Charles Krupa / AP
Friday, March 18, 2016 | 2 a.m.
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