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The Madness of March is coming to a close, but it’s not over yet.

Big bets are live heading into the Elite Eight, including one of the largest wagers ever placed on the NCAA tournament. On the ice, the Buffalo Sabres are an epic streak of losses, and the NBA landscape has changed dramatically the last few weeks.

ESPN’s David Purdum and Doug Kezirian take a look back at all of it in this odds and ends column of sports betting storylines.

$1 million bet still alive for “Mattress Mack”

Late Friday night, Houston furniture store owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale flew from Texas to Colorado, logged on to his DraftKings sportsbook mobile app and placed a $1 million bet on the Houston Cougars to win the NCAA tournament at 9-1 odds. It’s one of the largest reported bets on the NCAA tournament ever.

McIngvale often places his big bets to help mitigate risk from furniture giveaways at his store, Gallery Furniture. For example, he placed a $3.46 million bet on the underdog Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3.5 in Super Bowl LV, while at the same time offering customers who spent $3,000 or more at his store if the Bucs covered the spread against the Kansas City Chiefs. Tampa Bay won 31-9, and McIngvale won $2.7 million.

Prior to Houston’s win over Syracuse on Saturday, McIngvale had not launched a similar promotion tied to the Cougars, but with a potential $9 million payday on the line, he wasn’t ruling it out.

“I wanted to get ahead of it in case I decided to do a promotion,” McIngvale told ESPN on Saturday morning. “After looking at the bracket, I think U of H has as good [a chance] as anybody to make it through to the Final Four, so it’s an exciting time for all of Houston.”

In 2019, McIngvale had more than $11 million in play on the World Series between the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals, including a $3.5 million futures bet on the Astros that he placed with DraftKings in Biloxi, Mississippi. The Astros lost to the Nationals in seven games.

“On the soft side, the brand-building it does is extraordinary,” McIngvale said about the publicity he receives from his big bets and promotions. “We were thrilled about the Tampa Bay Super Bowl promotion and the thousands of dollars’ worth of positive PR and comments from the customers and good will.”

McIngvale is a beloved figure in Houston and received an honorary degree from the University of Houston. During the winter storm that ravaged the area in February, he opened up his store to those in need of shelter. “It was body blow, but we’re still going,” McIngvale said.

So is the tireless Mattress Mack, who on Friday left around 9:30 p.m. to fly to Colorado to place his $1 million bet. He returned around 2:30 a.m. and was already back at work Saturday morning. He says he’ll be working until around 10:30 p.m. Saturday and plans to watch the Houston-Syracuse game at his store.

Asked if he was tired, McIngvale joked, “No, I have a good mattress.” — David Purdum

Other notable live futures bet on the NCAA tournament

• On March 19, the first full day of the NCAA tournament, a bettor in Nevada placed a $400 bet on Oregon State to win it all at 750-1 with bookmaker William Hill. The bet would pay a net $300,000. The Beavers advanced to the Elite Eight with a win over Loyola Chicago. They’ll face Houston on Monday.

• On Nov. 24, a bettor with William Hill placed a $15,000 bet on Gonzaga to win the national championship at 8-1. The bet would pay a net $120,000.

• In late February, a bettor in Illinois placed a pair of $30,000 bets on Michigan to win the title at 8-1 and 11-2 odds with William Hill. Combined, the bets would pay a net $465,000.

Record on Ice: The Buffalo Sabres are now one loss away from tying the 2003-04 Pittsburgh Penguins for the NHL’s longest losing streak at 18 games. Buffalo has not won in more than a month and is a +170 home underdog to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday.

As one Twitter handle (@AndyProvin) indicated, a bettor could have turned a $100 wager into just under $75,000 by rolling over the winnings when the streak started on Feb. 25. However, some bettors prefer to avoid laying heavy juice and opt for the puck line (-1.5 goals). During this skid, Buffalo has lost by at least two goals in 12 of the 17 games.

Bookmakers I spoke to all reported only minimal action in Sabres games. Perhaps the NCAA Tournament is occupying the public’s wagering attention. But an awful team can only stay off the parlay bettor’s radar for so long. – Doug Kezirian

Beavers nation: March Madness routinely brings out the underdogs and surprise runs but Oregon State is resetting the bar. The Beavers have now won six straight games – with all coming in the underdog role against NCAA Tournament teams.

Oregon State entered the Pac-12 tournament as a five-seed, promptly defeating UCLA, Oregon and Colorado to capture the tourney title and earn an automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament. That was their only shot at the big dance. Drawing a 12-seed, the Beavers then knocked off single-digit seeds: Tennessee, Oklahoma State and Loyola-Chicago.

Not bad for a team picked to finish dead last in the Pac-12 and that suffered a December home loss to Portland, which posted an 0-11 record in West Coast Conference play. KenPom.com ranks the Pilots 320th of 357 teams. – Doug Kezirian

Late-night Drama: The women’s NCAA Tournament has offered its fair share of drama, which included a huge upset on Sunday night. 6-seed Texas defeated 2-seed Maryland as a 13.5-point underdog. The Longhorns expected big things when they hired Vic Schaeffer away from Mississippi State but even this may not have appeared on their radar in his first season.

Texas trailed by seven points at half but rallied late to upset the nation’s highest-scoring team (91.3 PPG), holding the Terps to a season-low 61 points. The Longhorns tied the game on a jumper with one minute remaining and then took the lead after a steal near midcourt.

