Betting News and Notes - Feb 17

Betting News and Notes - Feb 17

Sunday's Slate

Eleven games are on the college basketball board Sunday, including a pair of televised prime-time tilts. Duke will be aiming for its 13th consecutive win in Winston Salem, while UCLA will looking for revenge when it goes across town to face USC.

**Ohio State at Michigan**


--Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Ohio State (17-8 straight up, 11-10 against the spread) as a seven-point favorite with a total of 126.

--Michigan (7-17 SU, 8-14 ATS) has won back-to-back games, albeit against fellow scrub squads like Iowa and Penn St. But we have to give credit to the Wolverines, who have turned around their ATS fortunes – or lack thereof – with a 5-1 spread record in their last six games.

--When these Big 10 rivals met in Columbus on Feb. 5, Ohio St. won by a 65-55 score. However, the home team failed to cover the number as a 13 ½-point ‘chalk.’

--Michigan trailed 27-16 at intermission when it played Thursday at Iowa. Nevertheless, the Wolverines rallied to capture a 60-52 win as six-point underdogs. Manny Harris scored a game-high 15 points.

--Thad Matta’s team is 6-2 ATS in its last eight road games. The Bucks are 3-3 SU and 4-2 ATS in Big Ten road games this season.

--Michigan owns a 4-7 SU record and 2-7 ATS mark at home.

--Ohio St. has watched the ‘under’ cash in five straight games and eight of its last nine. For the season, the ‘under’ is 15-6 overall for the Buckeyes.

--The ‘over’ is 13-9 overall for Michigan, 6-3 in its home assignments.

--CBS will provide television coverage at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

**Duke at Wake Forest**

--LVSC opened Duke (22-1 SU, 13-7 ATS) as a nine-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 153. The Blue Devils haven’t tasted defeat since losing to Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden back on Dec. 20. They have won 12 consecutive games, compiling a 7-3-2 spread record during that stretch.

--Wake Forest (15-8 SU, 12-5 ATS) has been a lucrative squad for gamblers all season long. The Demon Deacons have taken the cash in seven of their last eight games. They are off a 78-70 win at Florida State as 5 ½-point underdogs. Wake hooked up money-line backers – per my strong suggestion on Thursday’s edition of the Power Hours on VI Radio – with a generous plus 220 return (risk $100 to win $220).

--Duke has won five in a row against Wake Forest with each victory coming by a double-digit margin. Even better, the Blue Devils are 6-0 ATS in the last six encounters.

--The Blue Devils won a 77-65 decision Wednesday over Maryland as 12-point home favorites. Kyle Singler scored a game-high 26 points for the winners, while Greg Paulus added 20 points.

--Wake Forest has been outstanding at Lawrence-Joel Coliseum, posting a 13-1 SU record to go with a 6-2-1 ATS mark.

--The Deacs are 6-2 ATS in eight games as underdog this year. They trounced BYU by a 79-62 count in their only spot as home ‘dogs.

--The home team is 9-2 ATS in the last 11 head-to-head meetings between these ACC adversaries.

--The ‘over’ has hit in seven of Duke’s last eight games. On the flip side, the ‘under’ is 10-8 overall for Wake, 5-4 in its home games.

--Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Eastern on FSN.

**UCLA at USC**

--LVSC opened UCLA (21-3 SU, 14-7 ATS) as a five-point favorite with a total of 129.

--Ben Howland’s team has had a week to chew on last Sunday’s surprising 71-61 loss at Washington as a nine-point favorite. Kevin Love had 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots in the losing effort.

--USC (15-8 SU, 13-8 ATS) beat its cross-town rival in the first meeting at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 19. The Trojans knocked off the Bruins 72-63 as 12-point underdogs thanks to a 25-point, nine-rebound effort from Davon Jefferson. The easy spread cover was the fourth straight for USC in head-to-head meetings against UCLA.

--Tim Floyd’s squad has won six of its last eight games both SU and ATS, but the Trojans are looking to bounce back from a 74-50 clubbing last Saturday at Washington St.

--USC point guard Daniel Hackett is “out” for this game – and possibly the season – with a stress fracture in his lower back. Hackett averages 9.4 points and 3.6 assists per game. O.J. Mayo (20.2 PPG) strained his groin at Wednesday’s practice and sat out Thursday’s workout. Nevertheless, he did practice Friday and according to USCFootball.com, will be ready to go Sunday night.

