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Was Gonzaga-TCU worst bad beat in March Madness history?

Bad beats abound in sports betting on a daily basis. But some stand the test of time.

Bettors who backed Gonzaga -4½ over Texas Christian on Sunday in the final game of the second round of the NCAA Tournament suffered a bad beat for the ages.

After Rondel Walker hit a 3-pointer to cut TCU’s deficit to 82-78 with five seconds left, Gonzaga’s Hunter Sallis was fouled with 0.7 seconds to go and made both free throws for an 84-78 lead and apparent cover.

But it wasn’t over. The Horned Frogs rolled the inbounds pass up the court, and Damion Baugh waited for the ball to cross midcourt before he picked it up and drained a 3 at the buzzer to deal a brutal beat to Zags bettors in their 84-81 win and a miraculous cover to TCU backers.

The crowd at the game in Denver, where sports betting is legal, erupted, and so did the crowds at Las Vegas sportsbooks.

Afterward, Westgate SuperBook director John Murray compared the ending to the infamous bad beat suffered by Connecticut bettors in the 2004 Final Four, when Chris Duhon banked in an otherwise meaningless 38-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer for Duke to cover as 2-point underdogs in the Huskies’ 79-78 win.

“Greatest point spread moment in the NCAA Tourney since Chris Duhon?” Murray posted on Twitter.

Some proclaimed the Gonzaga ending the worst beat in NCAA Tournament history. But several bookmakers, including Murray, begged to differ.

“No, because they could’ve easily not called that foul with .7 seconds left,” he said. “If you had Gonzaga -4½, you’re absolutely sick. The shot. I’d never seen anything like that where the guy took the time to roll it. But, to me, to be a truly horrible beat you’ve got to be winning the whole game.

“If you had Gonzaga, you were on pins and needles. They were trailing at halftime and at points in the second half, and they needed them to foul with .7 seconds left and make both free throws to win.

“I’m not going to say I don’t think it was a tough beat and everybody will remember it. But I wouldn’t call it the worst beat ever.”

Neither will Caesars Sportsbook assistant director of trading Adam Pullen or Red Rock Resort sportsbook director Chuck Esposito.

“It’s one of them, but I’ve been in this business 26 years and I’ve seen it over and over and over. I’m almost numb to it,” Pullen said of bad beats. “It literally happens all the time in every sport. The bigger the game, the more attention it’s going to get.

“With sports betting legalized nationwide, more people are affected by it now, and it’s more of a talking point.”

Said Esposito: “Historically, the tournament has had so many phenomenal finishes, Cinderella stories, David and Goliaths and bad beats. This is just one of them.”

Swing shift

While a lot of money changed hands on the final shot, it was a fairly insignificant swing for the books.

“We were either going to clean up if TCU won or we were going to lose if Gonzaga won. We were going to lose more if Gonzaga covered,” Murray said. “Just being the last game of the second round, every parlay alive was going to the Gonzaga money line. Any scenario with Gonzaga winning the game was going to be bad for us.”

West Regional odds

Connecticut is the +195 favorite at the SuperBook to win the West Regional at T-Mobile Arena. UCLA is the +230 second choice, Gonzaga is +280 and Arkansas +550.

Caesars took sharp money on UCLA over Gonzaga in Thursday’s game, pushing the line up from -1 to -2½.

“UCLA deserves to be in the spot they’re at now as opposed to pick or 1,” Pullen said. “I had UCLA a little higher.”

Last Man Standing

The Last Man Standing college basketball elimination contest at Station Casinos is down to 82 entries from a starting field of 2,525. The prize for the $25-entry contest is $51,000.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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