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First 4

College Basketball Pick


Providence and USC actually met in last year's tournament, so it was interesting to see them seeded against another again, this time in the First Four. Last year's game was close throughout with the Friars winning 70-69. As expected, the game opened as a pick 'em at 5Dimes Sportsbook on Sunday night.

The Friars are arguably the hotter team coming into this game despite losing in their first Big East tournament game against Creighton. Before that, they had won their previous six and went from non-tourney team to in the tournament. As for the Trojans, it's a little harder to get a read on exactly how they're playing. Their last six wins have come against bad competition with losses to elite teams between them. USC didn't lose in non-conference play, but also wasn't challenged that much away from home outside of a road game at Texas A&M.

Providence is a much different team than a year ago so it's hard to look at the 2016 matchup as Ben Bentil and Kris Dunn are no longer on the team. Instead, the Friars are much more balanced with four guys averaging at least 10 points per game. Although the problem is that no one else can score with the next highest scorers at 5.7 points per game. Rodney Bullock and Kyron Cartwright have taken up bigger roles on this year's team and the main reason why the Friars are in this position. Cartwright runs the show averaging 6.7 assists per game, while Bullock leads the team with 15.7 points per game. The problem is that they're extremely inconsistent shooting the ball outside of Jalen Lindsey, who is their best shooter. Bullock can hit threes, but he's just above 30% from long range.

Similar to last year, Providence is a small team with Bullock and Emmitt Holt considered their two bigs and both spread the floor. Sometimes that helps, sometimes it doesn't. USC is close to the opposite with Chimezie Metu dominating the paint with 14.5 points and 7.8 boards per game. Another bonus for the Trojans is that while they are balanced, have x-factors that step up like De'Anthony Melton and Shaqquan Aaron, who average more than eight points per game. USC isn't great shooting the ball either, but that may not be a huge deal. The one thing going for the Trojans is that they don't turn it over and that will help in an even game like this. With Jordan McLaughlin at point and Melton helping out, they've been able to beat almost every mediocre team this year, but not any of the elite ones (Providence isn't elite).

The size of USC wasn't a huge factor last season as the trio of Bullock, Bentil and Dunn kept Providence competitive. The difference is that the Friars don't have that elite type of talent anymore that can step up when the rest of the team isn't hitting shots. With Metu expected to have success down low and Bennie Boatwright able to match anything Bullock does, the Trojans are the better team to back. Much like last year, this one will come down to the wire, but without Dunn there to hit key shots for the Friars, they won't have enough against the duo of Boatwright and Metu, who should have their way for USC.

Our Pick - Providence +3

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