Harvard Crimson at USC Trojans NCAAM Pick – December 1st

Our strong week continued last night as we picked up a nice win, but it wasn’t easy! We backed the Florida State Seminoles as small -1-point favorites against the Boilermakers of Purdue. I felt that Florida State would be too much on defense and that they were the far superior overall team as Purdue has yet to figure out how to play without Carsen Edwards this year on offense.

Throw in the fact that the game was being played just two hours from the Seminoles home court in their home state, and I figured it was essentially a home game and jumped all over it. At halftime, my prediction had come true as the ‘Noles were suffocating on defense and held Purdue to just twenty-four first-half points. Florida State shot 0-7 from three-point land, and if they could find a way to connect on any of those in the second half, it felt like a blowout in the making.

But the Seminoles never did figure things out from beyond the arc as they finished the game an absolutely dismal 1-17 from three. Their three-point shooting woes kept Purdue in the game despite the fact that they couldn’t shoot it either, as they launched twenty-four deep balls and made just five of them. It turned into an ugly game with lots of bad shots being taken by both teams.

But in the end, the Seminoles defense was just too much, as they forced twenty-four turnovers, including sixteen steals. It took a couple of late free throws to seal the deal in overtime for the ‘Noles, but at the end of the day, they won and covered, and we cashed our ticket.

After watching the game live, it felt that we were certainly on the right side of the action, as Florida State played their absolute worst possible game and still won and covered. For today’s pick, we will stay right here in Florida, as the Harvard Crimson matchup with the USC Trojans.

Today’s Pick

  • Harvard Crimson (5-3) at USC Trojans (6-2)
  • 3:30 PM PST
  • HP Field House, Kissimmee
  • TV:ESPN2

The USC Trojans and the Harvard Crimson match up tonight in a non-conference game from Kissimmee, Florida. Both teams are coming off of tough losses Friday night, and are hoping to head home with a decent non-conference win on their resume.

Spread:

  • USC -1.5 (-110)
  • Harvard +1.5 (-110)
Money line:

  • USC -125
  • Harvard +105
Total Points:

  • Over 143.5 (-105)
  • Under 143.5 (-115)

Harvard Crimson

The Crimson came into this season with high hopes of a regular-season Ivy League title and a trip to the Big Dance. And while all of that could still happen, they have come out of the gates slow. Harvard has yet to pick up what can be considered a good win as they are just 5-3 to start out the season, with their biggest win coming over a very mediocre Texas A&M team.

Wins over teams like Maine, Sienna, and MIT (wait, MIT has a basketball team?! Fun fact, they do, and they are fittingly named the engineers!) don’t instill confidence that this team can beat tournament level teams this season. The loss to Maryland in their last game, where they hung with the top five ranked Terrapins can be filed as a good loss, but early-season losses to Buffalo and Northeastern make you wonder if they can live up to those lofty preseason expectations.

The Crimson are led by Ivy League superstar Bryce Aiken. Aiken is the favorite to win player of the year in the Ivy, and after missing the first couple of games of the year, he has come on strong recently, at least when it comes to scoring the basketball. Aiken leads the team with 23 points per game but has seen his rebounds and assists drop from last year while turning the ball over more.

Aiken had a huge game against Maryland, and it kept them in the game all night long. He scored thirty points and played thirty-five minutes. If the Crimson want any shot at upsetting USC tonight, they are going to need another huge performance out of Aiken.

USC Trojans

As is almost always the case, the USC Trojans have their fair share of NBA level talent. Getting good players to play in LA has never really been the problem at USC, it is finding a way to get them to play together that has been the struggle. This year they have potential first-team all-conference senior Nick Rakocevic leading the way.

Rakocevic, while still playing decent, has seen his scoring, rebounds, and assists all drop this year. But that is mostly because he has talent a backseat to fellow big man, freshman sensation Onyeka Okongwu. Okongwu is a big body that loves to bang it inside and get to the free-throw line. The Trojans lead the nation in free throw attempts this year, and the freshman leads the team in getting to the line.

While they don’t make too many of them, they shoot just 68% from the charity stripe as a team, it does allow them to control the ball and score points without the clock moving. Against Pepperdine earlier this season, Okongwu got to the line twenty-one times. You can’t teach that, and he does a great job of manufacturing points. The former top twenty recruit is averaging seventeen points and eight boards a game for the Trojans.

Who Do I Like?

This is a tough one as I like both of these teams, and the number is deservingly a tight one. Harvard has looked much better since seeing Aiken return, they would have never lost to Northeastern with him on the floor. And they showed in their last game that they can hang with just about any team in the country. But can they beat any team in the country? That is the real question.

And right now, I don’t think that they can. They were hoping to get Seth Towns back after the former star scorer missed all of last year with a knee injury, but that hasn’t happened, and despite having a team stacked full of upperclassman, right now, this is a one-man show at Harvard. Will Aiken be enough for Harvard to pull off the upset? I don’t think so.

This USC team just has too much talent to be defeated by one great player. They have a ton of size inside, and they are going to get a lot of easy baskets down low, or they are going to get to the line a bunch as Harvard fouls to keep them out of the paint. Assuming they can make their free throws, and that is a mighty big assumption, I think USC holds the Crimson off in this one.

The Bet

I don’t love it, but I am backing the Trojans. They will be more talented at nearly every spot on the floor, and despite the fact that they tend to be their own worst enemy at times, I think that will be enough to get them past Harvard tonight in a tight one.

The analytics support my position as kenpom has the Trojans ranked at #68 while the Crimson are ranked #91. The Trojans have a higher rated offense and defense in terms of efficiency, and basically all the data tells us they are the better team.

It will be tight, and that number will be in play all game long, but I see USC finding a way to grind out a victory tonight. Aiken will be tough to stop, but he is averaging twenty-four points a game in the two Harvard losses where he has played, so you might not need to stop him to win. As long as the rest of this Harvard team continues to underperform, we should find another winner tonight. Give me the USC Trojans laying -1.5-points tonight from Florida!

The Bet: USC -1.5

My Pick
USC TROJANS -1.5
Jason Gray / author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL