What Las Vegas Sportsbooks Have Riding on the Final Four
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
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LAS VEGAS – Just four teams and three games remain in the 2017-2018 college basketball season. The scene will soon shift to San Antonio for the Final Four, and Las Vegas bookmakers will be paying close attention to the festivities.
Here’s a look at what casinos will have on the line this weekend in Texas — and how the books fared in the Elite Eight.
Final Four Liability
Villanova and Kansas are the No. 1 seeds, but they aren’t as popular with the betting public as, say, Kentucky or Duke. Nobody saw Loyola coming, so the number of wagers on them is quite small, and not many experts expected Michigan to get out of its bracket, either.
The result is that books like CG Technology and the Westgate are going to be winners regardless of who cuts down the nets in San Antonio (with one possible exception). For them, it’s mostly a question of how much.
“We don’t lose to any of the teams left, but the team we win the least to is Villanova,” said Jason Simbal, Vice President of CG Technology in Las Vegas. “Kansas is best.”
The Westgate, on the other hand, actually wants a Nova victory — and for Loyola’s magical run to come up short.
“Loyola (and the field 300-1) is our only liability,” said Jay Kornegay, director of the Westgate SuperBook. “Nova is best case for us.”
Kansas opened as a -5.5 underdog to Villanova here in Las Vegas, while Loyola is getting five points from Michigan.
More Sister Jean
One of the best stories of March has been the rise of Sister Jean and No. 11 seed Loyola of Chicago. Head coach Porter Moser’s club is just the fourth 11 seed to make the Final Four; it’s the first since VCU did it and lost to Butler in 2011.
But while Sister Jean has become the face of this tournament and has taken the country by storm, the betting public has had reservations. It didn’t trust Loyola to beat Kansas State (a relatively modest two-point favorite even after beating Kentucky) in the Elite Eight.
“Loyola covering was a good result for us,” Simbal said. “The public backed KSU, including a few five-figure bets.”
But Kansas State didn’t totally dominate the money. The Westgate SuperBook had a few Loyola believers hit its windows.
“We needed Loyola to cover, but (it wasn’t) a huge decision,” Kornegay said.
You Didn’t Foul?
What in the world was going on at the end of the Florida State and Michigan game? Since when don’t teams foul down four with 11 seconds left?
The Seminoles trailed by two possessions and the game was probably over, but the line was -4.5. If you had a ticket for Michigan, you were probably screaming “FOUL” at the TV screen like the rest of us.
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton’s questionable decision ended up being good news for CG Technology, however.
“(It was a) pretty big swing,” Simbal said. “Lots of parlays laid 4.5. It was a high five-figure swing in favor of the house for us.”
That wasn’t the case at the Westgate SuperBook, whose line was a little different than most books on game day.
“Florida State failing to hack at the end of the game didn’t benefit or kill us,” Kornegay said. “Landing on four wasn’t a good result. The only positive scenario was Michigan winning by one to three.”
Duke Gets Sent Home
The public loves to bet on the Blue Devils during the tournament in much the same way it does the Dallas Cowboys or Los Angeles Lakers, and CG Technology needed Kansas to win as three-point underdogs.
Villanova won and covered the -6.5 line earlier against Texas Tech in a game that saw the vast majority of bets and money backing the Wildcats. That game was a loser for CG Technology, which became Jayhawk fans later in the day.
“(KU’s win in overtime over Duke) was a good result for us,” Simbal said. “We needed Kansas for the game, and since Nova covered early, we had a decent size parlay liability to Duke.”
It was a less of a story at one of the biggest sportsbooks in Vegas, The Westgate Superbook.
“The (betting on the) Duke vs. Kansas game was very balanced and we didn’t have much of a decision,” Kornegay said. “We would have preferred Duke winning since we had a favorable future book on them.”
Top Photo Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports