Betting has been minimal on Mountain West, Pac-12 tourneys

Updated March 8, 2017 - 1:09 am

Championship Week in Las Vegas gives college basketball fans a chance to beat the rush of visitors who will descend on the city for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

“The conference tournaments are always good. They’re a whole different crowd that comes in this week than next week,” Wynn sports book director Johnny Avello said. “They say the games are as good and the excitement’s as good, but they don’t have to deal with the crowds.”

The action on the Mountain West and Pac-12 tournaments that tip off Wednesday in Las Vegas will pick up for Friday’s semifinals and Saturday’s title games. But there has been no rush to the betting windows to get down on the future odds to win each tournament.

“Those two conferences have been the quietest,” Westgate sports book manager Ed Salmons said. “The Mountain West, we’ve written maybe $100 or $200. It’s the lowest, by far.”

Salmons said he took a decent-sized wager on Iowa at 60-1 odds to win the Big Ten tournament and also took some action on Texas A&M at 60-1 and Mississippi at 80-1 to win the Southeastern Conference tournament.

“We’ve had quite a bit of action in the SEC, ACC and the Big Ten,” he said. “A lot of long shots in the SEC creates quite a bit of liability.”

UNR is a 5-4 favorite in the Mountain West, followed by Colorado State at 4-1, San Diego State and Boise State at 5-1 and Fresno State at 6-1.

Oregon is the 6-5 favorite in the Pac-12, followed by UCLA at 3-2 and Arizona at 5-2. The Westgate will keep the Pac-12 futures on the board until Thursday at noon, when Oregon plays the Arizona State-Stanford winner.

The Ducks have an easier path to the final than the Bruins and Wildcats, who appear headed for a semifinal showdown. Handicapper Bernie Fratto (Berniefratto.com), an ESPN Radio host, likes Oregon (27-4, 16-2) to win the Pac-12.

“It’s a very top-heavy tournament with Oregon, UCLA and Arizona. After that, it’s a big drop-off,” he said. “The bottom line is I think Oregon is too deep and too talented. They have five guys who average double digits, they execute very well and I’m a big fan of Dana Altman, who is arguably the best coach in the conference.”

Fratto also expects the Wolf Pack to hold serve in the MW but said surging Fresno State, the defending conference champion that has won and covered five straight, might be worth a money-line play against UNR if the teams meet in the semifinals.

“If Fresno wins that game, they’ll advance and probably win it all,” he said. “They’re peaking at the right time and beat (UNR) twice in the regular season.”

Fratto also gives Colorado State and Boise State “a puncher’s chance.” The Rams are guided by Mountain West Coach of the Year Larry Eustachy and led by Gian Clavell, the league’s Player of the Year.

“This is going to be a hotly contested tournament because it’s a one-bid league,” he said.

Fratto doesn’t expect San Diego State to be a factor in the tournament, but he likes the Aztecs to cover the 8½-point spread against UNLV in Wednesday’s 4 p.m. game at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“They’ll take out a lot of frustrations,” he said. “Not only has San Diego State owned the series with UNLV, winning 10 straight, but Steve Fisher has 27 career wins over UNLV. That’s the most of any coach against UNLV. Steve Alford has the second-most with eight.”

The Aztecs are 1-0-1 ATS against the Rebels this season, winning 64-51 as 6-point road favorites Jan. 17 and pushing as 13-point home favorites Feb. 19 in a 77-64 victory.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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