(is your bracket looking as good as Mark Pancratz’ ?)

After a 48 hour stretch that’s seen Kansas, Syracuse, Gonzaga and B.C. all crash out of the field of 32, all I can say is, thank the lord (or Tom Osbounre) that gambling is illegal. Kind of.

From the Washington Post’s Liz Clarke, as the scene in Vegas.

Betting on college sports threatens the integrity of the games, in the view of Bill Saum, the NCAA’s director of agent, gambling and amateurism activities. At worst, it exposes college athletes to pressure from criminal elements conspiring to fix the outcome of games. At its most benign, it sends mixed signals about the propriety of gambling, whether on sports, slots, poker or pool.

Others see no foul in adults gambling on college sports and argue that banning it would simply drive the action underground, below the radar of the regulatory bodies that police Nevada’s gaming industry. Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., the gaming industry’s chief lobbyist, likens legal sports wagering to “a canary in a mineshaft” — sounding the first alarm that something pernicious is in the air.

“Miners in the old days always brought a canary in a cage with them down the shaft, because with the first elements of gas, the canary would die,” Fahrenkopf says. “The first warning signal of the last major-college points-shaving case, at Arizona State, was picked up by the legal sports books in Nevada, which noticed irregular wagering going on, reported it to the FBI and pulled the game” off the betting boards.

For now the college-gambling issue has lost traction in Congress. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a chief proponent of a ban, recently indicated he’ll set it aside — at least until the next point-shaving scandal.

Given the money swirling around college sports and the number of athletes who feel they should get a piece of the pie, that’s just a matter of time in the view of Robert Walker, who sets the lines for MGM’s five race and sports books, including the Mirage. But he thinks it would be foolish to shoot the messenger.

“The only thing that Las Vegas cares about, contrary to public belief, is the integrity of that game,” Walker says. “We want to make sure that no matter what side you bet, you have faith in that game.”

For the record, I too, see no foul in adults gambling on college sports. It’s the losing I can’t stand.