Four plays this week will keep bankroll on upswing

Big week for upsets last week, huh? The president came to town and declared that he loves Las Vegas (no really, he does). The U.S. hockey team defeated Canada for the first time in 50 years. And—perhaps most shocking of all—it was revealed that gold medal-winning U.S. figure skater Evan Lysacek has a hot girlfriend!

Heck, even Tiger Woods stood before the world and—when not scolding the evil media—pointed the finger of blame at himself for his philandering ways. Tiger even showed glimpses of actual emotion. Maybe—just maybe—he really is human (though I’m not about to bet on that!).

No upsets here, though, as I followed up a 3-0 sweep two weeks ago with a 2-1 effort, pocketing $480 as I hit my two biggest wagers on the Nuggets over the Celtics and Oklahoma State over Baylor, which boosted my bankroll to $6,375. On to this week’s four plays:

$330 (to win $300) on Connecticut (-6.5) over Louisville (Sunday, Feb. 28): Rick Pitino and Jim Calhoun—who coach Louisville and UConn, respectively—must look at their players the same way a parent would a child who’s a straight-A student but keeps getting called to the principal’s office for firing spitballs at teachers. In other words, “Come on! You’re better than that!” Both teams went deep into the NCAA Tournament last year, but both are now fighting just to make this year’s field. My money’s on UConn in this game because the Huskies are simply more talented—and that talent is starting to bubble to the surface, as UConn has won (and covered) three straight games, including two against top-10 Big East opponents (West Virginia and Villanova). The Huskies are in a legit revenge situation, too, as they got embarrassed at Louisville a month ago (82-69).

$220 (to win $200) on Hornets (+8) over Mavericks (Sunday, Feb. 28): Some believe that unless you’re disgraced former ref Tim Donaghy, you just can’t win betting the NBA. Well, you can if you bet against the Dallas Mavericks when they play at home. Not counting their showdown against the Lakers on Wednesday, Feb. 24, the Mavericks have covered the point spread twice in 21 home games going back to Nov. 30— and they were an underdog in one of those two games. That puts Dallas at 1-19 against the spread (ATS) in its last 20 as a home favorite. On the other hand, New Orleans began this week on an 11-3 ATS run as an underdog, including six straight covers as a road underdog. The Hornets are also 7-3 overall and ATS in their last 10 meetings with the Mavericks, covering in both games this year. In fact, New Orleans is one of those 19 teams that have cashed in Dallas since November (a 94-90 loss as an 8.5-point underdog on Dec. 14).

$220 (to win $200) on Illinois State (+8) over Northern Iowa (Saturday, Feb. 27): One way to pad your wallet in advance of March Madness is to find late-season situations in which a team with something on the line is matched up against an opponent that’s lacking motivation. This is one such situation. Northern Iowa already has clinched the Missouri Valley Conference title and the Panthers are a lock to make the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. Illinois State, which entered this week on a five-game winning streak and with a 20-8 record, knows it needs to win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament to qualify for the Big Dance. Illinois State is 4-1 ATS in its last five as an underdog, while Northern Iowa is just 6-6 ATS since cashing in 11 of its first 14 games.

$25 (estimated odds 7-to-1) on Kyle Busch to win Shelby American (Sunday, Feb. 28): Admittedly, I’m not the biggest gear-head on the planet (it’s a miracle when I can find the oil dipstick under the hood). But I do know local kid Kyle Busch is a helluva racecar driver, and he won his hometown race a year ago. I also know the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Vegas has had its share of repeat winners, as eight drivers have won 12 all-time races. Three guys have gone back-to-back (or in the case of Jimmie Johnson from 2005-07, back-to-back-to-back).

Matt Jacob is a former local sports writer who has been in the sports handicapping business for more than four years. For his weekly column, Vegas Seven has granted Matt a “$7,000” bankroll. If he blows it all, we’ll fire him and replace him with a monkey.

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Margaret Casey took a job two years ago at the World Market Center and moved to Las Vegas from San Francisco, where she’d lived for 22 years. The native Australian was one of the first residents to settle into a condo at the Newport Lofts downtown. She had spectacular views of the city and the mountains. She was minutes from her office.