Take Trojans Over Bruins in Latest Battle of L.A. on Saturday

usc ucla

Doug Upstone

Friday, March 2, 2018 11:52 PM GMT

Friday, Mar. 2, 2018 11:52 PM GMT

UCLA-USC matchups always have implications, and Saturday's hoops clash is no different. Seeding in the Pac-12 tournament will be impacted, and it matters to both teams.

Saturday College Basketball: UCLA vs. USCFree NCAAB Pick: USC -6Best Line Offered: Heritage

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It is all but certain USC will be the two-seed the Pac-12 tourney. More importantly, they want to keep winning to hopefully move up at least to a 10-seed for Big Dance, which would get them off the bubble and prevent them from playing in a First Four contest.

UCLA also has to keep piling up victories; right now they are not thought to be part of the field of 68. The college basketball odds are not in their favor for this bitter rivalry, as they are listed as a six-point underdog. Can the Bruins sweep the season series and strengthen their case, or will they need to win the conference tournament in Vegas?

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UCLA Anything But Road Warriors

To borrow from FOX's Tim Brando, "The road has been unkind" to UCLA (19-10, 13-15-1 ATS) this season. The Bruins are 2-7 and 3-6 ATS, yet it should be noted they have been outscored by only 1.6 PPG in those contests. UCLA's best road performance came Feb. 8 at Arizona, where they controlled the pace of play and won 82-74 as nine-point underdogs.

In this matchup, they will need to keep the ball in the hands of guard Aaron Holiday and let him direct the show, as he is their leading scorer (19.6 PPG) and top assist man (5.8 PG). When UCLA is at its best, Holiday is finding Kris Wilkes (13.8) and Thomas Welsh (12.9) at their preferred spots on the floor where they are most effective.

With the Bruins in a four-way tie with a 10-7 record in the conference, they could be seeded anywhere from third to sixth for next week's tournament depending on how they and everyone finish up.

USC Is Upping Its Game

After losing Bennie Boatwright for the season, it looked like he could take the Trojans' season with him. The oft-injured forward has always been difference-maker, but this USC (21-9, 18-11-1 ATS) has shown a different level of maturity to past squads and did not succumb.

The Trojans have won and covered three straight, including a very impressive road sweep at Colorado and Utah. There was nothing fluky about the results, either, winning convincingly by 11 and 16 points.

Emerging from the shadows is forward Chimezie Metu. Though he was USC's leading scoring and rebounder (15.9 PPG and 7.3 RPG), he has not always been the first option, but he is playing with more assertiveness. The Men of Troy appear to be feeding off his energy.

Your Pac-12 Saturday Spread Winner

With my NCAAB picks for this West Coast showdown (10:15 p.m. ET; ESPN), I will back the home team. I like the direction USC has taken and they are playing for each other more than ever, a real rarity for that program. UCLA, which beat USC 82-79 on Feb. 3, has looked a little frayed since upsetting Arizona and they'll lose by 9 tonight.

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