Las Vegas Review-Journal reporters Todd Dewey and Adam Hill will be writing a live blog Thursday on the first day of the NCAA Tournament from the Westgate sports book.
Final: Houston (-4.5) 67, San Diego State 65
The Aztecs, which trailed by 10 with 11:58 left, tied it at 62-all on a 3-pointer by Devin Watson with 1:08 left as the crowd roared. Rob Gray answered with a 3-pointer before Watson tied it with another 3-pointer with 36 seconds left. Gray then drove for the decisive layup to send the Cougars to the second round and send Aztecs bettors to the window to cash their tickets.
Final: Kentucky (-5) 78, Davidson 73
Kentucky essentially put the game away with 23 seconds left when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s dunk gave the Wildcats an 11-point lead as the crowd roared at the Westgate. But the spread, which opened at 6 and closed at 4½ or 5, was still in doubt. After Kevin Knox hit two free throws to put Kentucky ahead 78-70 with 10 seconds left, KiShawn Pritchett made a 3-pointer with two seconds left to make it 78-73 and give some Davidson bettors a cover or push.
Final: Texas Tech (-11) 70, Stephen F. Austin 60
Only in Las Vegas would a crowd scream for a team trailing by 10 in the final seconds to foul. That’s what happened in the final seconds of this one as Red Raiders backers fell short of covering a double-digit spread after trailing most of the game. Texas Tech finished the game on a 13-2 run capped by two free throws by Niem Stevenson with 25 seconds left. John Comeaux missed a layup with 19 seconds to go but the Lumberjacks didn’t foul.
Final: Villanova (-23) 87, Radford 61
Anias Saunders missed a 3-point attempt with five seconds left for the Highlanders that would’ve covered or pushed the spread. The Wildcats had six players score in double figures en route to the rout.
Final: Ohio State (-7.5) 81, South Dakota State 73
The Jackrabbits went on a 10-0 run to tie the game at 70-70 with 1:53 left. But Kam Williams made a tiebreaking four-point play for the Buckeyes with 1:36 left, then added three free throws after he was fouled on another 3-point attempt.
Ohio State closed as a 7½-point favorite after the line opened at 8 and climbed to 8½. Using the closing line on the Buckeyes, favorites have covered five of the first seven games.
Final: Seton Hall (-3.5) 94, North Carolina State 83
Khadeen Carrington scored 26 points and Desi Rodriguez added 20 as Seton Hall had five double-digit scorers and cruised to the cover.
Final: Loyola-Chicago (+1.5) 64, Miami 62
Donte Ingram nailed a deep 3-pointer from the top of the key with one second left to lift the Ramblers to the first outright upset of the NCAA Tournament as the capacity crowd at the Westgate exploded with their loudest roar of the day.
Loyola, which erased a 7-point second-half deficit, tied the game at 60-60 with one minute left. Trailing by one with 23.5 seconds left, the Ramblers forced a turnover by Lonnie Walker IV but missed back-to-back shots under the basket. Walker missed a free throw with nine seconds left to set the stage for the buzzer beater.
Final: Duke (-20) 89, Iona 67
Even though the Blue Devils had the game well in hand, neither the side nor total was determined until the final seconds.
Duke led by as many as 28 before Iona closed with a strong run to make things interesting.
Rickey McGill missed a short jumper that could have got the Gaels right on the number with 16 seconds remaining.
Iona bettors got new life as Justin Robinson missed a pair of free throws for Duke.
McGill, however, missed a 3-pointer from the corner that would have cashed tickets on the Gaels.
Instead, those who played the favorite lined up at the window to collect.
Oh, by the way, the game landed just one point short of the closing total of 157. There were three missed shots and three missed free throws after McGill made it 89-67 by knocking one down from the line with 48 seconds to play.
Final: Kansas (-14) 76, Penn 60
All the talk of Penn being the first No. 16 seed with a legitimate chance to knock off a No. 1 proved to be a bit ambitious.
The Quakers did nearly cover, however.
Sam Jones missed an open 3-pointer with about 15 seconds remaining that would have allowed Penn backers to cash in at the window.
Instead, the Jayhawks cover and advance.
Penn showed why so many bettors and analysts were excited about their prospects by jumping out to a 21-11 lead before the Jayhawks settled into the game.
