UCLA improves postseason prospects

UCLA shocked the Buffaloes, the Utes and college basketball betting markets with a dominating week at Pauley Pavilion. 

 

— UCLA (+ 4) upset blossoming national power Colorado 72-68 on Thursday, beating the market by eight points. Colorado is a consensus top-25 team nationally, according to pollsters and respected computer rankings. 

 

— UCLA (-3.5) dominated Utah 73-57 on Sunday, clearing its projection by 12.5 points. This was the first time the Bruins had swept a weekend set in Pac-12 play this season. 

 

UCLA is now 5-4 straight up and against the spread in conference action. But the Bruins must close very well to create postseason tournament possibilities. Up next: a trip to the Copper State to face Arizona State on Thursday and Arizona on Saturday. 

 

For USC, five steps forward were followed by two steps back. After impressively covering five straight, the Trojans stumbled vs. Utah and Colorado. A sluggish 56-52 win over the Utes on Thursday as 8.5-point favorites didn’t hurt in the straight-up standings. But a stunningly bad 78-57 collapse against Colorado laying -1.5 points Saturday night was a litmus-test loss that selection committees and oddsmakers will long remember. 

 

USC was due to cool off after impressive performances in Oregon the week before and important recent wins over Stanford and archrival UCLA. But little margin for error remains in terms of postseason hopes. USC had just climbed onto the Big Dance bubble. The Trojans hope that bubble wasn’t popped by a stampede of Buffaloes. 

 

A note for sports bettors and casual fans: When things go badly for the Trojans, it’s typically connected to poor offense. After posting 56 and 57 points, USC is now outside the top 125 in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy’s market-respected advanced stats posted at kenpom.com. That’s scoring adjusted for pace and schedule strength. USC ranks inside the top 40 in adjusted defensive efficiency. 

 

Unsurprisingly given that stat combination, nine of USC’s last 11 games have stayed below the market Over/Under in regulation. An overtime loss at Oregon went Over only because of extra time. Bettors skeptical of USC’s chances in any game should also consider taking the Under. 

 

Other Notes

— The Lakers’ next three games will be televised nationally. They will be home favorites Tuesday vs. San Antonio (7 p.m., TNT) and Thursday vs. Houston (7:30 p.m. Thursday) and then big road favorites Saturday at Golden State (5:30 p.m., ABC). The Lakers enter the new week 37-11 straight up but barely above break-even for bettors at 25-22-1 ATS. With a 10% vigorish on losses, that’s the same as 25 wins and 24.2 losses. 

 

It can be tough for elite teams to clear high hurdles every game through a long season. The Lakers are 6-1 ATS as underdogs but just 19-21-1 as favorites.

 

— The Clippers have emerged as the better NBA investment in Los Angeles, with a recent 6-3 against-the-spread run leading to a 27-22 full-season ATS mark. This week the Clippers will be home favorites Monday vs. San Antonio and Wednesday vs. Miami before beginning a road trip Saturday at Minnesota. 

 

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