My college basketball picks took another hit on Saturday night, as BYU couldn’t take down Texas-Arlington on their home court. The Cougars were hopeful to exact some revenge for last year’s NIT loss, while also remain undefeated on their home floor. That didn’t happen and I dropped to 1-2 on the year with my NCAA basketball picks.
The goal on Sunday is to get back to .500 and after dealing with some big spreads, I’ll cool things down with a simplified pick. The game that catches my eye resides in Nashville, Tennessee, where the Vanderbilt Commodores will host the 10th-ranked USC Trojans.
Vanderbilt enters the night with a 2-1 record, with their lone loss coming in a tough 69-60 defeat by the hands of Belmont. USC is 2-0 and hopes to stay undefeated after tonight. They’re already slightly battle tested, having survived a scare against North Dakota State.
The Trojans have high expectations after a solid 2016-17 season and won’t want to get things rolling with an early loss outside of the top 25. Let’s break this game down and see if this is a good spot to back USC.
USC Trojans (-3) @ Vanderbilt Commodores (+3) Total: 145
This is as good as the point spread gets across the board, but I like USC by three at first glance. Their -155 Money Line is pretty nice if you don’t love the spread, too, but three points is feasible for them in this spot – even on the road.
Honestly, the only thing that could trip me up here is the fact that this game is at the Memorial Gymnasium. Vanderbilt was a middling 19-16 a year ago and does not have an explosive offense, so this team really doesn’t jump out at you as a scary threat. They can be tough at home, however, as just five of last season’s losses came on their home floor and just one was by more than seven points.
I fully expect Vanderbilt to play a tough game and stay in this one for most of the night. Jeff Roberson has been a monster inside on the glass (11 rebounds per game) and gives the Commodores a solid scoring option, while Riley LaChance has given them their lone threat from beyond the arc (44.4%) to this point.
This is not a great shooting team and Vanderbilt could be tested immediately defensively. They did show some defensive chops in their first two games, but then barely survived a shootout with N.C. Asheville. On paper, I’m not sure they have the defense to contain USC’s long line of shooters, while their own offense just might not be able to keep up down the stretch.
USC has just as balanced of an offense, but it’s far more explosive. The Trojans have looked good offensively with 84 and 75 points scored in their first two games, while star scorer Bennie Boatwright (20 points per game) has picked up where he left off from a strong 2016-17 season and has seemingly taken his game to a whole new level.
He’s the main offensive weapon Vanderbilt has to account for, but the Trojans also have a slew of shooters to keep an eye on. Chimezie Metu is the team’s second leading scorer (16 points per game) and is hitting an absurd 66.7% of his outside shots. USC as a whole isn’t setting any records from long range, but with five players hitting over 33% of their shots from deep, they’re a high upside offense that has no qualms about launching early and often.
It’s early in the season, but I think USC is simply the better team here. Vanderbilt will be at home and Vegas likes this one to be close, but the Trojans ultimately have too many weapons. Look for a big game out of Boatwright as USC covers.