The USC Trojans and Utah Utes square off today in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament. The seventh-seeded Trojans lost two straight games to finish the season, faltering on the road at Washington and Washington State. The Utes took advantage of home cooking, blowing past the Oregon State Beavers and the Oregon Ducks to finish Pac-12 play. Here is a comprehensive breakdown of all things USC vs. Utah.
Jio Fontan vs. Brandon Taylor
Fontan: 9.5 PPG 1.7 RPG, 5.2 APG Fontan has shown an ability to make plays down the stretch with leadership intangibles that allow him to carry the team late in games, a place USC has ventured over 80-percent of the time under Bob Cantu. The Trojans look sluggish on offense without Fontan, a player that epitomizes the toughness of the program.
Taylor: 6.5 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 2.0 APG A freshman who has come on strong after starting his first game 2/6 against Oregon State. Taylor provides a nice boost of speed and quickness for a relatively slow Utes lineup, with tenacity on both ends of the court. The Utes have increased their scoring to over 68 PPG in their last four, games Taylor has dominated.
Advantage: Jio Fontan
JT Terrell vs. Jared DuBoisTerrell: Terrell is the lights-out scorer for USC that can put up 25 in one contest and then chuck up five the following game. Despite the mind-numbing inconsistencies from the field, the Trojans heavily rely on the shooting touch of JT Terrell to make furious second-half comebacks.
DuBois: A fifth-year senior who is pursuing his graduate degree, he has made a nice transition to the Pac-12 after spending four years at LMU. DuBois is in the midst of a career shooting year, making over 42-percent of his shots while scoring a steady 12 PPG. The best part about DuBois game is the balance he provides on the court, he can lead the team in steals, and still put up 15 points as an all-around contributor.
Advantage: Jared DuBois
Byron Wesley vs. Cedric Martin
Wesley: 10.3 PPG, 4.2 RPB, 1.9 APG The super sophomore has shown moments of brilliance this season, as the next superstar to hit the hardwood for USC. Wesley is only averaging 10 PPG, but has posted strong scoring efforts with at least 17 against Arizona, Oregon State and Copping State. Wesley is naturally a timid shooter, but the man can make plays when he asserts himself by driving to the basket.
Martin: 4.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.1 APG The senior has been in and out of the starting lineup this season for the Utes. Martin is a relatively quiet presence on the team, but don’t let that fool the passive fan, he understands how to play smart basketball. Martin sets screens, grabs defensive rebounds and takes the necessary charge to save possessions. Not to mention he has quite the personal story, as the foxhole player for coach Krystkowiak.
Advantage: Byron Wesley
Eric Wise vs. Jordan Loveridge
Wise: 11.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.7 APG The senior transfer has firmly established himself as the leading post scorer for the Trojans, effectively using his 6’6″ frame against larger defenders. Wise leads the team in scoring on quite the efficient 45-percent clip, a career-high for the Trojans leading scorer.
Loveridge: 11.9 PPG, 6.9 PPG, 1.9 APG The freshman athletic big man plays much larger than his size on the Utah front court. Loveridge has the ability to not only score in the paint, but also make perimeter jump shots to open up the defense. The freshmen has scored in double figures in four out of the past five games, plus he scored 12 points in their first matchup against the Trojans.
Advantage: Eric Wise
Omar Oraby vs. Jason Washburn
Oraby: 5.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 0.3 APG Oraby saw his mintes drastically decrease from earlier in the season as the starting center, but will now be heavily relied upon in the Pac-12 tournament. The transfer has capitalized on his recent playing time, recording ten blocks in his past four games. The only remaining seven-footer on the roster must stay out of foul trouble and defend the rim for the Trojans.
Washburn: 11.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 0.7 APG Washburn was voted Pac-12 Honorable Mention earlier this week, earning the title after having quite the efficient season. Washburn dominated the glass this season posting five games of double-digit rebounds in Pac-12 play. The senior has shown an innate ability to dominate the post against smaller defenders, bullying them out with his size while also controlling the field with a strong shooting presence.
Advantage: Jason Washburn
Bob Cantu-USC 1st Season
Larry Krystkowiak-Utah 2nd Season
The Utah Utes are coming to the Pac-12 tournament on a two-game winning streak, playing some of the best basketball of the year. The Trojans have lost two straight coming into the tournament, scoring less than 60 points in each contest. The loss of Dewayne Dedmon and James Blasczyk will hurt more than just the simple minutes these men play.
The Trojans love to push the tempo while the Utes want to keep the game in the low sixties. Under Interim Head Coach Bob Cantu the Trojans have played 10 of their 14 games within an eight point span, with USC winning six of those contests. The Utes meanwhile are 2-4 in close contests during conference play, but struggle enough points to keep their games within striking distance.
This matchup could come down to a final possession, a place that USC has been much more adapted to and can craft their late-game execution. If Jio Fontan fouls out however, the Trojans have looked rather sluggish in crunch time, whereas Utah has numerous leaders to finish a close contest.