USC Squares Off Aagainst UCLA in Real Nail-Biter Saturday

Doug Upstone

Saturday, February 3, 2018 1:52 PM UTC

Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 1:52 PM UTC

Because of the layout of the Pac-12 Conference, you play either two home or road games each week. The only time you do not is when you face your natural rival and you play only one time that week.

USC Trojans vs UCLA Bruins

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Free Basketball Pick: USC +2Best Line Offered: at BetOnline

This Saturday on ESPN2 at 3:00 PST, we have one such matchup and the rivalry is real and filled with hatred. USC and UCLA meet for the first time on the hardwood this season and it will take place at Pauley Pavilion.

The Pac-12 is down some this season and it seems odd to see both Arizona schools ranked in the Top 25 and nobody else. However, the Trojans have gotten their act together and are in second place in the conference at 8-2 (6-3-1 ATS). The college basketball odds have them as two-point underdogs against the Bruins, in what will be a truly hostile environment for USC.

USC Stars Will Have to Come Through

It seems like coach Andy Enfield's early recruiting classes have been around for six years. First, it started with guards Jordan McLaughlin (12.6 PPG) and Elijah Stewart (11). Next came big guys Bennie Boatwright (15.1) and Chimezie Metu (16). This group set the foundation and with each passing year they have grown up as a team. Boatwright and Metu are expected to enter the NBA after their junior season and winning a Pac-12 championship and making a deep playoff run would be satisfying for everyone around the program. In the immediate future beating the Bruins on their floor and staying on task would be

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The Trojans (17-6, 14-8-1 ATS) are 5th in scoring in the conference at 79.8 PPG, but are second in three-point accuracy at 39 percent.

UCLA a Bigger Factor Than Many Imagined

After losing four starters from a highly entertaining Sweet 16 club, the bar was set lower for UCLA (15-7, 10-12 ATS) coming into this season. However, this is UCLA, which means winning is expected and coaches are expected to recruit the right players and coach them up to success. Steve Alford has assembled a team that can score on anyone and is averaging 83 PPG. The leader is guard Aaron Holiday. The junior guard leads the Bruins with 19 PPG and he has another upperclassman in senior center Thomas Welsh, who averages a double-double. (12.6 PPG and 10.5 RPG)

Where Alford has put this puzzle together is with freshmen forwards Kris Wilkes ( 13.8) and Jalen Hill (11.2), UCLA's second and fourth leading scorers. For the Bruins to better 6-4 SU and ATS conference record, they have to do a better on defense, since they are permitting 75.6 PPG.

In Pac-12 Clash, Sticking With the Experience

I realize UCLA is home and will have a raucous crowd (by Bruins' standards), but for college basketball picks, I like the experience of USC. When the game is on the line, I believe they will maintain their poise. They are also 5-1 ATS in recent confrontations with UCLA and the Trojans are 8-1 ATS on the road when facing an opponent that wins more than 60 percent of their games. The Men of Troy by 2!

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