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Why closing seconds in 7 NCAA tourney games were madness for some bettors

Miami

Charles Krupa / AP

Miami guard Sheldon McClellan reacts to a basket by teammate Kamari Murphy against Buffalo in the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Thursday, March 17, 2016, in Providence, R.I.

Welcome to March Madness in Las Vegas.

In the South Point Ballroom Thursday afternoon, two friends jumped out of their seats and high-fived after Buffalo’s Lamonte Bearden made a layup at the first-half buzzer against Miami in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They had the first half total over 69 points and the basket momentarily evened the score at 35-all at halftime to give them a winning wager.

One of the friends started dancing in excitement. It was short-lived.

Officials went to the review monitors and determined the shot occurred after time had expired. They waved off the points, making it 35-33 at halftime. The half stayed under by one point to give the friends a loser.

Yes, for sports handicappers — pros and recreational players alike — the first round of the NCAA Tournament can be downright maddening. Point spread winners are often determined by one play, and as we saw a few times Thursday, in the final seconds.

Here are more examples:

• In the final seconds of UConn’s 74-67 victory against Colorado, Xavier Talton’s 30-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer seemed harmless for Colorado. But it closed as a four-point betting underdog, and plus-4.5 at some houses, meaning the Talton heave could have given Colorado the point-spread cover. Instead, the shot badly missed, and UConn won twice — in the bracket to advance to Saturday, and at Nevada sports books.

• There were no points scored in the final three possessions of the first half in the Virginia-Hampton game, keeping the game under the first half total of 61.5 points by the slimmest of margins, 40-21.

• Vince Edwards’ 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer for Purdue pushed the first-half total of the Boilermakers’ game against Arkansas-Little Rock over the number of 58.5 by a half point, 31-28.

• Top-seeded Kansas, as expected, had little trouble in eliminating Austin Peay, 105-79. The 25-point favorite Jayhawks also covered the betting number — barely. The final shot of the game, when reserves were playing for both teams, was an Austin Peay air-ball. If the shot falls, Austin Peay backers — not Kansas — would have cashed tickets.

• Florida Gulf Coast’s Brian Greene Jr. buried a 3-pointer with nine seconds remaining against North Carolina to give total over bettors a remarkable cover. The total was 148.5 with Greene’s triple making the final 83-67. (Cue a loud cheer from a group of bettors at the South Point. And, more important, there was no reversal this time.)

•The Kentucky-Stony Brook late game stayed under the total of 144 points in the final minute when Stony Brook's DeShaun Thrower missed a 3-pointer on the last shot of the game. The final was 85-57, or under by two points.

• • •

The madness starts all over again today with 16 more first-round games. They’ll surely be plenty of lucky point-spread covers and last-second disappointment. That, after all, is what makes Las Vegas a can’t-miss four-day party each March.

Case Keefer and Taylor Bern contributed to this story

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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