#VegasMadness betting blog: After UNLV loss, squares look sharper than oddsmakers

Sometimes, the so-called square bettors are sharper than the oddsmakers. Fresno State’s no-sweat cover in a victory over UNLV, which did get a spirited effort out of Patrick McCaw, served as an example that the public is not always wrong.

At the polls, known as the betting windows, money rained in on the Bulldogs. It was a one-sided storm. Curiously, the line opened in the pick’em neighborhood, and Fresno State closed as a 3½-point favorite in its 95-82 win at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The Rebels ran out of gas, as expected, in the second half. McCaw, a sophomore guard, scored 28 points to keep UNLV from suffering a bigger season-ending blowout.

Now, the focus can shift entirely to the coaching search.

There is more to celebrate in Reno. Eric Musselman coached UNR to a 64-62 upset of New Mexico, a 4-point favorite. The Wolf Pack advanced to face San Diego State in the Mountain West semifinals.

Cameron Oliver, a freshman, is not a future star. He’s a star now. Oliver led UNR with 26 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots.

Aztecs barely escape upset bid

Finally, there is an upset in Vegas … false alarm. On the brink of taking down the giants of the Mountain West, Utah State came up short when it counted.

San Diego State, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, used its defense to squeak out a 71-65 win in the day’s first game at the Thomas & Mack. The Aggies led 59-56 with four minutes to go yet did not make another field goal. The Aztecs failed to cash as 8-point favorites, but coach Steve Fisher is only concerned with winning, not covering.

An underdog barked in the day’s Pac-12 opener, too. Top-seeded Oregon was an 8-point favorite in an 83-77 victory over Washington.

It did not happen in Vegas, but there are plenty Duke haters here, so seeing the Blue Devils go down had to please a lot of people. Notre Dame, a 2-point ‘dog, overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to defeat Duke 84-79 in overtime in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Tipoff: Expect some underdogs to show up today. Favorites went 7-0 straight up and 6-1 against the spread in Las Vegas conference tournament action Wednesday. There were six blowouts and, of course, UNLV escaped in triple overtime. A third men’s tournament is tipping off, so we can handicap 11 local games on the betting board.

San Diego State, the Mountain West regular-season champion, is a 7-point favorite over Utah State at noon at the Thomas & Mack Center. Oregon, the top seed in the Pac-12, is an 8-point favorite over Washington at 12:10 p.m. at the MGM Grand Garden. In the under-the-radar Western Athletic Conference at Orleans Arena, Missouri-Kansas City is a 1½-point favorite over Utah Valley at 5 p.m., and plenty of good seats still are available.

Best Bets in Vegas

(2-0 Wednesday)

Fresno State (-2½) over UNLV

This line opened Wednesday night with UNLV as a 1-point favorite, and it quickly moved to Fresno minus-1. By this morning, the bargains were gone, and now favorite bettors are laying a steeper price. The Rebels have few reserves and should be tired after a 55-minute game. On the positive side, 7-foot freshman Stephen Zimmerman Jr. will be rested after fouling out early against Air Force. The Bulldogs, who won both regular-season meetings, are stronger inside and have one of the league’s top scorers in senior guard Marvelle Harris. Everyone wants to bet Fresno, and it’s dangerous to be on such a popular side, so this probably won’t be easy. But fatigue should get to the Rebels in the second half.

Oregon State (+7) over California

Playing on the first day, as the Beavers did, sometimes is an advantage. The players get comfortable with the arena and the rims and stay in rhythm. The Golden Bears are 4-9 on road and neutral courts this season. Oregon State defends the perimeter well and attacks with talented guards such as Gary Payton II, so the Beavers can handle the Bears’ strengths and keep this competitive the whole way.

Other plays today: (3-1 Wednesday) Wisconsin (-6) over Nebraska; Duke (-2) over Notre Dame; Virginia Tech (+9) over Miami; Colorado State (+7) over Boise State.

(This betting blog will be updated throughout the day.)

Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247

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