It’s the rematch of one of the best color matchups in basketball as USC looks to get their revenge on their own home court against the UCLA Bruins. UCLA collapsed in their previous matchup against the Trojans, blowing a large first half lead that led to them narrowly beating USC by two. Their second half collapse came from a strong shooting regression with USC being able to capitalize with their size in transition. Can UCLA take care of business this time out or will USC get their revenge?
UCLA Vs. USC Odds
Oddsmakers believe UCLA wins the second round as well, opening them as a -4.5 favorite on the road. Bettors are in agreement as well, backing the Bruins up to -5 in some shops as of writing. This is a stark contrast to the last time they battled it out as USC was a double-digit underdog. After an impressive showing, they are rewarded with a spread near cut in half on their own home court. Hint towards my bet, this is a major overreaction in my opinion.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a moderate pace as oddsmakers opened the total at 130.5. Bettors believe the scoring will be slightly limited per early expectations, backing the under down to as low as 129. This comes as a slight surprise as USC was able to mount a second half comeback based on consistent scoring success, yet some of the blame was a lackadaisical UCLA second half effort while they just sat on a massive lead.
UCLA Vs. USC Prediction & Pick
The Pick: UCLA -4.5
As I previously hinted at, this is a UCLA smash spot as I believe the market has grossly overreacted. This was a matchup where they were -12.5 favorites, now sitting at less than half the difference while on the road. That is an incredible turnaround with the only impressive tape that USC gave us in that matchup was a second have scoring streak. That is not much to go off of as UCLA tried to sit on a lead and USC took advantage.
UCLA will be hard pressed to repeat the same lackadaisical effort against their rival while in a hectic environment on the road. UCLA played their style in the first half and will be poised to continue their efficient style of offense once again. They currently rank 21st in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency per Kenpom with a frustrating offensive scheme that revolves around cuts to the middle and stop and shots for a clean mid range look.
I initially believed that they would struggle against the USC defense with this style of play as the Trojans excel at smothering opposing jump shots for an elite two point defensive percentage ranking. That was proven to be untrue for a majority of the game as UCLA could counteract it with elite facilitation and hit their shooters in the openings that they created by constantly shifting the USC defense.
One area for concern with this Bruins squad has been their lack of free throw shooting, shooting a lowly 71.6% from the charity stripe. They already have a disadvantage in the paint with a size mismatch in USC’s favor, forcing UCLA to shoot over the top of them instead of taking them on at the rim. This helps negate the chances of wasting possessions at the free throw line but can also lead to lower quality looks if USC is capable of stretching out to them.
UCLA Vs. USC Key Matchups
Can UCLA create Havoc in the middle and limit USC’s interior scoring?
USC interior scoring production vs UCLA interior defense
USC’s offense revolves around their ability to find interior scoring as they lack any sort of perimeter presence. This is a cause for concern against an undersized UCLA squad, but their ability to create Havoc counteracts it.
UCLA swarms to the ball, punishing opposing players who put the ball on the floor when creating offense in the middle. This can also possibly create foul situations, but like the Bruins the Trojans are also a poor free throw shooting team as well.
UCLA’s style of play gives them ample opportunities to turn defense into offense, creating Havoc and turning it into fast break points for clean looks at the rim.
Take UCLA at no higher than -5.5 as the market has overreacted to their second half collapse in their last game out. UCLA should have little issue finding their open shot while disrupting USC’s offensive flow.