NCAA Tournament Odds: USC Trojans vs VCU Rams

By: Willie Bee | Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A pair of schools at the center of recent controversy go head-to-head in a First Four contest on Wednesday when the Southern Cal Trojans face the Virginia Commonwealth Rams.  Tip-off from Dayton Arena in Ohio is at 6 p.m. (PT) with truTV providing the pictures.

The battle of 11-seeds will determine who meets 6-seed Georgetown on Friday at Chicago's United Center.  Early odds for this game had the Trojans 4½-point favorites with 127 for the total.

Anyone who tuned in Sunday evening when the 68-team tournament field was revealed already knows about the storm surrounding VCU.  You couldn't swing a dead cat around without hitting one talking head or another bemoaning the Rams getting in over other schools like Colorado and Virginia Tech to name but two.

It's the first time since the field expanded to 64 teams that Virginia Commonwealth has received an at-large invite. It also marks the first time the Colonial Athletic Association has sent three teams to the tournament with VCU being joined by Old Dominion and George Mason.

Head coach Shaka Smart, taking VCU to the dance in just his second season at the helm in Richmond, brings his club into this game off a 70-65 loss to Old Dominion in the CAA Championship a little more than a week ago.  The Rams fell just shy of the cover as 4½-point underdogs after fighting back from an 18-point deficit.

Virginia Commonwealth (23-11 straight up, 13-20 against the spread) punched its ticket to the CAA title game with a 79-63 upset of George Mason in the conference semis.  The Rams were even bigger 5½-point underdogs to the Patriots who were knocked out of the tourney by VCU for a third consecutive season.

Senior forward Jamie Skeen is one of four Rams to average double-digits on the scoreboard this season, leading the team with 15.3 PPG as well as 7.5 rebounds per game.  Bradford Burgess, a 6-foot-6 guard, ranks second in both departments with 14.0 points and 6.1 boards.

The Rams can take solace in the fact the controversy surrounding them wasn't of their own doing.  Trojans head coach Kevin O'Neill was suspended from the recent Pac-10 Tournament after he and his wife got into a little smack-down with an Arizona Wildcats fan at a hotel in Los Angeles.

USC athletic director Pat Haden issued the suspension just prior to the Trojans falling to the Wildcats last Friday in the Pac-10 semifinals, 67-62. Haden then reinstated O'Neill just before the Field of 68 was announced on Sunday.

USC (19-14 SU, 15-14-3 ATS) is returning to the NCAA Tournament just a season after a self-imposed postseason ban and sanctions from the NCAA following a previous investigation.

The Trojans were one-point pups in the loss to Arizona who eventually fell to Washington in the Pac-10 Championship.  USC closed the regular season winning and covering five of its last six games, including a 62-60 triumph in Seattle over the Huskies as 10-point underdogs.

Big 6-foot-10 junior Nikola Vucevic tops USC in scoring (17.3) and rebounding (10.2, 17th in the country).  He's joined by 6-foot-10 teammate Alex Stephenson to give the Trojans a twin-tower presence, Stephenson averaging 10 points and over nine boards a game.

The Trojans' last March Madness action came in the 2009 event as a 10-seed.  USC upset 7-seed Boston College in the opening round as two-point 'dogs, 72-55.  Then under the direction of Tim Floyd, the Trojans bowed out as five-point underdogs to 2-seed Michigan State, 74-69, in the next round.

That was also the last dance VCU attended, seeded 11th in the East Region and dropping a 65-64 heartbreaker to UCLA in the opening round.  The Rams were also an 11-seed the last time they won an NCAA Tournament game,beating Duke in the opening round of the 2007 gala by a 79-77 count.  They took 3-seed Pitt to overtime in the following game before succumbing, 84-79.

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