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USC (-2) at UCLA
UCLA will still be without starting center Jalen Hill. That is the worst news this Bruins' team could have entering tournament time, especially versus USC. The Trojans are the tallest team in the country, and no, that is not a joke. UCLA only has two players over 6-foot-6 for this matchup, one that starts - USC has six with four in the starting lineup.
As you would think, USC leads the Pac-12 in offensive rebounding percentage (36.3%) and seventh in the country (36.9%). Defensively, they are fifth in the conference (25.8%) and 151st in the nation (27.3%). USC plays inside-out, averaging 51.2% from two (3rd) and limiting 43.0% to opponents (1st) in the Pac-12.
UCLA is the No. 1 defensive rebounding percentage team in the Pac-12 (23.2%). However, Jalen Hill is responsible for a majority of that as he leads the team with a 26.5% defensive rebounding percentage. Hill also leads the team in offensive rebounding percentage (12.5%) and owns the second-highest offensive rating (114.5).
While Hill only averages 17.1 minutes per game off the bench (7th), that is second-most off the bench. Hill is third on the team in rebounds per game (5.9) and leads the team in blocks per game (1.0). He also averages 6.1 points per game (7th).
Cody Riley (6-foot-9) is the main asset for the Bruins down low, except. Riley has scored 10 or more points in his last four of five games. He has yet to play this USC team as he missed the earlier meeting with a sprained ankle.
UCLA will have to hit threes in this matchup to compete. The Bruins have lost two straight games at Colorado (70-61) and Oregon (82-74). They shot 6-of-18 (33.3%) and 5-of-13 (38.5%) from three in those contests. Those are not terrible numbers, but not enough to beat USC.
USC owned UCLA in the first meeting, winning 66-48. UCLA shot 3-of-19 (15.8%) from deep in that meeting and were out-rebounded 40-33. The wildest part of that meeting is USC's guards were the difference. USC's players over 6-foot-6 only accounted for 28-of-66 points (42.4%), while Taj Eddy and Ethan Anderson combined for 35 points (53.0%). UCLA's Cody Riley and Jalen Hill did not play in this matchup either.
Take USC as they should pound UCLA down low and wear them out for 40 minutes. USC (14-5) beat Oregon (13-4) this season and both have one game remaining in conference play. USC needs this victory and UCLA sits only a half-game back of USC at (13-5). Equally a significant game for the Bruins on senior night.
NBC Sports Edge's Top Trend in this game points to the Trojans. USC is 23-11-1 ATS (67.6%) in its last 35 games vs Pac-12 Conference teams and 6-3 SU (66.6%) on the road this season. They have lost their last two road games against Colorado and Utah, two teams with equalizing bigs. UCLA, not so much.
USC has won three straight in this series and four of the last five. I am backing the Trojans again as they are the better team.
Game Pick: USC ML (2u)
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Providence at Villanova (-5)
Villanova's Connor Gillespie is out for the season and it appears Villanova's title hopes are too. Gillespie injured his MCL on senior night, something no one wants to see. Prayers up to a speedy recovery for Gillsepsie and college basketball fans everywhere hope to see him in the NBA at some point.
At 12-12 (8-10), Providence is hanging on by a thread for NCAA Tournament consideration. To start the season, Providence was ranked third in the Big East's Preseason Coaches Poll. While the Friars have not had many setbacks with COVID, they have played a tough schedule with three road/neutral court stretches of three games or more.
Providence has only played at home for two or more games twice this season, with one three-game homestand. It is senior night and a revenge game as Villanova pounded Providence 71-56. Gillespie tied for a team-high 15 points in that matchup and led the team with six assists, adding five boards. He played 35 minutes and posted the second-highest offensive rating (115.0).
Gillespie was averaging 14.0 points (2nd), 4.6 assists (1st) and 3.0 rebounds (5th) in 33.4 minutes (3rd). He was second on the team in usage rate (22.0%) and lead the team with an impressive assist to turnover ratio (25.7%). Villanova takes care of the ball, ranking third in the country with a 17.3% turnover percentage. Without him, Providence has to attack and force turnovers.
Villanova's bench is going to be their downfall without Gillespie. Their bench ranks 329th in the nation in minutes played - a wild stat. They were rolling with a seven-man rotation and an eighth player if need be, well the need is here.
Providence has eight players that average at least 16 minutes and seven of 20 or more. The Friars also have three players averaging double-digits, including Mr. Do-It-All, David Duke (17.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 4.9 APG).
Providence is 1-4 SU (20%) in their last five games versus Villanova, losing by five or winning outright in three-of-five games. Providence is 7-3 SU (70%) at home this season and 6-4 ATS (60%), winning and covering the last two.
NBC Sports Edge's Top Trend for this matchup points to Providence ATS. The Friars are 11-3 ATS (78.6%) in the last 14 games against teams with a winning ML record versus Big East Conference teams following an UNDER win.
A lot to unpack there, but I think Providence has a chance to catch Villanova snoozing in the first half and compete for the entire game. Providence has led at the half in the last two meetings versus Villanova and I back that again as Villanova will struggle.
Game Pick: Providence First Half +3 (1u)
Oklahoma State at West Virginia (-7)
Teaser alert! I am bringing it back with West Virginia and Providence. I am taking a five-point teaser of West Virginia -2 and Providence +10. I love this as the news of Oklahoma State's two best players does not look promising.
Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham (ankle) and Isaac Likekele (hand) are questionable for this matchup, which will hurt the Cowboys. Oklahoma State has won three of the last four meetings in Morgantown, WV and was on a hot streak with five straight wins before Baylor beat them.
Without those two, expect the Mountaineers to roll. WVU is 4-1 SU (80%) in the last five games and 7-2 SU (77.7%) in the previous nine. WVU is playing some of the best ball of the season and on senior night that is unlikely to stop. WVU has two seniors, both coming off the bench, and this is also a big conference matchup. WVU and Kanasa are tied for the second-seed in the Big 12 Tournament. They split the season series and Kansas wrapped up their regular season already, so WVU controls their own destiny.
West Virginia won the first meeting 87-84 and Oklahoma State's stars combined for 47 points, 50% of the team's production. Likekele is not a scorer either, more of an all-around player, so Oklahoma State is in trouble if Cunningham cannot go. Back West Virginia at -7 if Cunningham is out and take the teaser no matter if he plays or not.
Editor’s Note: The spread is now WVU -10, Would play for 1u
Game Pick: WVU -2 and Providence +10 (1u), WVU -7 (2u) - IF Cunningham is OUT
TOBACCO ROAD RIVALRY NOTES
Duke at North Carolina (-3)
UNC won the first meeting 91-87 and Duke swept them last season after UNC swept the regular season in 2019. UNC is going for the third series sweep in three years between the two. Duke needs this win for a resume booster and somehow, UNC does too. Duke is 3-2 SU (60%) since Jalen Johnson left the program. North Carolina is a perfect 6-0 at home in ACC play this season. NBC's best trend for this game point towards the Over 148.
NBC's Trend for Duke: The Over is 27-8 (77.1%) in Duke's last 35 games against teams with a winning ML record.
NBC's Trend for UNC: The Over is 13-3-1 (81.2%) in UNC's last 17 home games as a favorite coming off a day of rest or more.