USC vs. California To Stay 'Under' Is Our NCAA Basketball Pick For Sunday Night's Game

Jason Lake

Sunday, February 28, 2016 1:59 PM UTC

Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016 1:59 PM UTC

Cal is a 7-point chalk on Sunday's basketball odds board with USC coming to town. The Golden Bears might stay undefeated at home, but can they cover against the Trojans?

Jason's 2015-16 record as of Feb. 25: 8-6 ATS, 1-1 Totals

The California Golden Bears (20-8 SU, 16-12 ATS) are obviously a better basketball team than the USC Trojans (19-9 SU, 16-11-1 ATS). But are they seven points better at home? That's what we need to figure out for Sunday's NCAA basketball picks. Cal welcomes the Trojans to Haas Pavilion (8:00 p.m. ET, FS1) having yet to lose a game at home this season, but when these two teams met last year at the same location, USC managed the cover in a 70-69 loss, cashing in as 8-point puppies.

We could see more of the same this year. The stats and projections tell us this should be a closer match on paper than what the NCAA basketball odds boards would suggest. Well, not all the stat nerds are in agreement, but it still looks like we should have a pretty decent game on our hands Sunday night. Let's riggidy-roll.


Is It Luck?
First, let's hit up the usual suspects at Sports-Reference. They've got Cal pegged at +15.9 on their Simple Rating System, just 1.5 points better than USC at +14.4 SRS. That translates to a five-point advantage at home. Say hello to your profit margin – or not. Ken Pomeroy isn't nearly as enthusiastic about the Trojans, ranking them No. 47 overall (No. 111 offense, No. 31 defense) in Division I. The Golden Bears check in at No. 27 (No. 49 offense, No. 18 defense).

Why the difference? Pomeroy thinks USC has been very fortunate this year. He's got the Trojans at No. 15 overall when it comes to Luck Factor, while the Bears are No. 277 in that category. Interesting. It's not like USC has won a lot of close games this year, or that Cal has been coming up just short. We're not quants by any means here at the home office, but if Pomeroy says the Bears are candidates for some positive regression, we're inclined to agree.


Clark Bar
Injury-wise, Cal comes into Sunday's game with a clean bill of health, while USC is only missing one person: junior forward Darion Clark (13.8 PER, +1.3 BPM), a back-up and a defensive specialist. That shouldn't be enough to move the needle in either direction.

Recent trends, on the other hand, may cause you to look askance at the Trojans. They've dropped four out of their last five SU and ATS, and could end up missing the whole Tournament at this rate. Cal has won six straight SU and ATS. We're getting enough mixed messages here to run into the arms of the UNDER; it's 5-2 in the last seven games for the Bears, and 3-2-1 in the last six for the faltering Trojans. Don't forget to wear a raincoat out there, and may the sphere be with you.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Under 150.5
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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