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

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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.

Akron reveals special bobble heads for LeBron, high school teammates

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When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.

LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.

Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).

All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.

NEW PODCAST: Indiana, Cal, troublesome trends and a weekend preview

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.

Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.