Perhaps the Austin native is building another contender, after he helped set school records at Mississippi State. Schaeffer led the Bulldogs to two national title game appearances. Along the way, the school also snapped Connecticut’s 111-game win streak. – Doug Kezirian

Marquee Showdown: In a matchup often earmarked for the national title game, Connecticut and Baylor meet on Monday in the Elite 8 of the women’s NCAA Tournament. The Huskies opened as six-point favorites but that point spread has been bet down to 3.5. UConn is led by standout freshman, Paige Bueckers, who is widely considered the nation’s best player. However, the Huskies do not have a single senior on the roster. Meanwhile, the Bears have two players expected to be selected in next month’s WNBA Draft. The hype should deliver at 7pm EST on ESPN. – Doug Kezirian

Dominos Falling: We have yet another betting favorite for the NBA MVP. Denver’s Nikola Jokic is now the odds-on favorite at -110, after LeBron James suffered a high ankle sprain and will be out indefinitely. James only became the favorite after Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid suffered a bone bruise in his left knee on March 12. This is the first time all season that any player has been less than even money.

Discussing the current winner is for talk shows and sports radio. Projecting the eventual winner is for oddsmakers and bettors, and this race offers incredible intrigue. Historically, team success plays a large role and the Nuggets are currently the five-seed in the Western Conference. A true center has not won the award since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000, although Jokic is posting incredible numbers across the entire stat sheet.

James Harden is a polarizing candidate. He is flirting with a triple-double every night for a Brooklyn team that is the consensus betting favorite and glaringly struggles without him. However, he completely sabotaged the start of Houston’s season and that behavior will likely matter, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe has laid out.

Ultimately, this may come down to how much time James and Embiid miss. Another candidate can certainly solidify his campaign or, sadly, we could have another injury disrupt the betting board. – Doug Kezirian

Rocky Bottom: Tennessee sportsbook Action 24/7, which last week had its license suspended after credit card fraud and proxy betting allegedly took place on the platform, was granted an injunction Friday and allowed to resume operations. The investigation into the alleged illegal activity continues. – David Purdum

Cash it: Nevada sportsbooks won a net $31.8 million in February, according to revenue numbers released last week by the state’s gaming control board. Approximately $19.2 of the books’ February wins came from basketball, professional and NCAA combined. For comparison, here is how Nevada casinos did on table games:

Penny slots $221.6 million
Blackjack $68.1 million
Baccarat $51.0
Craps $26.8 million
Roulette $18.0 million
Source: Nevada Gaming Control



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New York Yankees set to acquire Joey Gallo from Texas Rangers, sources say

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The New York Yankees are finalizing a deal to acquire outfielder Joey Gallo from the Texas Rangers, sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Wednesday night.

The deal is pending a medical review.

It wasn’t immediately known who New York was sending to Texas to complete the deal.

Gallo was a late scratch from the Rangers’ lineup ahead of Wednesday night’s game against the Diamondbacks, with speculation that a trade was in the works.

That proved to be the case, with the Yankees swooping in and acquiring arguably the fiercest bat on the trade market to go with fellow sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

Gallo has spent all seven of his major league seasons in Texas, but the Rangers — an AL West-worst 36-65 entering Wednesday — have been in sell mode, with Gallo their prized piece.

A two-time All-Star, the 27-year-old slugger ranks sixth in the AL this season with 25 home runs, to go with 55 RBIs and a .223 average. He had struggled mightily at the plate since the All-Star break, with zero home runs and a .067 average in the 10 games following, before breaking out Tuesday with a three-run shot against the Diamondbacks.

Gallo is among just eight rostered major leaguers with multiple career 40-HR seasons (2017, ’18).

But he’s also excelled in the outfield, winning a Gold Glove in right in 2020. He’s tied for second in the majors with 12 defensive runs saved this season (tied for most among outfielders) and joins Toronto’s Marcus Semien as the only players with 20 home runs and 10 defensive runs saved.

Gallo is also under team control through 2022.

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Houston Astros bolster pen, deal for Miami Marlins closer Yimi Garcia

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The Houston Astros continued to fortify their bullpen before the trade deadline, acquiring right-hander Yimi Garcia from the Miami Marlins on Wednesday for two players.

In exchange for Garcia, the Astros sent outfielder Bryan De La Cruz and right-hander Austin Pruitt to the Marlins.

It’s the second straight day the AL West-leading Astros have swung a trade to add bullpen help. On Tuesday, Houston acquired Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero from the Mariners.

Garcia, 30, has 15 saves for the Marlins this season and is 3-7 with a 3.47 ERA. He has struck out 35 and walked just five batters in 36⅓ innings pitched. He has a 3.41 ERA over seven major league seasons.

De La Cruz, 24, is hitting .324 with 12 home runs and 50 RBIs for Triple-A Sugar Land this season.

Pruitt, 31, is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in two major league appearances for the Astros this season.

This is the second trade made Wednesday by the last-place Marlins, who earlier dealt center fielder Starling Marte to the Oakland Athletics.

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Javier Baez of Chicago Cubs fined for taunting, avoids suspension

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CHICAGO — Cubs shortstop Javier Baez was fined an undisclosed amount but avoided suspension Wednesday for his actions in the team’s walk-off win over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night.

Baez, 28, singled off of Reds reliever Amir Garrett with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, bringing home Patrick Wisdom with the winning run. As soon as he made contact on the pitch, he began yelling at Garrett and continued to taunt him on his way to first base.

Cameras showed Baez mouthing the words “one pitch” to Garrett several times.

Baez and Garrett have a history of bad blood, with Garrett getting suspended for five games earlier this season for beating his chest and yelling in the direction of Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo after striking him out. Baez jumped out of the dugout to defend Rizzo, leading to the benches clearing.

It was Garrett who received the brunt of the punishment for the incident.

The two players also argued with each other during a game in 2018.

Cubs manager David Ross was concerned that Baez would get suspended for his actions on Monday, especially as MLB discourages taunting.

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