Southern California Trojans vs. Virginia Commonwealth Rams

The USC Trojans are 4-points favorites over the VCU Rams in their first-round matchup of the NCAA Tournament this evening in Dayton, Ohio.  The over/under total for the game is 127. The battle of 11-seeds will determine who meets 6-seed Georgetown on Friday at Chicago’s United Center.

It’s the first time since the field expanded to 64 teams that Virginia Commonwealth has received an at-large invite. It also marks the first time the Colonial Athletic Association has sent three teams to the tournament with VCU being joined by Old Dominion and George Mason.  VCU comes into this game off a 70-65 loss to Old Dominion in the CAA Championship a little more than a week ago.  The Rams fell just shy of the cover as 4-point underdogs after fighting back from an 18-point deficit.  VCU is 23-11 for the season and 13-20 against the spread. Senior forward Jamie Skeen is one of four Rams to average double-digits in scoring this season, leading the team with 15.3 points per game as well as 7.5 rebounds per game.  Bradford Burgess, a 6-foot-6 guard, ranks second in both departments with 14.0 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game.

USC is 19-14 on the season and 15-17 against the spread.  USC is returning to the NCAA Tournament just a season after a self-imposed postseason ban and sanctions from the NCAA following a previous investigation.  The Trojans were 1-point underdogs in the loss to Arizona who eventually fell to Washington in the Pac-10 Championship.  USC closed the regular season winning and covering five of its last six games, including a 62-60 win in Seattle over the Huskies as 10-point underdogs. Big 6-foot-10 junior Nikola Vucevic tops USC in scoring with 17.3 points per game and 10.2 rebounds per game. He’s joined by 6-foot-10 teammate Alex Stephenson. Stephenson averaging 10 points and over nine boards a game.

The Trojans’ last March Madness action came in the 2009 event as a 10-seed.  USC upset 7-seed Boston College in the opening round as two-point underdogs, 72-55.  Then the Trojans lost as five-point underdogs to 2-seed Michigan State, 74-69, in the next round.  2009 was also the last time VCU was in the tournament.  They were seeded 11th in the East Region and lost a 65-64 heartbreaker to UCLA in the opening round.  I believe that USC will be too much up front for the under-sized Rams.  Im taking the Trojans minus the 4-points in the game as I expect them to cover and move on to play the Georgetown Hoyas.

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