USC vs Arizona Odds, Picks: Back Zona to Win By Double Digits
Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images. Pictured: Oumar Ballo (Arizona)
USC vs Arizona Odds
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
The Arizona Wildcats‘ 12-1 start to the season was impressive, and no one denies that. But game after game, many began to notice an issue: their defense is severely lacking.
However, they kept winning games behind the efforts of their offense, which is currently the second-highest-scoring unit in the nation.
Everything was fine as long as their offense continued to show up.
And then it didn’t. They lost on the road at Utah, which is currently ranked 27th in defensive efficiency, per KenPom.
But it was early. That game was on Dec. 1, and they had time to figure out the defense.
Well, we’re now seven games into Pac-12 play, and the Wildcats have lost two of their last three.
The Wildcats lost by double digits to Washington State and Oregon, who rank 75th and 71st in defensive efficiency, respectfully.
Looking to bounce back at home, they now host the Trojans (ranked 44th in defensive efficiency).
Will the Wildcats have more trouble against a solid defense? Or is this finally where they prove they can beat an elite defense?
The biggest news for USC as of late is the arrival of Vince Iwuchukwu, who made his debut against Colorado. Iwuchukwu missed the beginning of the season due to health issues following a cardiac event during the summer.
With that said, his arrival will not immediately change this USC team’s ability or how it plays.
Iwuchukwu played just five minutes against Colorado and six against Utah. I expect him to be on a heavy minutes restriction for the foreseeable future.
More importantly, in his absence, the Trojans have been a team that operates primarily through their guards, namely Boogie Ellis and Drew Peterson.
Iwuchukwu will be a factor on defense when he does play, but I don’t see this offensive scheme changing overnight during a road trip to Arizona.
Teams have been able to take advantage of the Wildcats’ lacking defense, but to do so, you have to be good on offense. USC is averaging just 68.1 points per game and has posted an effective field goal percentage of just 49%.
The Trojans’ slow pace won’t help them any against Arizona, and I question just how effective this offense can be, even against a lacking defense like the Wildcats’.
After trashing the Wildcats’ inability to beat any team that plays functional defense, I feel obligated to point out they did beat Tennessee, the No. 1 team nationally in defensive efficiency.
So, they are capable. They needed 27 free-throw attempts and the Volunteers to shoot below 22% from 3 in the second half, but a win is a win.
Arizona’s offense has taken an absolute nose dive since conference play began.
In non-conference play, the Wildcats averaged 93.3 points per game, while posting an effective field goal percentage of 63.1%.
Since conference play began, those numbers have dropped to 71.6 points and 45.1%, respectively.
This team’s offense will get back on track at some point, but will that happen on Thursday night?
Arizona has to succeed from beyond the perimeter and get to the free-throw line. Against USC, the Wildcats will struggle to get to the paint, much less find success there.
Getting to the line is one of the few things Arizona’s offense has continued to do well in conference play, as it’s averaging 21 free-throw attempts per game. Against a Trojans team that will pressure them and slow the game down as much as possible, this will be the Wildcats’ best chance at scoring consistently.
USC vs Arizona Betting Pick
Arizona has been bad — really bad — but there’s enough talent on this team that it will again find the rhythm it had in non-conference play.
Back at home against USC — a team that has benefited significantly from playing most of its games in L.A. — could be that opportunity. USC’s only valid away wins have come against Cal and Washington, two of the bottom four teams in the Pac-12.
Moreover, this line opened decently lower than where I expected it to be. I was able to grab Arizona as a 7-point favorite, but would feel comfortable backing the Wildcats as high as 10-point favorites in McKale Memorial Center Thursday night.
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