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September 21, 2014

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NCAA Tournament by the Odds: Vegas rooting for Kansas despite line move

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Kentucky forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) and forward Anthony Davis (23) celebrate during the second half of an NCAA Final Four semifinal college basketball tournament game Saturday, March 31, 2012, in New Orleans. Kentucky won 69-91.

During Sunday’s press conference ahead of the national championship game in New Orleans, Kansas coach Bill Self mentioned that he hadn’t heard anyone pick his team to beat Kentucky.

He must not have checked with Las Vegas sports books. The Jayhawks have somewhat surprisingly hung with the Wildcats when it comes to early support from bettors.

The line has moved in Kansas’ favor at some shops, including the LVH Superbook, where it opened as a 6.5-point underdog to Kentucky. The consensus spread in town, according to Vegas Insider, was down to Kentucky -6 Sunday afternoon.

Lucky’s sports books — which runs shops at the Riviera, Terrible’s, the D Las Vegas and the Plaza — saw action come in on Kansas as 7-point underdogs to Kentucky on the potential title game lines it opened last week. Lucky’s re-opened the number at Kentucky -6 after the Final Four, but adjusted to 6.5 after early money on the Wildcats.

“Just a little bit on Kentucky,” Lucky’s Sports Book Director Jimmy Vaccaro described. “I think it’s evident if the line inches up any more, the smart guys will see a bit of an advantage and there will be some buyback on Kansas.”

“I would say it will be about a 60/40 split on straight bets with Kentucky, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be lopsided on the game. I think every time the line goes up, we’re going to get bigger money on the dog.”

Although Vaccaro anticipates a balanced book for the game, he’s planning to root for Kansas. Sports books would make more money through their futures if the Jayhawks upset the Wildcats.

Lucky’s received significantly more wagers on Kentucky to win the national championship throughout the season than it did on Kansas.

“I can’t speak for everyone else, but I think the whole town will do better if Kansas wins the game outright tomorrow,” Vaccaro said.

But teams in Kansas’ spot haven’t fared well recently. Since the turn of the century, the Vegas underdog has only prevailed outright twice in 12 national championship games.

Favorites have gone 9-3 against the spread in March Madness’ final affair. That’s much to the chagrin of the casual-betting masses, which traditionally are more comfortable backing the favorite in high-profile games like the NCAA championship.

Expect the boisterous crowds taking in Monday night’s game at sports books to be cheering for a blowout Kentucky victory.

“People are looking for angles to bet them,” Superbook Director Jay Kornegay said before the Final Four. “Kentucky has just looked so good and they’ve taken notice.”

The public has ignored Kansas, which is on an identical 14-1 run in its last 15 games, by comparison. Many sports books received lopsided late action on Ohio State — the line moved from 2.5 to 3 everywhere before tip-off — in Saturday’s national semifinal.

Guys like Kornegay and Vaccaro were as excited as Self to see Kansas come back from a 13-point deficit to win.

“It was one of the best games for us of the entire tournament,” Vaccaro said. “I was very happy with that game.”

Even though the Jayhawks have garnered some early attention, Las Vegas would have no problem seeing Kansas pull off an even bigger upset against Kentucky.

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

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