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Bettor turns $500 into $200K on Florida Atlantic to make Final 4

The Final Four semifinals will be played on April Fools’ Day. But this is no joke: For the first time since seeding began in 1979, no team seeded better than No. 4 has made the Final Four.

The national semifinals will feature a No. 9 seed in Florida Atlantic, two 5s in San Diego State and Miami and a 4 in Connecticut, the only blue blood in the quartet with four national championships.

“Who would have thunk FAU would get in there?” Caesars Sportsbook assistant director of trading Adam Pullen said.

Several bettors took fliers on the Owls at long odds, including one at the Westgate SuperBook who wagered $500 to win $200,000 on them to make the Final Four at 400-1.

They cashed their ticket after Florida Atlantic upset Tennessee as a 4½-point underdog Thursday in the Sweet 16 and knocked off Kansas State as a 1½-point ’dog Saturday in the Elite Eight.

The 35-3 Owls were as high as 2,500-1 this season at Caesars to win the national title, and Pullen said the book took several wagers at those odds.

“Sometimes it’s wise to take a stab at some of those long shots,” he said. “A lot of people think you’re just throwing your money away. But obviously that’s not the case.

“Finding those long shots is just an incredible story. FAU proved me wrong. They proved everybody wrong.”

San Diego State, which was as high as 125-1, ousted top overall seed Alabama in the Sweet 16 as 7½-point ’dogs. The Aztecs (+2½) edged Creighton 57-56 on a free throw with 1.2 seconds left Sunday to become the first Mountain West conference team to reach the Final Four.

San Diego State is favored by 1½ over Florida Atlantic in Saturday’s first semifinal.

“San Diego State and Florida Atlantic doesn’t really sound like a Final Four game to me,” SuperBook director John Murray said. “All four teams are playing really well right now, but I don’t know if the matchups will bring in casual bettors as much as most Final Fours.

“But this is kind of how college basketball is going to be now with the transfer portal and the one-and-done format.”

Miami, which was as high as 250-1 to win the national title, eliminated No. 1 seed Houston as a 7½-point underdog Thursday and erased a 13-point second-half deficit to Texas on Sunday in an 88-81 win as a 3½-point ’dog.

Connecticut crushed Gonzaga 82-54 on Saturday and has won all four NCAA Tournament games by at least 15 points while going 4-0 ATS.

The Huskies, who were as high as 60-1 this season, are the -120 favorites to win the national title. They’re favored by 5½ over Miami after the line opened at 5.

“They certainly look like the class of the field right now,” Murray said. “But if you had asked me going into the weekend who the two best teams were, I would’ve said Houston and Alabama, and they both went out Friday night.”

Miami is the biggest liability at the Westgate, which is on the hook for six figures if the Hurricanes win the title.

Station Casinos does very well with San Diego State and Florida Atlantic futures and is in decent shape with Miami and UConn. Caesars also is in a good spot on all four teams after Houston furniture store owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale lost a $1 million bet at the book on the Cougars to win the title.

Mixed bag for books

The Westgate took a hit Saturday with Florida Atlantic advancing to the Final Four, and bettors also dealt the SuperBook and Caesars a big loss on Connecticut’s blowout of Gonzaga.

But the books had a solid four-day stretch overall Thursday through Sunday, as underdogs went 7-5 ATS with seven outright wins.

“In Miami’s last two games, it knocked out Houston and Texas. Any time a No. 1 and No. 2 seed goes down, it’s usually good for our side of the counter,” Red Rock Resort sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said.

Overs went 8-4 and are on a 14-6 run after unders started the tournament 33-11.

“We really needed to keep the San Diego State-Creighton game under,” Esposito said.

The game stayed way under the total of 134½, as the Aztecs extended their under streak to 12-0.

Last Man Standing

The Last Man Standing college basketball elimination contest at Station Casinos is down to eight contestants 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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