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Among the millions who had their brackets busted by VCU was President Barack Obama, who had Kansas to win it all. But the Rams did make some money for bettors in Vegas, who won $650 for every $100 they wagered that VCU could beat the Jayhawks straight up.

If the NCAA had its way, of course, you would never read about those figures. The organization likes to pretend that the tournament exists solely for the purpose of picking a national champion, ignoring the fact that millions of people around the nation wager a bit of their paychecks on the tournament in one way or another.

But they do, and for many they’ve become an annual rite of spring. Technically, the office pools and online contests are gambling _ with some of them offering big winnings _ but even the strident antigambling types at the NCAA mostly keep silent about what drives a big portion of the tournament’s popularity.

They don’t worry about such things in the sports books, where Kentucky should draw plenty of action as the new favorite to win it all. VCU, the underdog in all five of its wins, should also be a popular pick as a 2 1/2-point dog to Butler.

The Rams won’t be as popular behind the counter at the Las Vegas Hilton, though, if only because Kornegay cringes at the thought of paying out $50,000 on a $10 bet.

“I was a Kansas fan yesterday,” he said. “And I’ll be rooting for Butler on Saturday.”


Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)