Wagerers bank on Gators


It's tough to find many flaws in the appearance of Ohio State, a team that just keeps winning and is led by two freshman phenoms, point guard Mike Conley Jr. and 7-foot center Greg Oden.

The Buckeyes are riding a 22-game winning streak into today's national championship game against Florida in Atlanta.

But when the Gators opened as 4-point favorites, the line was immediately bet up to 5. Bettors are lining up to play the favorite, and that's no surprise to Las Vegas Hilton sports book manager Ed Salmons.

"For whatever reason, Ohio State is not getting any respect," Salmons said. "I expect the public to be very strong on Florida.

"Honestly, when you look at this game, there seems to be no way Florida could lose. But when games look like that, they don't always turn out that way."

The Gators (34-5) have won 11 straight NCAA Tournament games and are trying to become the first team to repeat as national champion since Duke in 1991 and 1992.

In Saturday's semifinals, Florida easily defeated UCLA 76-66 as a 3-point favorite. Salmons said most sharp bettors were on the Bruins.

"I could not bet Ohio State in this game," Salmons said. "I would have to get at least 6 1/2 points to even look at Ohio State, but the line won't get to 6 1/2."

The Gators, who returned all five starters this season, also show very few flaws. They have interior muscle with Joakim Noah and Al Horford, an experienced point guard in Taurean Green and sharpshooters in Corey Brewer and Lee Humphrey. Brewer scored 19 points to dissect UCLA's respected defense and Horford had 17 rebounds.

"Florida looked unbelievably good in that game, and that's what people will remember," Salmons said.

The total for the title game opened at 138 and jumped to 140. Vegas Insider handicapper Jamie Tursini said his best bet is over the total.

"I see no reason whatsoever that these teams can't each score at least in the 70s," Tursini said. "There are a lot of athletes in this game. I see a lot of easy transition baskets and kick-outs for 3-pointers."

The Buckeyes (35-3) were 1-point underdogs Saturday, when they beat Georgetown, 67-60. Conley scored 15 points, and Oden finished with 13 despite missing most of the first half because of foul trouble.

"The Buckeyes scored 67 points against a methodical Georgetown team that likes to run the clock down to take high-percentage shots. Same for the Gators, who put up 76 against the same type of clock-management team in UCLA," Tursini said. "Expect a very high-scoring and entertaining game."

Florida routed Ohio State 86-60 on Dec. 23 as a 5-point home favorite. The game was tied at 40 early in the second half, and Oden was playing just his fifth game after right wrist surgery.

"You could argue you're getting value with Ohio State on a neutral court," Salmons said. "Is Florida going to take this game lightly? Instincts tell you that when Florida wants to play, nobody can beat them."

 

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