--Love averages a double-double for the Bruins, scoring 17.5 PPG and pulling down 11.0 rebounds. He has been 'as advertised,' joining a long list of great big men like Don MacLean, Bill Walton and Lou Alcindor in UCLA lore. The numbers for Love are nice, but his most impressive asset is his "feel" for the game as a big man. In other words, he's an extremely intelligent player and passes like a smooth point guard. I'm not sure that I've ever seen a player make a length-of-the-floor chest pass for an easy assist, but that's exactly what Love did in last week's loss at Washington.

--USC is 6-4 SU and 4-4 ATS at home. This is only its second home ‘dog spot of the year. The Trojans lost a 59-55 decision to Kansas as 3 ½-point underdogs. However, they are 6-3 ATS in nine games as underdog this year (regardless of venue).

--The Trojans have watched the ‘under’ go 13-8 overall, 5-3 in their home games. Meanwhile, the ‘over’ is on a 7-1 run for the Bruins.

--FSN will have the telecast at 10:00 p.m. ET.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--I doubt many of you were watching the Tennessee-Georgia game Saturday, but I was as it was the SEC Game of the Week (at least in the Atlanta market). The final scoreboard shows you that the Vols escaped Stegeman Coliseum with a 74-71 victory. UT might be on its way to a No. 1 seed and possibly a Final Four berth. The Vols might have 3-4 future NBA players on their roster, while UGA has zero. But on this day, even in defeat, Dawgs senior guard Sundiata Gaines was – without a doubt – the best player on the court, logging all 40 minutes and keeping his inferior team in the game from start to finish. He finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and three steals, leading UGA to the pointspread cover as an 8 ½-point underdog.

--Even though Maryland trailed by eight at intermission, the Terrapins not only rallied to beat FSU, but they also took the cash as 8 ½-point home favorites in the 82-72 triumph.

--Saturday’s Biggest Winners:
1-Syracuse (vs. Georgetown)
2-Oklahoma (at Texas Tech)
3-Tennessee (at Georgia)
4-Texas (at Baylor)
5-California (at Arizona St.)

--Saturday’s Biggest Losers:
1-UAB (vs. Memphis)
2-Ole Miss (vs. Auburn)
3-Texas A&M (vs. Oklahoma St.)
4-Arizona (vs. Stanford)
5-North Carolina St. (vs. Clemson)

--How can I put the Vols among Saturday’s biggest winners when they nearly lost and didn’t cover the number in Athens? Well, it’s very simple. If Bruce Pearl’s squad would’ve lost to a mediocre UGA team, its chances of garnering a No. 1 seed would’ve likely been out the window.

--Texas was a big winner (both SU and ATS) at Baylor, but Rick Barnes probably lost a couple of years off his life in the final two minutes of that game. The Longhorns led by 12 with 2:07 left, but the Bears produced a furious and thrilling comeback. In fact, they had the ball trailing by just one with 29 seconds remaining, but Aaron Bruce pulled a “Chris Webber” and called a timeout when Baylor had none left. Scott Drew’s team still had a shot in the waning moments, only to come up on the short end of an 82-77 decision.

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NBA All-Star Game
By Brad Young

The World’s greatest pickup basketball game takes place Sunday in New Orleans. ‘The Big Easy’ was awarded the NBA All-Star Game in an effort to help rebuild the economy after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans is hosting its first NBA All-Star Game despite having the New Orleans Jazz from 1974-79 before moving to Utah.

Basketball attendance has been lower than expected since the Hornets returned to New Orleans after a brief two-year stint in Oklahoma City due to Hurricane Katrina. The Hornets (36-15 straight up, 32-19 against the spread) enter the break atop the competitive Southwest Division ahead of San Antonio and Dallas.

This All-Star weekend figures to jumpstart the fan base, especially with quality players Chris Paul and David West representing the home team. New Orleans head coach Byron Scott will also be coaching the West All Stars.

Caesars Palace installed the West squad as an eight-point home ‘chalk’ over the East, with the total set at 262 ½. Sunday’s matchup is slated to start at 8:05 p.m. ET from New Orleans Arena. To some observers, the total is extremely high until you realize that there is no defense being played by teams loaded with scorers.

