No. 24 USC will be hoping to breeze past St. Joseph’s on Thursday night and book its spot in the championship game at the Wooden Legacy. The Trojans have rattled off four consecutive wins to open the season, but they were heavy favorites in three of those games. St. Joseph’s has dropped consecutive games and appears to be the worst team in this four-team event.
Trojans looking for another comfortable winNo. 24 USC is having to replace some key production from last year’s team, but it has handled the transition smoothly thus far. The Trojans have picked up wins over CSU Northridge, Temple, Florida Gulf Coast and Dixie State to open the season. They were double-digit favorites in three of those games—they won all three by double figures. Their only real test came at Temple two weeks ago, where they were able to sneak past the Owls in a 76-71 final as 6-point favorites. USC enters this event ranked No. 29 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings.
Angles 📸 pic.twitter.com/0Qr45TnW5R— USC Men's Basketball (@USC_Hoops) November 24, 2021
The Trojans have done an excellent job of limiting turnovers thus far, giving the ball away on just 12.9% of their possessions. They are ranked tenth nationally in turnover rate, despite being a forward-heavy team. USC is the fourth-tallest team in college basketball, which has shown in its 58.8% 2-point percentage thus far. Guard Boogie Ellis is averaging a team-high 17.0 points and 4.0 assists per game. Forward Chevez Goodwin is scoring 14.8 points, while forward Isaiah Mobley is adding 12.8 points. Both big men are averaging 8.0 rebounds per game. They are going to face a St. Joseph’s defense that is No. 264 in adjusted efficiency.
Hawks hoping to slow down lanky TrojansSt. Joseph’s opened the season with a narrow win over Maryland-Eastern Shore, despite being a 24.5-point favorite. The Hawks did a much better job of taking care of business in their next game, easily covering as 4.5-point favorites in an 80-60 win over Mount St. Mary’s. They have suffered two disappointing losses since then, though. One of those came against Drexel as a 1-point underdog, while the other came against Monmouth as a 1-point underdog. The Hawks have their work cut out for them at the Wooden Legacy. Their offense is No. 207 in adjusted efficiency, which has not been helped by a poor turnover rate.
Their strength on the offensive end of the court has been outside shooting, where they are knocking down 37.1% of their attempts from beyond the arc. They are going up against a USC defense that is No. 20 in adjusted efficiency and is No. 13 in opponent’s effective field goal percentage. St. Joseph’s does have the height to match up, as it is No. 10 in that category, but talent could be an issue. Forward Taylor Funk is averaging 18.5 points and 6.0 rebounds, while guard Jordan Hall is scoring 15.5 points and grabbing a team-high 7.3 rebounds.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
There are plenty of reasons to like USC in this game, but the obvious one is the massive talent gap that exists between these teams. The Trojans and Hawks might have similar size, but St. Joseph’s does not have the athleticism or strength to match up in the paint. USC is going to completely neutralize the one strength that St. Joseph’s is going to have in mid-major games. The Trojans are also going to push the pace of this game, which will help cover the big number. They are going to face a tougher opponent on Friday night, so they will be interested in putting an end to this game quickly.
Full-Game Total Pick
The only shot St. Joseph’s has in this game is to slow the pace down and be very efficient. This is a style they are used to playing, as they rank No. 201 in average possession length. USC wants to play up-tempo, but it is outside the top 300 in 3-pointers attempted. The Trojans are also a very strong defensive squad, which is going to make life difficult on St. Joseph’s offensively. USC has gone under the total in two of its three games as double-digit favorites this season—I expect this one to follow suit.