USC vs. UCLA College Basketball Odds, Pick, Prediction (Saturday, March 5)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images. Pictured: Tyger Campbell.
- UCLA hosts USC in the Pac-12 battle of L.A.
- The Bruins and Trojans have both won six of their last seven games.
- Stuckey breaks down where the value lies in this matchup.
USC vs. UCLA Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
The winner of this battle of Los Angeles will get the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, while the loser will slide into the third seed.
While that’s not a major deal from a seeding perspective, there’s still a lot on the line in this rivalry, starting with bragging rights.
There’s already been some chirping by both sides ahead of this rematch after USC took the first meeting at the Galen Center. The Trojans pulled that one off despite not having the services of star big man Isaiah Mobley and getting zero points from guard Boogie Ellis.
So, how did they do it? Drew Peterson. The Rice transfer went absolutely ballistic. He finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and five blocks. Have a day.
That USC victory also improved Andy Enfield’s record at USC to a perfect 5-0 against Mick Cronin. Can his squad pull off another upset and improve that head-to-head record to 6-0? Let’s take a look.
USC sits at 25-5 on the year and comfortably in the tournament field as a projected No. 6 seed, per Bracket Matrix. Although, the Trojans have been a bit fortunate, ranking 34th in KenPom’s luck metric and having five fewer projected wins, per ShotQuality.
The interior defense is rock solid, and it does a nice job of limiting quality 3-point looks. However, it simply doesn’t force opponents into mistakes, ranking 334th in that category.
On the offensive end, the Trojans rely on a high frequency of midrange jumpers, which weighs down their efficiency. Their best path to offense, however, comes on misses. USC is an elite offensive rebounding team, ranking second nationally in OR%.
I also should mention USC is downright lousy at the line. On the season, it’s shooting just 66.7% from the charity stripe, which ranks 330th in the country. That could ultimately prove fatal late in a close tourney game.
Last year’s Final Four darlings got four much-needed days of rest after playing six games in 12 days in a condensed portion of their schedule that followed the USC loss.
The Bruins won five of those six games, but they’ve been dealing with nagging injuries, so any time off serves them well.
Speaking of which, it’s unknown if Johnny Juzang will play. He’s missed the past two games with an injury, and head coach Mick Cronin said he’s 50-50 to suit up earlier this week. Juzang is UCLA’s best all-around offensive player, so it’s something worth monitoring.
As you might imagine, UCLA profiles very similar to last year’s team with many of the same pieces still around. It lives in the midrange and excels in that area as well as any team. The anti-analytics Bruins get it done despite ranking outside the top 300 in frequency of shots at the rim and 3-point rate.
UCLA simply doesn’t turn the ball over with Tyger Campbell at the helm. He’s also really improved his outside shot this year, which has been a nice bonus for the offense.
The Bruins are also very strong on the offensive glass.
On the other side of the ball, UCLA excels at protecting the rim and just does a solid job across the board. It can be a bit vulnerable at times on the perimeter, but it’s not a glaring weakness anymore. There’s a reason the Bruins rank 12th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.
USC vs. UCLA Betting Pick
UCLA closed -5.5 “at” USC in the first game with a full roster and no Mobley for the Trojans. With Mobley back and Juzang’s status uncertain, the line is now UCLA -8.
While there’s no travel, this should be a packed house of raucous UCLA fans, so the home-court advantage will certainly be there.
The line feels pretty spot on if Juzang can’t go, but I actually have a hunch he’ll suit up — albeit with uncertain minutes and effectiveness. If he was a full go, I’d certainly lean Bruins at -8 or under, but this is a pass for me on the side.
I actually like the under here a bit at 136 or higher. When these two teams met earlier this year, 131 points were scored. Last year, they played to 127 and 114 — although the USC defense was superior to this year’s version with Evan Mobley in the fold.
Still, both teams do a good job of taking care of the ball, and neither wants to play fast. UCLA will have some success in transition where USC can be a bit vulnerable on defense, but there likely won’t be a ton of opportunities.
Both defenses can also compete on the glass against two elite offensive rebounding teams, which should somewhat limit the second-chance opportunities.
There’s also the familiarity factor of already having played. Plus, both teams do a good job defending the midrange, where each offense likes to live. A low frequency of 3-point attempts doesn’t hurt, either.
Based on all of the chatter for this one, I expect the defensive intensity to be turned up from the jump. Unless Peterson turns in another superhuman performance, I think the USC offense will get bottled up.
The Trojans defense will keep them in it, but I think the Bruins eventually pull away in the second half for a game that ends somewhere in the ballpark of 70-60.