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November 23, 2014

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Vegas oddsmakers scathe seeding of this year’s NCAA Tournament

Florida sticks as March Madness favorite but Louisville and Michigan State lurk

Image

Associated Press

Wichita State’s Ron Baker tries to keep the ball away from Louisville’s Luke Hancock during the second half of an NCAA Final Four tournament game Saturday, April 6, 2013, in Atlanta. Louisville won 72-68.

LVH Superbook odds to win NCAA Tournament

  • Florida: 4-to-1
  • Michigan State: 9-to-2
  • Louisville: 7-to-1
  • Arizona: 7-to-1
  • Kansas: 8-to-1
  • Wichita State: 15-to-1
  • Virginia: 15-to-1
  • Duke: 15-to-1
  • Syracuse: 15-to-1
  • Wisconsin: 20-to-1
  • Michigan: 25-to-1
  • Villanova: 25-to-1
  • Creighton: 25-to-1
  • Iowa State: 35-to-1
  • UCLA: 35-to-1
  • Kentucky: 40-to-1
  • North Carolina: 50-to-1
  • Ohio State: 60-to-1
  • Oklahoma State: 60-to-1
  • San Diego State: 75-to-1
  • VCU: 75-to-1
  • Saint Louis: 100-to-1
  • Baylor: 100-to-1
  • Cincinnati: 100-to-1
  • New Mexico: 100-to-1
  • Oklahoma: 100-to-1
  • UConn: 100-to-1
  • Oregon: 100-to-1
  • Texas: 100-to-1
  • Gonzaga: 100-to-1
  • Pittsburgh: 100-to-1
  • Memphis: 100-to-1
  • Iowa: 100-to-1
  • Tennessee: 100-to-1
  • UMass: 200-to-1
  • Stanford: 200-to-1
  • Providence: 200-to-1
  • Kansas State: 300-to-1
  • Saint Joseph's: 300-to-1
  • Arizona State: 300-to-1
  • Xavier: 500-to-1
  • Colorado: 500-to-1
  • George Washington: 500-to-1
  • BYU: 500-to-1
  • Nebraska: 500-to-1
  • Dayton: 500-to-1
  • NC State: 1000-to-1
  • Harvard: 1000-to-1
  • North Dakota State: 1000-to-1
  • Remainder of field: 100-to-1

Like an irate home crowd reacting to a questionable foul call at the end of a game, Las Vegas oddsmakers vocally protested the NCAA Tournament selection committee’s performance on assembling this year’s March Madness field.

Those locked into the betting market thought the 68-team bracket contained egregious errors. Most of the gripes referenced the Midwest Region where Wichita State landed the No. 1 seed.

“That’s probably the hardest bracket I’ve ever seen in my whole life,” said Ed Salmons, assistant sports book director at the LVH Superbook who oversees college basketball. “It was a comedy show to watch all the teams they stacked that Wichita State would have to beat to get to the Final Four. It was over-the-top insane.”

Four of the top 10 teams the Superbook listed in odds to win the title at the beginning of the week — Wichita State, No. 2 seed Michigan, No. 3 seed Duke and No. 4 seed Louisville — were stuffed into the region. Add No. 5 seed Saint Louis and No. 8 seed Kentucky to the mix, and Wynn Las Vegas sports book director Johnny Avello said the Midwest could have six of the top 20 power-rated teams.

Avello called the collection of power one of the biggest mistakes he had ever seen on Selection Sunday.

“I don’t think the committee should be doing it,” Wynn Las Vegas’ Johnny Avello said. “I think they should hand it over to the bookmakers.”

The bookmakers’ first fix to this field would be making defending champion Louisville a No. 1 seed. Avello expected to find the Cardinals on the No. 2 line Sunday, but called even that placement “a really big stretch.”

He would currently favor Louisville in a game against any other team in the country, and said the Cardinals were assured to give points in every contest on their way to the Final Four. Salmons indicated just two teams Louisville would post as an underdog against in the whole tournament — Florida, the overall No. 1 seed, and Michigan State, another No. 4 seed.

“I don’t know why they’re doing this,” Salmons said of the selection committee. “It’s rare to see two of the top three teams favored to win the tournament are No. 4 seeds.”

Heavy action triggered the Superbook to drop its odds to 7-to-1 on Louisville winning the tournament Sunday night. That puts the Cardinals just behind the Spartans at 9-to-2 and the Gators at 4-to-1.

Salmons isn’t necessarily high on Florida, however, and described it more as a favorite by default.

“Someone had to come down and be the favorite,” Salmons explained. “It’s just so hard to tell how good Florida is because of how bad their conference is. The SEC is just awful, so Florida could be great or they could lose in the second round.”

Avello shared the same feelings, though he had Florida lower as a 3-to-1 favorite to win the tournament. He decided not to inflate the Gators’ odds because their South Region competition is laughable compared to the Midwest and gamblers at the Wynn have backed the team enough to create a liability for the casino.

“Under normal circumstances, they should be 4-to-1 or possibly 9-to-2,” Avello said. “But I can’t even deliberate because I have too much money on them.”

The Superbook hasn’t booked that kind of support on the Gators. Wichita State winning the national championship is the LVH’s worst-case scenario, as some bettors got tickets on the Shockers at as high as 100-to-1 early in the year.

Wichita State is now 15-to-1 to win the title, tied with Virginia for the highest odds out of the No. 1 seeds behind Florida and Arizona at 7-to-1.

“I just let people bet them all year, and they just kept doing it,” Salmons said of the Shockers. “It adds up. I finally lowered them to 10-to-1 but when I saw this region come out, I had to up them. Their true odds of winning this thing would have to be close to 100-to-1.”

Oddsmakers’ criticism of the bracket wasn’t limited to the top. Far from it, as Avello and Salmons also pointed out less publicized failings.

Although Avello qualified that it would have no effect in Las Vegas, he referred to leaving SMU out of the field as “ridiculous.” Salmons tried to wrap his head around how Massachusetts wound up as a No. 6 seed with Saint Joseph’s as a No. 10. The two schools split their regular-season meetings before Saint Joe’s won the Atlantic 10 tournament championship with UMass bowing out in the quarterfinals.

“The committee is a bunch of frauds,” Salmons said. “The way they do this thing makes no sense.”

UMass ironically fell in the Midwest Region, so perhaps there is a bit of relief for the powerhouses forced to cannibalize each other to reach the Final Four.

That’s not enough to silence the figurative boos emanating from behind the counters at local sports books.

“I’m not a big Wichita guy, but I feel bad for them,” Salmons said. “The committee screwed them so bad.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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