UC Irvine vs. USC NCAA Basketball Picks and Predictions

Boogie Ellis #0 of the USC Trojans goes up to the basket against the Long Beach State 49ers. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images/AFP

With just six undefeated teams remaining in college basketball, 10th ranked USC will look to extend their season-opening streak to 11-0 when they host UC Irvine Wednesday evening.

UC Irvine Anteaters vs. USC Trojans

Wednesday, December 15, 2021 – 9:00 pm EST at Galen Center

Hopes were high for USC coming into a new season in the Pac-12, their strong showing in the NCAA Tournament would have a carryover effect for the upcoming season. UCLA was at the head of the class followed by Oregon and USC and everyone else was at least one rung lower.

The Ducks have lost a waddle in their step and are just .500. One team that has stepped up is the Trojans of USC, sporting a 10-0 record (6-4 ATS). The Men of Troy’s only weakness has been covering point spreads of -17 or higher, with a 2-3 ATS mark.

UC Irvine (5-2 SU and 3-2 ATS) is a perennial power out of the Big West Conference. To this point the Anteaters are 1-2 SU and ATS in true away games and making shots has been an issue. Will that change tonight?

The opening betting odds at BetRivers had the Trojans at -11.5 and as of this morning that is down to -10.5.

UC Irvine Stays the Course

The Anteaters don’t win the Big West regular season or tournament every year, but they are always in the mix. Over the past nine seasons, UC Irvine has averaged 22 victories a year, that’s consistency.

Through the years and with coaching changes, the Anteaters play a methodical style of offense. Most years they rely on balance to get the job done. That would be the case this season to date with forward Collin Welp leading at 12.6 points a contest. Guard Dawson Baker was the conference Freshman of the Year last season and he’s at 11.2 PPG. Five other players average 5.0 to 8.7 PPG for a club that averages 71.6 PPG.

What you’ll notice more is the defense, which permits 54.6 PPG on only 34.5% shooting. Those numbers are juiced up a bit having played non-lined games against Laverne and Bethesda CA colleges. Still, Santa Clara is the only opponent to reach over 40% shooting (42%) against Irvine.

Trojans Coach Enfield Has Found His Stride at USC

Andy Enfield was a hot-shot coach after taking previously unheard-of Florida Gulf Coast all the way to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. He carried that same cocksure attitude to be the coach of USC, but the first several seasons were bumpy and the overall results lacked luster.

However, his recruiting changed, finding not only talented players, but ones willing to work towards a team structure and goal, while not just using one season to be drafted by the NBA.

Last year’s Elite 8 appearance was the first in two decades for the Trojans. Though quite a bit of talent departed (namely Evan Mobley), plenty returned including Mobley’s brother Isaiah, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding. Mobley’s frontcourt running mate is Chevez Goodwin, who is second in points and boards. The backcourt is fortified with Drew Peterson and Memphis transfer Boogie Ellis.

USC scores better than 77 PPG and holds foes to 61 PPG on only 35.2% shooting. Though the Trojans are unbeaten, they have not reached their ceiling on possibilities.

What is the Best Side to Be On?

The teams met last year and USC couldn’t miss from anywhere and ran away 91-56, crushing the sportsbooks number of -10.

This year, it probably won’t be as easy for the Trojans and for college basketball picks we anticipate a more competitive SoCal clash. UC Irvine is averaging in the upper 50’s for points against the four-best clubs they have faced and don’t expect that to change.

USC will have a few minor scoring droughts, but ultimately, they will climb over 70 points and the Anteaters will tumble to 9-22 ATS playing against a top-level team with a win percentage of 80% or higher.

NCAAB Picks: USC -10.5 (-110) at BetRivers