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USC will look to improve to 5-0 on the young season against Pepperdine on Tuesday night. The Trojans picked up a win against Nevada in their last game, while the Waves have won three in a row since losing their season-opener. Tuesday’s contest will take place at the Galen Center in Los Angeles.
Pepperdine faces toughest test of seasonPepperdine is looking to build on head coach Lorenzo Romar’s first season at the helm. Romar, who coached the Waves from 1996-99, was the head coach at Washington from 2002-17. Now, Romar is entering his second season back at Pepperdine. The Waves finished the season 16-18 (8-10 WCC) in Romar’s first year back—a drastic improvement from their 6-26 (2-16 WCC) campaign in 2016-17. Pepperdine advanced to the semifinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament before losing to Gonzaga. The Waves return three of their top four scorers from last season.
The Waves are off to a 3-1 start this year, despite dropping their season-opener at California. They bounced back from that loss with wins against UC Irvine, CSUN and Abilene Christian. Tuesday’s game at USC will mark the toughest test on the schedule thus far. Sophomore forward Kessler Edwards leads the team with 17.8 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game. Junior guard Colbey Ross, who was the team’s leading scorer last year, is pouring in 17.0 points per game and adding an average of 8.3 assists. Senior forward Kameron Edwards is scoring 16.8 points and pulling down 6.3 rebounds to complete the Waves’ three-heading scoring machine. Skylar Chavez is also in double figures with 10.0 points per game. Pepperdine plays an up-tempo style of basketball at No. 61 in the country, according to KenPom.
USC off to hot startUSC is in its seventh season under head coach Andy Enfield. The Trojans are coming off a disappointing 16-17 (8-10 Pac-12) season after finishing 24-12 the year prior. They are having to replace their leading scorer from last season in Bennie Boatwright, who scored 18.2 points per game. They are also replacing Shaqquan Aaron, who scored 8.3 per contest. USC has jumped out to a 4-0 start this season, picking up wins against Florida A&M, Portland, South Dakota State and Nevada.
The Trojans’ leading scorer this season has been senior forward Nick Rakocevic, who is averaging 16.5 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game. He was second on the team in scoring last season with 14.7 points per contest. Five-star freshman Onyeka Okongwu is off to a hot start in his first season, averaging a double-double with 14.5 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game. Senior guard Jonah Mathews is scoring in double figures with 10.8 per game. He has also been the best 3-point shooter on the team, connecting on 8 of 26 from beyond the arc. USC also plays up-tempo, coming in at No. 83 in KenPom’s adjusted tempo rankings.
- 5-1 ATS in its last 6 non-conference games
- 4-1 ATS in its last 5 Tuesday games
- 8-2 ATS in its last 10 games vs. the WCC
- 0-4 ATS in its last 4 vs. the Pac-12
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
USC is playing well to start this season. Pepperdine continues to improve under Romar, but Tuesday’s test will be even more difficult than its road loss against Cal. The Trojans are proving they can score the basketball, even without Boatwright. Look for Okongwu to utilize his physical prowess against a smaller Pepperdine team. The Waves will also be setback by having to play their third road game in a row, which will lead to an inflated score by the end of the contest. I like USC to cover as a home favorite.
Prediction: USC -10.5
Full-Game Total Pick
Both of these teams play an up-tempo brand of basketball. Not only do they play fast, though, but they have also played fairly efficient this season. Neither team is particularly good on the defensive end, so this game should be high-scoring. Unless Pepperdine comes out sluggish due to an extended road trip, this game should go over the total.
Prediction: Over 152.5