Dillon Brooks, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, missed a free throw with two seconds left that cost Oregon bettors a push Friday in the Ducks’ 73-65 win over California in the Pac-12 semifinals at T-Mobile Arena.
Also on Friday, at the Orleans Arena, Cal State Bakersfield needed four overtimes to outlast Utah Valley, 81-80, in their Western Athletic Conference semifinal.
Other than those anomalies, everything has mostly gone according to form in the three college basketball conference tournaments in Las Vegas, where a trio of championship matchups between the top two seeds will take place Saturday.
No. 1 seed UNR is favored by 5 points over No. 2 seed Colorado State in the 3 p.m. Mountain West final at the Thomas & Mack Center. Top-seeded Oregon is a 2-point favorite over second-seeded Arizona in the 8 p.m. Pac-12 final at T-Mobile Arena. And No. 2 seed New Mexico State is favored by 3 points over No. 1 seed Cal State Bakersfield in the 8 p.m. Western Athletic Conference final at the Orleans Arena.
Handicapper Bernie Fratto , an ESPN Radio host who picked Oregon and UNR to win their respective conference tourneys before they began, likes the Ducks to cover the short spread and the Wolf Pack to cover the halftime line.
UNR, which has won and covered eight straight games, used a 25-2 run in the second half to erase a nine-point deficit to Fresno State in Friday’s 83-72 win.
“(UNR) is a notoriously slow starter. It wouldn’t surprise me if they were trailing at halftime,” Fratto said. “I think the second half is the bargain. They’re a much better second-half team. And Colorado State is a seven-deep team playing their third game in three days.
“San Diego State, playing their third game in three days Friday, clearly showed a lot of wear and tear in the second half. They had no legs left.”
The Rams, who beat the Aztecs 71-63, lost 85-72 to the Wolf Pack in Reno in their March 4th regular-season finale.
Oregon beat Arizona by 27 in their only meeting this season, on Feb. 4, in an 85-58 home win. The Wildcats beat UCLA 86-75 on Friday in their third straight cover.
“I like Oregon a lot,” Fratto said. “They’re the most balanced, complete team. They have five guys averaging double figures, they’ve got the best coach in the tournament in Dana Altman, they play very good defense and they handled Arizona earlier in the year.”
New Mexico State beat Missouri-Kansas City 78-60 in Friday’s late game to advance to its sixth straight WAC title game. The Aggies lost last year’s final to Bakersfield on a last-second shot. The teams split the season series, with New Mexico State winning 63-58 at home Jan. 14 before having its 20-game win streak ended by the Roadrunners, who rolled 72-53 at home on Feb. 9.
“Most of the New Mexico State backers will come to the window and bet them. From a betting perspective, we’ll need Bakersfield a little bit,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said.
Rood and UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez are New Mexico State alums and Rebels basketball coach Marvin Menzies is a former Aggies coach.
“We’re taking over the town, basically,” quipped Rood, who expects New Mexico State to win the game.
“I do,” he said. “Bakersfield going to four overtimes (Friday) night is not going to help. Maybe that levels the playing field a little bit.”
While the wiseguy action had yet to show Saturday morning, Rood said they usually take live underdogs.
“Generally, once you get down to the championship rounds, most of the sharps are going to side with the points, with the ‘dogs, because they’ve performed well enough to get to that point,” he said. “Any team that’s a top-four seed going against a No. 1 seed, they’ll generally draw the action.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.