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UCLA needs help but looking better for postseason as USC stumbles

UCLA guard Prince Ali, left, celebrates with guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. during a timeout after making a 3-point shot during the first half against Colorado on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion.
UCLA guard Prince Ali, left, celebrates with guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. during a timeout after making a 3-point shot during the first half against Colorado on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion.
(Michael Owen Baker / Associated Press)

UCLA shocked Colorado, Utah 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, according to polls 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 swept a weekend set in Pac-12 play this season.

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

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Freshman point guard Tyger Campbell scored a career-high 22 points as UCLA won 73-57 over Utah for its fourth victory in five games.

For USC, five steps forward were followed by two steps back. After impressively covering five straight, the Trojans stumbled against 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 will long remember.

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

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 at kenpom.com. That’s scoring adjusted for pace and schedule strength. USC ranks inside the top 40 in adjusted defensive efficiency.

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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.

The Trojans’ offensive struggles continued as they fell 78-57 to the No. 20 Buffaloes at Galen Center and missed a shot at first place in the Pac-12.

Elsewhere

— The Lakers’ next three games will be nationally televised as home favorites Tuesday against San Antonio (7 p.m., TNT) and Thursday against Houston (7:30 p.m. TNT) and then big road favorites Saturday at Golden State (5:30 p.m., ABC). The Lakers enter the 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.

As VSiN mentioned earlier this season, 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 local NBA investment, with a recent 6-3 ATS run leading to a 27-22 full-season mark. This week the Clippers will be home favorites Monday against San Antonio and Wednesday against Miami before beginning a trip Saturday at Minnesota.

— In the NHL, the Kings and Ducks are off until Tuesday after playing each other Saturday night. Anaheim (+110) won 3-1 at Staples Center to move four points ahead of Los Angeles at the bottom of the Pacific Division standings.

The Kings, now down -9.7 betting units against moneylines, according to covers.com, begin a four-game swing to the East against Washington and the three metropolitan New York teams. The Ducks, down 7.3 units, also start a four-game trip, visiting Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Buffalo.

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Jeff Fogle works for VSiN, the sports betting network.


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