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Thursday Late Tips

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Conference play in college hoops is picking up in the second week of January with teams playing their second and third games. A handful of teams in the Pac-12 played their rival this past weekend, while the other eight schools got two opportunities on the court. UCLA pulled off a sweep of the Bay Area schools, as the Bruins travel to Utah for a battle with the Utes. All eyes in the conference will be on Eugene as Arizona attempts to stay unbeaten against an underrated Oregon squad.

Arizona at Oregon - 9:05 PM EST

The third-ranked Wildcats have escaped in each of their last three games, squeezing out victories over San Diego State, Colorado, and Utah to improve to 14-0 on the season. Arizona makes the trek through the Beaver State over the next three days, although it doesn't face Oregon State until Saturday. The first leg of the trip takes Sean Miller's squad to Oregon, as the Ducks own a perfect 10-0 record at Matthew Knight Arena.

Arizona could easily be 1-1 or even 0-2 in Pac-12 play, as the Wildcats needed a late rally to force overtime against Colorado last Thursday. The Buffaloes believed they were robbed on a potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer, as officials reversed the call, thus allowing Arizona to win in overtime, 92-83. The Cats failed to cover as 12 ½-point favorites, then couldn't cash as 19 ½-point 'chalk' two days late against Utah in a 60-57 victory. Arizona shot just 36% from the floor, but led the entire game until the Utes made it interesting late.

Oregon took care of rival Oregon State in Corvallis on Sunday night, 79-66 as 1 ½-point favorites. The Ducks trailed by six at the half, but Dana Altman's club outscored the Beavers, 51-32 in the second half. Last season, Oregon won seven of nine Pac-12 home contests, while covering six times. The Wildcats didn't visit Eugene last season due to conference expansion, but Oregon did upset Arizona as 8 ½-point road underdogs, 59-57 last January.

UCLA at Utah - 9:35 PM EST

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The Bruins are rolling right now with seven consecutive victories, while knocking off Cal and Stanford to open Pac-12 play at 2-0. UCLA heads to the Mountain Time Zone for a pair of games, starting with a trip to Utah. The Utes cashed in losses at Arizona State and Arizona, improving to 5-0-1 ATS on the road this season.

Utah has put together a 7-2 record at home, but the two losses are to questionable opponents as Sacramento State and Cal-State Northridge shocked the Utes. The only quality home win for the Utes came against Boise State as 5 ½-point 'dogs in early December, as Utah has scored 60 points or less five times this season. Utah covered six of nine conference games last season, even though five of those ATS wins came as double-digit 'dogs.

Ben Howland's Bruins are playing their first true road game of the season, as UCLA failed to cover in four neutral-site contests (2-2 SU). UCLA didn't perform well last season against conference foes on the highway by compiling a 3-6 SU and 4-4-1 ATS record. The Bruins are making their first trip to Salt Lake City, as UCLA dominated Utah last January, 76-49 at Pauley Pavilion.

St. Mary's at Gonzaga - 11:00 PM EST

The late-night chase game comes from Spokane with the top two teams in the West Coast Conference hooking up. The 'Zags picked up two solid road victories to start WCC play at Pepperdine and Santa Clara in high-scoring affairs, while going 5-2 to the 'over' in the last seven lined games. The Gaels enter Thursday's contest on a four-game winning streak, but St. Mary's failed to cover each of the last three victories.

To be fair to Randy Bennett's team, St. Mary's was laying at least 12 points in wins over Yale, Harvard, and Loyola-Marymount. In the home victory over Loyola-Marymount, the Gaels turned a three-point halftime lead into a 13-point triumph, as St. Mary's shot 50% from the floor. St. Mary's took two of three meetings from Gonzaga last season, including an overtime win in the conference championship to secure the automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.

Gonzaga owns a 7-1 SU record at home, but the Bulldogs are 0-3 ATS in their last three lined contests in Spokane. Mark Few's club won all eight WCC home games last season, while their two non-covers came as favorites of least 15 points. The 'under' cashed in 13 of 16 conference games last season, but the first two WCC contests finished 'over' the total.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at rogers@vegasinsider.com

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

  
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