03/30/2006 12:00AM

NCAA: Final Four Selections


LAS VEGAS - In light of all the excitement over the past two weeks of the NCAA tournament, the Final Four this Saturday seems almost anti-climactic.

The sports books here almost go through withdrawals with just one game being played at a time compared to the frenzy of the opening Thursday and Friday with 16 games apiece and four going at any given time.

It's also much easier to find a seat this weekend as opposed to opening weekend when people sleep overnight in the books to reserve their spot to watch all the action.

But while most sports books will not do anything special this Saturday, the Las Vegas Hilton is trying to bring in tourists and locals alike with promotions and special wagers.

Adding to the festivities will be a basketball hoop. Between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, anyone who makes a $20 wager will get to shoot three free throws. Make two out of three and win a Final Four pennant (limit two per customer); make all three and get a SuperBook T-shirt.

These are big games, and this is the Hilton, so they've also got a board full of proposition wagers to bettors who want to see their wagers determined long before the score becomes final.

Florida, in its game vs. George Mason, is a -140 (risk $1.40 for every $1 you want to win) favorite to score 10 points first. These props have a 20-cent line, or straddle, so the odds on Mason to get to 10 first is +120 (win $1.20 for every $1 wagered). The odds increase to -155/+135 for the first team to score 20 points. The over/under for the largest lead of the game is 14 points, and there are over/unders on each team's point totals: Florida is 69 1/2 and George Mason is 63 1/2. Those numbers were obviously computed using the point spread of 6 and game total of 133.

The Hilton also has props on four individual players on each team. The one I like in that game is over/under 17 1/2 total points, rebounds and assists by George Mason's Tony Skinn.

In the nightcap, LSU is a -115 favorite to score 10 points before UCLA and -120 to get to 20 first. The largest lead over/under is set at 11 1/2 points, with LSU's total at 61 1/2 and UCLA's at 59 1/2.

Four players props are also available for each team, with the most attractive being over/under 21 1/2 combined points and rebounds for LSU's Tyrus Thomas.

Bankroll update

Heading into last week's Round of 16, I was 9-8-1 against the spread. I did a 1&1 on Thursday and again on Friday, but then went 2-0 in Saturday and Sunday's regional finals as I backed LSU vs. Texas and George Mason vs. UConn. That improved the bankroll record to 13-10-1, which is profitable though not spectacular, but I'll take it after trading money last year at 14-14-1 after going 15-8 in 2003 and 19-11 in 2004. For the record, my published plays were 10-11 in 2002 and 11-10 in 2001 for a six-year total of 82-64-1 (56 percent).

But enough about ancient history:

George Mason (+6) vs. Florida.

I really thought this number would come up lower as George Mason was an 8-point underdog to UConn, which was considering the top team in the tournament. If it had been lower, I was planning to pass, but with it this high and considering I thought George Mason could hang with UConn, I have to play the Patriots again. They have really come together as a team and it's been amazing to watch them execute on offense while playing strong D and crashing the boards against bigger foes. Florida's 6-11 Joakim Noah is the next big obstacle, but George Mason should be able to apply pressure on the perimeter to minimize his impact while Jai Lewis and Will Thomas man the inside. George Mason has a balanced attack on offense, with all five starters averaging in double figures, so it's hard to predict who will step up on a given day, but as foreshadowed above, I think Tony Skinn will be the man.

PLAY: George Mason for 1 unit.

LSU (-2) vs. UCLA

This game actually opened at pick-em and the money has flowed in on the LSU side to make the Tigers a 2-point favorite (and still climbing) as of noon Thursday. Normally, I'd look to fade the public, but in this case I think the money is clearly on the right side. UCLA's 6-10 center Ryan Hollins has played well in the tournament, but I don't think he's strong enough and will get knocked around by LSU's Glen ?Big Baby? Davis. Also as alluded to in the props, Thomas has been a monster in the tournament and I don't see anyone on UCLA containing him either. This could be a game of big runs, so that's why I'm avoiding the over/under 11 1/2 points on the biggest lead, but I think in the end it'll be LSU advancing out of the Alphabet Bowl.

PLAY: LSU for 1 unit.

Last week's bankroll record: 4-2 net profit of 1.8 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). Bankroll record for tourney: 13-10 for a net profit of 2 units. Website record on all tourney games: 30-30-1 through Friday.

Programming notes

The story about point-spread-affecting shots that ESPN was taping here in Las Vegas during the opening weekend of the tournament is scheduled to air Sunday on SportsCenter at 11 p.m. Eastern (8 p.m. Pacific), according to ESPN.com business writer Darren Rovell, who conducted the interviews.

* On Monday morning, I'll post my selection for the national championship game at drf.com.