East Region NCAA Tourney: (8) USC Trojans vs. (9) Providence Friars

Providence is 2 point favorites against USC in an 8/9 matchup in the East Region.
Providence is 2 point favorites against USC in an 8/9 matchup in the East Region.

8 USC vs 9 PROV
Time: 8:50 PM CT
Spread: PROV -2
Total: 149.5

Betting odds c/o 5dimes

USC finished the season 21-12 with the 6th best record in the Pac-12. The Trojans fell 80-72 to Utah in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, and it is looking to get back on track in a typically interesting 8/9 matchup in the East Region. The Trojans will face No. 9 Providence, and the Trojans are 2 point underdogs in the game according to college basketball oddsmakers at 5dimes.

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Sophomore guard Jordan McLaughlin has had an outstanding season for the Trojans and led the way with 24 points in that loss to Utah. He averaged 13.4 points, 4.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game this season while coming up with 1.5 steals per game as well. He had scored in double-figures in the three games prior to Utah contest, but the Trojans still lost to No. 9 Oregon on Mar. 5. He shot just 4 of 12 from the floor for 10 points in that game, but he is a typically very efficient shooter. McLaughlin shot 46.7 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from three-point range, and his shooting will help spread the court against a tough Providence defense.

The Trojans had a balanced scoring attack this season with its top five players all averaging 11 points per game or more. The Trojans really use a seven-man rotation, and it is expected that fatigue could play a role for this team without the depth to really rest its starters.

USC does have a big body manning the middle with 6’11” junior forward Nikola Jovanovic. He averaged 12 points, seven rebounds and 1.1 blocks/steals per game this season and is skilled on the blocks. Jovanovic shot 52.3 percent from the field this season, though he is a little weak at the line (65 percent).

Jovanovic did not far well against Utah with just seven points and five rebounds in 24 minutes of play, but he had scored in double figures in four consecutive games prior to that. The Trojans are 4-2 when he scores 20 points or more.

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Julian Jacobs is a very solid floor general for USC as well. The 6’4” junior point guard led the team in assists with 5.5 per game, while getting 4.9 rebounds and 11.8 points. He had a big game in the loss to Utah, with 16 points, six assists and eight rebounds while shooting 8 of 17 from the floor.

Jacobs struggled badly in back-to-back games against Oregon State and Oregon, hitting just 3 of 10 from the field in those games, while averaging just 4.5 points and five assists. Jacobs also turns it over 2.6 times per game and USC averages 12 turnovers per game as a team.

Providence finished the season 23-10 and had the fourth best record in the Big East. The Friars close the season with a 76-68 loss to Villanova, but prior to that game had a four-game winning streak that featured wins over DePaul, Creighton, Saint Johns and Butler.

In the 74-60 win over Butler in the Big East quarterfinals Ben Bentil had 38 points and eight rebounds on 16 of 24 shooting including 5 of 9 from three-point range. He averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks/steals per game this year as a sophomore and is likely to declare for the NBA draft. He had scored 78 points in the three games prior to that explosion against Butler. He followed up that huge game with a 1 of 5 shooting night with just three points in the loss to Villanova.

Nova knew he was on fire, and it limited his touches while forcing nothing but tough looks, while also attacking him offensively to get him into foul trouble (he did foul out).

Junior guard Kris Dunn is the No. 2 scorer on Providence and he averaged a stat stuffing line of 16 points, 6.4 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. Dunn also struggled against Villanova, hitting just 1 of 8 from the field and turning it over three times.

Dunn had averaged 15 points per game in the three games prior, and against St John’s on Mar 5 he had a nice double-double with 13 points and 11 assists in a 90-76 win.

Dunn and Bentil give Providence a nice 1-2 punch and though the Friars are just 2 point favorites in this game, they could easily run away with it. USC’s lack of depth will pose problems if Bentil can get the Providence bigs in foul trouble.

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