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Big favorite Gonzaga discourages West Coast tourney bettors

Can’t bet on Gonzaga, can’t bet against it.

That’s the dilemma presented to bettors for the West Conference Conference tournament, which starts Thursday at Orleans Arena. Top-ranked and undefeated Gonzaga is a massive -1,200 favorite at the Westgate to win the event.

Bettors don’t want to risk so much for so little reward (having to pony up $1,200 to win $100). So that means the action is not exactly fast and furious at Las Vegas sportsbooks for the tournament.

Westgate sportsbook director John Murray said Wednesday afternoon that it had taken a single bet to win the WCC tournament, on Santa Clara at 200-1.

William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said there was “never any action” on futures to win the WCC tournament with Gonzaga usually so heavily favored, even more so this year. The Bulldogs have won seven of the past eight WCC tournaments and 17 of 22 dating to 1999.

“Big price a deterrent,” he said via text message. “Games in past have been bet real well. But they skip the tourney odds.”

Brigham Young (+450) is the only team viewed with a realistic chance to pull off a surprise title run. But Gonzaga swept the Cougars easily during the regular season, winning 86-69 at home on Jan. 7 and 82-71 on the road Feb. 8. BYU was +1,100 and +475 on the money line in those games, so the Cougars’ money line price in the tournament final could very well be bigger than the pretournament odds.

The structure of the tournament is another deterrent to underdogs, with single, double and triple byes. Gonzaga and BYU have byes until Monday’s semifinals. Pepperdine (50-1) and Saint Mary’s (50-1) have byes to the quarterfinals, and Loyola Marymount (100-1) and Pacific (200-1) have first-round byes.

The tournament kicks off Thursday with San Francisco (100-1) against San Diego (500-1) at 6 p.m. and Santa Clara (200-1) against Portland (5,000-1) at 9. San Francisco is an 8-point favorite (total 143½), and Santa Clara is a 13½-point favorite (total 144½) at Circa Sports.

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

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