The Odds of March
Combining NCAA men's basketball madness and golf in a Las Vegas trip that's hard to beat
I've often wondered who makes the betting lines and how they're so good at their jobs. At the sportsbook inside Sin City icon MGM Grand last March, the Kansas Jayhawks were 22-point favorites over Portland State. This was the battle of a No. 1 seed against a No. 16 seed. I gave the points.
Since the NCAA basketball tournament went to a 64-team field in 1985, No. 1 seeds are 92-0 against No. 16 seeds. Therefore, this game was essentially over before it started, and yet, as the final seconds ticked off the clock, my fists were clenched, I was sweating in an air-conditioned room, and I was fighting the crowd for a better view of the TV. Kansas was up by 24, but Portland State had the ball for the last shot and heaved a three-pointer ...
Some might consider Las Vegas, especially in March, the ultimate buddies-trip destination with all the vital elements: blue skies, temperatures in the mid-70s, unlimited big-screen sports, gambling and golf. This was not my maiden trip to Vegas, but my first during opening week of the Road to the Final Four.
Three friends and I came to town with an agenda: We would play golf in the morning, bet and watch the basketball games in the afternoon, and then hit the tables until our tee time the next day. Not on the agenda were a couple of life's essentials: food and sleep.
We arrived Wednesday night, a college-days pep to our step, convinced this year we'd beat the system -- we'd leave Las Vegas as winners. I ignored wise words from my uncle: "You can win a race, but you can't beat the races."
No shock that we left on Sunday as losers, shoulders slouched and our wallets drained of dignity. Our posture was a badge of what we still considered good fun.
Thankfully, there was golf. This was our escape from the static and the strain of the Strip. We played two rounds at Paiute Resort and two rounds at Primm Valley Golf Club. We picked them because they were a combination of quality and value (by Vegas standards). All four courses we played were ****½, and the green fees were $200 or less.
At Paiute, 25 minutes northwest of the airport, there are three Pete Dye courses. We played the Sun Mountain ($169) and the Wolf ($189), passed on the Snow Mountain ($169) for no particular reason other than we had time to play only two. I preferred the Wolf. From the tips it plays at 7,604 yards, which makes it the longest course in Las Vegas. We played it from the black tees (7,009 yards), which was still too much distance for a group of guys suffering from sleep deprivation. We would've been better off playing the yellow tees (6,483 yards). Not the typical diabolical Dye, both courses could almost be considered user-friendly, as long as you aren't gripping the club with caffeine shakes.