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No. 6 USC vs. No. 11 Drake preview, picks for first round of 2021 NCAA Tournament

The USC Trojans and Drake Bulldogs meet at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. We’ve got everything you need on both teams ahead of the game here.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Drake at Wichita State IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

Update March 19: Here are the updated bet splits for No. 6 USC vs. No. 11 Drake as of March 19th at 10:30 a.m. from DraftKings Sportsbook:

USC -6.5: 60% of handle, 40% of bets
Drake +6.5: 40% of handle, 60% of bets

Over 137.5: 14% of handle, 37% of bets
Under 137.5: 86% of handle, 63% of bets

The No. 6 seed USC Trojans have their opponent determined as the No. 11 seed Drake Bulldogs defeated the Wichita State Shockers 53-52 in exciting First Four finish down the stretch on Thursday night. USC and Drake will play each other on Saturday, March 20 from Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 4:30 p.m. ET on TNT with the Trojans coming in as the favorites.

No. 6 USC: 22-7 (15-5 PAC-12): At-large

KenPom rating: 14 Overall, 29 Offense, 19 Defense
NET ranking: 19, (3-4 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Evan Mobley, 16.8 ppg
Key stat: USC averages 5.3 blocks per game, which is seventh best in the country.

The Trojans’ strength comes in rebounding the ball with the Mobley brothers. USC averaged 39.5 rebounds per game this season, which led the Pac-12, thanks to Evan Mobley going for 8.6 rebounds per game and Isaiah Mobley averaging 7.4 boards per matchup.

Watch for USC to limit scoring opportunities for Drake, which is coming off scoring just 53 points against Wichita State in the First Four. The Trojans allow 39.4% from the floor, the best mark in the Pac-12.

No. 11 Drake 26-4 (15-3 Missouri Valley): At-large, defeated Wichita State 53-52 in First Four

KenPom rating: 53 Overall, 19 Offense, 120 Defense
NET ranking: 45 (1-2 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Shanquan Hemphill
Key stat: Drake averages 77.4 points per game this season, the most in the Missouri Valley.

Drake had their leading scorer Shanquan Hemphill on the floor in limited minutes on Thursday night. He had been out since February 10th with a foot injury. Hemphill scored three points with four rebounds on 1-of-3 shooting. It’s hard to think he will play significantly more minutes two days later, but he should add a boost.

Watch for Joseph Yesufu to get plenty of shots up, as his field goal attempts went up quite a bit in Hemphill’s absence. Yesufu scored 21 points on Thursday on 8-of-21 shooting from the floor.

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Point spread: USC -6
Point total: 138.5

The Pick

Against The Spread Pick: USC -6
Point total pick: Under 138.5
Pick to Win: USC

If Shanquan Hemphill was at full strength, picking Drake to cover and even pull off an upset in this spot might be a solid play. But it’s unlikely the Bulldogs will have the fire power to come away with a win. Led by the Mobleys, USC will dominate in the rebounding battle leading to second-chance points for the Trojans and one-shot possessions for Drake. Neither team averages all that many possessions per game, so we’ll also be on the under.