The West began a three-game winning streak beginning in 2002 before the East recorded back-to-back victories in 2005 and 2006. Last year’s event in Las Vegas saw the West cruise to a 153-132 victory over the East, with the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant being named MVP.

Bryant is listed as ‘questionable’ for this contest due to an injured finger, and figures to see limited playing time. Eastern All-Stars Jason Kidd is ‘questionable,’ while Washington’s Caron Butler (hip) and Boston’s Kevin Garnett (abdominal) are ‘out.’ Recently traded center Shaquille O’Neal will also not be playing in this contest, ending a 14-year string of All-Star Game appearances for the future Hall of Fame player.

However, the NBA All-Star Game is about who is playing. Last year’s contest saw the usual glut of scoring excess, with teams scoring 40 points or more in three separate quarters. The fourth quarter alone saw the teams combine for 78 points.

Another telling aspect of the pickup-game mentality was that there were a combined 81 assists and just 17 fouls last year. The West shot a blistering 55 percent (69-of-126) from the field, mostly coming on highlight-reel dunks. The East shot 49 percent (59-of-121) in a losing effort.

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Lookin' ahead to the second-half
By ASA

The NBA All-Star Game and its corresponding festivities take place this weekend, marking the unofficial halfway point of the season. While the All-Star game has lost some of its appeal in recent years, what follows will have a direct impact on how the rest of the season plays out. The second half of the season will bring the trade deadline, playoff pushes and lottery-bound tankers. Here’s a look at all of the second-half storylines to watch and how each will affect the stretch run:

Trade Deadline

The NBA’s trading deadline is Thursday and with it could come some season-changing deals. The biggest deals – Pau Gasol to Los Angeles, Shaq to Phoenix and Jason Kidd possibly to Dallas – are likely done but with those deals could come some countermoves. The rest of the Western Conference needs to keep up with the Lakers, Suns and possibly the Mavs and could be more willing to make a blockbuster move.

Every Western Conference contender will be looking to upgrade and will likely raid the league’s non-contenders for their best parts. The Lakers have been the early winners with their fleecing of Memphis but another team could step forward to make the Western race even tighter.

Injuries

In the crowded Western Conference, one single injury could send even the top-seeded team tumbling out of playoff contention all together. Injuries can happen at any time and should be monitored daily. Los Angeles, with Kobe Bryant’s dislocated right pinky and Andrew Bynum’s sprained right knee, could potentially see the biggest fall depending on how Bryant handles his injury.

Kevin Garnett’s abdominal injury has kept him out nine games and has been said to be an ailment that doesn’t heal quickly. Not that it has slowed down the Celtics much as they’ve gone 7-2 SU and 6-2-1 ATS with him sidelined. Increased workloads for Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, in an effort to make up for Garnett’s absence, could come back to haunt Boston down the stretch, though.

Other significant players missing time with injuries include Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao, Chicago’s Luol Deng, Dallas’ (or New Jersey’s) Devin Harris, Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal and San Antonio’s Tony Parker. And there’s always the chance for more.

Players returning from injuries could also make a big difference down the stretch. Washington’s Gilbert Arenas is expected back in mid-March and would give a struggling Wizards team a much-needed playoff push. Additionally, despite the Clippers being out of playoff contention, the potential return of Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston could put Los Angeles in prime spoiler position.

Tanking

The prospect of landing either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant led many teams to tank down the stretch last year, whether those teams want to admit it or not. This year’s draft may not have the name-power of last year’s but it does have a much deeper pool of players. There are numerous teams already showing signs of cashing it in to get better draft position and it’s important to identify those teams early when making bets.

Memphis’ giving away of Gasol, along with the potential trading of Mike Miller and Kyle Lowry, will leave the Grizzlies with a lot of youth and little chance of providing much resistance. Additionally, there are a ton of teams that could potentially kick off the tanking in the upcoming weeks. Even though most of the Eastern Conference is still technically alive in the playoff race, teams like Miami, Milwaukee, Charlotte and New York could commence with the tanking shortly.

Western Conference playoff race

The Eastern Conference is pretty much a two-horse race between Boston and Detroit. Three teams currently under .500 own the sixth, seventh and eighth playoff seeds in the East with Orlando, Cleveland and Toronto taking up the other three spots. Ultimately, the Celtics and Pistons are the cream of the crop with the East providing little else. The Western Conference is a completely different story.

