Several times a hero in March, Steve Alford is a goat this time. The UCLA coach leaned back in his chair, rolled his eyes and watched his team get rocked by rival Southern California for the third time this season.
The Bruins followed the script as the third underdog of the day to play dead in the Pac-12 Conference tournament at the MGM Grand Garden. The Trojans, 2-point favorites, scored the game’s first 11 points and finished off the Bruins 95-71 to deliver a Best Bet winner in this blog.
USC won the previous meetings by 14 and 19 points, and neither blowout was a fluke. Alford and UCLA (15-17) suffered through a season best described as a fiasco.
Instead of madness at the Grand Garden, there were three games that put fans to sleep. Washington (-3) routed Stanford 91-68 before Colorado (-9½) crushed Washington State 80-56.
A veteran scribe walked down press row and mumbled, “This might be the worst day of basketball ever.”
Obviously, he did not bet the favorites.
Including the Mountain West games at the Thomas & Mack Center, favorites are 6-0 straight up and 5-1 against the spread.
Utah State (-2½) defeated Wyoming 88-70, and Colorado State (-7½) cruised by San Jose State 80-61. The only favorite failing to cover was UNLV, which needed triple overtime in its home arena to survive against Air Force.
The last shot for an upset is Arizona State, a 4-point ‘dog against Oregon State in tonight’s Pac-12 finale.
Rebels fail to cover in 3-OT thriller
A team with only six remaining scholarship players, a team off a 36-point loss, was a double-digit favorite today. Believe it or not. As one might imagine, considering that odd scenario, it did not go so well for that team.
But at least UNLV avoided another embarrassment.
The Rebels, who closed as 10½-point favorites and minus-700 on the moneyline, finished a wild game with two walk-ons on the floor and needed three overtimes to put away Air Force 108-102.
Anyone who bet under the total of 144 took a bad beat. The game was tied at 69 after regulation.
Remember when 7-foot freshman Stephen Zimmerman Jr. was expected to lead the Rebels back to the NCAA Tournament? His college career nearly ended in the first round of the Mountain West tournament. Zimmerman fouled out with 8:46 remaining and the Falcons leading 56-48. He finished with two points, but he’s not quite finished.
UNLV faces Fresno State on Thursday. So, the Rebels are shorthanded and exhausted from a 55-minute game?
A tip for tomorrow: Bet on the Bulldogs.
Tipoff: Seven conference tournament games in Las Vegas are on the betting board today. The first game tips at 11 a.m., with Utah State favored by 2½ points over Wyoming in the Mountain West. The Cowboys, led by explosive senior guard Josh Adams, won the title last season. At noon, Washington is a 2-point favorite over Stanford in the Pac-12. Huskies guard Andrew Andrews is worth the price of admission at the MGM Grand Garden.
Best Bets in Vegas
Air Force (+11) over UNLV
This should be a gimme for the Rebels, but asking a shorthanded team to cover double digits is asking a lot. The Thomas & Mack Center will be half-empty for a game that tips at 1:30 p.m. The Falcons, the weakest team in the conference, upset UNLV 79-74 on Feb. 16. Patrick McCaw and Stephen Zimmerman should be enough to carry the Rebels to a win, but I’ll say they win by seven and fail to cover.
Southern California (-2½) over UCLA
Despite the double-revenge angle, I’ll side with the Trojans, who rolled to easy victories (89-75 and 80-61) in the regular season. It’s a bad matchup for the Bruins, who are weak in transition defense. UCLA limps in as the No. 10 seed, and guard Bryce Alford is banged up.
Other plays today: Clemson (-1) over Georgia Tech; Virginia Tech (+4) over Florida State; Texas-El Paso (-2) over Florida International; Marquette (-6½) over St. John’s.
Futures wagers: I placed small bets on three teams on the Westgate odds board — Fresno State at 8-1 to win the Mountain West; UC Santa Barbara at 7-2 to win the Big West; Wisconsin at 20-1 to win the Big Ten.
(This betting blog will be updated throughout the day.)
Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247