Check market movement to see how USC is being perceived for the NCAA tournament

USC's Jonah Matthews (2) and Elijah Weaver (3) celebrate with their teammates during a game against Stanford on Saturday.
(Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

Is USC ready for the Big Dance?

Fans and betting market observers will get a much better sense when the Trojans visit No. 12 Oregon on Thursday (8 p.m., ESPNU) and interesting sleeper Oregon State on Saturday (2 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).

USC will be a road underdog in Eugene, where the Trojans desperately need to make the NCAA selection committee forget about a humiliating 72-40 loss Jan. 5 at Washington. The Trojans were five-point underdogs in Seattle. They missed reasonable expectations by 27 points. Anything similar at Oregon could be a resume killer.

Market projections for the Oregon State game are tougher to make. The Beavers are 24 spots behind USC in Jeff Sagarin’s midweek computer ratings at USA Today but just eight behind with Ken Pomeroy at The standard value of home-court advantage should make USC-Oregon State a virtual toss-up.

Your best read on where USC stands compared with the Oregon schools will come from market movement. Use the opening line to evaluate oddsmakers’ opinions, then first moves to evaluate the perceptionof professional gamblers.

Ethan Anderson was the L.A. City Section player of the year at Fairfax. But to find his comfort level at USC, he turned to his mother.

If you’re new to sports betting, the unique wisdom-of-the-crowd reflection, weighted more heavily toward the smart money influences, has historically provided the best reads possible on team caliber.


That’s true in any sport. But it’s particularly helpful for casual college basketball fans confused by jumbled midseason records polluted by big differences in schedule strength. Clear through the clutter. Learn from the insights of oddsmakers and professionals by reading the market.


UCLA is also visiting the Oregon schools this week. But the Bruins are far from bubble caliber or even NIT caliber. They have less a sense of urgency about postseason concerns and more priority on executing on both ends of the floor. UCLA is at Oregon State on Thursday (8 p.m, FS1) and at Oregon on Sunday (2 p.m., Fox.)

UCLA has struggled mightily, but Mick Cronin isn’t going to simply give playing time to younger players in order to accelerate their development.

— Entering this week’s schedule, the best Pac-12 teams against the spread (ATS) are Stanford 13-5, Oregon 12-7 and Oregon State 11-7. The worst are California 6-12, UCLA 8-10 and Washington State 8-10-1. The Bruins are 6-10 ATS when not playing Cal or Washington State and are 2-7 ATS in their last nine games.

— San Diego State’s fantastic play has been getting a lot of attention in Las Vegas. That will emphatically be the case Sunday when SDSU visits UNLV (1 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

The Aztecs are 20-0 straight up this season, the only undefeated team left in college basketball. Their ATS record is a respectable 12-7 (no line was posted on a virtual scrimmage with San Diego Christian). But point spreads might be catching up with SDSU’s high level of play. It failed to cover its last two games, beating Nevada only 68-55 laying 13.5 points and beating Wyoming only 72-55 laying 23.

Forward Shareef O’Neal, son of Shaquille O’Neal, tweeted on Wednesday that he plans to transfer out of UCLA.

It’s tough for elite teams to offer consistent betting value when priced to play perfectly every time.

Jeff Fogle writes for VSiN, the sports betting network.