There are currently 10 teams in the West with records of at least four games above .500 and there’s a legitimate possibility that a 50-win team could miss the playoffs. Unlike the East, the Western Conference is extremely balanced. Only 4.5 games separate the currently top-seeded Hornets from the out-of-the-playoffs Nuggets. That makes every game for the top 10 teams in the conference extremely important from here on out.

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Miami, Fla. (16-7, 10-4-2 ATS) at Georgia Tech (11-12, 10-11 ATS)

Two teams stuck in the bottom half of the ACC standings clash in Atlanta, where the Hurricanes will try for their first two-game winning streak of the conference season when they battle Georgia Tech.

Miami (3-6, 3-4-2 ATS in the ACC) has been idle since last Saturday, when it upset Virginia Tech 74-71 as a 4½-point road underdog, snapping a three-game losing skid (0-2-1 ATS). Since starting the season 14-1 SU and 8-0 ATS, the ‘Canes are just 2-6 SU and 2-4-2 ATS, all in league play.

The Yellow Jackets (4-5, 5-4 ATS in the ACC) return home following a three-game road trip that started promising enough with an 89-83 upset win at Wake Forest as a 2½-point underdog. From there, though, they lost a non-conference contest at UConn 80-68 last Saturday and fell to ACC rival Clemson 82-67 on Thursday, coming up short as an 8½-point road underdog in both contests.

These teams opened ACC play against each other back on Jan. 12, and Miami rolled to a 78-68 home win as a six-point chalk. Today, the Hurricanes will be going for their second straight series sweep of Georgia Tech, after going 2-0 SU and ATS against the Jackets last year.

The Yellow Jackets haven’t enjoyed much of a home-court edge this year, splitting their 10 contests at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum (5-3 ATS), going 1-2 when hosting league foes (2-1 ATS). On the positive end, Georgia Tech is 10-1 ATS in its last 11 home contests versus teams that sport a winning road record.

Miami snapped a four-game road losing skid – all in conference – with last week’s upset at Virginia Tech. The ‘Canes are 8-2-2 ATS in their last 12 on the highway dating to last season, but 1-2-2 ATS in ACC road games this year. Also, Miami is on ATS streaks of 12-4-2 overall going back to last spring, 4-1 on Sunday and 8-2 following a SU victory.

Miami stayed under the total in each of its first six lined contests, but has since gone 7-3 “over,” including 4-1 “over” when visiting ACC foes. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech has followed up an 8-0 “over” streak by staying low in its last two. Still, the over is 7-1 in the Jackets’ eight ACC contests (3-0 at home) and 4-1 in the last five series battles between these squads.

ATS ADVANTAGE: OVER


(2) Duke (22-1, 13-7-2 ATS) at Wake Forest (15-8, 12-5-1 ATS)

Duke looks to maintain its stranglehold on first place in the ACC when it visits Wake Forest in the first meeting of the season between the instate rivals.

The Blue Devils ran their winning streak to 12 in a row (10-0 in the ACC) with Wednesday’s 77-65 rout of Maryland, pushing as a 12-point home chalk. Despite that push, coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad has been a moneymaking machine since conference play began, going 7-1-2 ATS, including 4-0 ATS on the road.

During its 12-game winning streak, the Blue Devils have recorded 11 double-digit victories, the lone exception being a nine-point win at Maryland as a six-point road chalk. Duke ranks third in the nation in scoring at 85.7 points per game, averaging exactly 86 ppg in ACC play.

Wake Forest has won consecutive games for the first time since closing out non-conference play on a six-game winning streak. The Demon Deacons routed Virginia 80-64 as a 4½-point home chalk last Saturday, then dusted Florida State 78-70 as a 5½-point road underdog on Thursday.

Although just 4-5 SU in ACC action, Wake is 7-2 ATS, including 7-1 ATS in the last eight overall, 3-1 ATS at home and 4-0 ATS as an underdog.

Over the last few years, this rivalry has belonged to the Blue Devils, who are 5-0 SU in the last five meetings and 6-0 ATS in the last six. In last year’s lone encounter, Duke cruised to a 62-40 win as a 16½-point home favorite. However, one trend that points to the Deacons in this contest: The host is 8-2 ATS in the last 10 series clashes.

