Last week’s loss to San Diego State was just the beginning of a daunting slate for the Trojans. The Trojans came alive in the second half which was promising, but poor first halves will kill them this week.
The 3-3 Trojans will need to play their best basketball right now if they want to gain some marquee wins, on the road and in front of the friendly confines of Galen. This team needs their veteran leadership to take over, so expect big games from Jio Fontan and J.T. Terrell.
If the Trojans guards can improve upon their 6-29 shooting against SDSU, this team will be able to score with any one in the nation. The schedule will get tough for the Trojans, but now is the perfect opportunity to play with no expectations and acquire some momentum in December.
CORNHUSKERS (Dec 3rd)
Monday, the Trojans square with 5-1 Nebraska squad that has been relatively untested this season. Playing on the road will be difficult for the Trojans, but this matchup is honestly one of their lightest on this grueling stretch.
The Cornhuskers are led by senior Dylan Talley, who averages 15 points per game and a sound three assists per contest. The biggest matchup nightmare for the Trojans will be 6’10 senior Brandon Ubel. Ubel is shooting 63-percent from the field this season and excellently uses his size to grab close to seven boards.
Nebraska is not as deep as the Trojans, but they do have a big three than can make life tough for any opponent. The Cornhuskers rank 242nd in the nation in rebounding, so if the Trojans want to pull off the upset, they will need to dominate the boards.
LOBOS (DEC 5th)
The Trojans next opponent, New Mexico, owns one of the toughest places to win in the nation. The Lobos are 8-0 on the season and stand at No. 18 in the AP Poll.
This team made the NCAA Tournament last season as the five-seed, only losing three home games all season. They defeated the Trojans 44-41 at the Galen Center in their only matchup last season.
This time around, both teams are reloaded with talent. New Mexico features two-outstanding guards in Kendall Williams and Tony Snell. Both combine for 27 points per game and eight assist.
The Lobos main threat down low is Alex Kirk, who has magically filed the role of Drew Gordon. Gordon, the ex-Bruin and ex-Lobo now plays overseas in Serbia. Kirk is a monster in the paint, averaging 11 points and eight rebounds per contest.
With wins over UConn, George Mason and Davidson under their belt; the Lobos are a prime candidate to reach the NCAA Tournament out of the Mountain West Conference.
GOLDEN GOPHERS (DEC 8th)
The highest ranked team on the docket is Minnesota. Tubby Smith’s club is hot with impressive wins over Memphis, Standford and Florida State so far this season. The Golden Gophers are guard-heavy but can score the basketball at a prolific rate.
The Gophers average 76 points per contest and are very efficient, ranking in the top-50 in every offensive category. This home contest for the Trojans will come down to the defensive end of the court, especially against the Gophers explosive guard play.
This team is so deep, that Cal star Justin Cobbs transferred out of the program to get more playing time. Minnesota has four players that average in double digits, led by Rondey Williams Jr. Williams averages 14 points and six rebounds per contest on an astounding 59 percent shooting.
Do not underestimate the other guard position that is home to Andre Hollins. Hollins posted 41 points against Memphis and has the speed and touch to light up the gym on any given night.
This will be no easy slate for the Trojans, but if this team can find cohesiveness on the offensive side of the ball, a 2-1 swing is quite possible.
Expect Kevin O’Neill to go with smaller lineups on this trip as he needs to emphasis speed and quickness against these highly ranked opponents. Once again, the honus lies upon J.T. Terrell, Jio Fontan and Byron Wesley to score points and alleviate the pressure placed on the bigs to carry the offense.
The first week of December may not be as charitable as the last, but the Trojans can not afford to give away their upcoming games against daunting opponents.