USC vs. Arizona Odds & Picks: Your Betting Guide for Saturday’s Pac-12 College Basketball Showdown
Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Kerr Kriisa (Arizona)
- The USC Trojans host the Arizona Wildcats in what should be an exciting Pac-12 hoops showdown on Saturday afternoon.
- The Wildcats have national title hopes, but the Trojans are one of the few teams that can keep up with them in the conference.
- Check out Jim Root's full betting breakdown for this game below.
USC vs. Arizona Odds
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
The symmetry of the Pac-12 schedule always pleases me (well, in a non-COVID world, at least). Every school has a natural travel partner, swapping foes on the same weekend.
In this case, USC just played at Arizona State on Thursday, barely scraping out a physical bloodbath with the Sun Devils. Arizona, meanwhile, exacted revenge on UCLA, getting up big and then maintaining that lead despite a few runs from the Bruins.
The Trojans sport a gaudy record, but they have quietly fallen from a lofty ranking of ninth at KenPom to 29th. They have beaten one team (San Diego State) that currently projects to make the NCAA Tournament, via bracketmatrix.com.
The Wildcats are feeling much better, as they are in the hunt for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, their own limited number of top-end wins are currently holding them back compared to candidates like Kansas and Purdue.
Both teams need quality wins because, quite simply, the Pac-12 schedule does not offer many. That makes Saturday evening’s clash vital.
USC’s key differentiating characteristic is its immense size at nearly every position. The starting lineup goes 6-foot-1, 6-foot-9, 6-foot-9, 6-foot-9, 6-foot-10. Few teams can withstand that kind of length.
This edge plays up in multiple ways. Offensively, the Trojans assault the paint with reckless abandon, feeding the post hoping to get to the charity stripe. They also bombard the offensive boards; they’re always up for a game of “volleyball on the glass.”
On the other end of the court, the immense size swallows up opposing shots. USC ranks fourth in the entire country in 2P% allowed. The Trojans make it nearly impossible to get easy baskets, so you must hit jumpers to loosen their defense if you want to compete.
That size does have its drawbacks.
If you can neutralize USC in the paint (like Stanford did twice), the offense really suffers. And on the other end, quicker players can get by the Trojans’ bigger wings, forcing rotations.
The emergence of Arizona into a true Final Four contender has been well-documented. A talented roster left behind by Sean Miller has been optimized by Tommy Lloyd’s high-octane pace.
Bennedict Mathurin is a terror on the wing, an uber-athlete and lottery prospect with a smooth jump shot to boot. Plus, Azuolas Tubelis and Christian Koloko have both evolved into stars.
The potent offensive is paired with a dynamite defense that is somehow even better than USC inside the arc.
Arizona leads the country in 2P% defense, forcing mid-range jumpers once foes get sick of getting swatted by Koloko and the fast-emerging Oumar Ballo.
Oh, and the Wildcats rank eighth in offensive 2P%. They get easy buckets and their opponents do not. That’s a devastating combo.
Against UCLA on Thursday night, Lloyd played the Koloko/Ballo pairing together for extended minutes, including in crunch time.
Koloko’s ability to switch and guard on the perimeter makes it nearly unfair. Plus, even if quicker foes get by him, the gargantuan Ballo is waiting at the rim.
That jumbo lineup should come in handy against USC’s size, and the duo has utterly eviscerated foes so far this year:
The Wildcats have the size to compete with the Trojans — a worrisome sign for USC.
USC vs. Arizona Betting Pick
Opening lines have Arizona favored by 11, which is certainly a steep price to lay against a ranked team. Crucially, though, Arizona has the size and interior fortitude to take away USC’s strength.
The key matchup could be at point guard, where Arizona’s Kerr Kriisa and USC’s Boogie Ellis are both pivotal pieces to their respective offenses. Both are relied on to hit big shots, particularly late in the shot clock. If either has an extraordinarily great (or bad) game, it could swing this one.
I have more faith in Kriisa at home, and his swagger forms a symbiotic relationship with the McKale Center crowd.
I would not venture too far north of -11, but I think this is Arizona’s game. It felt like the young Wildcats got a monkey off their back against a veteran UCLA squad. They should be able to play free and aggressive against the somewhat-ailing Trojans.