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No. 16 USC Set to Cram

Trojans Begin Hectic stretch With Visit to Unranked Colorado

Thursday’s game between Southern California and Colorado features two of the Pac-12’s best rebounders. USC’s Isaiah Mobley is averaging a conference-best 9.2 rebounds while Jabari Walker of Colorado is third with 8.5 rebounds per contest.

The teams come into the game tied for third place in the Pac-12 standings with Oregon with 4-2 conference records.

USC vs Colorado Buffaloes

Colorado is 9-1 at home, including back-to-back wins over Washington and Washington State earlier this month. Colorado outrebounded Washington 47-27 in its most recent home game. USC has lost just once in true road games.

USC (+650) has the third-best odds behind Arizona and UCLA to win the Pac-12 championship but Oregon is closing fast at +700. Colorado is fifth at +2200, but the Buffaloes trail the top four teams in the Pac-12 by a wide margin.

Game: Southern California (14-2) at Colorado (12-4)
Location: CU Events Center
Day/Time: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Television: Pac-12 Network

USC vs Colorado Buffaloes

Trojans Look to Tighten Defense

Southern California was putting up some elite defensive numbers in its first 12 games.

Each of the Trojans’ first 12 opponents was held under 40 percent shooting. Eight times in those 12 games, the opponents scored 62 points or less.

However, just when the Trojans were cruising, they had to pause basketball activities due to COVID-19 protocols. Since they returned, it has been a struggle to return to the level of defense the team played during its 12-0 start.

USC has allowed 74.5 points and opponents are shooting almost 45 percent from the field, including 43 percent from three-point range.

After allowing 10 three-pointers just twice in the first 12 games, it has happened in losses to Stanford and Oregon.

“We need these games to see adversity, it helps you get better,” USC guard Boogie Ellis said after a 79-69 loss to Oregon. “We know what we need to work on. Losses can help you get better. We have big games coming up. These last few games, we haven’t been good on defense. We need to pick up our communication.”

Colorado doesn’t receive as much hype as some of the other Pac-12 teams, but the Buffaloes have attempted more free throws than any other team in the conference and are one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the Pac-12. It should be noted that USC’s losses have come to Stanford (the No. 1 defensive rebounding team in the Pac-12) and Oregon, which ranks fourth in that department. Now, the Trojans get the No. 2 defensive rebounding team statistically in the Pac-12.

USC has covered against the college basketball spreads in two of its last eight games.

Colorado Knows How to Seal Deal

With eight freshmen and five sophomores on the roster, it would be understandable if Colorado struggled to close out games against more experienced teams.

However, the opposite is true.

There have been nine games with a margin of six points or less in the final four minutes left to play and the Buffaloes have won eight of those contests. It is a huge improvement from a season ago, when five of Colorado’s nine losses were by four points or less.

The most recent game that came down to the wire was an 83-78 win over Washington State on Jan. 6. It was the first game for the team since Dec. 18 after Colorado’s final scheduled game of 2021 was canceled and the first game of 2022 was postponed as a result of COVID-19 protocols.

“It was a good win,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said after the victory. “It wasn’t the prettiest performance by us, especially in the first half. This team continues to find ways to win games late in tough situations.

“The last three weeks where we haven’t played games and we’ve had workouts and/or practices, we got a lot of shots up. I think it showed tonight. We made open shots when we had to. In the second half, we shot 64 percent from the field. Going into the game against Washington State, they’re one of the best defensive teams in the country, in terms of field goal percentage defense.”

Since that Washington State game, the nail-biters have stopped. Three days later, a 14-point win against Washington was followed by a 76-55 loss to Pac-12 leading Arizona and an 18-point win against Arizona State.

Colorado has won its last five home games and was favored according to the Las Vegas odds in all five of those contests. The Buffaloes were just 2-2-1 against the spread during their five-game home winning streak.

Rebounding Key in USC-Colorado Matchup

USC is ranked third and Colorado fourth in the Pac-12 in rebounding margin and are both in the top three in defensive rebounds per game.

Colorado is one of five Pac-12 programs to average more than 6,000 fans for its home games. The Buffaloes have won the last seven meetings with USC, including three home contests. Colorado has covered in six of the seven games. Nine straight meetings between the teams went under the total before the last two went under.

The total has gone under in seven of Colorado’s last nine games, but the total has gone over in four of USC’s last five games so there is plenty to unpack for those who bet online.

USC will play three games in five days as the Trojans start to make up for the games missed when the program had to pause due to COVID-19 issues.

Pick: Over 137

Pick: USC Trojans-2 (-110)

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