UCLA and USC are playing in three-game holiday basketball tournaments Thanksgiving week after suffering disappointing home losses.
UCLA, as a 14-point favorite, was stunned by Hofstra 88-78 last week, missing market expectations by 24 points. The Bruins look to atone for that in a loaded Maui Jim Maui Invitational that got underway Monday in Hawaii.
Before the eight-team event began, here were Ken Pomeroy’s computer ratings, posted at kenpom.com. (Oddsmakers use Pomeroy’s team ratings and game projections as a base for their point spreads. Professional sports bettors, known as sharps, have been taking advantage of subscription-only stat breakdowns since that website’s inception.)
Maui field: Michigan State 1, Kansas 8, Virginia Tech 41, Dayton 53, Georgia 62, Brigham Young 72, UCLA 104.
Host Chaminade is the eighth team. It’s not a major-college program, so it’s not in the kenpom.com database. You can see that UCLA is the worst-rated major program in the field. And the Bruins weren’t rated by computers or betting markets as “Big Dance caliber” even before the loss to Hofstra. Maui is a chance to score a statement victory or two as underdogs.
USC, a nine-point favorite, lost to Temple 70-61 on Friday night, missing market expectations by 18 points. The Trojans are part of a less loaded field in the Orlando Invitational that begins on Thanksgiving. Here were Pomeroy’s rankings for that field entering the week: Maryland 13, Marquette 28, USC 61, Davidson 69, Temple 88, Texas A&M 92, Harvard 95, Fairfield 277.
USC draws Fairfield in the opener, giving it a chance to go deep. With a victory, it would face the Marquette-Davidson winner. Maryland is projected to reach the final in the upper half of the bracket.
• In college football, Circa Sports in Las Vegas opened UCLA as a 2½-point favorite over California in Saturday night’s season finale in Pasadena. Chip Kelly’s team has no chance to earn bowl eligibility with a 4-7 record. Home-field advantage is usually worth 2½ to three points in college football conference games. The opening line tells us that Circa sees the Bruins and Bears as evenly matched.
UCLA’s losing season was clinched Saturday when it fell 52-35 at USC as a 13-point underdog. USC finished its regular season 8-4. The Trojans would win the Pac-12 Conference South via tiebreaker if Utah loses Saturday to visiting Colorado. The Utes opened as 28-point favorites at Circa.
• Advance lines for Los Angeles’ NFL teams: The Rams opened as 3½-point favorites at Arizona on Sunday for low-limit betting in advance of Monday night’s home game against the Baltimore Ravens. The Chargers opened within a point of pick ‘em, depending on the store, at Denver on Sunday.
The Cardinals are coming off a bye, but the Rams could be hampered by a short week of preparation through the holiday. The Chargers will be fresh off a bye. The disappointing Broncos were further demoralized in a 20-3 loss at Buffalo as 3½-point underdogs.
• In the NBA, betting markets finally caught up with the Lakers. After covering eight of their first 11 games — 8-2 against the spread (ATS) after losing their opener to the Clippers — LeBron James and company missed the spread in four of their next five games, even though they won them all.
Investment value appears to be gone on a day-to-day basis. Oddsmakers are pricing the Lakers to play like champions every time out. Keep an eye on travel fatigue too. The Lakers’ Monday night matchup in San Antonio against the Spurs started a stretch of 10 of 13 games away from Staples Center.
It’s a similar story for the Clippers. Tuesday’s game in Dallas will be the first of 12 on the road in the next 16. The Clippers are 0-4 straight up and ATS in their last four road outings. They’ve played only five road games all season.
• In the NHL, the Ducks have fallen on hard times. They had lost eight of their last nine heading into Monday night’s home game against the New York Islanders.
The Kings remain at the bottom of the Pacific Division, but their next six games starting with Monday night’s home contest against the Sharks will be in California — four at home, one at San Jose and one at Anaheim.
Bettors should be wary of both teams until their form improves.