After days of excited anticipation, Selection Sunday finally arrived at the South Point Hotel and Casino. And, with it, a historical first in Las Vegas.
Just minutes after CBS announced the brackets for the 2017 NCAA Tournament, a team of oddsmakers from the South Point posted point spreads on each game.
Adding to the electricity, Las Vegas impresario Derek Stevens, majority owner of The D Las Vegas Hotel Casino and the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino, was on hand to bet $11,000 to win $10,000 on every game. Earlier in the week, Stevens wired $352,000 to the South Point. Stevens, who sat alongside VSiN host Brent Musburger, placed bets using the South Point’s mobile app.
Big day. Big games. Big money in play right off the bat to challenge the collected wisdom of legendary Vegas (and VSIN) oddsmakers Jimmy Vaccaro and Vinny Magliulo and veteran South Point sports director Chris Andrews (with additional help from well-known Vegas oddsmaker Richie Baccellieri).
Let’s review the festivities region-by-region and game-by-game as we go through Stevens' picks. We'll go in the order of CBS's bracket announcement so you can continue the notes you took during their broadcast…
Starting in the East, the first game announced was No. 1 seed North Carolina facing the winner of a No. 16 seed play-in game matching Mt. St. Mary's and New Orleans. The South Point posted New Orleans by 1.5 in the play-in game. Stevens was surprised it was that low and jumped on the favorite.
Next up, 8 seed Wisconsin versus 9 seed Virginia Tech. The South Point opened the Badgers as 6-point favorites. Stevens took the points with the underdog Hokies.
No. 5 seed Virginia opened as an 8-point favorite, and Stevens took popular darkhorse NC Wilmington.
No. 4 Florida takes on 13 East Tennessee State. Another dog bet here, as Stevens took East Tennessee State plus 12. You'll notice quickly through this listing that Stevens enthusiastically took the points often up and down the board.
In the lower half of the East brackets...
No. 2 Duke plays 15 seed Troy. The South Point opened Duke at -19.5. Stevens went with the big dog Trojans.
No. 7 South Carolina takes on 10 Marquette. The line opened at -2.5. Another dog for Stevens in what many expect to be a competitive matchup. He's on Marquette plus the points.
No. 3 Baylor plays 14 New Mexico State. The opener of Baylor -13 drew more underdog money from Stevens.
No. 6 SMU, on fire straight up and against the spread, will take on the winner of a No. 11 play-in game matching Providence and USC. The Trojans of the Pac 12 opened at -1. Stevens went with the underdog Friars.
The second region up on CBS was the Midwest led by top-seeded Kansas...
The Jayhawks will face the winner of a play-in game matching North Carolina Central and UC Davis. The South Point made NC Central a 2-point favorite, a favorite that caught the fancy of Stevens.
No. 8 Miami takes on 9 Michigan State. Miami opened at -1.5. Stevens named "The D" hotel and casino for Detroit! No surprise that he's backing Tom Izzo and the Spartans.
No. 5 Iowa State, fresh off its Big 12 tournament championship, will face dangerous 12 seed Nevada, winner of the Mountain West tournament championship at the Thomas & Mack Center here in Las Vegas. An opener of Iowa State -6.5 brought in an underdog bet from Stevens on the Wolf Pack.
No. 4 Purdue will face dangerous 13 seed Vermont. South Point oddsmakers surprised Stevens with an opening like of -10. Stevens took another live dog, having expected an opener of -7 or -8.
In the lower half of the Midwest bracket...
No. 2 Louisville (a surprise for many on this seed line) plays 15 Jacksonville State. Louisville opened at -22, drawing dog money from Stevens.
No. 7 Michigan, red hot on the heels of its Big 10 tournament title, gets 10 seed Oklahoma State ... a team most analytics sites had higher than this. Michigan is Stevens' alma mater. He proudly backed the Wolverines (which was saved for the final game of the VSIN broadcast just for him!)
No. 3 Oregon plays 14 Iona. The Ducks opened at -15 despite losing star forward Chris Boucher for the season to a torn knee ligament in the Pac 12 tournament. Stevens still supported Oregon for a relatively rare chalk play.
No. 6 Creighton draws 11 Rhode Island. The opener of Creighton -2 brought in more dog money from Stevens. You'll see through the course of the brackets that all the 6-11 matchups were priced close to pick-em.
Third up on CBS was the South region led by top seed North Carolina.
The Tar Heels get Texas Southern. UNC -25 was the tallest line posted Sunday afternoon at the South Point. Stevens unsurprisingly took the dog.
No. 8 Arkansas faces 9 Seton Hall. These eight-nine games are often very tight. The opening like of Arkansas -1 drew interest on the favorite from Stevens. He's on the Hogs.
No. 5 Minnesota will play 12 Middle Tennessee. The opening line of Minnesota -3 drew interest on another dangerous dog (remember the 12's have a knack for knocking off 5's). This the shortest dog in all the 12-5 matchups, therefore the one with the most upset potential.
No. 4 Butler gets 13 Winthrop. The opener of Butler -12 brought in more dog money on Winthrop.
In the lower half of the South...
No. 2 seed Kentucky draws an in-state challenge from Northern Kentucky (who was thrilled to get the Wildcats!) Form followed with a bet on the underdog Norse at 19.
No. 7 seed Dayton will play 10 seed Wichita State. Horrible draw for both! Wichita State is rated by most computers and the betting marketplace as Sweet 16 caliber. Last year they were a 11 seed that was favored over both a 6 and a 3 seed in their two Dance encounters. Dayton is a dangerous floater that was hoping for a less dangerous opener. The South Point opened Wichita State at -6.5 (much more consistent with a power seed) and Stevens took a rare favorite and laid the chalk on the Shockers.
No. 3 seed UCLA will play 14 Kent State. Stevens supported Oregon as a double digit favorite, and did the same with the Bruins at -17.
No. 6 seed Creighton faces the winner of a No. 11 play-in game matching Kansas State and Wake Forest. Kansas State opened at -1. Stevens took the ACC dog plus the point.
The fourth and final region was the West, led by top seed Gonzaga.
The Zags get South Dakota State. Gonzaga was a rare favorite pick for Stevens laying 22.
No. 8 Northwestern, a popular team in the VSIN studio, will face 9 seed Vanderbilt. The South Point braintrust made it pick-em. Derek went with SEC entry Vandy.
No. 5 Notre Dame takes on 12 Providence. South Point opened the Irish by 7.5, and Stevens laid the chalk.
No. 4 West Virginia plays 13 seed Bucknell. The opener of Mountaineers by 14 attracted favorite money from Stevens. Clearly Stevens expects Notre Dame and West Virginia to square off in the Round of 32.
In the lower half of the West...
No. 2 seed Arizona plays 15 North Dakota. Arizona went up at -17. Back to the big dogs for Stevens on North Dakota.
No. 7 St. Mary's gets 10 seed VCU. St. Mary's opened at -3.5, which surprised Stevens. He went with the dog VCU.
No. 6 Maryland will take on No. 11 Xavier. Though these teams are far apart in the seedings, the opening line was just Maryland by 1. Stevens took the Terps.
No. 3 seed Florida State draws an in-state foe in 14 Florida Gulf Coast. Another big dog play for Stevens at 14.
That brings the final total to 20 underdog selections, 10 favorite selections, and two pick-em games for our guest high roller from Fremont Street.
Whew! A great way to kick off the 2017 tournament in Las Vegas. Best of luck to Derek Stevens and his $352,000 investment. Let's go Dancing!
Follow VSiN at @VSiNLive