Momentum Favors Providence -1.5 As Our Tournament Pick over USC

Ross Benjamin

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 1:10 PM GMT

Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2016 1:10 PM GMT

Our college basketball handicapping professional breaks down Thursday’s NCAA East Region matchup between #8 seeded USC and #9 Providence. Don’t make a move with reading this article.

#9 Providence (23-10) vs. #8 USC (21-12) 9:50 PM ET
USC has enjoyed a revitalization of their basketball program this season, and they’ve been rewarded with a trip to the NCAA Tournament. After a midseason funk, Providence recaptured the form they displayed during their first twenty-three games, and enters “The Big Dance” with plenty of confidence. Current NCAA Tournament odds have the lower seeded Friars as a 1.5 point favorite, and the posted total is 149.5. The winner of this contest will in all likelihood face top seeded North Carolina on Saturday.

 

Back in the Saddle
Providence was 18-5 and nationally ranked in early February, and then went on a five game swoon that saw them go 1-4. They rebounded nicely to win four of its last five games, and reached the Big East Conference Semifinals where they were eliminated by #3 ranked Villanova. The Friars possess two marquee players in 6’4 senior point guard Kris Dunn (16.0 PPG/6.4 APG/5.5 RPG) and 6’9 sophomore forward Ben Bentil (21.2 PPG/7.8 RPG). Both of those guys are capable of carrying their team on its back, and when each is on their game simultaneously it makes Providence a very tough team to beat.

 

Stumbling, Fumbling, and Bumbling
USC rushed out to an outstanding 15-3 start to the season, but has gone an uninspiring 6-9 since. Even more concerning was a 2-7 record in their previous nine games. That certainly doesn’t lend itself to entering the NCAA Tournament with a high degree of confidence. On a positive note, USC is a more balanced team than Providence, and has six players that average 9.8 points or more per game. Much of their late season struggles have been a result of somewhat shoddy play on the defensive end. The Trojans have allowed 76.8 points per game during its last five contests while opponents shot 46.6%, and also converted on 37.6% of their three point attempts.

 

Final Analysis
Providence faced one PAC-12 team earlier this season, and defeated #15 ranked Arizona on a neutral floor. Conversely, USC played one Big East team in late November, and sustained an 87-77 neutral site loss at the hands of #5 Xavier. We have a lower seeded team in Providence who’s the favorite in this matchup and rightfully so. The Friars are playing far better than USC over the past few weeks, and I’m going to ride that momentum for one of my NCAA Tournament picks.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Providence -1.5 
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

 

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