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Gaming Guru

Jeff Haney

Jeff Haney highlights the betting opportunities that stand out in the future book for the NBA and college hoops

13 February 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- An axiom among some talented sports bettors holds that you should be able to walk into any major sports book, study the board for a few minutes and point out the advantageous betting opportunities.

Unless it's, say, Christmas Eve or the day before baseball's All-Star Game, at least one or two good bets should stand out — maybe a halftime line, maybe a money line, maybe something in the future book.

I saw the theory play out in real time the other night during a short stop at the Venetian sports book on the Strip. After scanning the entire board, two bettors independently concluded that a wager on the Portland Trail Blazers to win the NBA Finals at juicy odds could be worth a look.

True, the Blazers are relatively inexperienced compared with Western Conference powers such as the Dallas Mavericks or Phoenix Suns. They have cooled significantly since winning 17 of 18 games in December. As a result, the odds on Portland have drifted up to 100-1 (available at the Las Vegas Hilton).

Anyone can pick heavy favorites such as the Mavericks, Suns or Boston Celtics, but who wants odds of 5-2 with nearly half the regular season and the playoffs still to be played?

The Blazers, for example, have had the rest of the league as well as the oddsmakers catch up to them after their torrid December, failing to cover the point spread in nine of their past 10 games.

It's conceivable Portland, which opened at 75-1 to win the championship, could put together another hot streak and make the playoffs. The team returns home — where it has performed much better (20-6) than on the road (8-17) — next week and just had All-Star guard and leading scorer Brandon Roy return after missing a couple of games because of a death in his family. Of course it's possible the Blazers could miss the playoffs entirely ... then again, that's why they're 100-1.

The NBA's other intriguing long shot can be found in New Orleans, which opened at about 50-1 in Las Vegas and is still available at 25-1 at the Hilton. (As always, odds can and do change frequently.)

The Hornets finally hit a skid, failing to cover in four of their past five, after a monster run against the point spread, but still own the second-best straight-up record in the conference behind Phoenix.

Watch for more possible fluctuations in the NBA future books in Las Vegas leading to the league's trade deadline Feb. 21.

Likewise, in college basketball, anyone can pick Memphis, Duke or North Carolina to win the national title, hoping to get paid off at 2-1 or 3-1 after surviving the regular season, conference tournament and championship tournament.

Instead, consider Texas A&M, which Las Vegas professional sports bettor Alan Boston called a "team to watch in the NCAA tournament" on his conference call this past weekend. The Aggies, 20-4 overall, can be found at odds of 60-1 at the Venetian after opening in the range of 75-1. They're ranked No. 16, have covered the spread in five consecutive games, and could well receive a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Consider No. 15 Wisconsin at odds of 60-1, attractive for a team that's 19-4 overall and 9-2 in the Big Ten. The Badgers are just 4-7 against the spread in conference play, not exactly wowing the oddsmakers, but also could receive a No. 4 seed in the tournament.

Or consider Butler, the class of the Horizon League at 21-2 overall and 10-2 in the conference, at odds of 75-1. The Bulldogs, who opened at 150-1 and are ranked No. 9 nationally, will probably have to settle for a No. 4 seed in the tournament. The rap against them is they'll be facing better athletes as the tournament progresses ... then again, that's why they're 75-1.

All-Star props

Unlike most "for amusement only" bets, these are a couple of good ones: The Las Vegas-based sports betting Web site has issued an over/under of 125 arrests linked to Sunday's NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans, and an over/under of 2 1/2 NBA-related shootings. (They just have to be incidents involving gunfire; no one has to be hit by a bullet.)

It's an imaginative prop, and the total of 125 seems like a solid number. It makes you think, and you could conceivably construct a decent argument for either the over or the under.

Spending too much time analyzing these morbid sort of props, however, might indicate something is wrong with you. I mean us.

Jeff Haney highlights the betting opportunities that stand out in the future book for the NBA and college hoops is republished from