When Connecticut and Southern Cal take the basketball court in a casino Thursday night in a national TV game, it will somehow be the first-ever meeting between the programs. Which way to lean at SBR’s top sportsbooks?
Connecticut Huskies vs. USC Trojans
Thursday, December 3, 2020 – 07:00 PM ET at Mohegan Sun Arena
College basketball bettors need to get used to games being canceled/postponed every day during the coronavirus pandemic because that shows no signs of slowing down. A handful have been Thursday, including a matchup between St. John’s and No. 17 Texas Tech that we were going to preview here at SBR.
Instead, then, we will look at arguably the best matchup of Thursday and that’s UConn against Southern Cal in the Legends Classic from “Bubbleville” at that Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. COVID-19 already has affected this event, though. It was to feature four teams in a championship format, but Vanderbilt pulled out to do COVID-issues. Now it’s just a “showcase” tournament.
Granted, UConn and USC are on opposite coasts, but it still surprised this writer that the schools had never met once in basketball.
Huskies Have Played Weak Slate So Far
UConn (2-0) was slated to play Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at the casino this week, but Tuesday’s game vs. Vanderbilt was called off. The Huskies are still scheduled to face NC State on Saturday in “Bubbleville.”
Are you even aware that Connecticut is back in the Big East this year after spending the past seven seasons in the American Athletic Conference? The football program, which is awful (there is no Big East football conference), was to be an independent this year but didn’t bother playing in a pandemic.
Big East coaches voted UConn to finish fourth in the conference this season behind Villanova, Creighton and Providence. The Huskies finished 19-12 last year and would have been an NCAA Tournament bubble team, had there been a Big Dance.
Coach Dan Hurley’s best player is sophomore guard James Bouknight, who is averaging 19.0 points on 51.9 percent shooting and 6.0 rebounds per game. He’s on plenty of preseason awards watch lists and is UConn’s leading returning scorer from last season (13.0).
Hurley also welcomes a terrific transfer player in Rhode Island’s Tyrese Martin – Hurley was the former Rhode Island head coach and recruited Martin there. Martin was suspended for this season’s opener for participating in an unsanctioned summer league game but debuted with 10 rebounds, six points and three assists in last Friday’s 69-57 win over Hartford.
The Huskies have played two lower-level in-state schools so far and obviously don’t have to travel far to “Bubbleville” as Uncasville is only 30 miles from the UConn campus.
Trojans Have Superstar Freshman
Southern Cal (3-0) has played a bit better schedule so far with wins over California Baptist (OK, not that one), Montana and then Tuesday in “Bubbleville” a shockingly easy 79-53 rout of a very good BYU team.
Trojans coach Andy Enfield was able to lure one of the top-rated freshman recruits in school history in 7-foot big man Evan Mobley, a two-time California Gatorade Player of the Year and McDonald’s All-American, because Mobley’s brother Isaiah is a sophomore on the team and Mobley’s father Eric is an assistant under Enfield.
Evan Mobley could be the top overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and has been spectacular so far in averaging 16.3 points (whopping 67.7 percent shooting) and 9.0 rebounds per game. He had his first NCAA double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds vs. BYU. The Trojans outrebounded BYU 50-35 and held a 19-0 advantage in second-chance points. Mobley is one of seven freshmen to make the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 Watch List, so it's worth keeping him in mind when looking at the odds.
USC was pretty good last year at 22-9 but 80.6 percent of the scoring, 76.4 percent of the rebounding and 74.7 percent of the minutes played are gone, including star forward Onyeka Okongwu (16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg). He was the No. 6 overall pick in the recent NBA Draft by Atlanta.
Had Okongwu stayed in school, the Trojans might have been national championship threats with the addition of Mobley and graduate transfer Tahj Eaddy, who is averaging 12.7 points and 3.3 assists per game.
Instead, USC was picked to finish sixth in the Pac-12 by the media members. The Trojans are +1100 at SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks to win it. Southern Cal is an excellent 8-2 ATS in its past 10 as a dog so we’ll take the points.
NCAAB pick: (visit our Sportsbook Review)