The game went well under the total of 146.5.
Grayson Allen: Hero?
There’s only a few places outside Durham, N.C., where Grayson Allen is a popular figure.
Add the Westgate sports book to that short list.
Allen beat the first-half buzzer with a 3-pointer to give Duke a 53-39 edge at halftime, drawing a big roar from the crowd.
That’s because Duke was a 13-point favorite in the first half.
The Blue Devils are a 9-point favorite in the second half.
Final: Gonzaga (-12.5) 68, UNC Greensboro 64
While the spread result was never in doubt, the game certainly went down to the wire.
Greensboro had had two possessions to try to tie the game trailing by three late. One resulted in an offensive foul and Marvin Smith’s long jumper just rimmed out on the other.
Under 136 bets cashed, mostly thanks to the game ending in regulation.
Final: Tennessee (-11) 73, Wright State 47
Lamonte Turner had 19 points off the bench as the Volunteers cruised to the win and cover in Dallas.
Tennessee led by 11 at the half and the game was never close over the final 20 minutes.
The total of 129 was never really in doubt either as the Raiders shot just 34 percent from the field and made just 4 of 21 attempts from beyond the arc.
Final: Rhode Island (-2) 83, Oklahoma 78
Rhode Island made good use of the extra five minutes and came away with the victory.
E.C. Matthews hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 28 seconds remaining to put the Rams up five and Cyril Langevine hit a pair of free throws to ice the game.
Daron Russell’s free throws with 11 seconds remaining in the extra session finally pushed the game over the total.
Rhode Island also covered as 3-point favorites in the second half after trailing by four at the intermission.
Oklahoma bettors were left wishing Rhode Island would have just won the game in regulation.
The first game of the day is headed to overtime after a dramatic final possession for Rhode Island.
After Oklahoma’s Trae Young tied the game with a pair of free throws, the Rams held for the final shot.
Jeff Dowtin missed a short jumper in the lane and Stanford Robinson’s follow-up rolled tantalizingly off the rim.
Many bettors would have pushed the closing number had the shot fallen for Robinson.
Instead, it’s five extra minutes.
— Las Vegas RJ Sports (@RJ_Sports) March 15, 2018
8:47 a.m. — The lines at the Westgate sports book betting windows have been steadily increasing all morning with bettors exited to get down action for the first tipoff of the day in just less than a half hour.
It’s currently similar to what an NFL Sunday would look like about an hour before kickoff.
Rhode Island is holding steady as a 2-point favorite over Oklahoma in the opener. At least one local sports book reported some big late bets on the Rams to give it some liability on that side.
The Westgate’s contest in which participants picked each of the first 32 games against the spread has closed registration. It drew 161 entries. The top three finishers will be paid.
1:22 a.m. — There’s arguably no better place to watch the NCAA Tournament than in Las Vegas, where the action never stops, every casino has a viewing party and the sports books are pulsating with fans and bettors roaring for their teams.
“If I didn’t live here and they gave me the opportunity to come to Vegas for one event, this would be it,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said. “The crowd is so into it and the age bracket goes from 21 to 81.
“Senior citizens still come out to support their alma mater and enjoy themselves and you have kids on spring break taking time off from school to come here. It’s a fun event.”
One of the most anticipated days on the sports calendar is ready to tip off and Adam Hill and I will be at the heart of Vegas Madness inside the Westgate sports book reporting on all the buzzer beaters, bad beats and more.
There are 16 games Thursday. Rhode Island will play Oklahoma in the day’s first game at 9:15 a.m. and Tennessee will play Wright State at 9:40 a.m. Gonzaga will play UNC Greensboro at 10:30 a.m., followed by Kansas-Penn at 11 a.m.
Thursday’s Best Bets
Kansas (-14) over Penn (11 a.m.)
South Dakota State (+8) over Ohio State (1 p.m.)
St. Bonaventure (+6) over Florida (6:55 p.m.)
Loyola-Chicago (+2) over Miami (12:10 p.m.)
Seton Hall (-2.5) over N.C. State (1:30 p.m.)
Alabama (+2) over Virginia Tech (6:20 p.m.)
(This betting blog will be updated throughout the day).