USC Trojans vs. Arizona State Sun Devils
Galen Center | Los Angeles, CA
12:00 PM Pacific | Fox Sports Net
USC and Arizona State square in a critical matchup for seeding purposes in the Pac-12 tournament. If the season ended today, the Sun Devils and Trojans would own the sixth and seventh spots in the race to face the “bottom three” teams in the first round.
The Trojans have won five of their last seven, shooting the lights out in the process. In their last contest on Wednesday, USC won their most impressive game of the season, dominating Arizona from the tip to avenge their 24-point loss.
The Sun Devils have been falling in the other direction, losers of four out of their last six games. In their last game against UCLA, the Sun Devils came storming back in the final minutes only to fall in overtime. After losing at home to Washington, chances at the NCAA Tournament are fading quickly, making this game extremely important.
The first meeting did not lack the flair for the dramatic as Arizona State won in overtime 98-93. The Trojans shot the lights out from behind the arc draining 15-28 shots including a few desperation shots from 30-feet by J.T. Terrell. In the end however Jahii Carson and Evan Felix 49 points propelled Arizona State to the victory.
In terms of actual matchup, Arizona State presents numerous problems all over the court. The Sun Devils are led by redshirt freshmen Jahii Carson, who leads all freshmen with 17.7 PPG, on 45-percent shooting. The issue for Arizona State is that Carson takes too much of the burden for the offense.
Evan Gordon and Carrick Felix will work to provide support in the scoring department. Gordon lives and dies by the three, draining 36-percent of his shots from downtown. Felix meanwhile, is a smaller power-forward who rebounds the basketball proficiently because of his ability to time missed shots, despite his smaller frame.
The Sun Devils are playing poor basketball at the most important time, largely in part due to their lack of ability to win the battle on the glass. In a staggering home loss to Washington, they got outrebounded by 14, resulting in numerous second chance points for the Huskies.
Despite the Trojans size on the front-court, USC is a below-average team in the rebounding department. The Trojans were out rebounded by Arizona State in their frist meeting and rank 10th in the conference in rebounding with only 34 per game.
If Omar Oraby can repeat his epic performance against Arizona the Trojans will have a strong chance. Oraby played the game of his life against Arizona, recording five blocks and eight rebounds in 18 minutes of action. The Trojans can handle a loss of Dewayne Dedmon to foul trouble if Oraby and swingman Aaron Fuller can defend the paint.
The Sun Devil’s Jordan Bachynski and Jonathan Gilling will attempt to battle the Trojans’ front court. Bachynski will look to protect the paint with his conference-leading 3.7 blocks per game. This underrated matchup could decide the game because both teams love to push the pace and attack the basket. Whichever team can defend the paint by grabbing key defensive rebounds will control the tempo.
Projected Starting Lineups
USC (13-15, 8-7)
Arizona State (20-9, 9-7)