One of the most exciting times of the year culminates this weekend as the men’s basketball Final Four takes place at the AT&T Stadium in North Texas. In terms of betting excitement, and action, the NCAA tournament rivals the Super Bowl for top billing at sports books in Las Vegas and around the world.
I have been in Las Vegas for the past 15 years and have seen the frenzy that the tournament brings to the sports betting world. This year’s Final Four promises to bring many big names to the table.
There are currently at least 20 teams that have a legitimate shot to win the NCAA Championship this year. This doesn’t even include the dark horse candidates that have made it to the Final 4 in the past few years. This points to the overall parity in college basketball this year.
When I think of Syracuse this year, it brings to mind the great run that UNLV had back in the early 90’s. UNLV stormed through the tourney in 1990 and routed Duke for the championship. The next year the Rebels had one of the best teams ever but somehow lost to the Blue Devils in the semifinals. Many people in Las Vegas have never forgotten that loss, and to this day still remember the pain. While Syracuse’s first loss at the hands of Duke doesn’t compare, the controversial ending will still sting.
I think back on my many years here in Las Vegas and remember how betting on the Final Four has changed. Las Vegas has grown from a gambling mecca into a resort dominated city with much more than gambling. It used to be that when you made a bet you had to go into a sportsbook. Those days are long behind us.
The internet has brought a boom to sports betting and Las Vegas has changed with the times. You now see high tech scoreboards, betting stations, individual TV’s at the seats, etc. And that is just at the sportsbooks.
Online you have the convenience of betting by clicking a few keys on your computer or by picking up the phone. It used to be that I would go into a sportsbook, make my bet, and talk with all the regulars that frequent the place. Now I am more likely to turn on the computer to do all that.
I have seen the action from both sides of the table. I remember the days of runners calling in numbers to the syndicates or betting services. That does not happen as much anymore with the advent of offshore betting and the computer age but it does bring back memories.
My many years in Las Vegas have given me an insight into the various areas of sports betting and I hope to share some of that experience with you.
This year’s Final Four is expected to have a betting increase from last year and the books expect good interest. This will especially be true if there are some marquee matchups.
Favorites to Win it All
So who wins the championship? While it is way too early to say, there are a couple of favorites. Syracuse has been a powerhouse in the ACC in their first season; they were beaten by Duke, which is always around this time of year. Wichita State is the final unbeaten team in division I basketball, a year after making the Final 4; they and San Diego State are going to try to prove that the mid-majors can win it all. Arizona and Florida are major players from power conferences that aren’t having the greatest season overall.
The strongest conferences this season are the new Big East and the Big 12. There are several teams that are going to be major players from each of these conference. This includes Creighton, Villanova, Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Texas. The American Athletic Conference broke off from the Big East, and they also have good teams including last year’s champion, Louisville. The Big Ten is one of the most balanced conferences from top to bottom; but they haven’t had a truly consistent team this season. You can check out the current odds during March Madness for this season here.
My current prediction is that Arizona is going to win the NCAA Championship this season. That opinion and a quarter still won’t buy you a newspaper in Las Vegas. It does, however, give you something to think about, and that is never a bad thing.