Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, March 21, 2014 | 2 a.m.
In Las Vegas during March Madness, fortunes for sports bettors wagering on college basketball’s NCAA Tournament are known to change in the blink of an eye.
Thursday again proved to be a roller coaster ride of emotion.
Michigan State was comfortably ahead of Delaware in the final seconds Thursday of an NCAA Tournament second round game when the Spartans’ Colby Wollenman was fouled with 26 seconds remaining to earn a pair of free throws.
Gamblers in Southern Nevada sports books immediately perked up. Michigan State was a 14-to-15-point betting favorite — depending on the property — and led by 14 points with Wollenman on the line.
It was likely the Spartans' last chance to score and cover. He drained both shots to extend the lead to 16.
Then, on what became Delaware’s last possession, Sean Locke was fouled to earn a pair of free throws. If he made both attempts, the game would have landed on the number for some and given Delaware the cover for others.
Thousands of dollars hung in the balance with Locke, a 6-foot-4 sophomore guard at the line.
He missed the first shot and made the second for the final margin, a 93-78 win in favor of Michigan State. The Spartans advance to face Harvard Saturday in the third round, and more important in Las Vegas, covered the spread for some. Others settled for a tie.
Of the 16 second-round games Thursday, the betting favorite covered in eight games. The underdog cashed in seven games. We’ll call the Michigan State game a tie since most houses closed with the Spartans favored by 15.
Favorites Connecticut and St. Louis each rallied to force overtime, then easily covered the spread to give a bad-beat to gamblers with the other side. Connecticut beat St. Joseph’s 89-91 as a 5-point betting favorite; St. Louis trailed N.C. State the entire game, but covered as 2.5-point favorites in an 83-80 win in overtime. The line was bet up to St. Louis minus-3 in some casinos, meaning a few gamblers tied.
The most lopsided cover of the day came from second-seeded Wisconsin in its 75-35 victory against American. The Badgers outscored American 43-13 in the second half, easily covering the 14-point spread.
Wisconsin advances to play No. 7 seed Oregon Saturday in the third round. Oregon was another favorite to cover, beating BYU 87-68 as 5-point favorites. Oregon was considered one of the most popular second-round plays, with LVH Superbook director Jay Kornegay posting on Twitter Wednesday that 90 percent of bettors at his property wagered on the Ducks.
Pittsburgh, a 5.5-point favorite against Colorado, also enjoyed a lopsided cover. Pitt outscored Colorado by 28 points in the first half for a 77-48 victory.
Other favorites to cover include: Syracuse, a 13-point favorite against Western Michigan, won by 24 points; Michigan, a 15-point favorite against Wofford, closed strong to win 57-40; Villanova, a 16.5-point favorite against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, led by just four points at halftime before winning 73-53 to cover.
Betting underdogs Dayton, Harvard and North Dakota State won straight up. Albany, a 21-point underdog, kept it close against No. 1 seed Florida in losing 67-55 to cover. Manhattan covered as 14.5-point underdogs in losing to defending national champion Louisville, 71-64.
Texas won in the final seconds against Arizona State on Cameron Ridley’s buzzer beater for an 87-85 victory, but Arizona State closed as a 2.5-point underdog to cover. The line opened at Texas minus-2, meaning some bettors pushed.
In the last game Thursday, San Diego State fought off New Mexico State for a 73-69 victory in overtime. New Mexico State, however, was the winner in Las Vegas because it covered as 7-point underdogs.
The over-under total included eight games going over the points and eight games staying under. San Diego State’s game went over the total out 127 points in overtime, giving a bad-beat to under bettors.
Today is a new day. There’s 16 more second-round games, surely giving us plenty of bad-beat stories.