The USC Trojans are off to a nice 5-2 start in their third year under Andy Enfield, but the losses came in the last two games and they could hit another roadblock in Santa Barbara.
The Pac-12 team could be walking into a buzzsaw in Big West territory Thursday night when those USC Trojans (5-2, 5-2 ATS) are in danger of losing their third straight game following a 5-0 start when the pay a visit to the Cal Santa Barbara Gauchos (2-3, 3-2 ATS) at the Thunderdome in Santa Barbara, CA at 10:00 ET with live streaming available at bigwest.org
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Cal Santa Barbara as a small home underdog for this contest with the current line at +2 with odds of -106.
Lost Twice in Orlando
The Trojans opened this season at 5-0, with the fifth win probably being the biggest win for USC since former Florida Gulf Coast Coach Andy Enfield took over as the head man two years ago as they upset then 20th ranked Wichita State in Orlando in the opening round of the AdvoCare Invitational. Unfortunately that was the last time that USC has won a game as it then proceeded to lose to Xavier and Monmouth in the last two games of that tournament.
Cal Santa Barbara currently sits at 2-3, but to the Gauchos’ credit they have not been afraid to knock heads with the big boys as all three of their losses as NCAA Basketball picks have come against the Pac-12, making USC the fourth opponent they have faced from that conference in the first six games! And although they have yet to beat a Pac-12 team, they do come off of an encouragingly narrow 70-68 road loss at Arizona State on Sunday.
First True Road Game
Enfield appears to have the Trojans heading in the right direction now that his own recruits are on the team, recruits that better fit his up-and-down, run-and-gun style that made Florida Gulf Coast such a popular Cinderella story during its dream run in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, immediately making Enfield a hot commodity that was scooped up by USC right after that tournament ended.
With that being said, this is the first true road game of the season for the Trojans, and playing on the road was not a strength for them last season when they went 2-9 in true road games while finishing the season at just 12-20 overall. Yes they have made positive signs, but USC may also still be a year away from peaking and causing trouble in the Pac-12.
But for now, this is still a young team that ranks 303rd in the country in average experience at 1.29 years per player without a single senior in the regular player rotation. That could magnify this being the first true road game for USC, especially for their freshmen Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, who are playing their first such game ever at the collegiate level.
Strong Home Court Last Year
Santa Barbara meantime has the experience that the Trojans lack ranking 26th in the nation in that category averaging 2.24 years, so most of this team was here last year when the Gauchos equaled the best home record in school history at 12-2 at the Thunderdome. Granted they are 0-1 at home this year, but that was vs. another Pac-12 team in Oregon State that is currently 5-1 and ranked 40th on the Pomeroy Ratings overall.
Comparatively USC is ranked 51st on Pomeroy and the Gauchos have to be encouraged by what Arizona State did after Santa Barbara lost that game in the desert by just two points on Sunday, as the Sun Devils went on the road and upset Creighton last night!
That certainly makes that 70-68 loss look like a “good” loss and Santa Barbara seems capable of neutralizing one of the Trojans’ strengths here in three-point shooting. USC is shooting 38.5 percent from beyond the arc, but the Gauchos are 41st in the country in three-point defense allowing a mere 29.0 percent success rate, and remember that has basically come vs. a Pac-12 schedule.
USC 11-1 Straight Up All-Time but Lost Last
Finally, USC is 11-1 straight up all time in this head-to-head series, although the lone loss did come the last time these teams met in 2012 and it came right here at the Thunderdome in blowout fashion 69-53. Also, the close loss to Arizona State on the road is an encouraging sign for the Gauchos as they now face another Pac-12 team but this time at home.
Combining that with this being the first road game this year for a young USC team that struggled on the road last season and a nice home court advantage for the experienced Gauchos, look for Cal Santa Barbara to pull the mild upset on Thursday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Cal Santa Barbara +2 (-106)