When he shot the free throw, Dillon Brooks probably had no idea what was on the line.
A big week in Las Vegas, which hosted four conference tournaments, just concluded. A bigger week lies ahead. At this time of year, point-spread shenanigans are magnified because the college basketball betting action is nonstop and super-sized.
Oregon closed as a 9-point favorite over California in a Pac-12 tournament semifinal on Friday night at T-Mobile Arena. The line opened at 8 and made a stop at 8½ on the way to 9. The wagering on the game was significant.
The Ducks led 72-65 when Brooks was fouled on a defensive rebound with 2.4 seconds remaining. A 73 percent free-throw shooter, he made the first attempt. On the second attempt — the money ball — he missed.
The Twitter reactions were immediate. This one from Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke: “Love the Pac-12 Tourney in Vegas...entire arena gasped when Oregon missed last-second free throw that would have allowed it to cover spread.”
On the same night, a few blocks away at Orleans Arena, Utah Valley played Cal State Bakersfield in a Western Athletic Conference semifinal. This one slipped under the radar for most observers, but the total was 135.
The teams were tied at 52 at the end of regulation, and tied at 62 after the second overtime. The Roadrunners finally won in four overtimes, 81-80, handing a bad beat to those who bet it under the total.
The point-spread highlight of the week happened Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center, where San Diego State closed as a 10-point favorite over UNLV in the opening round of Mountain West action. At the South Point and most other books, the line opened at 8½ and also sat on 9 and 9½. It closed 10½ at a few books.
The Rebels roared out of the gate resembling live ‘dogs, surging ahead 32-14 at halftime and building a 21-point lead early in the second half. But a team loses 21 games in a season for a reason, and UNLV suddenly collapsed.
The Aztecs rallied to force overtime and win 62-52, creating a twisted betting decision. The Rebels’ only points in OT came on Zion Morgan’s layup with nine seconds remaining.
Prepare for more point-spread shenanigans this week in the NCAA Tournament.
Some of the stories from past years are unforgettable, and new memories are about to be made for countless college basketball bettors.
I went 3-0 on Saturday with an underdog winner on Iowa State, a lucky winner on Duke and a decision that went Arizona’s way due partly to an unexpected injury on the Oregon side.
Here are two plays today:
Michigan (plus-1½) over Wisconsin: It only makes sense the Wolverines’ wild week should end with a win in the Big Ten tournament. But this is not a team-of-destiny pick. It’s a team that looked dangerous going into Friday’s game against top-seeded Purdue and has delivered for coach John Beilein. Michigan is getting strong play from guards Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin and forward D.J. Wilson. The veteran Badgers are regaining their form, blowing out Northwestern by 28 on Saturday, but I’ll go with the underdog with more momentum.
Cincinnati (plus-2) over Southern Methodist: Both teams can do damage in the NCAA Tournament, so keep that in mind when filling out a bracket. The Bearcats, going for their 30th win, are blue-collar tough defensively and improved on the offensive end. This will probably go to the wire, with Cincinnati doing just enough to hold off Semi Ojeleye and Shake Milton to stop the Mustangs’ 15-game win streak.
Saturday: 3-0 against the spread