College Basketball Odds, Pick & Preview for UC Irvine vs. USC (Wednesday, Dec. 15)
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
- USC hosts UC Irvine in what is expected to be a hard-nosed defensive battle out West.
- The Trojans are one of the last undefeated teams in basketball at 10-0.
- D.J. James explains why the value in this game lies in the total.
UC Irvine vs. USC Odds
|UC Irvine Odds|
-108o / -113u
-108o / -113u
In one of Wednesday’s most interesting matchups between two top-60 defenses, USC will host UC Irvine.
UCI has been all over the place this season. The Anteaters have wins over Boise State and Santa Clara, but have losses to Fresno State and New Mexico State.
Meanwhile, USC is the most dominant team on the West Coast not named Gonzaga. The Trojans are one of the remaining undefeated teams in college basketball, with resume-building wins over Utah, San Diego State, Temple and Washington State.
Still, this line is a bit steep to side with the Trojans, and since both of these teams like to slow down the ball, this should signal a look at the total.
Irvine has itself arguably the best defense in the Big West. The Anteaters rank sixth in opponent effective field goal percentage, per KenPom, and hold opponent offensive rebounds to a 21.6% clip.
Overall, they average over 42 rebounds per game, paired with 8.3 steals and 3.1 blocks (primarily from Austin Johnson). They have the defensive means to defend almost every type of player on the court.
This does not translate to offensive success. In fact, they are 295th in effective field goal percentage and only hit 39.9% of their shots inside the arc.
They are heavily reliant on the 3-pointer and even though they hit long range shots at almost 40%, this is volatile.
For instance, they shot 4-for-21 against New Mexico State and only scored 51 points. They shot 6-for-17 against Fresno State, and even though Fresno is one of the worst teams in the NCAA at defending outside shots, they still only managed to score 55 points.
Since USC is so elite on the defensive side, it is hard to envision a strong offensive outcome for the Anteaters.
Finally, UCI turns the ball over more than most teams (19.1% of the time). This is cause for concern, as USC’s one liability is how unlikely it is to turn other teams over. If the Anteaters are giving the ball away and not hitting 3s, they could very well only put up 50 points, again.
The Trojans are a top-10 ball club for a reason. Per KenPom, they own a top-25 offense and a top-15 defense. This should help them in this matchup with UCI.
USC plays at the 242nd-slowest tempo in all of college basketball. The Trojans force their rivals to utilize much of their shot clock (17.7 seconds on average), so this could make the Anteaters hoist a 3 at the last second just to get a shot opportunity.
Given how Irvine cannot hit shots inside the arc, this is their only option on offense.
USC does not turn the ball over like UCI does, but it does struggle immensely from the free throw line. The Trojans only hit 57.6% of their free shots from the strike, so this is yet another edge to play the under.
USC’s main offensive advantage over most teams is registering buckets inside the arc. The Trojans do not shoot many 3s at all (322nd in 3-point attempt percentage), so seeing how UCI ranks 12th in defending two-pointers, they will not be as successful as they have been all year.
UC Irvine vs. USC Betting Pick
Both USC and UC Irvine are very slow and have elite defenses. UCI cannot make inside shots and its 3-point shooting can be a bit erratic. USC cannot make free throws or shoot 3s, so it will be limited, as well.
Take the under in this game at 129.5 and play it to 126.5. Scoring will be at a premium all game, and it will take both squads to find a rhythm — if they do at all.