Wake Forest is 13-1 at home, the only loss being an 89-83 setback to Georgia Tech, and going back to last year, the Demon Deacons are on an 8-2-2 ATS roll in front of the home fans. Today, they host a Duke squad that’s won nine of its 10 games on the highway (5-5 ATS).

The Blue Devils’ victory over Maryland on Wednesday stayed under the total, ending a seven-game “over” streak for Duke. Still, the over is 31-12 in its last 43 ACC games. However, the under is on runs of 7-2 for Duke on Sundays, 4-1 for Wake Forest at home and 3-1 in this rivalry.

ATS ADVANTAGE: DUKE


(6) UCLA (21-3, 14-7-2 ATS) at USC (15-8, 13-8 ATS)

Already motivated to atone for last week’s stunning loss at Washington, the Bruins will take the floor with the added advantage of revenge when they face cross-town rival USC in a Pac-10 showdown.

UCLA got blindsided by the Trojans back on Jan. 19 at home, losing 72-63 as a 12-point favorite. Following that loss, Ben Howland’s team ripped off five consecutive wins and covers, all in Pac-10 play, before suffering last Sunday’s 71-61 loss at Washington as a nine-point road chalk. Despite that setback, the Bruins still lead the Pac-10 with a 9-2 record (8-3 ATS),

USC embarked on the same Washington road trip as the Bruins last weekend, but came away with completely opposite results. The Trojans crushed Washington 73-59 as a one-point road favorite on Feb. 7, then got destroyed 74-50 at Washington State as a five-point underdog last Saturday. USC is 6-2 SU and ATS in its last eight Pac-10 games after starting conference play with three straight losses (1-2 ATS).

The winner is 10-1 ATS in both UCLA and USC’s 11 league games this season.

The Trojans will be trying to sweep the season series from the Bruins for the first time since the 2003-2004 season. Since then, UCLA is 5-2 against USC, but just 3-4 ATS. In fact, the Trojans have cashed in each of the last four meetings (all as an underdog), and the ‘dog is 8-2 ATS in the last 10 series battles, including 5-0 ATS in the last five on USC’s home floor.

Last week’s loss at Washington was UCLA’s first road setback of the season, dropping the Bruins to 9-1 SU and 7-2-1 ATS on the highway, including 5-1 SU and ATS when visiting Pac-10 rivals. However, the Bruins are just 1-4 ATS in their last five Sunday contests.

USC is only 6-4 at the Galen Center this year (4-4 ATS), including 2-2 SU and ATS in Pac-10 home games. The Trojans are also 0-5 ATS in their last five against teams with a winning road record. On the bright side, Tim Floyd’s troops are 20-8 ATS in their last 28 games following a SU loss and their last 28 following an ATS setback.

The over is on runs of 17-5 for USC in Pac-10 play, 7-1 for UCLA overall, 2-0 in this rivalry overall and 6-2 in head-to-head meetings at USC.

ATS ADVANTAGE: OVER

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College funds: Sunday's top college hoops bets
COVERS.com

Notre Dame at Rutgers +10

Notre Dame’s five-game wining streak came to an end in an 84-78 loss to UConn this week, but they should be able to start a new one against the struggling Scarlet Knights on Sunday.

"I think our confidence is still sky high," senior captain Rob Kurz said after the loss to Huskies. "We've been playing great and one loss is not gonna derail our confidence in any way."

The Irish are right to be confident ahead of their trip to New Jersey. Rutgers has lost six straight home games and 11 of its last 13 games overall. The Scarlet Knights have failed to cover the spread in any of their last five straight contests, and have not beaten Notre Dame in a regular season game since 2003-04 campaign.

Pick: Irish

Duke at Wake Forest +10

The Duke Blue Devils are arguably the hottest team in college basketball at the moment. They have won 12 straight games and have covered the spread in seven of their last 10, with two pushes. That success has been driven by freshman Kyle Singler.

"He can shoot, defend, pass – he's a winner," coach Mike Krzyzewski said of Singler after Duke’s last game. "He's got it all, and it's all just a matter of getting the physical maturity there. He's still a young body, but he's not a young heart, nor a young mind. He's big-time in both those areas."

Singler scored a season-high 26-points in the Blue Devil’s all-important win over Maryland last week, as well as a career-best 10 field goals and six three pointers.

