USC Basketball Game Preview: Oregon Ducks


USC Trojans (10-6, 2-1) at Oregon Ducks (7-9, 0-4)

Head Coach: Dana Altman (Year 1: 7-9)

Conference: Pac-10

Stars: F Joevan Catron, F E.J. Singler

Location: Eugene, Oregon (Matthew Knight Arena)

Time: 7:30 PM (PDT)

TV: Fox Sports Net

Radio: 710 AM

Matchup: USC takes to the road for the first time in conference play. The Trojans went 2-1 at home to open up their Pac-10 schedule. Most recently, Kevin O’Neill’s squad dispatched the UCLA Bruins 63-52 in front of the fourth sell out in Galen history after a nine day layoff. USC is gaining steam. Some pundits have already labeled them an NCAA Tournament team, while others believe a sweep in Oregon would go a long way towards putting them on the right side of the bubble.

Oregon opens its brand new basketball arena tonight, and the crowd will likely be raucous. Nevertheless, the Ducks are ice cold coming into the contest. They have lost six in a row and have been swept by the Arizona and Washington schools to start conference play. In his first season, Dana Altman is looking to bring Oregon back to the prestige it enjoyed during Ernie Kent’s heyday, but it appears he will need some time.

Predicting how tonight’s contest will go is very difficult. Joevan Catron,  Jeremy Jacob, and Malcolm Armstead are questionable. Catron is the leading scorer for the Ducks, and Jacob and Armstead average over seven points per game each. Missing those players would significantly impact the Ducks attack and limit their rotation. One positive for the Ducks is that they utilize a fairly deep rotation. Seven men average more than 20 minutes, with nine receiving regular playing time. The top two scorers, Joevan Catron and E.J. Singler, are forwards. Oregon likes to move the ball inside and take high percentage looks. The Trojans need to force the guards to knock down shots and keep the ball out of the paint. Another plus for the Ducks is that they create nine steals per game. USC needs to take care of the ball and limit turnovers. On the road, empty possessions are a momentum killer.

USC needs to continue to bring its high energy defense. The Ducks rank 287th in the country in field goal percentage, shooting just over 40 percent. If the Trojans can bring their signature defense, they can limit Oregon like they have other teams. As a result, they wouldn’t need to put up a large amount of points to win the game. For the most part, the Trojans have kept opponents below their season average, and doing that to the Ducks would mean a total in the low 50s. They also need to make sure to crash the boards. Alex Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic are beasts inside, and they should be able to take charge in this game. One question mark that needs to be answered is how the freshman will play on the road. Maurice Jones and Bryce Jones have performed well at home, but they faltered a bit on the road. The Trojans need those two to continue to make shots like they have in order to get off to a hot start.

Tonight’s contest will reveal a lot about the Trojans. Despite gaining momentum before conference play, USC went just 2-5 on the road in conference play. Oregon is not as good as USC, but the Trojans need to find ways to beat inferior teams on the road or it will be another long season.