Southern California Trojans (23-10) at Arizona Wildcats (26-7)
Our hot streak continued last night as we backed West Virginia against Texas Tech in the semi-finals of the Big 12 conference tournament. We got the line at an even pick ‘em but a lot of people liked our side of the game, and it actually closed out at West Virginia -2.5 points.
It didn’t matter where you got them at, the Mountaineers came through with the win and the cover, winning 66-63. Keenan Evans looked sore and frustrated all night and scored just 13 points on 5-14 shooting, including 0-3 from beyond the arc. I mentioned yesterday that Texas Tech would need a huge game from Evans if they wanted to win, and he just couldn’t get the job done with his banged up big toe.
For West Virginia, it was a huge win and this team is absolutely a dark horse Final Four candidate. They are playing their best basketball at the right time and went from being not too far off the bubble a couple weeks ago, to now being the favorites tonight against Kansas to win the Big 12 tournament.
Great job by Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins. He has his kids poised for a deep run in the tournament. Tonight, I will shift focus from the Big 12 tournament to the Pac 12 tournament finals where the one seed Arizona Wildcats will look to hold off the two seed USC Trojans.
The Arizona Wildcats and USC Trojans will meet up tonight in the finals of the Pac 12 tournament from Las Vegas. These teams finished one and two during the Pac 12 regular season and will meet up to see who takes home the league title this year.
After an up and down year filled with controversy, Sean Miller has his Arizona Wildcats team playing very well at the moment and will be looking to break through for his first Final Four as a head coach. For USC, the Trojans have had their fair share of controversy as well and entered this tournament on the bubble.
With a win, all that bubble talk goes away, and they can head into the NCAA tournament as champions. Arizona is -3.5-point favorites. The game total over-under is set at 144.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 PM PST from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Arizona has gone through a lot this year. They lost their best scorer, Alonso Trier, to a performance enhancement suspension earlier this season. Only to have Trier reinstated a couple of days later and rejoin the team. It was the second failed PED test for Trier, and I was shocked they bought whatever excuse that he gave them. Either way, Arizona still has its best scorer on the court tonight.
The other controversy for Arizona was an alleged wiretap of head coach Sean Miller ordering a $100,000 payout to, then recruit, Deandre Ayton, to ensure he attended Arizona. This was part of a wide-spanning FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball, and it looked like it might be the end for both Miller and Ayton at Arizona.
Miller briefly stepped down as head coach but later decided to call the FBI’s bluff and went right back to coaching. As of now, both Miller and Ayton are on the team, and this team is playing really good basketball right now.
The Wildcats have won seven out of their last eight games, with the lone loss being on the road against a tough Oregon team that made the Final Four last year. They also own a nice double-digit victory over this USC team during that stretch. Sean Miller seems to have his team playing with that nobody believes in us type of edge after all the controversy and this team badly wants to win tonight.
USC hasn’t been without controversy as well this year. Their name along with the name of current player Benny Boatwright, came up in the very same FBI probe than ensnarled Ayton and Miller. As of now, Boatwright is still with the team, but it has been a distraction for sure. USC likely needed this deep run in the Pac 12 tournament to secure their place in the NCAA tournament this year.
The Trojans spent a lot of the year ranked in the top twenty-five nationally but couldn’t stay consistent enough to put together a big string of victories to get them over the hump in the Pac 12. USC had a tough patch of games in early February where they lost three consecutive games to UCLA, Arizona State, and Arizona.
It basically ended any chances of the Trojans taking the Pac 12 regular season title. USC did an admirable job against the lesser teams of the league to finish out the year on a six wins in seven games run, but it wasn’t enough to catch Arizona for the regular season title.
This is a very interesting matchup. You have two teams that many expected to make it to the finals playing each other in what should be a hotly contested game.
These are likely the two most talented teams in the league, but I feel that even though USC has some great pieces, Arizona has the much more talented squad. When these two teams matched up in Tucson in February, the game wasn’t all that competitive, and that was with Deandre Aton and Alonso Trier both having just OK games.
If Arizona can dominate this USC team when Ayton isn’t playing well what happens when he does? This feels like an easier than most people think Arizona win. In Ayton’s last three games he had a line of 26 points and 20 boards against Colorado and a line of 32 points and 14 rebounds against UCLA.
This kid ain’t messing around right now, and I don’t see how USC is going to be able to stop him tonight. Maybe they will double team him all night long as they did in February and keep him somewhat in check, but when they did that they allowed Dusan Ristic have any shot he wanted uncontested and he torched them for a double-double on 7-9 shooting from the field.
Give me the Arizona Wildcats in this one tonight. I expect USC to fight hard to the end, but the talent gap here is just too big. Arizona takes this one, maybe by double digits.