College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions for Utah vs. USC: How to Bet This Pac-12 Conference Affair
Photo by Will Navarro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Isaiah Mobley
- USC and Utah duel in an all-Pac-12 affair in Southern California.
- The Trojans remain undefeated, while the Utes have one loss to BYU.
- Tanner McGrath has this game covered with a preview and a top selection.
Utah vs. USC Odds
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
Pac-12 conference play starts, aptly, with two lengthy teams. Utah and USC both rank inside the top-20 nationally in average height, as both are filled with trees in the frontcourt rotation.
These two combined to go 11-1 in non-conference play, with USC posting a signature win over SDSU and Utah posting a signature loss against BYU.
While USC has felt like the more stable program over the last few years, these two have gone back-and-forth. The last five meetings have gone USC-Utah-USC-Utah-USC, and the two have split the last 10 meetings.
With this game in SoCal, the Trojans are laying almost eight.
The Utes brought in a new coach and lost essentially their whole roster. Only two rotation players return, as four starters left including their best all-around player.
But, there’s still a high level of continuity for the Utes, which has shown in their play.
Craig Smith made Utah State into a defensive powerhouse, led last season by dominant rim protector Neemias Queta. Not only did he bring that same system with him to Salt Lake, but he also brought two of his main contributors as well.
Rollie Worster and Marco Anthony are both solid, physical perimeter defenders. With those two in the starting lineup, it makes Smith’s job of communicating the system to his roster that much easier.
Moreover, Smith has a 7-footer inside who can somewhat replicate Queta’s role. Branden Carlson returns to Utah for his sophomore season after ranking top-50 nationally in block rate (7.9%).
With those three guys leading the way, Smith is seeing instant success with Utah. Through six games, the Utes are 14th in defensive eFG% (41.7%) while blocking over 10% of opponent shots.
With Worster and Anthony on the perimeter, the Utes are allowing just .718 PPP in spot-up situations, top-30 nationally. Smith’s perimeter defense is also preventing deep shots, as Utah has the 11th-lowest opponent 3PA/FGA, at 27.7%.
So, opponents try and drive to the interior. 43.8% of Utah’s allowed shots come at the rim, which is 20th nationally. But Carlson is there to prevent any success, as Utah is ninth in opposing FG% at the rim, at 46.2%.
Branden Carlson is playing with a physicality we almost never saw under the previous staff.
— Josh Newman (@Joshua_Newman) November 28, 2021
All-in-all, Smith’s system leads to a variety of unsuccessful and inefficient shots. That’s being reflected by the team’s performance so far.
After years of underperforming with Andy Enfield at the helm, Evan Mobley led the Trojans to the promised land. He dominated on both ends of the Pac-12 floor, leading USC to an Elite Eight appearance.
This season, it’ll be up to little bro Isaiah Mobley to do the same.
So far, he’s lived up to that. He hasn’t been uber-efficient as the Trojans’ highest usage player, but he’s dropping 12 points per game, handles the ball well and can shoot it. Perhaps more importantly, he’s been particularly stout rebounding (9.2 per game) and defending (.614 PPP allowed in half-court sets).
Highlights: Isaiah Mobley 18 points 12 rebounds vs San Diego State https://t.co/VI8kXAh8Hy
— Andrèu (@MAKETHEHILLS) November 28, 2021
Offensively, Memphis transfer Boogie Ellis has picked up the slack from an efficiency standpoint. He’s averaging over 14 points per game on 60% from 2-point range and 40% from 3-point range. And as the main ball-handler, he leads a team that’s seventh nationally in turnover rate (12.6%).
Moreover, Ellis has stepped into Enfield’s heavy pick-and-roll offense and orchestrated it masterfully. He’s posting .964 PPP as the pick-and-roll handler, which ranks in the 81st percentile.
Defensively, the Trojans have been lights out. While Evan Mobley is gone, there’s plenty of returning production and enough height to force bad shots and rebound effectively. Through six games, the Trojans are fourth in defensive eFG% (39%) and seventh in adjusted defensive efficiency (89.3).
The big issue will be shooting. With Tahj Eaddy gone, there’s a severe shortage of reliable shooters on the roster. In response, Enfield is going to lean heavily on Ellis to create and guys like returning senior Chevez Goodwin to score off of him.
So far, that’s worked. Ellis is great in the pick-and-roll, as mentioned, and Goodwin is scoring over 1.45 PPP in cutting situations. Meanwhile, the Trojans are taking only 27% of their shots from deep (22nd-fewest nationally) while scoring over 63% of their points from the interior (sixth-highest nationally).
But is that sustainable? Could coaches like Utah’s Smith pack it in and force USC to play left-handed?
Utah vs. USC Betting Pick
Yes, I believe Smith and the Utes can do exactly just that.
USC wants to work the ball inside primarily through Ellis, but that’s what Utah wants as well. The Utes will allow Ellis to run the pick-and-roll, cut-offense on the interior but then pop the Trojans at the rim or point of attack. That point becomes more robust considering Mobley’s early-season efficiency issues.
But while Utah has covered in six of the last seven meetings, I’m not arguing to bet Utah here. The Utes don’t have the offensive firepower to score on the Trojan defense.
Instead, I’m looking at the under, which has already taken sharp money and pushed the number down from the opening of 137.5.
Considering the matchup, points in the half-court will be at a premium. Moreover, neither team will want to run, with Utah ranking in the sixth percentile in transition PPP (.806) and USC ranking in the 34th (.957).
I’ll play the under down to the KenPom predicted total of 136.