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Surging UCLA confounds handicappers

UCLA’s amazing college basketball run — which has stunned oddsmakers, pundits and bracketologists — continued over the weekend with a pair of blowout covers.

— Thursday: UCLA (+ 4) won at Utah 69-58, beating the spread by 15 points. It was the Bruins’ fifth outright upset in Pac-12 play after scoring shockers over Washington, Oregon State, Colorado and Arizona.

— Saturday: UCLA (+ 10) won at Colorado 70-63, beating the spread by 17 points. That finished a season sweep of the highly regarded Buffaloes, made it six outright upsets in league action and lifted the Bruins to 8-3 against the spread in their last 11 games.

Those victories pushed UCLA onto the NCAA tournament bubble, according to Joe Lunardi of ESPN. That wouldn’t have seemed possible after a 77-74 home loss to Cal State Fullerton as a 16-point favorite in late December.

UCLA must remain focused to earn a bid to the Big Dance and continue cashing tickets against a slow-reacting market. This week the Bruins host Arizona State on Thursday and Arizona on Saturday before finishing the regular season March 7 at USC.

The Trojans backtracked onto the bubble after getting swept at Colorado and at Utah. USC covered the spread Thursday in a 70-66 loss at Boulder getting 9.5 points. But an ugly 79-65 loss Sunday in Salt Lake City at + 1 is going to sting on the resume.

That point-spread split leaves USC at 10-3 ATS in its last 13 games. Since playing each other Jan. 11, USC and UCLA are a combined 17-7 vs. the market.

Other Notes

— In the NBA, the Lakers (-7.5) failed to cover in Sunday’s 114-112 thriller over the Boston Celtics. The victory helped solidify L.A.’s hold on the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Even with the non-cover, the Lakers are 3-1 ATS in their last four games and a respectable 29-25-1 ATS for the season despite the height of their daily hurdles.

The Lakers have two nationally televised meetings with Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans this week. They square off Tuesday at Staples Center (10 p.m., TNT) and Sunday in the Big Easy (8 p.m., ESPN). In their last 11 games with a healthy Williamson, the Pelicans are 8-3 straight up and ATS after beating Golden State 115-101 as 10-point favorites Sunday night.

— The Clippers disappointed in a home loss Saturday to Sacramento, falling 112-103 as 8.5-point favorites. The Clips have lost and failed to cover three straight games heading into Monday’s home game vs. Memphis. They’re 29-27 ATS for the season, which is a losing record for bettors because of the 10% vigorish on losses. In real money terms, the record is 29 wins, 29.7 losses.


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