03/24/2005 12:00AM

Sure, your bracket is great - now sink some free throws


Did you do this when you were younger?

Your team is down by 1 point in the closing seconds and you're at the line shooting two. Maybe you did this in your driveway, or at a park, or in your room with a Nerf hoop or even on a video game. Regardless, you try to block out the crowd as it chants your name ("Tuley, Tuley" . . . oh, wait, this is your fantasy). You dribble the ball and focus your eyes on the front of the rim. You grab the ball and, perhaps after doing some gyrations or whatever is your style, you shoot it.

It's a great scenario because you either make both and are the hero, or you make one of two to force overtime, or you miss both, grab the rebound and sink the winning shot (or, as was often my case, miss the shot but get fouled for another chance to win the game on free throws).

Well, a similar scenario will be playing out next weekend during the Final Four at the Texas Station sports book, located on Rancho Boulevard, northwest of the main casino corridor. The sports book is adding a basketball hoop in honor of March Madness, and customers will have the chance to earn tickets for a drawing for $500 or a 57-inch high-definition TV, to be held during halftime of the NCAA title game on April 4.

"It's going to be great," said Bill Walkowski, race and sports book manager at the Texas. "We're going to have basketballs flying around all weekend, both on the TV screens and in our book."

It's set up this way: Starting last week, for every $20 wagered at Texas Station during the NCAA basketball tournament, bettors earned one ticket, with a maximum of five tickets per customer per trip to the window. For every 10 tickets, the customer gets the chance to shoot two free throws next Saturday (noon to 6 p.m.), Sunday (4-8 p.m.), or Monday (noon to 5 p.m.).

Even if you miss both free throws, you receive one drawing ticket to be placed in the drum. Then, you get an extra drawing ticket for each free throw made. So, obviously, the more you bet and the better you are at free throws, the better your chances in the drawing. And it's fun.

Weekend selections online

Because Saturday's print editions of Daily Racing Form go to press before Thursday's games were scheduled to be played in the NCAA tournament, no selections for Saturday's games are available in today's issue. However, my picks for Saturday's regional finals can be found online at www.drf.com by noon on Friday.

The same will go for Sunday's games, where the matchups won't be known until late Friday night. Selections will be available on the website by Saturday afternoon.

Desert players not deserted

If you're reading this online or on Friday, there's still time to place wagers on the card from Dubai on Saturday morning.

In Nevada, no parimutuel wagering will be taking place because of differences between our rules and those of the South African hub that is handling wagers.

However, some casinos will be booking the race the old-fashioned way. At Bally's, John Avello said his book would take bets on all of the races from Dubai - starting at 5:40 a.m. Pacific on Saturday - and would pay out win, exacta, and trifecta wagers based on the South African prices.

Art Manteris, vice president of race and sports at Station Casinos, said his books will offer fixed odds on the Dubai World Cup, which has a post time of 9:20 a.m. Pacific.

Bonds off the home run market

Barry Bonds, steroids or not, is the all-time single-season home run record holder with the 73 he hit in 2001. His production dropped to 46 the following year, and he hit 45 each of the past two years. Of course, that's mostly because he gets walked so much.

So when the Palms put up its odds for this season's home run champion, it wasn't too much of a surprise that Bonds was offered at a seemingly generous 10-1.

When word starting spreading that Bonds's surgically repaired right knee might take longer to rehabilitate than originally expected, the Palms raised the odds on Bonds to 15-1. Then, on Wednesday, when Bonds announced that he would miss half or perhaps the whole season, Bonds was taken off the board.

Albert Pujols, who hit 46 homers last year, is the favorite at 6-1, followed by Jim Thome and Alex Rodriguez at 7-1 and Adam Dunn and Vladimir Guerrero at 9-1.

Sports weekend reminders

The Erik Morales-Manny Pacquiao fight from last Saturday will be replayed by HBO this Saturday at 9:45 p.m. Eastern and Pacific. It's a bout that no boxing fan should miss.

* There is no Nextel Cup race this weekend as the drivers gear up for the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 3.

* The Leroy's family of sports books continues its free $5,000 NBA contest on Sunday. Customers, who can enter at any Leroy's outlet, pick the games straight up with some totals thrown in, and those with the most wins split up the $5,000. This is a true overlay, as there have been far fewer than 5,000 entrants playing each week. And it's free.