCAA champ and cut down the nets in Atlanta on April 2. North Carolina is the second choice at 5-1, and UCLA is a surprising third choice at 7-1.

"Despite losing in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 tournament and dropping to a No. 2 seed, UCLA got to stay out West and gets to play in the state of California [Sacramento this weekend and San Jose next weekend]," said White, whose company made UCLA the 6-5 favorite to win the West Regional with top-seeded Kansas at 8-5.

To win it all, Kansas and Ohio St. are both 8-1, along with East No. 2 seed Georgetown. Texas A&M is 10-1, followed by Memphis and Wisconsin at 12-1, Texas at 15-1, Oregon at 20-1, and Louisville, Maryland, and Pittsburgh all at 25-1.

Hoping my bracket doesn't get busted

In my bracket, it's pretty chalky at the end, so to win any of the pools I'm in, I'll definitely need Georgetown to go all the way while hitting a high percentage of my first-round upsets (Illinois over Virginia Tech, Xavier over BYU, Albany over Virginia, and Creighton over Nevada and then to beat Memphis to reach the Sweet 16).

I loved Georgetown last year and had the Hoyas plus the points and on the money line when they lost to Florida in the regional semifinals. In horse racing, I'd rather back a horse too early than too late and I hope that's the case here and that the Hoyas fulfill the potential I saw in them a year ago.