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USC Trojans Game Preview/Open Thread

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The Huskies open up conference play in Los Angeles

NCAA Basketball: Southern California at New Mexico State Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

The Essentials

Date: Friday, 12/29/17

Tip-Off Time: 7:30pm PST

TV: Pac-12 Network

Radio: KOMO 1000

Location: Los Angeles, California

Betting Line: USC -14.5

USC 2017-18 Statistics:

Record: 9-4

Points For per Game: 81.5 ppg (43rd)

Points Against per Game: 73.0 ppg (168th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 116.5 (13th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 100.1 (102nd)

Strength of Schedule: 61st

USC Key Players:

C- Chimezie Metu, Jr. 6’11, 225: 18ppg, 7.9rpg, 1.6bpg, 53.6% FG, 73.4% FT, 56.3% 3pt

Metu is currently projected to be a 1st round draft pick and has continued to improve at an astounding rate. He’s still an elite rim protector but now has added a jump shot to his game and he really has no holes.

F- Bennie Boatwright, Jr. 6’10, 227: 16.5ppg, 7.4rpg, 2.3apg, 42.7% FG, 73.8% FT, 35.8% 3pt

Boatwright torched the Huskies last year as Noah Dickerson had no chance defending him on the perimeter. He is another shooting big who can also beat you on the glass and defend the rim.

G- Elijah Stewart, Sr. 6’5, 195: 12.5ppg, 3.2rpg, 1.0apg, 44.6% FG, 92% FT, 41.3% 3pt

Stewart is a great glue guy who is mostly a spot up shooter but never makes mistakes. He holds onto the ball, makes 3-pointers at a high rate and is lights out from the free throw line.

G- Jonah Matthews, So. 6’3, 195: 9.5ppg, 3.4rpg, 1.3apg, 47.1% FG, 63.6% FT, 45% 3pt

Matthews is another knock down shooter although he gets the ball less than anyone else in the Trojans starting lineup.

G- Jordan McLaughlin, Sr. 6’1, 185: 13.5ppg, 4.2rpg, 7.8apg, 50.4% FG, 77.5% FT, 47.9% 3pt

McLaughlin is a candidate for Pac-12 PotY if the Trojans can rebound and win the conference. He’s 5th in the country in assists while also shooting almost 50% from beyond the arc. If anyone in the conference can carve up a zone, it’s McLaughlin.

The Outlook

In a bizarre scheduling quirk, the Huskies play the Trojans for the 3rd consecutive conference game. They ended out the 2017 season, played in the conference tournament, and then start off this campaign. Washington is looking for a different result after getting blown out and then losing a close one in the last two contests. And they do catch a break in that this game will happen simultaneously with the USC/Ohio State Cotton Bowl which combined with winter break meaning students are out of session should lead to an empty arena.

USC has been the biggest underachiever in the non-conference from the Pac-12. This team returned their top-9 rotations players, brought in a 5-star transfer, and a pair of top-100 recruits. There’s a reason people thought they could be a darkhorse national title contender. But losing De’Anthony Melton (the closest thing to Matisse Thybulle as a wing defender in the conference) to eligibility concerns after the FBI probe hurt them and it’s taken a while to find their groove. But they might be peaking with good neutral wins against a pair of mid-majors that should win their conferences in Mid Tennessee State and New Mexico State.

The USC offense is really good without being truly exceptional at anything. If you had to find a weakness it’s that they are prone to settling for jump shots and don’t get to the line all that well. But that’s being harsh because they’re really efficient. They make almost 41% of 3-point attempts so expect the Huskies to play the zone similar to Kansas to make cutting off the 3-pointer their number one priority.

Defensively, they really miss Melton because they are not good at forcing turnovers. They aren’t going to gamble and make you beat them straight up. The Trojans are 349/351 in average possession length on defense which means they don’t get beat early in the shot clock. They make you rotate the ball from side to side to find a good look and they don’t miss their assignments. David Crisp will have to play this game as a true point guard for the Huskies to have a chance. Hero ball won’t work.

The Huskies beat Kansas in Kansas City so we know that it’s possible for them to beat any team in the conference on any given night. But it’s not the most likely outcome. UW fans won’t want to hear this but the Huskies currently are 6th in the country in kenpom’s Luck metric. Washington has to be given credit for winning a bunch of close games but the fact that the games were close against so-so mid-majors like Seattle, UC Davis, LMU, and Montana at home isn’t a good omen and means this team isn’t as good as your average 10-3 squad. It’ll take an off shooting night by the Trojans to stay close in this one.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 70, USC Trojans- 82

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