By OSKAR GARCIA, Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas casinos like top seed Kentucky better than all the other teams in the NCAA tournament, but think Ohio State is better than any of the other No. 1s.
Oddsmaker Mike Colbert of Cantor Gaming said Monday that Kentucky is a 5-2 favorite to win the championship, despite losing the Southeastern Conference championship to Vanderbilt on Sunday.
"They started a little slow but I think they've been the best team for the bulk of the year," said Colbert, Cantor's risk management director. "I think the loss will end up being good for them — I think they were getting slightly arrogant."
No. 2 seed Ohio State was 6-1 as the second favorite in odds Cantor shared with the majority of Nevada's 186 sports books, Colbert said.
"That probably surprises some people because they got beat yesterday by Michigan State in their conference championship," he said.
Michigan State, the top seed in the West region, was 9-1 to win the title. The other top seeds — North Carolina and Syracuse — were 7-1 and 10-1, respectively.
In any sport, Las Vegas usually makes teams more expensive if they're popular among bettors. But the Buckeyes' odds are based simply on the idea that they're a better team than the others, Colbert said.
"You put them on a neutral court against any of these other teams other than Kentucky and we think that they're the second-best team overall," he said. "We're putting these numbers up purely based off of how good we think these teams are and how good their chances are to win the championship."
Colbert said bettors were wagering heavily on Vanderbilt (40-1), Cincinnati (75-1) and Memphis (60-1) in early action.
Gambling expert RJ Bell of Pregame.com said the betting lines for the tournament and its individual games are the best predictors to consider when guessing who might win.
"It's the only prediction that those making the prediction are willing to back with millions of dollars," Bell said.
Bell said some casinos think Kentucky, as the top favorite, is three times more likely than any other team to win the title.
"That's a strong statement," he said.
Sin City is predicting five upsets in the first round: No. 9 Connecticut over No. 8 Iowa State, No. 10 West Virginia over No. 7 Gonzaga, No. 9 Alabama over No. 8 Creighton, No. 11 North Carolina State over No. 6 San Diego State and No. 10 Purdue over No. 7 St. Mary's.
Bell said the vast majority of people who play in office pools or other games don't pay attention to the point spread, giving smart bettors a convenient cheat sheet.
"You've got Vegas telling you this lower seed that is actually going to have far less than 50 percent of people picking it," he said. "That's exactly what bracket picking is about — if you can find teams that have a better than 50 percent chance to win that less than half the people are picking, that's how you win a bracket."
Bell said more than 100 million people worldwide are expected to wager a total of $3 billion on bracket-style games. More than $12 billion total is expected to be wagered on the tournament, he said.
Oskar Garcia can be reached at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia.
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