USC and Providence will meet for a second straight year. Will USC be able to atone for last year’s heartbreaking 1-point loss to Providence? Find out here.
First Four, East Region
Wednesday, March 15th - 9:10 pm E.T
A pair of #11 seeds will clash on Wednesday when Providence (20-12) takes on USC (24-9) in a NCAA Tournament East Region game. The winner of this contest will go on to face #6 seed SMU on Friday at 3:10 PM ET in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At this present time (3/13), NCAA March Madness betting odds indicates that USC is anywhere from a 1.0 to 3.0-point favorite, and there's a posted total 140.0.
Trojans Unscathed Non-Conference Record
USC was a perfect 13-0 this season in non-conference games. Included in that past unbeaten streak was quality wins over SMU (30-4) and BYU (22-11). They also defeated Troy who is the #15 seed in this very same East Region March Madness bracket. The Trojans finished a very respectable 5th in a very strong PAC-12. USC gave the South Region #3 seed UCLA all they can handle in their conference tournament quarterfinal game before coming up short 76-74.
Friars Strong Regular Season Finish Secured NCAA Tourney Bid
The Providence Friars (20-12) chances of being included in one the March Madness brackets looked very slim when their record stood at 14-11. However, they proceed to win its last 6 regular season games. Based on the Friars Big East Tournament quarterfinal 70-58 loss to Creighton, the committee obviously felt they'd already done enough and extended them a NCAA Tournament invitation. The Friars most prominent non-conference win came in a 63-60 home triumph over eventual Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament champion Rhode Island. Providence also sustained very bad losses against Boston College (9-23) and DePaul (9-23).
Final Thoughts and Pick
Providence head coach Ed Cooley has done a great job in leading his team back to the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year. It was expected to be somewhat of a down year for Providence. After all, the Friars lost last season's star players Kris Dunn (16.4 PPG/6.2 APG) and Ben Bentil (21.1 PPG/7.7 RPG) to the NBA.
Ironically, it was Providence that eliminated USC in last year's NCAA Tournament during the ‘Round of 64”. It was a gut-wrenching 70-69 loss to Providence, and I'm sure that defeat will provide added motivation for a USC team that returned 3 starters from a season ago. I'm siding with the team playing with tournament revenge for one of my March Madness predictions.