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July 28, 2014

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Kentucky opens as 6.5-point favorite over Kansas in Las Vegas sports books

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson (15) celebrates after their 64-62 win over Ohio State in an NCAA Final Four semifinal college basketball tournament game Saturday, March 31, 2012, in New Orleans.

While Kansas fans were still leaping in celebration Saturday night, sports bettors in Las Vegas took to the betting window to make early wagers on Monday’s national championship game.

Most Las Vegas sports books posted Kentucky as a 6.5-point favorite over Kansas in the 2012 NCAA title game minutes after the Jayhawks defeated Ohio State 64-62 in the second national semifinal of the evening. The over/under is listed at 139 ½.

“I think Kentucky has shown they are clearly the class of college basketball,” said Jason McCormick, Red Rock Resort sports book director, earlier this week.

Kentucky, for the most part, cruised past in-state rival Louisville 69-61 in Saturday’s first Final Four matchup. A late three-point shot from the Cardinals ensured the Wildcats didn’t cover the 8.5-point spread, but Kentucky has gone 3-2 against the Vegas number this tournament.

Kansas, a 3-point underdog to Ohio State, has also gone 3-2 against the spread in the tournament by failing to cover in wins against Purdue and North Carolina State.

“For anyone to beat Kentucky, you’ve got to play great in all areas of the game,” McCormick said. “You’re going to have force turnovers and depend on the ability to run the floor with them.”

The Jayhawks feel up to the challenge after overcoming an early 13-point deficit to beat the Buckeyes, a team Las Vegas sports books ranked as the second best coming into the tournament.

Cheyenne High graduate Elijah Johnson scored 13 points to go with 10 rebounds, while National Player of the Year runner-up Thomas Robinson had 19 points and eight rebounds.

Neither Johnson nor Robinson was quite as effective when the Jayhawks played the Wildcats earlier this season in New York at Madison Square Garden. Kentucky covered the 6.5-point spread by beating Kansas 75-65 on Nov. 15.

All five Kentucky starters scored at least 12 points in the contest. The man to beat Robinson out for player of the year honors, Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis, had 14 points and seven blocks.

It was the rare early-season cover for Kentucky, which went on a 14-game stretch without beating the Vegas number starting a week later. Despite a 37-2 record on the year, Kentucky has only gone 15-22-1 against the spread.

According to covers.com, only two teams have won the national championship despite a losing record against the spread in the last 14 years.

Kansas is 19-17-1 against the spread.

Two underdogs have won straight-up in the national championship game in the past decade. The Jayhawks were involved in both contests.

Kansas defeated Memphis, led by current Kentucky coach John Calipari, in overtime of the 2008 national championship as 2-point underdogs. But Kansas couldn’t live up to its status as 5.5-point favorites against Syracuse in the 2004 title game.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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