In his last four games the freshman is averaging 19.5 points and 8 rebounds, and Duke should get a fifth consecutive win (both SU and ATS) over Wake Forest if he can keep that going.

Pick: Demon Deacons

UCLA at Southern California +5

The Trojans have been hit with an injury crisis ahead of their clash with UCLA. Freshman O.J. Mayo is struggling with a strained groin, guard Marcus Simmons has an ankle sprain, and Daniel Hackett is definitely out with a stress fracture in his back.

That leaves USC with only two fully-fit scholarship guards, and on Thursday they held a walk-through instead of a practice because of all the injuries.

"Sure it's a concern," coach Tim Floyd said. "We would have loved to have been full speed and practicing today but couldn't. We didn't have enough guys to get up and down on the perimeter."

The Trojans are hoping to have several key players back in time for Sunday’s game, but it’s unlikely that they will get a full game out of either Mayo or Simmons. That gives the Bruins a distinct advantage as they look for to avenge a defeat to USC earlier this season.

Pick: Bruins

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Plenty on the line for UCLA, USC

The color scheme for tonight's cross-town rivalry game at the Galen Center -- UCLA wearing its road blue, USC its home, er, black -- could go a long way toward describing how the loser might feel with a month left before the NCAA tournament.

A UCLA loss would give the sixth-ranked Bruins their first two-game losing streak of the season and further pierce their aura of invincibility in the Pacific 10 Conference. It would also endanger their hopes of gaining a top seeding in the NCAA tournament and becoming the UCLA Bruins of Anaheim come the first round.

A defeat would be even more troublesome for USC. It would move the Trojans back to .500 in conference play and put them squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble, making their margin for error smaller over the regular season's final weeks.

"It's a must win game for us," UCLA freshman center Kevin Love said. "Of course we don't want to lose to SC twice in a row and it is a big rivalry game, but for us in the Pac-10, we want to win this game coming off a loss."

Black and blue also served to accurately depict the way things were going in the trainer's room at each school this week, particularly at USC.

On Monday, tests revealed that sophomore guard Daniel Hackett had a stress fracture in his lower back and might sit out the rest of the season.

On Wednesday, star freshman O.J. Mayo pulled his left groin and was unable to practice the next day.

On Friday, freshman guard Marcus Simmons said he would try to play on a chronically sprained left ankle that was admittedly only about 75%.

The injuries left the Trojans with only two fully healthy scholarship guards -- sophomore Dwight Lewis and freshman Angelo Johnson -- going into a game against one of the deepest and most physical teams in the country.

"It would be great if we huddled 30 seconds between every play and we would have enough guys to get through a game, but we don't," USC Coach Tim Floyd said.

"It's up and down and if you have foul problems, you have a lot of things you have to work through."

Nevertheless, those who give the Trojans little chance to sweep the season series might be well served to remember that A) USC won last month at Pauley Pavilion, and B) the Trojans beat the Bruins two years ago under similar circumstances after losing star guard Gabe Pruitt to a knee injury.

"We're not desperate," Hackett said. "You've got guys that can play out there. It's too bad that I'm not able to help my teammates, but I'm 100% confident that they're going to come to play because that's what they do. They're competitors."

The absence of Hackett could force Floyd to try to get 15 to 20 minutes combined from Simmons and Ryan Wetherell, a seldom-used walk-on guard. It might also prompt Floyd to alternate between the Trojans' usual man-to-man defense and a zone that is less taxing.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland said his team would "spend all week" in practice working on attacking the triangle-and-two defense that USC unfurled during its 72-63 upset victory over the Bruins last month, but Floyd might have to abandon that scheme considering that Hackett was one of its central components.

The Bruins also expressed concerns about fixing the defense that allowed the Trojans to shoot 60.9% and amass 17 layups and dunks during the teams' first meeting.

"They kept getting dunks, getting layups," said Love, who was victimized by counterpart Davon Jefferson on one particular dunk that quickly found its way onto the Internet. "That was as poor a defensive output as we've had all season."

UCLA's defense wasn't exactly stout during its 71-61 loss to Washington on Sunday, but the Bruins have tended to play better immediately after defeats. They rattled off nine consecutive victories after a 63-61 loss to Texas in December. Then, after the USC defeat, UCLA blew out its next five opponents by an average of 18 points.

