2021 NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks, Predictions: USC vs. Drake (Saturday, March 20)
Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: USC forward Evan Mobley
- The latest USC vs. Drake odds list the Trojans as a 6.5-point favorite in the 2021 NCAA Tournament Round of 64 on Saturday.
- Drake escaped its play-in game on Thursday, and the Pac-12 has looked terrific so far in March Madness.
- Get our staff's full analysis and USC vs. Drake pick below.
USC vs. Drake Odds
|Moneyline||-265 / +215|
|Time||Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET|
USC gets a fantastic first-round matchup against an undersized Drake squad. The Bulldogs barely survived against Wichita State in Thursday’s First Four meeting after a furious second-half comeback to win 53-52. However, now they’ll be going up against one the best big men in the country in 7-foot freshman Evan Mobley.
USC lost a 72-70 heartbreaker to Colorado in the PAC-12 Tournament semifinal after the Buffaloes pulled off the second-half comeback. The Trojans are one of the most balanced teams in the country, ranking inside the top 30 both offensive and defensive efficiency. They are also the tallest team in the country, so they’ll have a big advantage over Drake, which ranks 291st in average height.
Drake’s dream campaign continues on for another game, but this season was not without its challenges for the Bulldogs. They had a three-week COVID-19 pause in the middle of the season after starting 13-0, then they lost their leading scorer ShanQuan Hemphill to a broken foot for a month. And, to make matters worse, they lost their third-leading scorer Roman Penn for the rest of the season.
Through all of that, though, Drake made it to the first round and has a shot to upset one of the most talented teams in the country. But the Bulldogs will need a better offensive performance than in the First Four if they’re going to upset the Trojans.
Shane McNichol: The Trojans are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017, and with their highest seed since 2008.
USC is led by freshman phenom and NBA prospect Evan Mobley, who was named PAC-12 Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. He’s the just the second power conference player to sweep that trio of awards, matching Lakers star Anthony Davis’ work in his one and only year at Kentucky.
Mobley is worth every bit of hype he receives, averaging 16.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. When he plays aggressively, he’s the most complete big man in college basketball. His biggest issue this season has been sticking to that aggressiveness. At times, Mobley is passive and lets the offense operate elsewhere — that was never more apparent than an early January game against Utah in which Mobley played 31 minutes without attempting a shot from the field.
When Mobley fades from the spotlight, USC’s guards are tasked with creating offense. Tahj Eddy and Drew Peterson are capable of doing so against the right matchups, but with quicker or stronger defenders on them, the Trojan guards can be bogged down and struggle to initiate effective offense. Luckily for USC, even a bad shot isn’t the worst news. With Evan Mobley and his 6-foot-10 brother Isaiah Mobley in the paint, the Trojans are a top 10 offensive rebounding team in the nation.
Defensively, the Trojans use the length of the Mobley brothers to control the paint. USC allows the second-lowest shooting percentage inside the arc and led the PAC-12 in block rate. USC’s guards play tight on the perimeter, knowing they have two capable shot blockers protecting the rim behind them.
BJ Cunningham: Drake had a terrible offensive performance against Wichita State in the First Four that was uncharacteristic of the Bulldogs this season.
Drake put up only 0.85 points per possession and shot under 40% from inside the arc. ShanQuan Hemphill made his return after suffering a broken foot back on Feb. 10 but only logged 10 minutes. Drake is going to need him to play substantial minutes in the first round because he’s it’s leading scorer at 14.1 points per game.
The Bulldogs can beat teams from all over the court offensively, as they rank inside the top 20 in offensive efficiency, per KenPom. They do most of their scoring inside, as they attempt 3-pointers on only 31.3% of their shot attempts. They are effective scoring inside at 54% and 65.5% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math.
However, they are going to have to shoot more 3s than they are accustomed to because trying to score inside on USC is a death sentence given the Trojans’ size.
The Bulldogs did shoot over 36% from deep against Wichita, so they’ll need a similar percentage if they are going to beat the Trojans.
Defense is going to be a problem for the Bulldogs, who are going to be seriously outmatched height-wise.
Drake ranks 294th in average in height, and it’ll be going up against the tallest team in the country in USC. A good barometer for what Drake is about to see is its three matchups against Loyola Chicago this season. In two of those three matchups, it really struggled defending Cameron Krutwig and the Ramblers inside, as they shot over 59% from 2-point range in two of the three games.
So, Drake will have a difficult time defending Evan Mobley and company down low.
Matchup & Betting Analysis
BJ Cunningham: This is a really difficult matchup for Drake. The Bulldogs just don’t have the size to match-up with Mobley and USC’s frontcourt. The Trojans play a 2-3 zone that doesn’t allow anybody to score in the paint, which is going to be a problem for Drake, since that’s where more than 68% of their field goal attempts come from.
Additionally, when Drake saw a 2-3 zone against Illinois State earlier this season, the Bulldogs shot 4-of-30 from 3-point range.
An elite front court like Loyola Chicago was able to penetrate Drake’s interior defense at will in their three meetings this season, so I have a hard time seeing how the Bulldogs are going to stop the Trojans’ frontcourt from getting whatever they want inside. The key for Drake is how many minutes they can get from Hemphill. He played only 10 minutes on Thursday, and if isn’t able to give them significant minutes, Drake’s season is going to be over.
I have USC projected as slightly better than a 7.5-point favorite against Drake, so there’s value on the Trojans at -6 or better.
Pick: USC -6 or better.