USC vs Arizona State Odds, Picks and Predictions: Who Bounces Back?

In addition to typically grinding out low-scoring games against one another, USC and Arizona State may both struggle to rack up points despite solid tempos. See where we think the best value lies in our college basketball picks.

Jan 20, 2024 • 09:40 ET • 4 min read
Kobe Johnson USC Trojans NCAA College Basketball
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Two struggling Pac-12 teams look for signs of a turnaround in Tempe as the USC Trojans visit the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils started hot in conference play but have since dropped two straight. A game against a hurting Trojans team that has dropped three straight could be just the antidote required to get back on track.

Glancing at college basketball odds, the Sun Devils are 2.5-point favorites while the total is set at 146.5.

It’s the total that I’ve taken a fancy too in my handicap. Check out which side of the total I’m on for my best bet and stay tuned for my full college basketball picks and predictions between the USC Trojans and the Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday, January 20.

USC vs Arizona State best odds

USC vs Arizona State picks and predictions

The USC Trojans basketball program is not in a pretty place in the early days of 2024.

Andy Enfield’s squad has made the NCAA Tournament in three straight seasons but will need either divine intervention or some deus ex machina to go dancing after an 8-10 start.

The injury bug has come at just the wrong time, too, as five-star freshman Isaiah Collier (15.4 points per game) remains out for several more weeks while the team anxiously awaits the return of leading scorer Boogie Ellis (18.7 ppg), who has missed the last two contests.

In the absence of both Collier and Ellis, Bronny James and Oziyah Sellers have emerged as the new lead ball-handlers. Neither would exactly be described as true point guards and Kobe Johnson (11.5 ppg) would be the only player averaging double figures if Ellis does not return on Saturday. There’s something to be said about a boxer lacking any oomph behind his punch.

Their competitors are also struggling, entering this contest in the wake of an embarrassment.

The Arizona State Sun Devils were rolling at 4-0 to start Pac-12 play but have since dropped two straight, losing by 15 to Washington and then blowing a 15-point lead against an adrift UCLA team. It’s safe to say coach Bobby Hurley was less than pleased after his team was assessed four technical fouls in the second half to help spark the Bruins’ comeback.

Hurley’s squad has still been pretty nasty defensively this season, ranking 44th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, which is well ahead of its 196th ranking in adjusted offensive efficiency. The offense hasn’t done much well, struggling from the field in general (42%, which ranks 305th nationally), from behind the arc (31.5%, 286th), and at the line (63.5%, 349th).

For all of USC’s negatives, it hasn’t been too bad defensively. The Trojans rank 74th in adjusted defensive efficiency and have two good rim protectors (Joshua Morgan, and Vincent Iwuchukwu) to help take away what Arizona State does best offensively, which is attack the rim. The Trojans are coming off a solid defensive performance in which they held Arizona to 28 of 70 shooting for 82 points, which is tied for the Wildcats’ lowest scoring output out of nine home games.

On the flip side, I’m worried about USC’s shot creation sans Collier, especially against a good defensive team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Enfield pump the brakes a bit and focus on the defensive end to keep things close, so I’m not overly concerned about the projected pace between two usually uptempo teams — after all, Collier’s absence looms large, and Ellis’ health is uncertain.

My best bet: Under 146.5 (-110 at bet365)

USC vs Arizona State same-game parlay

Under 146.5

Kobe Johnson Over 12.5 points

USC is sorely lacking options in the scoring department whether or not Ellis — who is considered questionable — suits up. Collier will likely hear his name called very early when the NBA Draft rolls around, and college teams just don’t replace talents like that very easily. That’s especially true for sub-.500 college teams.

Kobe Johnson took on a larger role against Arizona, hucking up a whopping 16 attempts from the field. While he made just four of those, it’s encouraging that he was trusted to have the ball in his hands. He’s hoisted double-digit shot attempts in four of his last five games and that volume alone makes this prop a good look in a game that should still have a decent tempo if questionable efficiency.

Johnson’s a career 42% shooter, so I don’t expect him to hit only 25% of his shots like he did last time out. It’s also worth noting that the aforementioned inefficiency came against an Arizona team ranked third in adjusted defensive efficiency. All signs point to a heavy usage game for Johnson.

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USC vs Arizona State spread and Over/Under analysis

Early line movement has been in Arizona State’s favor, moving it from a pick ‘em at open to -2.5 at present. Some books ballooned up to -3 before dropping a tad with some evident buyback on the away team.

Be sure to track all developments using our college basketball line movement tool.

The Sun Devils were 7-0 at home before Wednesday’s debacle. While that’s an impressive mark, they are just 4-4 against the spread as Desert Financial Arena and therefore haven’t been profitable despite their impressive straight-up record.

The analytics are also a bit confusing as USC checks in 32 spots ahead of Arizona State in KenPom’s overall rankings (72nd to 104th). That would normally make the Trojans an appealing underdog bet, but I do think the loss of Collier is so notable that it could be worth a full 30-something places on KenPom and certainly a few points to any power rating.

I haven’t seen anything encouraging with the USC team this season, and that’s the overwhelming sense that lingers with me when handicapping its games. The team isn’t playing together, and it seems like it's playing without a plan.

At least it had a boatload of talent when Ellis and Collier were sharing a backcourt, but now you can’t even say that. Perhaps James emerges as the next great guard next to Ellis, but I’ll need to see it before I believe it.

USC vs Arizona State betting trend to know

These schools have combined to go 4-15 O/U in the last 19 meetings with one another. Find more college basketball betting trends for USC vs. Arizona State.

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USC vs Arizona State game info

Location: Desert Financial Arena, Tempe, AZ
Date: Saturday, January 20, 2024
Tip-off: 2:00 p.m. ET
TV: FOX

USC vs Arizona State key injuries

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