Date: Wednesday 2/1/2017
Tip-Off Time: 8:00 PST
Radio: Komo 1000
Record: 18-4 (5-4)
Points For per Game: 78.4 ppg (54th)
Points Against per Game: 71.4 ppg (140th)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 111.7 (52nd)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 99.4 (82nd)
USC Key Players:
C- Chimezie Metu, So. 6-11, 225: 13.6ppg, 7.2rpg, 1.3apg, 52.3% FG, 74.2% FT
Metu has gotten the opportunity for increased playing time and has greatly taken advantage. He's one of the premier shot blockers in the conference and has improved his rebounding ability. Every time UW drives to the rim they'll have to account for him.
F- Shaqquan Aaron, Fr. 6-7, 190: 9.4ppg, 3.8rpg, 1.4apg, 38.1% FG, 74.6% FT, 34.1% 3pt
This name will be familiar for many fans who remember Aaron as a product of the great Seattle high school basketball scene. He went to Louisville but decided to transfer after one disappointng season and ended up in L.A. He's been forced to play as an undersized 4 a lot this year because of injuries but is better suited for the 3. Shooting is still an issue for Aaron but he's still good enough to be a credible outside threat.
G- Elijah Stewart, Jr. 6-5, 190: 14.1ppg, 5.0rpg, 1.3apg, 42.6% FG, 75.4% FT, 40% 3pt
Stewart may be one of the more underrated players in the conference. He is an elite shot blocker and rebounder for his size and is also a great shooter. Expect Matisse to match up with Stewart provided the Dawgs play more man-to-man than they did on Sunday.
G- De'Anthony Melton, Fr. 6-4, 190: 9.4ppg, 5.8rpg, 3.5apg, 43.3% FG, 70.1% FT, 34% 3pt
Melton is a defensive terror as a freshman for the Trojans, averaging three combined steals and blocks per game while only playing 28 minutes per game (Fultz averages 2.9 combined per game playing 36 mpg). He's not overly involved in the offense but can occasionally hurt you there as well.
G- Jordan McLaughlin, Sr. 6-1, 180: 13.9ppg, 3.3rpg, 5.3apg, 46.8% FG, 81% FT, 41.1% 3pt
McLaughlin doesn't really have a hole in his game as he's an above average shooter and passer and decent enough rebounder and defender for his size. He's not a ball-dominant point guard and is very willing to pass up a shot to get his teammate a better look.
Not mentioned in the players to watch above is Bennie Boatwright who may or may not play tonight coming off a sprained MCL which has cost him the last 17 games. It's bad luck of the schedule that he'll potentially be available for both contests with the Huskies despite missing the entire first half of league play. Boatwright was often compared last year to Marquese Chriss. Both were high 4-star recruits with fantastic athleticism and shooting from the forward spot who were viewed as 1st round picks. Boatwright was viewed as a tier down however and decided to return for his sophomore season.
Regardless of whether Boatwright plays, USC is a very good but not exceptional team. On offense, they take great care of the ball. Every major rotation player on the Trojans has a lower turnover percentage than Sam Timmins, Matisse Thybulle, Matthew Atawe, and Malik Dime on UW. The closest thing to a weakness that USC has is a relatively poor percentage finishing at the rim. The loss of Boatwright has hurt here as they often play with a very undersized power forward. That should be less of an issue against UW where Noah Dickerson will likely draw that matchup.
The defense is much less well-balanced. USC is in the top-15 nationally in both block percentage and preventing opponent's free throw attempts. Unsurprisingly, they're the only team that can make that claim since normally going for that many blocks results in a lot more shooting fouls (UW is 14th in block percentage and 205th in preventing FTAs). This is partly because they don't gamble for steals or defensive rebounds. Unless UW is careless, they should be able to beat up USC on the offensive glass as well as keep fairly close in the turnover battle.
Given each team's strengths and weaknesses, I expect the battle for extra possessions to be nearly even. That means the game will come down the ability to make shots from the floor and from the line. Both teams have been awful in conference play scoring the ball (USC 10th in effective field goal percentage, UW 11th). With UW's defense though I expect USC to look much better than they have against the rest of the conference. UW has a chance in this game, particularly if some of the defense they showed in the 1st half of the Arizona game stuck but it certainly isn't the most likely outcome.