Bookies cheer as first 10 NCAA games covered by underdog

LAS VEGAS (AP) Bookmakers had something to cheer about Thursday, even if the underdogs didn't always prevail in the NCAA Tournament.

Favored teams took a beating to open the tournament, with underdogs covering the spread in the first 10 games, beginning with the play-in games earlier in the week. In seven of those games, the team oddsmakers figured would lose ended up winning outright.

''The dogs got out of the chute fast,'' said Nick Bogdanovich, the oddsmaker for the William Hill betting chain. ''It was very, very rare, just one of those things where the streak just kept going.''

That was good news for this city's legal sports books, most of which were packed with hundreds or even thousands of fans who came to town to celebrate - and bet - on March Madness. Since the general public tends to bet favorites more than underdogs in the tournament, the bookies were ahead early.

''We don't talk about the weekend until it's Monday morning,'' said Jimmy Vaccaro of the South Point hotel. ''But so far obviously the mainstream guys are not doing too good.''

The biggest outright win against the spread was UAB's 60-59 victory over Iowa State. The Blazers were 13.5-point underdogs going into the game.

It wasn't until Xavier beat Mississippi 76-57 as a two-point pick that a favorite finally covered the spread.

Bogdanovich said bettors for the most part didn't pay attention to the streak of underdogs covering. But he said some bets shifted against Oklahoma after three Big 12 teams lost early.

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