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Will Las Vegas sports books root against No. 2 Wichita State in the NCAA tournament?


There’s no denying the popularity of the NCAA tournament, with fans across the country following every bounce during a three-week period that’s been dubbed “March Madness.” Another aspect of the tournament that receives a high amount of attention is gambling, whether it’s through the office pool that every year seems to be won by someone who pays little or no attention to the sport or by heading to Las Vegas for legal sports betting.

In the case of No. 2 Wichita State, which is currently 30-0 with one regular season game remaining, how well they do in the NCAA tournament could have an impact greater than the sports books would like. Why? Because Gregg Marshall’s Shockers began the season with odds of winning the national title as long as 100-to-1.

If the Shockers can make that difficult six-game run, bets placed on Wichita State at those odds could end up costing some books a sizable amount of money according to Erik Matuszewski of Bloomberg News.

“They are the one team we don’t want to see go very deep in the tournament right now,” Jay Rood, sports book director at the MGM Mirage (MGM) in Las Vegas, said in a telephone interview. “That’s basically our only bomb out there. We probably mispriced them a little bit.”

Rood said the MGM Mirage sports book has “substantial liability” on Wichita State, with only three schools — Kansas, Syracuse and Florida — attracting more money from bettors. None of those teams had odds as high as the Shockers, who were listed by the MGM Mirage at 75-1 early in the season, when there were about 30 bets made at an average of $100, according to Rood. A winning $100 bet on Wichita State to capture the NCAA title would return $7,500 at those odds.

According to Vegas Insider the current odds on Wichita State winning the national title are 12-to-1, with Kentucky having the same odds and a group of four teams (defending champion Louisville, Arizona, Duke and Syracuse) just above at 10-to-1.

Vegas sports books offer up great entertainment during major sporting events, and the NCAA tournament clearly qualifies as such. And if the Shockers were to be playing on Monday, April 7 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas? It would probably just as entertaining to watch the sports book directors.

Knee injury temporarily sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.

Duke figuring out approach for this season

Duke University head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski speaks with the media about the Blue Devils' 2013-14 basketball season, Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in Durham, N.C. (Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
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Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.

“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.

“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”

Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group.  Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.

As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.