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IS UNLV CINDERELLA?
Las Vegas bettors correctly went with their hearts over the pointspreads last
week, wagering on hometown UNLV to pull off a pair of NCAA Tournament upsets and
gain a coveted Sweet 16 berth.
Playing more than 1,500 miles from home in Chicago, the underdog Rebels eliminated 1 1/2-point favorite Georgia Tech and then raced past No. 2 seed and 6-point choice Wisconsin to earn the right to meet Oregon in the Midwest Regional in St. Louis on Friday night.
"Anyone who picked UNLV to beat Wisconsin made a good prediction," said oddsmaker Ken White, managing partner of Las Vegas Sports Consultants.
"The Rebels had to play their best to win and they did.
"I said at the beginning of the year UNLV would be really good by tournament time.
"Oregon should be easier than Georgia Tech was.
"Georgia Tech's a better team, so I think UNLV has a real shot to make the Great Eight, Elite Eight or whatever you call it.
"After that, it's probably over because they'd likely have to play Florida next."
The Mirage listed the Ducks as 2 1/2-point favorites on Monday night.
The defending national champion and 10 1/2-point favorite Gators meet Butler on Thursday, also in St. Louis.
The winner of that game and survivor of the UNLV-Oregon contest play over the weekend for the right to advance to the March 31-April 2 Final Four in Atlanta.
The tournament began March 15 with 64 teams.
Florida still is White's personal pick to win it all as well as the tournament favorite at Las Vegas sports books.
Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which distributes lines to Nevada bet shops along with other clients, have the Gators as 2/1 favorites; the Hilton on Monday had the futures odds a little higher at 5/2.
Futures numbers on the Rebels ranged from LVSC's 30/1 to 50/1 at the Hilton.
"I guess you'd have to call UNLV the Cinderella now," White said.
"It's the highest seed left."
LVSC's biggest odds were on Butler at 100/1, while the Bulldogs and Vanderbilt, another surprise team, were 75/1 at the Hilton.
"There are some good numbers out there," White said.
"We have North Carolina and Kansas both at 4/1 and Georgetown at 5/1.
"My best long shot futures bet right now is Pittsburgh at 25/1.
"That's a good price.
"It's going to be tough for them to get by UCLA, but they could win.
"One thing I want to say is this is an outstanding Sweet 16 field."
The Bruins and Panthers play in the West Regional at San Jose on Thursday, with UCLA a 3-point pick.
The Tar Heels were an 8-point choice over Southern Cal at the Mirage, while the Jayhawks were preferred by 8 1/2 over Southern Illinois and the Hoyas were a 7 1/2-point pick over Vandy.
Other Mirage spreads listed Texas A&M as a 2 1/2-point selection over Memphis and No. 1 Ohio State by 4 over Tennessee.
White says books "didn't absorb a huge loss" on UNLV as action on the Wisconsin affair was fairly well split.
"The wise guys bet on UNLV early, then, after the public bet, then the pros came back on Wisconsin," he said.
Bet shops were jammed for both that contest and the Georgia Tech affair.
"Mainly they (gamblers) bet on UNLV," White said, a statement that was seconded by Hilton oddsmaker Jeff Sherman.
"We lost on UNLV, but won all four days last weekend, with Sunday being the best," he said.
Early action on Friday's UNLV-Oregon matchup was fairly evenly divided, Sherman added.
He also noted the Hilton's biggest win last weekend came on the Winthrop-Oregon game.
"We had a lot of money on Winthrop," Sherman said.
According to White, favorites were 26-18-4 in first and second-round games.
The tab was 13-2-1 on Thursday, 8-7-1 on Friday, 1-6-1 on Saturday and 4-3-1 on Sunday.
"We did fairly well," he said.
"One interesting fact is betting was up 40 percent Friday over Thursday, which was bad news for the bettor."
Brian Gabrielle is a documented member of the Professional Handicappers League. Read all of his articles at www.procappers.com/Brian_Gabrielle.htm