LAS VEGAS — Of a select group of professional handicappers tapped to dissect today’s Loyola-Oregon State hoops game, Matt Youmans connected a centenarian nun to legendary rockers.
“Loyola is a well-coached team that’s a combination of Led Zeppelin and Sister Jean — old and wise, but ready to rock and roll,” says the Vegas Stats & Information Network (VSiN) senior writer-broadcaster, who once covered Chicago teams for The Times of Northwest Indiana.
“Underdogs are barking in this tournament, and Oregon State plus seven is probably the sharper way to play this. In the end, it’s ‘Ramble On.’ Loyola wins in a close one.”
A quintet consensus is dialed in on the Beavers (19-12) at about plus 6.5 points against the Ramblers (26-4) in a Midwest Regional semifinal in Indianapolis.
The Ramblers don’t cover but they survive and advance to play the Syracuse-Houston victor in the Elite Eight.
A common theme is that Oregon State has been the most impressive team from the most impressive conference, the Pac-12, and that it’ll test Loyola.
The 12th-seeded Beavers defeated both No. 5 seed Tennessee and No. 4 seed Oklahoma State as underdogs. In fact, they have covered 12 of their last 13 games, just one of those as a favorite.
Kelly Stewart took the 6.5, sprinkling some on the Oregon State moneyline of +235 — to win 2.35 times her investment.
“I know a lot of people who think this is the end of the road for the Beavers, who have been underdogs in every game since Feb. 1,” Stewart said. “But the Pac-12 has proven it deserves some respect.”
Oregon, UCLA and USC are the other Pac-12 squads still alive in the NCAA Tournament, while the Big East, Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences all have two teams remaining.
Youmans nabbed Oregon State and seven points, and Ron Boyles and Conner Streeter, who rave about Loyola coach Porter Moser, also lean that way. Tom Barton favors under the 125.5 total.
“Because that Loyola defense is still underrated,” said the Long Island punter and nationally syndicated SportsGarten talk-show host.
Nineteen of the Ramblers’ last 20 foes have scored 60 points or fewer, and they allow a national-low 56.1 points. They zapped No. 1 seed Illinois 71-58 in the second round.
Loyola has only sharpened its defense, which has been stingier over its last three games than everyone left in the tournament but Baylor.
Boyles envies bettor Jim Root’s $10 ticket on Loyola to win it all, at 1,500-1 odds. That offers Root, who runs the popular and insightful Chicago-based Three-Man Weave college hoops site, valuable leveraging options.
Today, the Ramblers’ title odds range from +900 to +1400.
“Oregon State is red-hot right now,” Boyles said. “I’d take the points.”
Streeter, the professional alias of an offshore gambler, has the Beavers plus 7.5 points. He, too, envisions a slog of a game that puts a premium on an underdog getting more than a few points.
“You have to give credence to what the Pac-12 has done. Oregon State has four wins against those three [Pac-12] teams still in the Sweet 16,” Streeter said. “Loyola runs a great offense and values possessions, which are huge assets.
“They eventually just bleed people out, letting them make mistakes.”
Leaving them dazed and confused, fools in the rain.
‘SURE THING’ EVAPORATES
Late last Saturday morning, Circa Sports odds on Life Is Good to NOT win the Kentucky Derby were -450 when vigilant customers could have made guaranteed-winning bets.
Halley’s Comet comes around more frequently. “. . . an opportunity for free money,” wrote Circa director Matthew Metcalf on Twitter.
Horse Racing Nation reported that the bay colt was out of the Derby, with a left-hind leg injury, at 12:37 p.m. At 12:56, Metcalf wrote that Circa had removed Life Is Good from its menu.
Circa’s Yes/No propositions are unique in the industry. Metcalf and operations manager Jeffrey Benson have keen senses of humor, too, having placed 99-1 odds on Gretzky the Great.
Anyone reacting quickly, but coolly, could have put $450 on No, knowing it was a winner, to net $100. The typical customer limit is $1,000, which can be doubled upon request.
“So, in theory, someone could have gotten $2,000 down,” said Metcalf in a text message. Alas, he confirms that nobody made such a “No” wager within that narrow window.
A single four-figure bet wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow. A doubling request or small wave of action would have piqued Metcalf’s interest. Worst case, Circa might have lost less than $500.
Maybe it didn’t qualify for a sequel to “The Sting.” But for a little while, Vegas bettors had a sure thing.
BIGGER THAN U.S. STEEL
Expect those record national January betting figures, to which we referred last week, to increase when February and March numbers are revealed. That will likely mark eight consecutive record-setting months for legal U.S. sports wagering.
January hit $4.6 billion — Illinois contributed $581 million, fourth on the state list. February will include Super Bowl figures, March, the NCAA Tournament.
Plus, North Carolina joined the fray March 18, boosting such legal jurisdictions to 22.
Louisiana, Maryland, South Dakota and Washington state have legalized sports betting but are formulating operational guidelines. That will make 26. Seventeen additional states have bills coagulating in their legislatures.
“We’ll be bigger than U.S. Steel,” went the famous quote in “The Godfather” that might be more pertinent to sports betting.