Matchup: UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at USC Trojans
Date/Time: November 27, 10:00 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Network
College Basketball Betting Odds from Bookmaker
Spread: USC -20
The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos are off to a rough start to say the least. It doesn’t appear that things will get any easier on Sunday night with a visit to the Galen Center to take on the USC Trojans. Andy Enfield’s team is off to a 5-0 start and the Gauchos haven’t won a game yet. They’re not even expected to be competitive in this matchup, as the Trojans are favored by 19.5 points. USC has only won one of its five games by a margin that large.
Initial line action has bumped this number up a little bit, as it opened in the 18 range at most shops. The Gauchos are 0-4 straight up and 0-3 against the spread in their lined contests thus far. UCSB was favored over the Omaha Mavericks and lost by 14 to open the season. They were also favored over San Francisco and lost by 12. Their most recent ATS loss was to SMU as a 19-point dog. USC is 5-0 straight up, but they’re also 3-1 against the number, as the Trojans have been kind to bettors in the early going. Omaha was the only team to stay within the spread, as the Trojans covered against Montana, Texas A&M, and SMU.
UCSB really struggled at the start of last season as well, posting a 2-7 record over its first nine games, but wins over Iona and Washington really stood out during the non-conference portion of the season. The Gauchos went a solid 11-5 in Big West play, but lost to Hawaii in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament. They accepted a bid to the Vegas 16, where they beat Northern Illinois and then lost to Old Dominion. Head coach Bob Williams has had this squad in a postseason tournament in each of the last two seasons. They have not won the Big West since 2011.
Last season’s leading scorer, Michael Bryson, ran out of eligibility, so it’s up to the returnees to pick up where he left off. The guy doing that right now is Gabe Vincent, who was second in points per game last year. Vincent is only shooting 32.4 percent from the floor, but he’s averaged over 16 points per game on sheer volume. He has taken 28 more shots than any other player on the roster. Eric Childress and Max Heidegger are the others in double figures, but Heidegger was injured against CSU Bakersfield and has not played the last two games. As a team, the Gauchos are shooting just 37 percent from the floor and 24.5 percent from beyond the arc. It would seem that an up-tempo game with USC would expose some of those major shooting flaws.
USC started 5-0 last year and then dropped three straight with games against Wichita State, Xavier, and Monmouth. Andy Enfield’s team shouldn’t have to worry about a loss here in this spot, but the Trojans cannot afford any slip-ups in non-conference play because the schedule really isn’t that strong and it’s nowhere near as strong as last season’s. The Trojans only won by 12 over the Gauchos last season, but that was on the road and coming off of the Monmouth game. USC eventually went 21-12 and drew a #8 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but lost to Providence in the 8 vs. 9 matchup by just one point.
The Trojans brought back a decent chunk of last season’s roster, but it’s a scoring-by-committee approach with the tempo and the athleticism on the floor. USC had five players finish the season in double figures on a nightly basis last year and they’ve got five already this season as well. Katin Reinhart transferred to Marquette, but the team has most of its key components otherwise. Elijah Stewart seems to be the one ready to take the next step, as the junior leads the team with 15.8 points per game, a big increase from last year’s 9.8. USC hasn’t been all that efficient on offense yet, so they are still in search of some consistency. The Trojans are shooting a little bit better than 42 percent from the floor and just 34.5 percent from deep.
College Basketball Free Pick: UC Santa Barbara +20
USC can go out here and blow the doors off of an overmatched Big West opponent, but they haven’t really done that to anybody outside of New Orleans and didn’t do that last year to the Gauchos either. USC is coming off of a gutsy performance against SMU in a back-and-forth type of game and it’s hard to get up for a game like this against a UC satellite school. This may be a game for Enfield to look at some younger guys and it could allow the Gauchos to hang around a while.