UC Irvine vs. USC NCAA Basketball Preview and Best Bet

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Chevez Goodwin #1 of the USC Trojans. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images/AFP.

There are only a handful of unbeaten teams left in college basketball and one is No. 10 Southern Cal. The Trojans figure to stay that way Wednesday vs. UC Irvine, but will they cover a double-digit spread for our NCAAB picks? Which way to lean at BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks

UC Irvine Anteaters vs. USC Trojans 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021 – 09:00 PM EST at Galen Center

Wednesday is easily the marquee game on the 2021-22 college basketball regular-season schedule for Big West school UC Irvine as the Anteaters get a rare shot at a ranked power conference school in No. 10 USC. There is no national TV. 

All-time, UC Irvine is 2-7 against the Trojans with one win in seven trips to Southern Cal. The schools played last December and the Trojans rolled to a 91-56 home victory. Evan Mobley had 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 blocks and is now starring with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Evan’s brother Isaiah, still at USC, had 9 points and 6 rebounds.  

The Trojans shot 51.6 percent overall and were 12-for-24 from deep. Dawson Baker led Irvine with 17 points. UCI shot just 33.8% overall and 4-for-19 from three-point range.

Anteaters Win With Defense 

UC Irvine (5-2) had a five-game winning streak snapped last time out, a 63-55 loss at a good Fresno State team. The Bulldogs forced a season-high 21 turnovers, which led to 26 points. Collin Welp, whose 13 points per game ranked second on the Anteaters, scored eight on 2-for-10 shooting. 

DJ Davis led the Anteaters with 16 points off the bench, his first time topping the team in scoring this season. JC Butler added 14 points, and Justin Hohn made his first career start and added 10 points. UCI allowed more than 60 points for just the third time this season.  

The Anteaters still rank fourth nationally in scoring defense at 54.6 ppg. UCI allows the second-lowest field goal percentage in the nation (34.5 percent) and the fourth-lowest three-point percentage allowed (25.0). The 'Eaters pull down the 11th-most defensive rebounds per game (30.29) and 21st-most total rebounds (42.14). UCI's 8.29 steals per game lead the Big West, and it is second in blocks with 3.14 per game. 

Hohn started last time out because Dawson Baker is going to miss several weeks with a hand injury. He’s second on the team in scoring at 11.2 ppg.  A total of 13 Anteaters average more than 10 minutes per game and eight at more than 15 minutes per. 

Wednesday will be the 27th all-time game for UC Irvine against a Top 10 school and 74th against a ranked school overall. UCI is 9-64 against ranked schools with the last win in the 2019 NCAA Tournament against No. 18 Kansas State. Against Top 10 opponents, UCI is 4-22. All four wins were against UNLV teams in the 1980s.  

Cal Irvine is 6-1 against the spread in its past seven on the NCAAB odds following a loss.  

Trojans Carried by Mobley 

As of this writing, USC (10-0) is one of seven unbeaten programs along with Baylor, Arizona, Iowa State, LSU, Colorado State, and San Francisco. This program was supposed to take a minor step back after losing superstar freshman Evan Mobley off last year’s team.   

The Trojans come off a 73-62 win over Long Beach State on Sunday. Evan’s older brother Isaiah scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half and had 12 rebounds for his fourth double-double in five games. He’s an early Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate. Guard Max Agbonkpolo scored 11 points and has scored in double figures in his last four at home, averaging 14.0 points in those. 

USC was outrebounded by a smaller team but held the Beach to 38.3 percent and has held all 10 of its opponents to under 40% shooting this season. 

“I can’t be too upset if we haven’t lost, but there are always things to clean up and get better at,” Coach Andy Enfield said. “I’m thankful for their defensive intensity. No team has shot over 40% from the field on us this year. Our goal is to be an elite defensive team, but we’re not there yet. I’m happy with the team. We’re excited to be 10-0. They’re playing together.” 

USC’s 10-0 start is its longest winning streak to start the season since winning the first 14 games of the 2017 season. The 10-game winning streak ties for the 10th-longest winning streak in school history. The No. 10 ranking is the Trojans' highest ranking in the AP Top 25 since opening the 2017-18 season at 10.  

Southern Cal shoots 49.6% from the field, which is 14th nationally and tops in the Pac-12. Mobley leads the team in scoring with 14.7 per game and his 9.8 rebounds per game lead the Pac-12. Chevez Goodwin is averaging 12.2 points per game and shooting a conference-best 65.1 percent. 

USC could be looking past UC Irvine a bit toward a trip to Phoenix on Saturday against Georgia Tech. The Anteaters are good enough defensively to hang around. Simulations I have run have the Trojans winning by around 9 points. USC is 1-4 ATS at BMR’s top-rated books in its past five at home vs. teams with a losing road record.  

NCAAB Pick: UC Irvine +12 (-110) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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