Big Ticket: Take USC (#725)
In just about every recent season we've seen one team ride the wave from a 'play in' game victory all the way to the Sweet 16. And USC certainly has that potential here, with the current seven point spread offering us a legitimate bargain to support the Trojans on Sunday in a play worthy of Big Ticket status!
Baylor is a classic case of a team that peaked in January. Remember, this team was #1 in the country for a few days after starting 15-0. Obviously, they are not the #1 team in the country, or anything close. And from a value standpoint, the Bears have been a nightmare for their supporters since that hot start, a 40% ATS squad since the calendar turned to 2017.
Coming off a game in which they shot 57% from the floor and 90% from the free throw line while finishing +17 on the glass ' yet the game was still tied after halftime ' I'm expecting the Bears to have a much tougher time here as they step up in class. And for a program with a consistent track record of failure in March under Scott Drew, expect the Bears to have their fair share of struggles in Tulsa on Sunday
USC has stepped up in class plenty of late, facing UCLA, Arizona and Oregon twice each down the stretch of their PAC-12 campaign. And this game sets up well for the Trojans. They didn't burn all their energy in Vegas last weekend, losing to UCLA by a bucket in their second game. They had time to physically recover before their flight to Dayton for the Play in Game. Their win over SMU was another confidence boost for a team with great potential, and now, after the whirlwind of the past week, they get normal prep time without travel to face the Bears.
Here's what SMU's Tim Jankovich said following the Mustangs loss to the Trojans on Friday, unable to penetrate the USC zone defense: 'They've got great size. That's one of the real factors in how good your zone is, and they are very big, very, very big, and they're very athletic. I thought it was the most active they've played it in any of the games that we watched. So give them credit for that."
Size is Baylor's biggest edge, with 6-10 Johnathan Motley and seven footer Jo Lual-Acuil manning the low post and leading to a +8 rebounding margin average for the full season. But with Bennie Boatwright, Chimizie Metu, and Nick Rakocevic all standing at 6-10 or taller, the Trojans can bang with the Bears in the paint; start to finish.
USC head coach Andy Enfield is the antithesis of Scott Drew when it come to tournament settings; a coach with a great track record of success, particularly as an underdog. Enfield took Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16 ' that's how he got the USC job ' with a 6-0 ATS run from the start of the Atlantic Sun tournament until their Big Dance exit, cashing four times as underdogs.
Enfield has gone 7-3 ATS in postseason play with USC, including a 5-2 ATS mark as an underdog. In USC's last two tries as a dog, they covered wire-2-wire, losing by only 2 to UCLA and beating SMU straight up. Both of those teams are better than Baylor'' Big Ticket: Take USC.