- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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George Mason fans who believed in their team enough to place a wager on them might want to preserve those betting slips.
The Patriots' chances of winning the NCAA Tournament were as high as 400-to-1 at some sports books when March Madness began.
"There has been no truly dominant team this year, so if there was a year to take a longshot this might have been it," said John Avello, director of the race and sports book at Wynn Las Vegas.
Avello opened the Patriots, a No. 11 seed, at 300-to-1, and says he has at least one bettor who locked in those odds. Approximately 20 others took a chance on the team as the Tournament evolved. As George Mason beat Michigan State and North Carolina, the odds fell. Before Sunday's 86-84 win over No. 1 Connecticut, most establishments had the Patriots as a 30-to-1 shot to win it all. Those odds now likely will be somewhere in between 8-to-1 and 15-to-1.
Online sports book PinnacleSports.com opened George Mason at 400-to-1 and had one person make a $20 wager at those odds, according to Simon Noble, chief executive of the Web site. That $20 bet would be worth $8,000 if the Patriots go on to win the national title.
It's easy to understand why oddsmakers gave George Mason (now 27-7 overall) such a slim chance. No seed higher than No. 8 -- Villanova in 1985 -- ever won, or even has played in, the national championship game.
George Mason finished its regular season at 22-6 and received an at-large bid into the Tournament after losing to Hofstra in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament semifinals. The Patriots were 0-3 in their previous three NCAA appearances.
Since most bookmakers do their best to make sure to balance all of the odds out, no single George Mason bettor likely will put any sports gambling operation out of business. In fact, Noble says the only loser for his sports books will be if LSU prevails.
"As LSU moved throughout the Tournament, there was an influx of money being wagered on them," Noble said.
Avello says he's not worried from a financial perspective about George Mason bettors, either. He's a little bit more concerned about Florida. The Gators opened the NCAAs at most sports books at 25-to-1, but the team wasn't ranked in the Top 25 at the start of the season and therefore opened the year at 75-to-1 odds.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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