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‘Amazing’ tourney down to fitting end


At this point, it seems to be a daily routine. Brush your teeth, eat lunch, get annoyed by bad drivers on the way to work, and, of course, watch Aaron Harrison hit a huge 3-pointer as Kentucky wins a thriller.

This is not the way the NCAA Tournament was supposed to play out, and that’s the best thing about it.

“I don’t understand it. It’s amazing,” South Point oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro said. “You can’t script these things. I’ve never seen nothing like it, and I’ve been watching this stuff a long time.”

Vaccaro was watching “Gilligan’s Island,” an old sitcom with a script that is more believable than the basketball soap opera we’ve followed for the past three weeks.

Harrison hit a 3-pointer Saturday night that sent the Wildcats to today’s national championship game. That in itself is amazing, considering Kentucky is a No. 8 seed. But Harrison has stretched the limits of imagination by sinking three game-tying or go-ahead 3s in the final minute of three tournament games, beating Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Kentucky is a 2½-point favorite over Connecticut, a No. 7 seed. How amazing is it that these two teams are here?

After the brackets were announced, the LVH sports book posted the Huskies at 100-1 odds to win the title. The Wildcats opened at 60-1 and closed 40-1. So, the theory of a wide-open tournament has been proven, after all.

“This has been a crazy tournament,” said handicapper Bruce Marshall of The Gold Sheet. “We thought there were about 30 teams that could win it. I’m not sure I would have put UConn in the top 20 before this tournament.

“There was no great team this year. I was never convinced about Florida. At times, I thought Arizona was the best team. At times, I thought it was Michigan State.”

At no time in February or early March did many of us think Connecticut or Kentucky might be the best team. Neither team won its conference.

The Huskies nearly lost their tournament opener, trailing Saint Joseph’s by three points in the final minute. The Wildcats, who lost to Arkansas and South Carolina near the end of the regular season, have won their past four games by a total of 11 points.

Harrison’s 3 with 5.7 seconds left stunned Wisconsin 74-73. The Badgers closed as 1-point underdogs after the line opened at 2.

“I think we lost a ham sandwich with the game falling on one,” Vaccaro said. “We were pretty high on Wisconsin on the money line, so that saved us there.”

Connecticut, a 6½-point ’dog in Saturday’s first semifinal, overcame a 16-4 deficit to take down the Gators, the tournament’s top overall seed 63-53.

LVH sports book director Jay Kornegay said there were 16 tickets on the Huskies at 100-1 for “small change.” There were 32 tickets on the Wildcats. So there are some bettors out there who believed this was possible and did not listen to a word Dick Vitale shouted on Selection Sunday.

Senior guard Shabazz Napier has been the best player in the tournament for Connecticut, which is winning with offensive efficiency and suffocating defense.

“I’m blown away by UConn,” said handicapper Ken Thomson of SportsXradio.com. “I’m not going against them.

“If you play their game, you will lose. They made Florida and Michigan State look like a joke offensively. They shorten the game, and at the end, Napier is going to have the ball and he will hit his free throws.”

The line opened at 3, and that number might resurface today if bookmakers need to attract underdog money.

“I really don’t believe any book in the state will have a major decision on this game,” Vaccaro said. “It’s actually been relatively slow. It’s not going to be crazy busy.”

The decision on which side to bet, Thomson said, is a “tough call.” It’s basically a coin-flip decision. Thomson is leaning under the total of 135 because the Huskies are not going to run with Kentucky.

“If I was going to bet it, I probably would take UConn,” Thomson said. “I would rather take the points than give the points.”

In an NCAA Tournament pool run by retired Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Royce Feour, none of the 52 entrants scored a point in the Final Four. Feour called it “amazing.”

That word best sums up the tournament. If Harrison hits a last-minute a 3-pointer to lift Kentucky to the title, it would be a fitting ending.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.