The Bruins' attempts to ward off a two-game losing streak and maintain their hold on their lead in the Pac-10 race may supersede any revenge factor against the Trojans.

"For us, this is bigger than the rivalry," junior guard Darren Collison said. "We're not even looking at that, not looking at the first game, not looking at the second game. We're in a battle right now for the Pac-10. We have no more room for losing."

The Bruins' quest for a third consecutive conference title got a boost Friday when forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute participated in his first full-contact practice since spraining his left ankle early this month. Mbah a Moute is listed as probable for tonight's game.

In a possibly unprecedented move, USC is expected to wear black uniforms tonight as part of a "Black out the Bruins" promotion in which fans are also encouraged to wear black shirts.

If things go awry for the Trojans, a festive atmosphere could turn funereal.

TONIGHT

UCLA at USC, 7, FSN Prime Ticket

Site -- Galen Center.

Radio -- 570, 710.

Records -- UCLA 21-3 overall, 9-2 Pac-10; USC 15-8, 6-5.

Update -- Mayo said he practiced Saturday and should be "100%" for tonight's game. The Trojans are bidding for their first sweep in the series since 2003-04.

latimes.com

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Sunday’s Pregame Buzz

NBA All-Star Game - East vs. West


* Since 2000 the West All-Stars have averaged 133 points in this event, while the East All-Stars are averaging 127 points.
* The West has won 5 of those 8 contests, by an average of 12 points, compared to the East’s 3 victories decided by 4 points.
* West All-Star Kobe Bryant is expected to start, per league rules, even though he has learned that he there is ligament damage in his dislocated pinkie finger. West Coach Bryon Scott said he’ll play Kobe for as long Kobe wants to play. Bryant was the All-Star game MVP 2002 and 2007.
* With Jason Kidd still in limbo in the on-going trade to Dallas, Kidd will represent the East in this contest. Caron Butler will miss this game due to a hip injury, while Kevin Garnettt will be inactive as well due to his abdominal strain.
       

CBB
     
Ohio State at Michigan


* Ohio State is 5-1-1 ATS in the last 7 meetings.
* Michigan is 1-8 ATS in its last 9 home games.
* The favorite is 6-2-1 ATS in the last 9 meetings.

#2 Duke at Wake Forest

* Duke is 22-1 and 10-0 in the ACC, and is also 6-0 on the road this season. Duke’s last road contest was an 89-78 victory over then-No. 3 North Carolina in Chapel Hill. "We're a very confident team,” said Blue Devils guard Greg Paulas. EDGE: DUKE
* Wake Forest is feeling good coming off the first back-to-back wins of its ACC season, including a win at Florida State on Thursday. The Demon Deacons shot a season-best 56 percent from the field in that game and made eight of their 13 3-pointers. EDGE: WAKE FOREST
* Duke is 7-1-2 ATS in its last 10 games overall.
* Wake Forest is 7-1 ATS in its last 8 games overall.
* The home team is 9-2 ATS in the last 11 meetings.

#6 UCLA at USC

* The USC Trojans will try for the first season sweep of their crosstown rival UCLA Bruins in four years, as they defeated the Bruins on their homecourt 72-63 last month. The Problem is the Trojans will be without their starting guard Daniel Hackett this time around. Hackett is one of the Trojans best defensive rebounders and a key component of the triangle-and-2 offense that stymied UCLA in that January victory. EDGE: UCLA
* USC shot 61 percent from the field and held the UCLA to a season-low 33 percent in that victory, and star guard OJ Mayo, who is expected to play through a groin injury, scored 16 points. "SC gave us trouble last time just because they picked us apart on defense," UCLA center Kevin Love said. EDGE: USC
* UCLA is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games overall.
* USC is 6-2 ATS in its last 8 games against the Pac-10.
* The OVER is 4-2 in the last 6 meetings.

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Re: Betting News and Notes - Feb 17

Seton Hall G Jamar Nutter (11 ppg; suspension) is questionable for Sunday.

USC G O.J. Mayo (20 ppg; groin) is expected to to play Sunday night.

USC G Daniel Hackett (9 ppg; back) is OUT of Sunday's game.

Caron Butler (hip) and Kevin Garnettt (abdominal) will be inactive for the East in Sunday's All-Star game.

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