The USC Trojans have won three straight games and now sit in unchartered territory, only two games out of first place in the Pac-12 Conference. Here is an updated look at how the USC Trojans (11-13, 5-5) fare in terms of overall standings.
Current Pac-12 Standings
The USC Trojans have defeated Utah, Oregon State, Washington State, Washington, Stanford, and UCLA in conference play this season. The Trojans have lost some close games as well, including an overtime thriller to Arizona State and to, at the time red-hot, Oregon by two only points.
After losing your head coach after 17 games and playing without your leading scorer from last season, in Maurice Jones, most programs would have been left in complete disarray. Plus, let’s not forget that USC only won one conference game in the entire 2011-2012 season.
In the non-conference, USC struggled against ranked opponents and even lost in embarrassing fashion to UC Irvine, the school that Eric Wise transfered away from. Yet, the Trojans have picked up the intensity in league play and are starting to play like the team that we all expected before the season.
After falling to Arizona by 24 points, which actually seemed closer than the game indicated, the Trojans were left for dead as a team searching for a true identity. USC will now travel to Palo Alto and Berkley this week with a chance to gain a top-four spot in the Pac-12, possibly clinching a bye in the first round of action.
How is this possible you may ask? The Trojans theoretically have the schedule in place to win the Pac-12; it’s a long shot but the combination of home games and winnable road games makes anything possible. All of this debate is of course predicated on USC continuing to play up-tempo ball like they have under Bob Cantu.
Feb 14 at Stanford USC Won Previous Meeting 71-69
USC came from behind in the second half, shutting down leading-scorer Chasson Randle. The Trojans were led by 15 clutch points from Jio Fontan, including the game winner with 4 seconds remaining. Chass Bryan played a critical 24 minutes scoring 10 points off the bench for USC. The only issue of concern was that Stanford dominated the bench department, earning 43 points from their second unit.
Feb 17 at California USC Lost Previous Meeting 72-64
USC actually outplayed Cal for most of the game, but failed to capitalize on their chances from the free-throw line. The Trojans shot 8-18 (44%) from the charity stripe and could only muster two 3-PT in the contest. Despite their poor shooting performance, Cal was only leading by three at half, needing a nearly flawless night from Allen Crabbe (9-12) to seal the Golden Bears victory.
Feb 24 vs. UCLA USC Won Previous Meeting 75-71 in OT
USC went into Pauley and played arguably their best game of the season in the first 35 minutes. When the game turned into the Shabazz Muhammad show, things got ugly for USC. Luckily for the Trojans, they found a huge matchup advantage for Eric Wise and Aaron Fuller versus the Wear twins.
Feb 27 vs. No. 7 Arizona USC Lost Previous Meeting 74-50 in OT
USC came out flat against Arizona, after scoring 93 against ASU and were bound to struggle from the field. Outside of that fact, not much else can be taken from this contest. A hungry Arizona squad that had just lost to UCLA combined with a poor-shooting night totally misrepresented the differences between these squads.
Mar 2 vs. ASU USC Lost Previous Meeting 98-93 in OT
USC shot the lights out from the field, lead by J.T. Terrell and Jio Fontan to battle step for step with the Sun Devils. Fontan, Terrell and Wise were all stroking from the field, combining for 64 points on the night, including 12-22 from downtown. That type of performance can not be expected again, but the confidence against the Sun Devils will translate well to the home matchup in March.
Mar 6 vs. WASH USC Won Previous Meeting 71-60
USC was making shots with ease in the first half against Washington while distributing the ball between eight scorers. Bob Cantu has emphasized tempo and ball pressure on offense and USC was able to attack the Huskies defense with ease for most of the game. The only concern would be the zone that Head Coach Lorenzo Romar instituted in the second-half that gave the Trojans fits.
Mar 9 vs. WSU USC Won Previous Meeting 72-68
USC played a very uninspired basketball against Washington State and was lucky to escape with the victory. This is the one game that looks most perplexing because of the fact that we were at home, and had just come off a great win over UCLA. That being said, Jio Fontan and JT Terrell made the big shots in the second-half to secure the victory and continue the current winning streak.
Regular Season Prediction:
Looking at this schedule, USC could possibly win all seven of these contests. The road games are always daunting, but luckily the Trojans have fared well against all of these opponents. Some of the Trojans toughest matchups, in terms of skill sets, will be played at home.
This dynamic will make for an exciting three week stretch as the USC Trojans look to cement a strong seeding in the Pac-12 Conference. I see USC defeating Stanford, UCLA, ASU, Washington and WSU to finish the season. That would leave USC with a record of 11-7 in the Pac-12 with most likely a six seed coming their way.