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Our USC-UCLA prediction based on the best college basketball odds projects a low-scoring clash in L.A. on Saturday night.

Despite the anticipation surrounding Andy Enfield's successful recruitment of talents like Isaiah Collier and Bronny James, the USC Trojans have become one of the most notable letdowns in college basketball. While crosstown rival UCLA hasn’t been faring much better during 2023-24, with rumors swirling that head coach Mick Cronin could be drawn elsewhere, the team at least boasts a dominant defense.

Neither of these squads is particularly trustworthy when it comes to scoring points, and even the razzle dazzle of Los Angeles won’t help light up the scoreboard Saturday night at the Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins' brand of hard-nosed defense and methodical offense won out during a 65-50 UCLA win the last time these schools met in late January. Round 2 shouldn’t be much different, with the Trojans' offensive woes being too grand and Cronin’s crew capable of beating up opponents defensively.

To accompany our North Carolina-Virginia prediction, here is our best USC vs. UCLA prediction and our college basketball picks (odds via our best March Madness betting sites; Pick confidence is based on a 1-to-5-star scale).

USC vs. UCLA prediction

Under 133.5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Best odds: -110 via BetMGM

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Despite a lackluster 14-12 record during 2023-24, the UCLA Bruins have been playing some of the best defense in the country while holding opponents to just 64.1 points per game, the 17th fewest in college basketball. Cronin wants his offense playing slow and his defense playing feisty, like a Virginia of the West Coast. That bodes well for the Under, especially with how much the USC Trojans have been struggling in 2023-24.

UCLA is 31st in adjusted defensive rating, according to KenPom, and second in the Pac-12 in team DBPR, per Evan Miyakawa. The team has held opponents to 66 points or fewer in 11 of 15 conference games this season. Not only are teams putting up few shots against UCLA, thanks to it being 348th in adjusted tempo, but when opponents do get to shoot, they’re hitting just 41.5% from the floor, 48.7% from two, and 32.2% from three. 

The Bruins make it tough on opposing offenses, and almost as tough as they make it on themselves to score. The team is putting up only 66.2 points per game while ranking 333rd in the country, and it sits 167th in adjusted offensive efficiency and third last in the Pac-12 in team OBPR.

Shooting has been an issue all season, with the Bruins ranking 318th in field-goal percentage (41.7%), 344th in 2-point percentage (45.7%), and 277th in 3-point percentage (32%). Luckily for Cronin’s offense, USC has its own scoring issues that really come out when facing a defense as stout as UCLA’s unit.

Even with Ellis and Collier putting together solid seasons, the Trojans are scoring just 68.7 points per game on the road against Pac-12 opponents. USC ranks 106th in adjusted offensive efficiency and eighth in the Pac-12 in team OBPR this season while shooting 44.6% from the floor, 50.4% from two, and 34.8% from three. It’s also been one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the nation while going 68.7% from the charity stripe.

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USC vs. UCLA best odds

BetMGM (-110)

Under 133Under 132.5Under 133.5Under 133Under 133

All of our best sports betting sites are offering a similar line on the game total for USC vs. UCLA, with just some slight differences. It’s debatable which option offers the best value between getting the total at -108 through DraftKings or adding that extra half point to the equation at BetMGM

The half point at BetMGM seems worth it with the odds still being -110, especially with the Bruins going 13-4 to the Under when the game total is above 133 this season.

USC vs. UCLA odds

USC vs. UCLA odds analysis

Due to USC’s issues during 2023-24 and UCLA being able to lean on its defense throughout the first matchup, our best sportsbooks opened with the Bruins as 4.5- to 5.5-point home favorites. The line has been mostly staying steady, with BetMGM posting UCLA -5.5, DraftKings and Caesars with the Bruins at -5, and bet365 and FanDuel at -4.5. UCLA is 12-12-2 against the spread this campaign and USC is 11-15.

There’s been minimal movement on the game total, with our best live betting sites all sitting between 132.5 and 133.5. Only FanDuel has shifted, with its total opening at 130.5 before climbing to 132.5. Don’t be surprised if the total drops a point or two prior to tipoff.

UCLA is 16-10 to the Under this season and while USC is just 9-17. The Trojans are 6-5 to the Under since Jan. 10.

USC vs. UCLA game info

  • When: Saturday, Feb. 24 at 10 p.m. ET
  • Where: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
  • How to watch: ESPN

USC-UCLA prediction made 2/24/24 at 9:45 a.m. ET.

Here are our best March Madness betting sites:

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