NCAA Basketball Picks: USC Will Cover vs. Utah & Stay Unbeaten At Home

Matthew Jordan

Saturday, February 20, 2016 8:12 PM GMT

Utah and Southern Cal are both safely in the NCAA Tournament field but both still have eyes on the Pac-12 regular-season title. Who will make it to our NCAA basketball picks?

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NCAA Basketball Pick: USC -4
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline

 

Utes Looking For 4th Straight Win
Utah (20-7, 9-5) is one game out of the lead in the Pac-12. Should the Utes win this game, they might be in good shape to at least share the title because Utah's final three games are at home, where it has lost only once this season. The Utes host Arizona State (Thursday), No. 12 and first-place Arizona (next Saturday) and Colorado (March 5) to close the regular season. Utah is currently projected as a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament, as we get closer to March Madness.

On the road, Utah is just 6-5 but does come off a 75-73 victory at UCLA on Thursday, the Utes' third straight win. They did nearly blow a 14-point second half lead, however, and were still up 10 with about four minutes left.

Jordan Loveridge and Jakob Poeltl led the Utes with 17 and 15 points, respectively. Poeltl added 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season. Los Angeles native Brandon Taylor had 12 points, including a key 3-pointer with 13.8 seconds left, seven assists and no turnovers. He also played good defense on Bruins leading scorer Bryce Alford, who was held to 11 points. Utah outscored UCLA 40-24 in the paint and won the rebounding battle 34-28.

"We talked about outrebounding them, which we did," Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak said afterward to reporters.  "We’ve been a really good rebounding team on the road.  Our assist to turnover ratio, 18 to 8, was pretty good."

It was the school's first-ever win at Pauley Pavilion and first at UCLA since 1961. Road teams haven't had much luck in Pac-12 games this year. Entering Thursday, away teams had a winning percentage of  just .282 in conference contests, making the Pac-12 the nation’s toughest league in winning on the road. Utah is 11-13-1 against the spread on NCAA Basketball odds this season and 4-5 ATS on the road.

 

Trojans A Different Beast At Home
USC (19-7, 8-5) is 1.5 games out of the Pac-12 lead. The Trojans are currently projected as a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The school hasn't played in the Big Dance in five years.

The Trojans look like a Final Four team at home but a NIT club on the road. They were swept last weekend in Arizona. But USC improved to 15-0 at home, the best start in school history, with a 79-72 win over Colorado on Wednesday. A loss there might  have inched USC toward the NCAA bubble. The Trojans hadn't trailed at home at halftime all season but were down 37-29 at intermission and down 15 points with nine minutes to go but outscored the Buffs 34-12 the rest of the way. Jordan McLaughlin scored a career-high 25 points for USC. He scored seven straight points that eventually gave USC the lead. He tied it at 65, then made it 68-65 on a 3-pointer and hit another bucket with just under three minutes left for a five-point advantage. The big change seemed to be when USC switched from man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone.

“I don't know if it was a must-win, but it was a very important win,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. He's a favorite for Pac-12 Coach of the Year.

Southern Cal played a fourth straight game without reserve junior forward Darion Clark due to a shoulder injury and he's questionable for Sunday. He averages 2.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 11.8 minutes per game. The Trojans were clobbered on the boards by Colorado, 34-21.

USC is 16-9-1 ATS on NCAA Basketball picks this season and 11-3-1 ATS at home.

 

Last Season
This is the only scheduled  meeting between USC and Utah this season. Obviously, you can't play everyone in the Pac-12 twice. USC last faced Utah at home on Feb. 1, 2015 and lost 67-39 (USC only had 12 at halftime). The teams also played in Salt Lake City last year and Utah won 79-55. The Utes have won five straight in the series.

Bet USC. In Salt Lake City or at a neutral site, Utah is better. But the Trojans win and cover at home. They are 13-3-1 ATS in their past 17 at home. USC is 9-3 ATS in its past 12 after a win. Utah is 2-6 ATS in its past eight Sunday games. Add USC as one of your Sunday's college basketball picks.

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