The NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament bubble had a wild and crazy day yesterday, as several teams that are right at the cut line found ways to win big games, while others that are hoping to be dancing in March took devastating losses. Headlining the devastation was the Kentucky Wildcats. Wildcats head coach John Calipari hadn’t been five games under .500 in his career since his first season coach at UMASS in 1988! Well, you can add this 2021 Kentucky team to that list of struggling squads for Coach Cal, as the Wildcats lost another heartbreaker, this time by a point on the road at Georgia.
Kentucky led by six points with under two minutes left to play but collapsed down the stretch and lost at the buzzer when P.J. Horne laid the ball in with less than a second left on the clock to give the Bulldogs the win. It’s looking like Kentucky just isn’t going to be able to figure things out at this point, and at 4-9, they are one of the most disappointing teams in recent memory.
DAWGS WIN AT THE BUZZER pic.twitter.com/jIX1V7kfpO
— Georgia Basketball (@UGABasketball) January 21, 2021
Another team that really needed a win and came up short was the Auburn Tigers. Auburn has looked revitalized with the addition of freshman sensation Sharife Cooper, but the Tigers lost a nail-biter at Arkansas last night to snap their modest two-game winning streak. The Tigers have more than enough talent to make the NCAA tournament, but after a slow start to the season waiting to get Cooper cleared by the NCAA, Auburn can’t afford to let winnable games like this one slip through their hands.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Providence Friars showed some signs of life as they knocked off a top-10 ranked Creighton team on the road. The win couldn’t have come at a better time for PC as they had lost three straight games and were quickly becoming irrelevant in the Big East. Providence lost earlier this month to the Blue Jays by two points at home and lost at Xavier by just one point, and they are happy to finally add a signature win to their resume. PC plays at Villanova in their next game, and a win would likely get them back to the right side of the bubble. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will take a look at a couple of bubble teams from the PAC-12 as USC plays at Stanford.
- USC Trojans (11-3) at Stanford Cardinal (8-5)
- Maples Pavilion, Stanford
- 2:00 PM PST
- TV: FS1
The USC Trojans take their show on the road Thursday for a showdown with the Stanford Cardinal. The Trojans were playing well and riding high before losing on the road at Oregon State in their last game. USC had won six consecutive games before laying an egg in Corvallis against a bad Oregon State team. The Trojans are hoping to get back on track tonight against a Stanford team desperate for a win.
Midday matinee vs. USC 🚨
— Stanford Men's Basketball (@StanfordMBB) January 21, 2021
For Stanford, the Cardinal’s came into this season hoping to compete for a PAC-12 title, but after losing three of their first seven conference games, including their last two games back-to-back, the Cardinals would be happy with a middle of the pack finish and a trip to the NCAA tournament at this point. Stanford is undefeated at home this season, but they are just 4-5 in true road and neutral floor games, hurting their chances at an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.
Stanford Cardinal (8-5)
This was supposed to be the year that Stanford would contend for a PAC-12 title and make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. They had a great mix of experience and talent with one of the best players in the league in senior Oscar da Silva and one of the top freshman in the nation in Zaire Williams. But Stanford has struggled to stay consistent in the early goings, some of which can certainly be attributed to COVID-19 related delays. But at the end of the day, the Corona Virus has affected everybody in some way, so I am not giving the Cardinals a pass here.
Zaire Williams has mostly lived up to the hype this year as a 5-star recruit for the Cardinals. He has shown flashes of being elite, like when he dropped a triple-double against Washington, but he has really struggled with turnovers, as he can get sloppy with the ball. In his last two games, both losses for Stanford, Williams scored 17 points in each game, but also had a total of 10 turnovers, which cost his team in tightly contested games. He needs to take care of the ball tonight if Stanford wants to pull off the upset.
USC Trojans (11-3)
Evan Mobley is used to playing against Zaire Williams as the two played against each other in prep ball in Southern California. Mobley was the higher rated recruit coming into this season, and he has shown that he has true star power for the Trojans. Mobley leads the PAC-12 in rebounding and blocks and leads the Trojans in scoring at 16 points per game. Mobley has already had six double-doubles and has scored in double digits in every game, with the exception of the game against Utah earlier this month, where he didn’t attempt a shot from the field.
With Mobley looking like the PAC-12 player of the year, the Trojans were riding him to the top of the league standings. USC trailed only undefeated UCLA in the PAC-12 regular-season title chase before losing at Oregon State. But with the loss to the Beavers, USC finds themselves just one game ahead in the loss column over five different teams. That makes tonight’s game even bigger, as a loss would see USC fall back into the middle of the pack, and with UCLA not slowing down, the Trojan’s dreams of a PAC-12 title would be all but dashed.
Who Do I Like?
USC has managed to play the majority of their games at home this season. Nine of their fourteen games have been played at home, and they are 8-1 in those games. On the road and on neutral floors, they haven’t been nearly as good, as they are just 3-2. That includes a neutral floor loss to UCONN and the recent loss to Oregon State. When you look at Stanford, they have had the opposite start to their season as they have played just four games at home so far this year.
The Cardinals are 4-0 in those four games, including their best win of the season over Arizona. On the road and in neutral floor games, wins have expectedly been hard to come by, especially when you consider the level of talent that Stanford has played. All five of the Cardinal’s losses have come to top-100 teams, with four of them coming to top-50 teams. We have established that Stanford isn’t great against topflight competition in hostile territory, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t beat good teams at home.
I see these teams as being very evenly matched. If you were to swap the schedules between these two teams, I could see Stanford being the team with double-digit wins and USC as the team fighting for the bubble. The Cardinal’s win over Alabama is looking like one of the better wins of any team right now as the Crimson Tide have shown that they are really good. And the win over Arizona was a nice one too. The Trojans have seven of their eleven wins against teams ranked outside of the top-100 right now, and if the season were to end today, the only team that USC has beaten that is likely to get into the NCAA tournament is Arizona.
I am shocked to see that I can back Stanford getting this many points at home against a team that they can absolutely beat straight up. My heart tells me that the Cardinals just might win this one outright, and a money line play certainly shows some value. But I am going to take the outrageously high-value play and back Stanford at home, getting the +5.5-points.
All Stanford has to do to cover that number is not get blown out at home, and I just don’t see that happening. Give me the Stanford Cardinals tonight at home, as they will have USC on upset alert all evening long and easily cover the spread and cash our ticket.