LAS VEGAS —
And without a dominant favorite, the sports books figure to do well.
“People every year talk about a tournament that is wide open, which to me is one where eight to 10 teams have a chance,” said Johnny Avello, the book director at the Wynn resort. “Unpredictability is the stuff that the books love and this is one year we don’t have one team anyone can say will win it hands down.”
Among relative equals at the top, though, one team is more equal than the rest. Florida is not only the No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 poll, but the odds-on pick at books up and down the Las Vegas Strip.
Avello said he lowered Florida to 3-1 because he has taken a lot of money on the Gators since first posting odds on them last April. Helping, he said, was a favorable bracket in the South that gives Florida a clear path to the Final Four.
“The favorite should be a team capable of winning that has the easiest route,” Avello said. “And Florida has the easiest route, no question about it.”
Florida is a 5-1 favorite in consensus odds compiled by RJ Bell, who does handicapping for Pregame.com. Bell lists Michigan State second at 6-1 among the 21 teams with odds of better than 100-1.
Louisville is another favorite of the oddsmakers that didn’t get the seed they might have expected. The Cardinals must come out of the Midwest region as a No. 4 seed to make the Final Four, but there’s a good chance they will be favored in every game they play in their region.
That’s because the Vegas bookies, unlike the NCAA, put emphasis on recent play as more of a predictor of success than an entire season. Like Michigan State, Louisville finished strong in winning its conference tournament and looks ready to make a run.