Ve­gas can’t agree on con­sen­sus pick

Casi­nos list mul­ti­ple choices as fa­vorites for NCAA cham­pion.

Austin American-Statesman - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL -

Can’t de­cide the win­ner in your March Mad­ness bracket? Don’t feel bad. Las Ve­gas casi­nos can’t agree on an NCAA Tour­na­ment fa­vorite, ei­ther.

The Wynn Las Ve­gas and West­gate Su­perBook orig­i­nally listed Duke as the odds-on pick to win col­lege bas­ket­ball’s na­tional cham­pi­onship Sun­day. But both books switched to North Carolina as the fa­vorite Tues­day, less than 48 hours af­ter the brack­ets for the tour­na­ment were re­vealed.

Mean­while, MGM Re­sorts In­ter­na­tional had Kansas as a 5-1 fa­vorite, while Wil­liam Hill opened with North Carolina and tight­ened its odds af­ter early wa­gers.

“This year, a lot of peo­ple be­lieve there are eight to 12 teams that can take home the tit­tle,” said Jay Korne­gay, West­gate’s sports book di­rec­tor. “The odds are so close in the top con­tend­ing teams that any time you have an in­flux of money, that can change the odds and make that team the fa­vorite at that time.”

At West­gate, North Carolina was fol­lowed by Kansas at 6-1 — which leapfrogged orig­i­nal fa­vorite Duke. The Blue Dev­ils were at 7-1 and top over­all seed Vil­lanova at 8-1.

“It’s un­com­mon; it’s a wide-open year,” said Nick Bog­danovich, head odd­s­maker for Wil­liam Hill, which runs more than 100 sports books in Ne­vada. “Usu­ally, there are seven or eight teams that you can nar­row it down to. But this year, I think there are more teams that can win it than ever be­fore.”

The Amer­i­can Gam­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, a lob­by­ing group for commercial and tribal casi­nos, es­ti­mates that about $10.4 bil­lion will be wa­gered on the three-week ex­trav­a­ganza. That’s $1.2 bil­lion more than last year and only $295 mil­lion of that will be bet le­gally, mostly at sports books in Ne­vada.

Las Ve­gas casi­nos are get­ting ready for large crowds, so much so that some re­sorts open over­flow ar­eas to ac­com­mo­date bas­ket­ball fans.

Johnny Avello, the long­time odd­s­maker and sports book di­rec­tor for the Wynn Las Ve­gas, said Duke was his fa­vorite.

“They could have been wor­thy of a 1-seed, but the com­mit­tee gave them a 2-seed. They de­served to be my top team go­ing into the tour­na­ment,” Avello said. “Plus, we’ve taken money on them all year.”

Nei­ther Vil­lanova nor Gon­zaga, two No. 1s, were top fa­vorites Tues­day. Odd­s­mak­ers said that while Gon­zaga got a top seed, it doesn’t face strong com­pe­ti­tion through­out the year, while Vil­lanova has to over­come be­ing the de­fend­ing cham­pion.

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