The Western Athletic Conference announced Friday that its members have decided to return to Las Vegas for next March’s conference tournaments, with both the men’s and women’s events being played at the Orleans Arena from March 11-14. The conference will have eight teams next season, with Idaho moving from the WAC to the Big Sky.
With Idaho leaving the teams remaining are Bakersfield, Chicago State, Grand Canyon, Kansas City, New Mexico State, UTPA and Utah Valley.
The Orleans Arena, which hosts the WCC tournaments the week prior, has hosted the WAC tournament for the last four seasons. The site has been an especially good one for New Mexico State, which has won the last three men’s tournaments.
The WAC men’s tournament was first held in Las Vegas in 2011, with former members Utah State and Boise State playing in the title game.
At the start of every college basketball season fans pay attention to what Las Vegas has to say with regards to who will win the national title. While the favorites from an odds standpoint immediately jump out, there’s also the search for value picks that would result in a financial windfall of sorts should that team win.
Twelve friends who graduated from the University of Connecticut in the spring of 2013 placed their faith in Kevin Ollie’s Huskies in November during a trip to Las Vegas, and they were rewarded as UConn cut down the nets last month in Arlington, Texas.
How much did they win? Each of the 12 friends placed $100 on the Huskies, who were given odds of 50:1 by the sports book at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, which works out to a nice $5,000 payday for each. Ten of the 12 cashed in their tickets this weekend, and Paul DelVecchio provided the visual.
“We watched the season opener here and placed the bet immediately after. 50 to 1 odds at $100 a piece. 12 of us in total placed it,” DelVecchio told NBC Sports via Twitter.
“Was more of a hopeful bet than anything else but they pulled it out.”
When Ollie was named head coach in October 2012 there was no lack of skepticism, with athletic director Warde Manuel taking a “wait and see” approach at first and some wondering if the former UConn point guard could build on what Jim Calhoun had accomplished during his time at the school. But there were also those who believed Ollie was the right man for the job, including the group of friends who are now $5,000 (apiece) richer.
“Honestly, we thought it was very possible,” said DelVecchio, who along with his friends was at Gampel Pavilion for Ollie’s introductory press conference. “His passion was incredible, and we all knew that would translate to the players on the court. We sat in Gampel when the official announcement was made, and were very excited for the future.”
While the amount of money won by the DelVecchio and his friends in notable, it’s also about the story that they’ll be able to share for the rest of their lives. And according to DelVecchio, they all placed $100 bets on UConn to win it all next season, with the odds being 65 to 1 at present time.
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.