Vermont vs. USC Odds, Picks: Why to Target the Total
Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images. Pictured: Andy Enfield (USC)
Vermont vs. USC Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
After winning the season-opener over Brown, Vermont has dropped two straight on its three-game road trip, including a double-overtime game against Cal State Fullerton as 6.5-point favorites.
John Becker’s Catamounts haven’t started a season 1-3 since 2014, but they’re likely to this season. This team has a lot of gelling to do.
However, the Trojans also have plenty of work to do. USC lost to Florida Gulf Coast in its season opener by double digits, showing inexperience on the interior.
The Trojans are double-digit home favorites against Vermont Tuesday night. Do they take care of business? Or is another upset brewing?
Vermont has a frontcourt issue.
Becker has had a dominant frontcourt presence for six years straight. But with Anthony Lamb and Ryan Davis playing professional ball, the Cats are making an identity change.
Becker is now working with a four-guard lineup, and 6-foot-8 Nick Fiorillo is in the big-man role.
As a result, things are clunky on both ends of the floor.
Defensively, opponents are getting to the rim at a top-70 rate (54.1%). When opponents aren’t making their rim shots, they’re getting fouled, as Vermont gifted Cal State Fullerton 42 free throws.
Photo by CBB Analytics
Things have been half-decent offensively, but it’s clear Becker is ironing out kinks.
How does Vermont use Dylan Penn? The Bellarmine transfer guard is one of the best paint-scoring guards in the country, but his style runs at odds with Vermont’s perimeter-oriented, slow-and-steady offensive rhythm.
Generally, Finn Sullivan and Robin Duncan have initiated Vermont’s normal half-court offense, with Aaron Deloney shouldering the scoring load (18 PPG).
However, Sullivan fouled out with two minutes left in the Fullerton game — attesting to Vermont’s foul issues — and the offense ran through Penn. Penn was brilliant, attacking the rim and pouring in 27 points, including this game-tying shot.
OT in Fullerton ! @mid_madness
Bellarmine transfer Dylan Penn goes coast to coast to and ties it up w the left…
these two look so similar on paper and look what we got… OT! now i’m nervous for my CSF +4.5 ticket pic.twitter.com/4S95CbxH75
— Matt Gannon (@matt_gannon_) November 14, 2022
But the Vermont offense hasn’t clicked around Penn. He now has seven assists to 11 turnovers through his first three games, as the on-ball screens and off-ball movement has stalled around him.
As mentioned, Vermont still lost the game against Fullerton.
Becker spoke about the growing pains with Penn, and it’s clear this is all a work in progress. I’m reserving hope for better days, but things look awkward with Penn running the show.
After UVM hoops lost last night to St. Mary's, here was head coach John Becker talking about the acclimation of Dylan Penn into the offense.
— Brady Farkas (@WDEVRadioBrady) November 11, 2022
Meanwhile, the rebounding has been horrendous on both ends, again speaking to a frontcourt issue. The Cats got out-rebounded 79-51 over the last two games and rank 350th nationally in offensive rebounding rate.
Bad rebounding is very uncharacteristic of a Becker-led squad. Although, everything about this team looks uncharacteristic.
A Burlington, Vermont team should struggle on an early-season West Coast road trip, especially when the team turned over the roster. So, let’s try and stem our overreactions.
Funny enough, USC also has a frontcourt issue.
Andy Enfield decided against engaging in the Transfer Portal Wars, instead hitting the recruiting trail to replace his frontcourt weapons.
Enfield pulled out the conference’s top-rated recruiting class, headlined by five-star center Vince Iwuchukwu and four-star forwards Kijani Wright and Tre White.
There are obvious issues with replacing five-year program guys (Mobley brothers, Onyeka Okongwu) immediately with freshmen, especially when you’re relying on two for big minutes.
Those issues get exacerbated by health problems. Iwuchukwu collapsed during an informal team workout in July, suffering sudden cardiac arrest. He was hospitalized for a few days.
Thankfully, Iwuchukwu should recover fully, which is more important than basketball.
But Iwuchukwu’s absence has been felt on the court. Joshua Morgan has played very well in the starting center position, holding the nation’s sixth-highest block rate and anchoring a defense holding opponents to under 40% from 2-point range.
However, Morgan played just 12 minutes per game last season in a reserve role and is maybe not ready to handle the entire interior load. It’s a small sample size, but this trend is concerning:
Photo by CBB Analytics
Bad rebounding is how you drop a home game to Florida Gulf Coast. USC allowed 16 offensive rebounds and got out-rebounded on the defensive end 30-28.
Florida Gulf Coast scored 1.286 points per possession on put backs in the game. The Trojans can’t have that.
However, it does look like the backcourt will live up to expectations. Like Becker, Enfield is also transitioning from a forward-oriented team to a guard-oriented one.
Drew Peterson and Boogie Ellis are combining to average 31 points, 11 rebounds and 9.5 assists per game through 80 minutes of basketball. Peterson boasts a 70% effective field goal percentage, while Ellis has a 121.5 ORtg.
Behind those two, USC is top-30 nationally in assist rate — although the turnovers are a little too plentiful to start the season (21.6% rate, 253rd nationally).
Vermont vs. USC Betting Pick
The line opened at USC -11.5 but steamed down to 10.5 across the market. Moreover, the total opened at 138 but steamed slightly up to 138.5.
Initially, I leaned towards Vermont and the over, so the sharp money confirmed my suspicions.
However, I have doubts.
It’s tough because these teams match up so well together. Both are backcourt-heavy with frontcourt issues, and both are struggling to adapt to their new identities.
USC has a distinct advantage in length, but I think the Trojans might still struggle to rebound.
Additionally, Vermont’s fouling issue might be neutralized because Enfield’s Trojans haven’t ranked inside the top 300 in free-throw shooting since 2018.
USC will try and get out in transition, which it’s doing at a top-50 rate this season and did at a top-100 rate last season.
But Vermont has one of the best transition defenses in basketball, ranking in the 91st percentile in transition PPP allowed this season (.613) after leading the nation in that stat last year (.792).
Meanwhile, Vermont will try and set up its perimeter-oriented, ball-screen offense. But the Trojans are an above-average defense against most types of ball-screen plays (pick-and-roll, off-screen, cutting, handoffs).
So, I am actually leaning under in this game.
The worry is that both teams score at the rim and produce easy points on put backs.
But Vermont has been surprisingly solid in defending shots at the rim (54.8 FG% allowed, slightly above average) and has been horrendous at snagging offensive boards (12.2 OR%, 355th nationally).
Meanwhile, USC has been near-impossible to score on at the rim, even if it’s letting guys get there.
Photo by CBB Analytics
I don’t see the market moving on the total.
If anything, the number should move up. But for what it’s worth, I feel comfortable playing this at 136 or better.
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