Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: Wildcats vs. Trojans (3/2/2023) - Taking Vegas



Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: Wildcats vs. Trojans (3/2/2023)

By TakingVegas Staff Writer
March 2, 2023
Photo by: Stephen R. Sylvanie - USA TODAY Sports

#8 Arizona Wildcats vs USC Trojans (2/2 @ 11:00 PM EST)

Spread: Arizona -2.5
Money Line: Arizona -118 / USC +108
Total: 156

Overview and Betting Info

The #8 Arizona Wildcats (24-5) will head to the City of Angels to take on the USC Trojans (21-8) on Thursday night in a key PAC 12 battle. These teams met in Tucson in January with the Wildcats winning 81-66. These two teams are currently tied for second in the PAC 12, with UCLA having secured the conference title.

Arizona is 13-15-1 against the spread this season but have failed to cover three of their last four games. They’ve gone over the total 15 times, including in four of their last five.

USC is 17-12 versus the spread and have covered their last four games. They’ve gone over the total 15 times and have done so in nine of their 15 home games.

Arizona Wildcats

Arizona comes in after a heartbreaking loss at home to rival ASU, their second loss in their last four games. Three of their five losses have come on the road to conference opponents, but they have three bad road losses in conference play to Oregon, Utah, and Stanford. They also have incredible wins against SDSU, Tennessee, and UCLA. Their success has come from one of the top offenses in the nation. They rank fifth in the country in scoring (83.3 PPG), second in assists (19.5 APG), sixth in rebounds (40.2 RPG), eighth in field goal percentage (49.2%), and twelfth in fast break points (14.9 PPG). The defense has been a different story, with the Wildcats ranking last in the PAC 12 in opponent scoring (71.2 PPG), sixth in steals (6.3 SPG), and eighth in blocks (3.4 BPG).

The Wildcats are led by a duo of big men in Azuolas Tubelis (19.6 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.1 SPG) and Oumar Ballo (14.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.3 BPG). Tubelis has been one of the conference’s top players, leading the PAC in scoring and rebounds while ranking four in field goal percentage (57.3%). He had 17 points and nine rebounds in the loss to ASU, but his numbers have been down over his last four games. He is averaging 12.2 points and 5.5 rebounds during that stretch. He may be ready to bounce back on Thursday against a USC team that allowed him 15 points and 17 rebounds in their first matchup. Ballo has been one of the top centers in the conference, ranking second in rebounds and first in field goal percentage (65.4%). He also has seen a drop-off in production over their last four games, averaging 10.2 points and 7.5 rebounds. Still, Ballo made over 60% of his shots in each game.

The pair of star big men are supported by a core of Courtney Ramey (10.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG), Kerr Kriisa (10.6 PPG, 5.5 APG), and Pelle Larsson (10.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG). Ramey averages 15.5 points over their last four games to go with five steals. His recent success has come from his three-point shot, where he is one of the conference’s best, making over 40% of his attempts during that span. He had two steals and went 5-10 from three for 16 points against USC in January. Kriisa is a three-point specialist who is making 37.2% of his attempts. He’s a bit streakier than Ramey and did not play well against the Trojans, going 1-5 from three. Larsson may be Arizona’s hottest player, averaging 13.2 points over his last five games. The guard is a solid rebounder and defender, with 15 points and three steals against USC.

USC Trojans

The Trojans come into Thursday riding a four-game win streak and a shot at the two-seed in the PAC 12 tournament on the line. They’ve now won eight of their last ten games since losing to the Wildcats, with their two losses coming on the road against the Oregon teams. That hot streak includes a win over a good ASU team on the road and a great UCLA team at home. They have yet to lose a home conference game this season. The Trojans are solid offensively, ranking third in the PAC 12 in scoring (72.7 PPG), third in field goal percentage (46.1%), and fifth in three-point percentage (34.4%). The defense has also been solid, ranking fourth in opponent scoring (66.3 PPG), first in field goal percentage (38.9%), third in steals (7.2 SPG), and second in blocks (5.0 BPG). One major area of concern is rebounding, where they are seventh by averaging 35.1 per game.

The Trojans are led by a pair of guards in Boogie Ellis (17.2 PPG, 1.4 SPG) and Drew Peterson (14.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.1 SPG). Ellis is third in the PAC in scoring and is one of the Trojans’ best three-point shooters, making 38.4% of his attempts. He’s been on fire lately, averaging 23 points over their last four games. He’s been making 48% of his threes during that span. Ellis is also a fantastic free throw shooter, making 88% of his attempts over his last five games. Peterson is averaging 19 points over their previous four games. He’s making 46.4% of his shots from the field and 37.3% from three this season, making him a threat from anywhere on the floor. He scored 15 points in their loss to Arizona but made 35.7% of his shots. Expect him to improve on Thursday, as his field goal percentage is five points higher at home than on the road. 

The Trojans star duo is supported by Reese Dixon-Waters (9.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG) and Kobe Johnson (8.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.2 SPG). Waters is a streaky scorer but is making over 52% of his shots over his last three games. Jones is second in the PAC in steals and has 11 over his last four games alone. He is also a solid three-point shooter (37.1%) and has been shooting more over the previous few games. Jones didn’t score well against the Wildcats but did have three steals. Keep an eye on Joshua Morgan (7.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.3 BPG), who leads the conference in blocks and has two against Arizona.

Free Pick: USC ML +108

There are two reasons why we love the Trojans at home on Thursday. The first is how these teams have played down the stretch. While USC has some tough road losses, they have been fantastic at home. They crushed a great UCLA team at home, where they have yet to lose to a conference opponent. The Wildcats are coming off a home loss against an ASU team that has a lot of similarities with USC. While they are not a great rebounding team, they play an aggressive defense that will force Arizona to turn the ball over. The Wildcats played well enough to beat the Devils, but it should never have been that close at home. That, combined with a loss to a bad Stanford team, has us concerned the Cats may be heading in the wrong direction.

The second reason is the play of Arizona’s top two scorers. Ballo and Tubelis have been struggling to score, and even their rebounding has dipped. We also see that Kriisa’s three-point percentage drops almost nine point when on the road. Ramey’s is down on the road too, but only by 2 percentage points. Even if they can get the rebounding edge back against the Trojans, they won’t be able to keep up with a Trojans offense that has been explosive at home.

We’re taking USC to get the win at home on Thursday.