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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Even though they’re not currently ranked, the 9-1 UCLA Bruins fully believe they’re going to be one of the teams that matters through the 2013-14 college basketball season. They get a chance to make their case to the nation Thursday Night at Madison Square Garden against #8 Duke in a game that will be nationally televised by ESPN.


What you need to know about UCLA if you haven’t seen them on TV yet:

*They’re now coached by Steve Alford

*They have some talent that has NBA scouts excited

*They’ve been piling up impressive victory margins in non-conference action

We like to start with a look at how teams have done in their most challenging games here in our NOTEBOOK previews. Let’s start by studying what UCLA has done in games this year with single-digit Las Vegas pointspreads.


UCLA (-7) beat Drexel 72-67

UCLA (+2) lost at Missouri 80-71

Whoa…that’s not very impressive. Yup…just two! And, the Bruins couldn’t cover either game. Why should we take them seriously as a potential Sweet 16 crasher later this season?

Well, maybe we shouldn’t. But be aware that the Bruins have mostly been crushing everyone else. And, one reason they only have two single digit spread games is that they’ve been getting market respect on a nightly basis. They were laying 12.5 and 15 points to Nevada and Northwestern respectively at a neutral site tourney in Las Vegas. They won those games by 21 and 16 points. They beat feisty Oakland 91-60 laying 15 at home.

For now…this is a team that runs up the score on lesser lights but gets balky vs. quality. When that happens early in the season, there’s plenty of time to mature. Duke will make you mature real quick!

Here’s what the Blue Devils have done in single digit spread games this season…



Duke (-5.5) lost to Kansas 94-83 in Chicago

Duke (-9) beat Alabama 74-64 in MSG

Duke (+3) lost to Arizona 72-66 in MSG

Duke (-7.5) beat Michigan 79-69

Talk about a home away from home. Thursday vs. UCLA will be their third game at MSG this season! They’ve played 7 at Cameron Indoor, including a 91-90 sweater against Vermont.

What do the most respected computer ratings sources in the nation (Jeff Sagarin of USA today and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy) think about these two teams? The answer is about to surprise you…


UCLA: #22 in Sagarin, #26 in Kenpom

Duke: #35 in Sagarin, #20 in Kenpom


Neither source has EITHER team in the Sweet 16 right now…and Sagarin actually has UCLA 13 spots higher! You don’t often see such disagreement between major analytics spots like this. That’s a reflection of early season fog…and the fact that UCLA has faced so little true high level competition. Different approaches will yield different estimates of quality.

And, THAT makes things very interesting for Vegas oddsmakers…who use both Sagarin and Pomeroy as a guide when making their numbers…as well as very challenging for handicappers who are trying to pick a winner. We may be dealing with two contenders in a toss-up. We may be dealing with two pretenders in a toss-up. Or, we may have a pretender that’s about to be exposed under the national TV spotlight.

JIM HURLEY has been studying this matchup very closely because he knows it’s basically this week’s NFL Thursday Night game. Pro football is done for the year on Thursdays. ESPN got smart and scheduled a hoops blockbuster for that hungry audience. As of press time, it’s very likely we’ll have a strong selection in this game up Thursday morning here at the site. We’re also looking at Clemson/Auburn in the colleges, and Chicago/Oklahoma City and San Antonio/Golden State in the NBA.

Make a few clicks and have your credit card handy to get the Thursday slate. Then, make plans to be with us all through the weekend as the BOWLS get under way! If you have any questions about basketball or football, talk to the NETWORK representative in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155. Our annual BOWL BONANZA kicks off Saturday with FOUR big games.

Back with you in the NOTEBOOK Friday with an early look at USC/Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl. That’s a fascinating matchup between the talented Trojans of the Pac 12 and the Mountain West Champion Bulldogs. Saturday we’ll cover the prime time meeting between Tulane and Louisiana Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl.

You now have less than a week to STUFF YOUR STOCKINGS with cash. Hook up now for BIG, JUICY WINNERS with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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