Overall No. 1 Louisville is a slight betting favorite to win the NCAA tournament, but Las Vegas casinos think any one of several teams have a legitimate shot at winning college basketball’s national championship.
Executive Director Jay Kornegay of the race and sports book at the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino had Louisville at 9-2 odds on Sunday night after the tournament’s seedings were announced. Right behind the Cardinals were third overall No. 1 seed Indiana at 7-1 and three teams at 8-1 — No. 2 seeds Duke and Miami, along with Florida, a No. 3 seed.
But good luck finding a consensus.
“When people look at the odds, it reflects opinion and money and not necessarily in that order,” Kornegay said.
Miami, for example, has been a big fan favorite after opening the season at 200-1 odds to win the national championship, Kornegay said.
Jay Rood, vice president of race and sports for MGM Resorts International, said Louisville would also be the top favorite at its 10 casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, but that opinions will vary widely among bookmakers.
“I think there are a dozen or so teams that could legitimately end up in the championship game,” Rood said. “The first 16 teams that you’re going to see on our list could be very different.”
Indiana, whom Kornegay set as his casino’s second-highest favorite, will open behind Duke, Kansas and Georgetown at MGM Resorts, Rood said.
Even though it is the top favorite, Louisville’s odds worsened from 3-1 after selections were announced and put them in the same region as Duke, No. 3 seed Michigan State, No. 4 seed Saint Louis and No. 12 seed Oregon.
“In our opinion, as a No. 1 seed that’s a pretty loaded bracket,” Kornegay said.
Last year, eventual champions Kentucky were a clear favorite from the tournament’s start.
“There’s more parity,” said gambling expert R.J. Bell of Pregame.com. “There’s going to be that bundle at the top.”
Bell said that despite an unfathomable number of bracket combinations, casinos know that a No. 4 seed or better has won the title in 24 straight years.
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