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 on 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 a refund 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 goodwill."
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 a 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 bets 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 5-seed, promptly defeating UCLA, Oregon and Colorado to capture the tourney title and earn an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament. That was its 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. No. 6 seed Texas defeated 2-seed Maryland as a 13.5-point underdog. The Longhorns expected big things when they hired Vic Schaefer away from Mississippi State, but this may not have appeared on their radar in his first season.
Texas trailed by seven points at the 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 1 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. Schaefer led the Bulldogs to two national title game appearances. Along the way, the school also snapped UConn's 111-game win streak. -- Doug Kezirian
Marquee showdown: In a matchup often earmarked for the national title game, UConn and Baylor meet on Monday in the Elite Eight 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 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. -- Doug Kezirian
Dominoes falling: We have yet another betting favorite for NBA MVP. Denver's Nikola Jokic is now the odds-on favorite at -110, after LeBron James suffered a high ankle sprain that has him 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 5-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. About $19.2 million 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 million
Craps: $26.8 million
Roulette: $18.0 million
Source: Nevada Gaming Control