01/07/2004 1:00AM

No legal betting on Rose's fate


LAS VEGAS - With the college season behind us, football will consist only of two NFL divisional playoff games apiece on Saturday and Sunday for a total of four games. This week, there were hundreds of college and pro basketball games to be played, but if you were to walk through the sports books in Nevada most of the talk was about the road to the Super Bowl.

The other major topic of conversation was Pete Rose's public admission that he bet on baseball. As of Wednesday morning, the Olympic offshore book had Rose being reinstated by the 2004 All-Star Game at +180, with the "no" at -220. The maximum wager was $100. Nevada sports books are prohibited, however, from posting odds on whether Rose will be reinstated by baseball or if he will be elected to the Hall of Fame, so when it came to bets that Nevadans could legally make, football was still at the top of the list.

Heading into the divisional playoffs, Las Vegas Sports Consultants has the Patriots as the 8-5 favorite to win it all, followed by the Eagles (2-1), Rams (3-1), Chiefs (4-1), Colts (8-1), Packers (8-1), Titans (15-1), and Panthers (15-1).

"At this time of year, it's the easiest time to make the futures because you basically take a money-line parlay from each game," said Ken White, LVSC's president and CEO. White added that the numbers are not influenced by future-book liability or adjusted for a public team such as the Packers. "Each of our clients would have a different liability, so they can make those adjustments when they get our recommendations."

I think the value on the board appears to be the Titans at 15-1. They are +210 on the money line vs. the Patriots Saturday and I think they have better than a 1-in-3 chance to pull the upset. The Titans would be probably no more than +150 at Kansas City or Indianapolis in the AFC title game and then around pick-em in the Super Bowl or a slight favorite depending on who they meet.

Other notes on futures

Even if football is clearly No. 1, there are plenty of people who constantly shop around to find value in the future books of other sports. Here's a quick glance at the other offerings on the board:

* LVSC currently has the Lakers as the even-money favorite to win the NBA title, but you would be lucky to find that price in any sports book, because most have taken as much money as they're comfortable with and have lowered the odds. The defending champion Spurs are the second choice at 7-2, followed by the Kings (9-2), Mavericks (8-1), and the first Eastern team on the list, the Nets (10-1).

Monday's trade that sent Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway from the Suns to the Knicks had White and his staff scrambling. LVSC had the Knicks at 60-1 to win the NBA title as of Sunday night, but White said that would be lowered to 30-1.

"The Knicks upgraded talent-wise to about the top five teams in the East," White said. "But there's no guarantee that they'll mesh. Marbury has had a problem with that everywhere he's been. Gary Payton said [Tuesday] that he and Kobe Bryant haven't meshed yet with the Lakers and they've had half a season. If it takes the Knicks that long, they'll miss the playoffs."

* In college basketball, where it seems we have a new No. 1 team each week, Connecticut is back on top of the polls for the second time this season - though the Huskies were nearly knocked off their perch Tuesday night in a 75-74 win at Rutgers. Connecticut has consistently been the top team in NCAA future books. UConn entered this week as the 4-1 favorite in a wide-open field, followed by Duke (5-1), Arizona (6-1) and five contenders at 10-1: Kentucky, Florida, Kansas, Cincinnati, and Louisville.

White mentioned some longshot hopefuls as Pittsburgh (lowered from 75-1 to 18-1) and Purdue (lowered from 120-1 to 30-1). Another improving team is Vanderbilt. LVSC only lists 58 teams in its NCAA future book, and Vandy is not included. Instead it is in the field at 10-1. If you find a book that offers Vanderbilt in the 50-1 range, the Commodores might be worth a flier.

* Another team worth a flier would be the, well, Flyers. They have the second-most points in the Eastern Conference but are still 7-1 in the NHL futures. The Red Wings and the Devils are the co-favorites at 4-1, with the Avalanche and Senators close behind at 5-1.

The team with the fewest points is the Penguins, and on Tuesday it was announced that owner-player Mario Lemieux would have hip surgery and not play again this season. LVSC had the Penguins at 200-1 and it was suggested that maybe they should be taken off the betting boards.

"We don't take any team off until they are mathematically eliminated," White said. "Someone might want to buy a souvenir ticket and they should have that opportunity."

What went unsaid is that in sports, the impossible seems to happen all the time. The last thing any sports books would want is to deny someone an opportunity to bet on something crazy and then have it come true. That would be a public relations nightmare.

Revised Poker Palace contest

The free weekly $1,000 handicapping contest at the Poker Palace in North Las Vegas has been split into two $500 contests.

The first runs Wednesdays through Fridays. Contestants pick from five head-to-head matchups each day and the person picking the most winners over the three days gets the $500. The second is now held on just Saturday and Sunday, with the same rules. Previously, if someone wasn't able to come in during the week, the only incentive to play on the weekend was for a $100 bonus that was awarded for a perfect 5-0 card.

"I suggested that if we wanted people to come in on the weekend that we should just make it two separate contests," said race and sports book manager Bill Rosse. "This way we get the working man."