March Madness betting expected to remain steady this year
ATLANTIC CITY, N. J. Fewer Americans expect to fill out brackets for the NCAAs college basketball tournament this year, but the overall number of people making bets on March Madness should remain about the same as the last time the tournament was held, according to the gambling industrys national trade association. . . The American Gaming Association released figures Sunday predicting that more than 47 million Americans plan to make a bet legal or otherwise on March Madness this year. Thats about the same number that said they planned to bet on the 2019 tournament. . . The tournament was canceled in 2020 shortly before it was scheduled to begin just as the coronavirus was deemed a pandemic by the World Health Organization. . . The virus will affect this years tournament, too. It is the main reason, according to the survey, that 36. 7 million Americans will fill out a bracket, down 8% from 2019, because many offices and other places of employment remain closed, with employees working from home, or not at all. . . But the slack is expected to be almost totally made up for by the continuing rapid expansion of legal sports betting in the U. S. The association says 30. 6 million Americans will bet in other ways on this years tournament, up from 17. 8 million in 2019. . . Those include bets placed with casinos, racetracks, online betting apps and illegal bookmakers, or casually with a friend. . . The survey found 17. 8 million people will place a bet online, up 206% from 5. 8 million in 2019. And 8. 3 million will place a bet at a physical sportsbook, up 79% from 2019. . . The sports betting landscape has changed dramatically since 2019, and as a result, tournament betting has transformed, AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said. As consumers formerly limited to bracket contests now enjoy access to legal sportsbook options, they also plan to place traditional sports bets as March Madness returns. . . The survey was conducted on behalf of the AGA by Morning Consult between March 3-5 among a national sample of 2,200 adults. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. . . I think its going to be very heavily bet, said Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US. Just look at how much betting is up as a general matter, and layer on top of that the fact that we didnt have it last year. Theres unquestionably a lot of pent-up demand. In many ways its a signal that America is coming back. Beyond the sports betting aspect, it flows into the whole COVID recovery story. . William Hill is active in 16 states plus Washington, D. C. , up from just five states in 2019. . . Johnny Avello, head of race and sportsbook for DraftKings, said the three-week tournament traditionally draws more betting action than does pro footballs Super Bowl, a one-day event. . . He said DraftKings DKNG, -0. 98% is seeing a considerable amount of action on teams that bettors pick to win the entire tournament, as well as the Final Four teams, and the players to win the Wooden Award for outstanding mens and womens college basketball players. . . We are expecting a whirlwind of total overall action on this years tournament, Avello said. College basketball handle has been up significantly this year, and I do not anticipate a deceleration, not now when were on the outset of one of the biggest sporting events of the year. Although the setup and configuration are going to be different from past years, I can usually gauge the interest from the conference tournaments. I am not disappointed from what Ive observed thus far. . . New Jersey had hoped to repeal its ban on bets involving New Jersey college teams in time for this years tournament. But a bill that would do so stalled in the state Legislature last fall. . . The AGAs survey found that Gonzaga is the betting publics favorite to win the tournament 17%, followed by Florida State 11% and Baylor 8%.

Kelly Oubre Jr. out with a sprained wrist
The Golden State Warriors are wrapping up their first half schedule, but they’re suddenly without the services of one of their hottest offensive players. Kelly Oubre Jr. sprained his left wrist during Tuesday’s practice, and will miss Wednesday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
According to coach Steve Kerr, Oubre suffered the injury on a dunk attempt with a bad landing. It sounds like it could have been a lot worse.
Kent Bazemore will start in Oubre’s place, and it seems likely that Jordan Poole — who just rejoined the team after a scorching hot stint with the G League’s Santa Cruz Warriors — will see some significant minutes off the bench.

There’s never a good time to lose a player to injury, especially since Oubre had a sensational February in which he averaged 20.1 points per game and shot 43.0% from three-point range. With that said, suffering an injury right before the start of the All-Star break is about as good of timing as possible.

