Handicapper gets rebound, cuts losses by more than half

After misfiring on several selections in the first two days of the NCAA Tournament, professional handicapper Paul Stone likened himself to a 3-point shooter.

"Even if you miss your first five or six, you just keep shooting, and sooner or later, you hope you find the groove," he said.

Fortunately for Stone, he finally got locked in a little on Saturday and hit a few winners, going 4-2 while winning $890 to slice his overall deficit by more than half, to $840.

Stone sprinted to a 3-0 start for the second straight day while lounging in the VIP balcony section of the Las Vegas Hilton's spacious Barry Manilow Theater, where the games are shown on five big screens.

Stone won a total of $1,400 on covers by Wisconsin ($500), Xavier ($500) and 31/2-point underdog West Virginia ($400), an outright winner over Duke.

After setting himself up for a potential monster day, Stone ended up dropping $510 the rest of the way, losing his plays on Pittsburgh ($660) and UCLA ($550) while cashing his biggest ticket of the day, a $700 winner on the UCLA-Texas A&M total going under 125.

That game played out exactly as he envisioned it, with the Bruins advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in a 53-49 win over the surprising Aggies.

Ironically, Stone has a winning record of 10-9-2 so far in the tournament, but he is down due to playing different amounts on each game.

"It's more feel than anything," he said of how he determines an $1,100 wager from a $330 one.

The steady Stone needs another good day today to end the weekend a winner, and his top pick is 41/2-point underdog Butler, which is playing Tennessee.

"It's more of a case of Tennessee really not playing well at all recently," he said.

Stone put $660 on the game and had several trends to support the play: Tennessee is 4-18-1 against the spread in its last 23 as a neutral-court favorite, 1-6-1 its last eight NCAA Tournament games as a favorite and 7-21-1 in its last 29 games on a neutral court.

Stone also took 11-point favorite North Carolina over Arkansas, 2-9 in its last 11 games as an underdog, for $550.

"This is more of a play against Arkansas," he said. "Arkansas deserved to be in the tournament this year, with a weak bubble, but in some past years, I don't think Arkansas would even get in."