Updated on 09/16/2011 6:58AM

Plenty of early action on NCAA tourney


On Sunday afternoon, while TV analysts were focusing on which teams had their bubble burst and why the selection committee gave Gonzaga a No. 6 seed, oddsmakers in Las Vegas were scrambling to put up lines on the NCAA tournament games.

To Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which supplies odds to 90 percent of Nevada's sports books as well as offshore books, and the Stardust, which puts up the first lines in the city, it didn't matter which teams got preferential treatment or who got the shaft. They were only concerned with the 32 games they had to analyze and set lines on.

Shortly after 6 p.m., the Stardust posted its opening lines and professional bettors began firing away. Costa Rica International Sports (CRIS) and other offshore books soon followed suit and the lines started getting pounded into shape.

For those who like to know which teams the wise guys in Vegas bet, here's the list of Sunday night's early line moves at the Stardust (notes in parentheses indicate that a number likely moved as a "market correction" as arbitragers bet lines that differed by a few points from LVSC or CRIS):

Tuesday game: Siena bet from -3 1/2 to -4 1/2 vs. Alcorn State.

Thursday games: Tulsa bet from +5 to +4 1/2 vs. Marquette; Kentucky bet from -7 to -7 1/2 vs. Valparaiso (LVSC opened Kentucky -9 1/2); Western Kentucky bet from +4 1/2 to +4 vs. Stanford; Miami-Fla. bet from -1 to -2 vs. Missouri; Davidson bet from +13 to +12 vs. Ohio St. (CRIS opened Ohio St. -11 1/2); Gonzaga bet from -6 1/2 to -7 vs. Wyoming; Arizona bet from -13 to -14 vs. Santa Barbara (LVSC opened Arizona -16); Indiana bet from -5 1/2 to -6; Southern Cal bet from -10 to -11 (LVSC opened Southern Cal -12 1/2); and Wake Forest bet from -3 to -3 1/2 vs Pepperdine (CRIS opened Wake -4).

Friday games: Penn bet from +5 1/2 to +4 vs. California (LVSC opened Cal -3 1/2); Pitt bet from -14 1/2 to -15 1/2 vs. Central Connecticut St.; Hampton bet from +14 to +13 1/2 vs. UConn (CRIS opened UConn -13); Creighton bet from +10 to +9 1/2 vs. Florida; Southern Illinois bet from +3 to +2 1/2 vs. Texas Tech; and McNeese St. bet from +14 to +12 1/2 vs. Mississippi St. (LVSC opened Miss. St. -12).

Oddsmakers tabbed Notre Dame-Charlotte as a pick-'em game and UCLA as a 1-point choice over Mississippi, which isn't surprising since those games have No. 8 seeds facing No. 9. But in the other No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchups, Stanford is a 4-point favorite over Western Kentucky and Wisconsin is a 2 1/2-point choice over St. John's. Oklahoma, despite being a seven-seed, is pick-'em with No. 10 seed Kent State while No. 7 Xavier is only a 1 1/2-point favorite No. 10 over Hawaii.

The No. 1 seeds are all huge favorites. A No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 16 seed, and that makes it tough on oddsmakers. They have to find the right number so they can get equal betting on the overmatched teams, especially with so many tourists coming to town who are more likely to jump on the media-darling favorites.

Duke is the biggest first-round favorite at 35 points over Winthrop. Cincinnati is a 24-point favorite over Boston University, and Kansas is favored by 31 points over Holy Cross. However, that spread might be topped, because the East's top-seeded Maryland will face the winner of Tuesday's No. 64 vs. 65 game between Alcorn State and Siena.

Not surprisingly, LVSC has Duke as the 3-2 favorite to win the national championship, though many books have the Blue Devils at less than even-money because they have been attracting money all year. Kansas is the second choice at 5-2, followed by Maryland (3-1), Oklahoma, Cincinnati (8-1), Arizona (10-1), Kentucky (10-1), Oregon (12-1), Southern Cal (15-1) and the foursome of Alabama, UConn, Florida and Ohio St. at 18-1. Live longshots include Gonzaga and Marquette at 30-1.

Just because the NCAA tournament is the marquee event, don't ignore the NIT. Oddsmakers might not be putting as much time into those lines and you can find some soft spots. However, you have to act fast. With lower betting limits on those games, the lines will move quicker than the NCAA games.

Looking for handicapping help?

Vegasinsider.com hosts its college basketball handicapping seminar from 6-10 p.m. Wednesday at the Palace Station. Professional handicappers Russ Culver, Mike Lee, Ken White, Tim Trushel, Bob Donahue, Andy Iskoe, and others will break down all 32 NCAA Round 1 games, and also look at future book bets and first-half and halftime betting strategies, plus the NIT. The evening will be capped with an NBA betting seminar and prize drawings. Tickets are $49.95 and pre-registration is available at vegasinsider.com, though tickets may also be bought at the door.

* On Thursday and Friday mornings, the "Stardust Line" radio show will expand to a full hour from 8-9 a.m. on KDWN AM-720. John Kelly will host the show along with fellow college basketball experts Ken White, Ron Frazier and Stardust sports book supervisor Doug Castaneda.

* Free selections are available at sportswireonline.com. The picks are part of the "The Vegas Sportswire Five-O Hoops Invitational" professional handicapping contest in which 50 handicappers make 50 selections over 50 days. The contest is run by Trushel, who will be analyzing games throughout the tournament along with guest handicappers on "The Vegas Sportswire" radio show from 7-9 a.m. Monday through Friday on KENO AM-1460.