March 29, 2011
A few months ago, a man walked into the sports book at the Las Vegas Hilton and put down $10 on Virginia Commonwealth to win the national championship. The odds at the time were 5,000-1, meaning that the betting slip is worth a cool $50,000 should the Rams finish their improbable NCAA tournament run by cutting down the nets in Houston.
Jay Kornegay, who runs the Hilton's sports book, said he isn't sure who the man is. "Maybe it's someone whose girlfriend went to VCU," he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "I don't know. But you'd like to be holding that golden ticket."
Putting down $10 on VCU back in January is a far more impressive feat than the two guys out of millions who managed to pick the correct Final Four. Clicking your way to ridiculous selections on a computer in the privacy of your own home is easy. I do it every year, albeit not nearly as successfully. There's no risk or shame or embarrassment in picking a VCU-Butler Final Four game on a free Internet bracket contest.
But to go up to a betting booth in the middle of winter, pull a fresh Hamilton out of your wallet, hand it to the guy behind the cage and say "10 bucks on VCU to win it all"? That takes some stones, brother. I get shy in a casino when I hit on 16.
If I had to guess, I'd say this was almost certainly a souvenir bet rather than a prescient look into the future of VCU basketball. People go to Vegas all the time and put a small amount of money on their favorite team just so they can hold on to the betting slip and show their friends. "Look, I bet $10 on the Clippers to win the title!"
Though VCU is still the longest shot to win the title, the odds on a Rams title have shifted a bit. That same $10 bet now would pay out $45 if Shaka Smart and company win it all next Monday.