Wednesday, March 12, 2014 | 1:59 a.m.
Anyone waiting until next week’s NCAA Tournament for the start of a college basketball betting bonanza is doing it wrong.
The Las Vegas celebration of all things hoops officially begins with conference tournaments. And with the bulk of them getting underway Wednesday, expect the Play of the Day series — which features sportswriters using the South Point odds with a $10,000 starting bankroll — to observe the tournaments’ greatness through the weekend.
South Carolina plus-3 vs. Auburn: $330 to win $300
Wow, this game is as offensive as South Carolina coach Frank Martin’s vocabulary. Then again, the Wednesday of conference tournament week rarely stages much worth spitting superlatives about.
It’s the unofficial play-in day, when the major conferences start their events with its helpless teams getting one last gasp on the season. That’s the case here as Auburn and South Carolina went a combined 11-25 in the SEC this season.
While Auburn hasn’t done much better, South Carolina’s last win in the SEC came in 2008. Yes, it’s been six straight one-and-dones in Atlanta. The Gamecocks have extra motivation to get off the shined with Martin returning from exile caused by his potty mouth despite unyielding support from his players.
South Carolina has played better late in the season, winning four of eight games over the last month. That includes a 72-67 victory over Kentucky, a win that’s far better than anything on Auburn’s résumé.
The Tigers did manage to smash the Gamecocks twice, 79-74 in Columbia, S.C., and 83-67 in Auburn, Ala. Auburn’s Chris Denson scored 47 points on 16-for-23 shooting in those two games.
He’s lost his touch a bit since the last South Carolina win, however, by making just 32 percent of his shots. The Gamecocks have improved defensively, and have an advantage on that end over the Tigers.
They may not have been the stronger team all season, but South Carolina is better than Auburn right now.
Standings: Bern (14-9, $10,940), Keefer (10-10, $9,367), Brewer (6-12-3, $5,990)