It's been disappointing seasons for both UCLA and USC, but that shouldn't keep the final regular season college basketball odds matchup for each rival from making for good theatre.
There's always a little more heat to the rivalry between the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins when they meet on the gridiron. On the hardwood? Not so much.
That's especially true this year as the Trojans and Bruins prepare to end their regular season slates Wednesday in a 9 PM (ET) contest on ESPN2. The battle comes without much on the line as USC sits last in the Pac-12 standings and UCLA in fourth and on the bubble for March Madness.
The opening NCAA Basketball odds listed UCLA -13 for the clash, that spread staying put in overnight trading.
UCLA Aims At 2nd-Straight Season Sweep In Series
It was pretty easy pickin's for the Bruins when the clubs matched up in mid-January. Favored by 5, UCLA left Galen Center with an 83-66 win, the fourth consecutive win in the series by the Bruins who lead the all-time series, 136-105.
All four wins by UCLA in the stretch have been covers for Bruins backers as well. Steve Alford's troops were led by Norman Powell's 22 points, the coach's son Bryce also chipping in 21 to help push the game 'over' the 143½ mark for the 4th-straight time, and sixth in the last seven meetings.
Last season's matchup at Pauley came in the conference opener for both teams, and was a very easy 107-73 triumph for UCLA as 12½ point chalk. Bryce Alford came off the bench to net 20, one of three Bruins to score 20+ in the mauling.
USC Offense A Sore Subject
Southern Cal (11-18 straight up, 16-13 against the spread) won 11 games in Andy Enfield's first season as head coach, and the Trojans are sitting on 11 dubyas once again as the regular season slate comes to an end. Known for his work with NBA players on their offensive skills, that hasn't helped Enfield much this year with USC near the bottom of the Pac-12 in scoring (65.5 ppg) and shooting (41.0%) in conference games.
The loss of Jordan McLaughlin to a shoulder injury a few weeks back has further stymied the already sluggish offense, and while fellow freshman guard Elijah Stewart has done his best to help pick up that slack, it hasn't been nearly enough.
A couple more injuries could leave Enfield and the Trojans thin for Wednesday's battle against the Bruins. Darion Clark is officially listed as probable with a sore knee, but the sophomore forward definitely won't be 100% for this one, while Strahinja Gavrilovic is doubtful due to a shoulder injury.
Bruins Bounce Back After Rough Road Trip
It wasn't a pleasant road trip through the Grand Canyon State two weeks ago for Alford and UCLA (18-12 SU, 15-15 ATS). The Bruins did manage to cover both losses to Arizona State and Arizona, but that was little condolence for a team that is teetering on the edge of an NCAA basketball tournament invite at No. 52 in both RPI and BPI.
Alford's bunch has since responded with a couple of wins, and the good news is a victory Wednesday would lock up the No. 4 seed for the conference tourney plus the 1sr-round bye that comes with it. The bad news is UCLA will probably have to beat Stanford a third time this year to gain a rematch against Arizona in the semifinals, where the Bruins would need at least a good showing -- if not the outright upset -- to go to the Big Dance.
Laying chalk was not the way to go with my free NCAA basketball picks on Tuesday, but I'm still going to do it again for this battle between conference rivals.
NCAA Basketball Pick: UCLA -13 at Pinnacle Sports
Season: 58-53-2 (-0.30)