04/06/2004 11:00PM

UConn's twin titles a Mirage prop score


LAS VEGAS - Before the start of the men's and women's NCAA basketball tournaments, an interesting bet caught my eye at the Mirage.

It asked bettors to pick the results for both of the University of Connecticut basketball teams. It was a four-way prop with the UConn men winning the title at 7-1, the UConn women winning the title at 3-1, both winning the title at 17-1 and neither winning at -400 (risk $4 for every $1 you want to profit).

The catch was that you have to have the exact combination. If you bet the UConn men option at 7-1 and the women went on to win also (which they did), you would have a losing ticket. I like oddball bets like this because it forces you to handicap from a different angle. This one is like betting a daily double: The 17-1 would be if you picked both winners - that's easy enough to understand - but how would you evaluate two races if you were able to bet on one horse in one race and against a horse in the second leg, or to bet that both would lose?

The UConn women option looked the most appealing at 3-1 since, despite my limited knowledge of women's basketball, I felt the Lady Huskies were the best team heading into the tournament, but I thought the UConn men would have trouble getting past Duke (which they did) and then either Oklahoma St., Pitt or Kentucky from the other side of the bracket (which they didn't).

I was intrigued by the bet and talked to Robert Walker, director of race and sports for the MGM Mirage properties. He said it was one of those props that is put up in an effort to give his customers as many betting options as possible, that it sparks conversation in the book, but that he hadn't taken much action on it.

Now that the tournaments are over, I sure wish I had been one of those who took the 17-1 on a UConn sweep. The prop was bet down to 13-1, so there were some bettors out there who made the right call.

Bankroll shows tidy profit

I made one other bad call concerning UConn in the men's title game, taking Georgia Tech +5 on the www.drf.com website. After getting blown out most of the game, the Yellow Jackets actually flirted with a miraculous backdoor cover when they cut the lead to seven at 80-73 (one 3-pointer from getting within the number) with 15 seconds remaining, only to have UConn's Rashad Anderson make two free throws to make the final score 82-73.

For the tournament, that lowered my bankroll plays to 19-11 (63 percent) for a net profit of 6.9 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1). I will take that over the stretch of three weeks. The key to showing that profit was not betting games in which there wasn't an edge. My non-bankroll selections on the website were 14-19-1 to make my record on all games 33-30-1, or exactly break-even with the vig.

Heavyweights coming to town

Mandalay Bay is hosting a blockbuster boxing card Saturday night with Cory Spinks (son of Leon) putting his WBC, WBA, and IBF welterweight titles on the line vs. Zab Judah. Spinks upset Ricardo Mayorga last December in Atlantic City to steal the WBC and WBA belts, but now faces a big challenge from Judah, who has been bet up from -120 to a -175 favorite.

The co-feature has Wladimir Klitschko taking on Lamon Brewster in a heavyweight non-title bout. Klitschko, who was upset by Corrie Sanders last year, is a -1300 favorite. It's expected to be so lopsided that the over/under is set at 6 rounds with the "will not go" favored at -140.

Klitschko's brother, Vitali, will get a chance to salvage family pride when he takes on Sanders April 24 in a fight Las Vegas lost to the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Vitali Klitschko is a solid -400 favorite. The last time Vitali fought in L.A., he was beating Lennox Lewis on all three judges' cards before ring physicians stopped the fight because of Klitschko's bloodied face and awarded the fight to Lewis, who has since retired after that close call. The winner of Klitschko-Sanders will win the WBC title and be considered the world's top heavyweight in training.

Auto racing takes week off

We have one of those rare off weeks in the Nascar Nextel Cup schedule, with the circuit moving to Martinsville Speedway next Sunday for the Advance Auto Parts 500. But that hasn't kept Station Casinos auto racing oddsmaker Micah Roberts from trying to drum up business.

In addition to having odds up on that race - Jeff Gordon is a solid 5-1 favorite * Roberts also has advance wagering on the open-car stars in the Indianapolis 500 on May 30.

Roberts has 32 drivers listed and the prop is worded "Driver to have best finish in 88th Indy 500." That means if somehow some no-name wins the race, the prop still pays the best finisher among the listed drivers.

Sam Hornish Jr. is the 3-1 favorite, followed by two-time winner Helio Castroneves at 4-1, Scott Dixon at 5-1, Tony Kanaan at 7-1 and the quartet of Robby Gordon, Tomas Scheckter, Darren Manning, and Bryan Herta all at 10-1.