UCLA vs. USC Top Picks & Props for January 26: Jump on the Tasty Over

profile image of Jason.Lake
Drew Peterson #13 of the USC Trojans drives past Ben Carlson #1, Branden Carlson #35 and Marco Anthony #10 of the Utah Utes on January 14, 2023. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images/AFP.

NCAAB Pick: Over 130.5 (-110) at Bovada

Bovada logo
Over 130.5 (-110)
Visit Site

There’s a bargain price available for Thursday’s NCAAB picks when the UCLA Bruins visit the USC Trojans – but you’d better act fast.

UCLA Bruins vs. USC Trojans

Thursday, January 26, 2023 – 09:00 PM EST at Galen Center

It’s always easier to make college basketball picks when one of the sportsbooks is giving you a bargain. As we go to press, Bovada (visit our Bovada Review) has the total for Thursday’s Pac-12 tilt between the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans pegged at 130.5 points; other books have raised their totals as high as 132.

Grabbing these deals takes some nimble fingers, though. We were going to recommend Over 130.5 (-101) at Bookmaker (visit our Bookmaker Review), but they moved their NCAAB lines and made it 131 (-111) while I was writing this award-vaporizing introduction.

We could have used those nine cents of vigorish. The analytics say this is a tight total now, and the spread is even tighter with UCLA laying five points at Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review). But we’ve been challenged to make at least three picks for this matchup here at the ranch, and there aren’t any NCAAB props on the board yet, so let’s see what we can whip up for you.

Can We Make an Arbitrage Play?

Almost. For all you newer bettors out there, arbitrage is when you’re able to take advantage of a risk-free opportunity in the marketplace. There are dozens of online sportsbooks on the betting board, and their college basketball odds don’t always line up perfectly:

  • Bookmaker: USC +5.5 (-115)
  • BetOnline: UCLA -4.5 (-115)

In theory, you could bet on both sides of this matchup and nail both your picks if the Bruins (17-3 SU, 12-8 ATS) win by exactly five points. With any other result, you win one bet and lose the other, so they cancel each other out. Ah, but you still have to pay that -115 vigorish on either side. And the chances of UCLA winning by exactly five are pretty slim.

A 15-year sample of college basketball results shows 5.34% of them ending with a winning margin of five points; cut that in half to get a rough estimate of the Bruins being on the right side of that margin, and you can see why the -115 vig messes up this “risk-free” opportunity.

Generally speaking, arbitrage plays work a lot better when you’re dealing with moneylines instead of point spreads. But this being college basketball, the moneyline odds for Thursday’s contest have also yet to hit the board at press time. Life is cruel.

What Makes These Lines So Tight?

It might be the fact that USC (14-6 SU, 11-9 ATS) and UCLA are tucked away in the corners of the Pac-12, where few people east of the Mississippi are paying attention. A cursory look at the public money charts out there on the interwebs shows the Bruins barely cracking the Top 20 for Division I, and the Trojans just sneaking into the Top 30.

It also might be the familiarity between these two teams. They’ve played each other 10 times since 2019, with USC slightly ahead at 6-4 SU and ATS; go back all the way to 2011, and the Battle of Los Angeles is evenly split at 15-15 ATS (UCLA is ahead 18-12 SU), with the Under enjoying a slim but unprofitable lead at 16-14.

The more two teams face each other, the more data we all have to work with, and the harder it is to exploit anyone. That’s why March Madness is such a great money-making opportunity: you get strange matchups that confound casual bettors.

So What Can I Bet On?

If we’re reading the tea leaves correctly, a fun-size bet on both the Over and USC would be in order.

The models we’re looking at have UCLA winning by something like 68-63. That gives us slightly more margin to bet the Over, although still not nearly enough to overcome the 52.4% threshold with the –110 vigorish.

NCAAB Pick: Over 130.5 (-110) at Bovada

NCAAB Pick: USC +5 (-108) at Heritage Sports

Heritage Sports logo
USC +5 (-108)
Visit Site

The Prop Pick

For our third pick, we’re going to use a little voodoo and carry over a player prop that had value going into the January 5 game between these two clubs, which UCLA won 60-58 as 11-point home faves. The top California betting sites suggested taking Over 9.5 for points scored by freshman Bruins forward Adem Bona; he was priced somewhere around -135 for that particular prop.

Bona didn’t actually get there - he was held to eight points on 3-of-5 shooting. But if there was betting value in that prop three weeks ago, it should still be there today, so bet accordingly, and may the sphere be with you.

NCAAB Prop Pick: Adem Bona Over 8.5 Points (-118) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

BetOnline logo
Adem Bona Over 8.5 Points (-118)
Visit Site

*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.