The Warriors play again on Thursday night against the Phoenix Suns, a game in which Oubre has not yet been ruled out for. Then they’re off for a week before returning next Thursday against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Minnesota has a new top line

The Minnesota Wild’s forward lines have been in a blender this season. In juxtaposition to the steady blue line, it appears that head coach Dean Evason stands in front of a whiteboard and jumbles up the 12 available forwards by complete random order. . That hypothetical decision making process might soon be over, as the Wild are debuting a new top line to face the San Jose Sharks on Monday night. Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek and Kevin Fiala have barely been on the ice at the same time in a Wild uniform. Since the start of the 2018-19 season—even before Fiala was acquired—the three forwards have played a total of 22.22 TOI at 5-on-5. Despite the unfamiliarity, this line has all the makings of a dominant forward line that can eventually lead to results. . The rise of Jordan Greenway into a solid top-six player on this team is welcomed with wide open arms, as questions started to arise late last season on his ability to keep up through a full season. Right now, it seems like his work in the off-season has been working off; the 23-year-old stands tied as the Wild’s leading scorer with Kirill Kaprizov with 11 points. . As the premier player to go get the pucks for the forwards, matching that with the team’s two top goalscorers just seems like an easy decision to load up and see what happens. Both Eriksson Ek and Fiala sit with six goals, which might only increase considering Greenway leads the team in assists with nine. . With Mats Zuccarello fully recovered from his off-season arm surgery and Ryan Hartman making his jump up into the top-nine forward group, there can be some more leniency and selfishness for Evason to decide who is going to play the most. Instead of trying to balance the lines with skill, loading up the top with this balance of physicality, defensive reliability, and pure ability to put the puck in the back of the net, seems like something that should be able to continue. . If this means that we might finally see some stability within the forward lines—until the trade deadline at least—then this makes me so damn happy. This kicks absolute ass.

PREVIEW. Miami Heat’s visit to Oklahoma City Thunder will complete bonding road trip

The Miami Heat’s turnaround started a bit before their current seven-game road trip. . But heading into the trip finale against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night in Oklahoma City, Heat players, as well as head coach Erik Spoelstra, say the road journey has been a turning point. “When we’re at home we can’t really see each other,” Bam Adebayo said. “We’re in the hotel now, we’re traveling together on the plane, getting to talk to one another and really getting that cohesive brotherhood again that we had last year. It’s great for us and we just got to keep building from here. The Heat are 3-3 on the trip, including victories in their last two games. The trip is tied for the longest in franchise history. . Since starting 7-14, Miami is 6-3 to improve to 13-17. . And the Heat have done it while dealing with a variety of injuries. “I think, without a doubt, this is one of the best segments of the season for us,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve made big strides I think in the last eight, nine days of this trip and we’ve dealt with some adversity together. I think that’s always good for our group.”. While the Heat are still working through those injuries, the Thunder are starting to get healthy after a series of injuries that left Oklahoma City without an active point guard for several games. . Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is coming off the best of his three games since his return from missing four consecutive contests with a left knee sprain. . Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 points and had nine assists in Sunday’s victory at Cleveland. . The return of Gilgeous-Alexander and backup point guard Theo Maledon, who has recently moved into the starting lineup alongside Gilgeous-Alexander, has helped the Thunder become more efficient. “Transition offense is the big weapon that we have with the guards that we have that are so aggressive getting downhill and putting pressure on,” center Mike Muscala said. “Then you’re getting free throws, which adds to that efficiency, and getting layups and dunks and then you’re getting 3-point shots.”. . Oklahoma City has averaged 25 free-throw attempts per game over their last four, nearly five per game better than its season average. . The Thunder are still trying to translate that aggressiveness into victories. Oklahoma City dropped six of its last eight. . In their first meeting between the teams, Jan. 4 at Miami, the Heat dominated in a 118-90 win with a balanced scoring effort. Adebayo had 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting. Oklahoma City shot just 36.7 percent from the field. . The Thunder’s bench, which scored 42 points in Sunday’s win, shot just 31.4 percent in the previous meeting. The Heat are likely to be without Goran Dragic once again, but the guard figures to return soon after missing the last eight games with a sprained left ankle. Dragic has played in just three games since Jan. 25. . Miami could be without Tyler Herro as well. . Herro is listed as questionable after not playing in the second half of Saturday’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers following a right hip contusion.