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The most interesting bet in Las Vegas rides on Michigan

Raise your hand if your bracket had top seed Virginia, No. 2 Cincinnati, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 4 Arizona and No. 5 Kentucky all losing BEFORE Saturday’s South regional final in Atlanta.

Thought so. Neither did I.

Not even Nostradamus himself could have predicted and bet on a No. 7 vs. a No. 11 for a trip to the Final Four. Sister Jean’s Loyola of the Windy City vs. Bruce Weber’s K-State of the Little Apple. And the winner is ... ? Your guess is as good as mine.

At 5 o’clock PDT Saturday, I’m headed downtown to visit The D and the Golden Nugget, where two of the more fascinating entrepreneurs in Las Vegas are going head-to-head for a possible million dollar payoff. Before the tournament started Derek Stevens, owner of The D and a Michigan alum, bet $25,000 at 40-1 at the Golden Nugget that his Wolverines would win the tournament. The payoff is a cool million dollars.

At the other end of the bet is Tilman Fertitta, owner of the Golden Nugget and the richest Texan I know who didn’t make his money striking oil. He amassed a fortune developing and taking private the Landry’s restaurant conglomerate, which includes Morton’s and McCormick & Schmick’s among others. He owns casinos in Atlantic City and Louisiana as well as Las Vegas. 

Fertitta was an original owner of the Houston Texans of the NFL, but he was forced to sell his share of the team because of the league’s outdated rule preventing casino operators from ownership. So he joined up with a more progressive league and bought the Houston Rockets of the NBA.

In other words Tilman can afford to pay Derek the $1 million if Michigan wins.

Thursday evening the Wolverines played as well as any team we have seen this March. Ten minutes into the game Texas A&M was headed home. Florida State is next up. The betting numbers? At the South Point it’s Michigan –4½ (–105) with the total 143½ (–110).  

Oh, yes. Earlier in the tournament Stevens’s Wolverines edged Tillman’s alma mater Houston by one point. It’s just one more reason that this is the most interesting bet in Las Vegas.

- - - - -

In less than a week Major League Baseball starts its 2018 season, and on Thursday for the first time all 30 teams are scheduled to open on the same day.

Who will be left standing as the champion at the end of the line? With Giancarlo Stanton joining Aaron Judge and Gary Sánchez to form a 21st century Murderers Row, the Yankees are the 9-2 favorite at the South Point to win the World Series.

But are last year’s champs being overlooked just a tad? The Astros are a second choice with the Cubs at 5-1 even though their lineup still looks strong around MVP and MFP (my favorite player) José Altuve. They still have a loaded rotation that includes Dallas Keuchel, they get a full season out of Justin Verlander, and they added Gerrit Cole.

The Dodgers are an 11-2 fourth choice, but they start out with the most significant injury from late in spring training. They will miss third baseman Justin Turner for however long it takes his broken wrist to heal. Yet they still build around Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen, the best starter and closer in the game, so don’t feel sorry for L.A.

The other short-priced teams include the Nationals (7-1), the Indians (8-1) and the Red Sox (8-1) – but not the Angels (15-1), who scored almost exactly as many runs as they gave up last year – 710-709. They do look impressive up the middle. If you’re looking for slick defense, it doesn’t get much better than Martín Maldonado at catcher, Andrelton Simmons at short, newcomer Ian Kinsler at second and Mike Trout in center field. Believe it or not, Trout is the only one of those four not to have won a Gold Glove. This is a serious, serious defensive team.

As for the Angels’ addition of Shohei Otani, the Japanese wunderkind, the jury is still out. He had a shaky spring, but he is still listed as their No. 2 starter behind Garrett Richards.

We can’t wait for baseball season to start, especially since it will provide a whole new menu of betting options. By the time the bumpy road to the Final Four finally gets us San Antonio, we’re going to need it.

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