Maybe the most intriguing first-round game in the NCAA Tournament is a matchup of two of the nation's top freshmen, Kansas State's Michael Beasley and Southern California's O.J. Mayo.
The game will be played Thursday at Omaha, Neb., and it definitely will be featured on the big screens in Las Vegas sports books.
When betting lines opened Sunday, the oddsmakers put the spread on Mayo. The Trojans were made 21/2-point favorites over Beasley and the Wildcats.
"That's just a sick game. That is obviously the marquee game," MGM Mirage sports book director Robert Walker said. "As far as first-round games go, that one is unbelievable.
"I think we'll get a lot of play on Kansas State because they've got the best player on the court."
Betting on the NCAA Tournament is popular with the public, but the action typically starts slowly and picks up steam when basketball fans flock to Las Vegas later in the week.
Professional bettors are monitoring and trying to predict line moves, but Walker said most opening numbers were holding steady Sunday night because few big bets were showing up.
"You put the lines up, people are going to look at it, and they come back and bet it on game day," Walker said.
USC, the No. 6 seed in the Midwest Region, appears capable of making a run in the tournament. Mayo and Beasley are destined for the NBA next season, and while Beasley is expected to be drafted higher, the Trojans are a more talented team with a more experienced coach in Tim Floyd.
UNLV also is headed for Omaha for a first-round game Thursday. The Rebels, seeded No. 8, are 11/2-point underdogs against No. 9 Kent State of the Mid-American Conference.
The Golden Flashes are one of only three lower-seeded teams to be favored in the first round.
"That's a good first-round matchup for the Rebels," Walker said. "I think they have a chance, and I thought the line would be a pick."
UNLV closed as a 1-point underdog to Brigham Young in the Mountain West Conference Tournament championship Saturday. Walker said wagering was heavy on the Cougars, but the Rebels overcame a four-point halftime deficit and rolled to a 76-61 victory.
BYU, the No. 8 seed in the West Region, is a 2-point underdog against ninth-seeded Texas A&M in a Thursday matchup at Anaheim, Calif.
The third higher-seeded underdog is Gonzaga, which is No. 7 in the Midwest but opened as a 11/2-point underdog to 10th-seeded Davidson.
In other first-round games with tight spreads, West Virginia is a 2-point favorite over Arizona, Indiana is a 11/2-point favorite over Arkansas, and Butler is a 4-point favorite over South Alabama.
"I think the probability of upsets is high," Walker said. "I think you'll see a lot of upsets."
The Las Vegas Hilton opened UCLA as the 7-2 favorite to win the tournament, followed by North Carolina (9-2), Kansas (5-1) and Memphis (8-1).