03/15/2005 12:00AM

NCAA: To play or not to play the play-in

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LAS VEGAS - Alumni of Alabama A&M or Oakland, or teams in their respective conferences, could have an advantage over oddsmakers in Tuesday night's play-in game in Dayton, Ohio.

Bob Scucci, race and sports book director at the Stardust, said the line on this game was the hardest to make on Sunday afternoon.

"A lot of people haven't heard of ," Scucci said. "We had some oddsmakers that had Oakland -1 and others as high as -11, and Las Vegas Sports Consultants had it at -4. We kind of just put it in the middle at -7."

Early money came in on Alabama A&M, moving the line to 6 1/2 and then was bet back to 7 before dropping again. As of Monday night, 6 1/2 was the consensus line around Vegas.

Oakland easily has the worst record of any team in the tournament at 12-18. The Golden Grizzlies won their final five games, which makes it even scarier that they were actually 7-18 at one point before finishing strong and winning the tournament over regular-season champion Oral Roberts on a last-second shot.

Alabama A&M, the regular-season and postseason champ, comes in with a record of 18-13, including 15-6 vs. SWAC competition.

Neither team was on the betting boards all season in Las Vegas, but oddsmakers obviously gave Oakland credit for a tougher schedule that included losses at Illinois, Texas A&M and Missouri and an 8-point loss at home to Marquette.

But there's no way I'm laying points with a team with a losing record.

Over the course of the tournament, I'll be making a selection in every game against the spread, but I'd be lying if I claimed any special insight on this game other than what I've read the past few days. So, while I'll say I would take Alabama A&M +6 1/2 if the proverbial gun was put to my head, I'm not making it an official bankroll play. Those will start with Thursday's games, available in Thursday's print editions and available at by Tuesday evening. Selections for Friday's games will be in Friday's print editions (and on the website by Wednesday evening), and then picks for Saturday's and Sunday's second-round matchups will be available exclusively on the website 24 hours in advance.