The final game of the First Four will be a rematch of a 2016 Round of 64 matchup. That game between #8 USC and #9 Providence was decided by a Rodney Bullock basket off of a baseline inbounds play.
Now, the two teams meet again in Dayton. Both teams are 11-seeds in the South Region. Wednesday’s winner will take on #6 SMU on Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Providence is the designated home team for this matchup.
Time & Place: 9:10 p.m. ET, UD Arena, Dayton, OH
TV: truTV (Spero Dedes, Steve Smith, Len Elmore, and Ros Gold-Onwude)
National Radio: Westwood One (Ted Emrich and Austin Croshere)
Providence Radio: WEEI 103.7 FM (John Rooke and Joe Hassett)
USC Radio: ESPN 710 (Chris Fisher and Jordan Moore)
Streaming: March Madness Live
This matchup opened at even odds. However, the line has since shifted to USC being 2.5-point favorites. The over/under opened at 110.
USC is 16-16 against the spread. Providence is 20-12 against the spread.
How Did They Get Here?
Providence: The Friars staved off the losses of current pros Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil to go 20-12 on the season and 10-8 in the Big East. Their conference record put them in a four-way tie, but a tiebreaker helped them earn the 3-seed in the Big East Tournament. Providence, however, fell to fellow 10-8er Creighton 70-58 in their first game. This is Providence’s fourth consecutive 20-win season.
USC: The Trojans overcame massive turnover - losing seven players and adding four freshmen and a transfer - to go 24-9 on the season and 10-8 in the Pac-12. USC finished in a fifth-place tie with Cal, but lost the head-to-head tiebreaker and fell to the 6-seed. They beat a Markelle Fultz-less Washington squad 78-73 in the first round before losing to crosstown rival UCLA 76-74 in the quarterfinals. USC has their most wins in a season since 2006-07.
Paths To Victory
(Stats via KenPom.com)
Providence: The Friars shot 36.8 percent from three this season, 88th-best in the country. That includes going 39.1 percent during their six-game winning streak to close the regular season. On the defensive end, the Friars held teams to 32.7 percent from beyond the arc this year, 64th best in Division I hoops.
At the same time, USC allows teams to shoot 36.5 percent from range, 263rd-best in the nation.
So the Friars will be in good shape if they get their shots going from outside while also neutralizing USC’s perimeter shooting.
Forcing turnovers could also prove big for Providence. USC’s 15.7 percent turnover rate is the 19th-best in Division I. Meanwhile, Providence is the 53rd-best program at forcing turnovers (20.5 percent). Disrupting USC’s discipline will mean a lot for Providence’s chances of winning.
Lastly, Providence will need to make an effort on the offensive glass. The team is 7-2 when they have double-digit offensive boards. The Friars even hit double-digits in their last three victories. Emmitt Holt (1.6 OREB per game), Kalif Young (1.4), and Rodney Bullock (1.4) are the team leaders in offensive boards, and will need to lead the effort against USC.
USC: USC has an effective field goal percentage of 51.9 percent. They will need to be efficient and multi-dimensional on offense to account for Providence’s ability to defend the perimeter so well.
The Trojans also have the size advantage coming into this matchup. USC has three players 6’10” or taller (Chimezie Metu, Bennie Boatwright, Nick Rakocevic) in their main rotation while Providence has none. That length could lead to turnovers and defensive boards that turn into points in transition, a USC staple. Transition points for USC could prove to be the game-breaker if Providence isn’t careful.
Finally, the Free Throw Game could swing in favor of USC. Both teams tend to keep their opponents from the line: USC has the 5th-best free throw rate (23.9 percent) allowed in the country, Providence has the 55th-best (30.0 percent). But when the teams do get to the line, the Trojans shoot 73.9 percent and the Friars shoot 69.1 percent from the stripe.