To beat Kansas, USC basketball will need to put the game on the shoulders of star forward Evan Mobley while preventing free throws from becoming an issue.
The most important game of Andy Enfield's tenure with USC basketball has arrived.
The Trojans a win away from the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007, with even more possible beyond that.
This won't be the first time the Jayhawks have met USC in the tournament. Back in 1940, Kansas spoiled the Trojans' first Final Four appearance. The game and the teams have changed significantly since then.
What will it take for USC to survive and advance?
USC basketball's keys to victory vs. Kansas
1. Encourage Evan Mobley to dominate.
This is the biggest game of Andy Enfield's tenure with USC. He has to let the guy who got the Trojans to the point be the guy. The Trojans are at their best when the game is on Evan Mobley's shoulders. He must be the focal point along with Isaiah Mobley inside.
The fact that Eastern Washington was able to hit 38.5 percent of their threes shouldn't tempt USC to rain down shots from beyond the arc. Those attempts need to come naturally from the Jayhawks focusing on the Mobleys. The game must flow from inside-out, with Mobley setting up shooters like Tahj Eaddy and Drew Peterson.
2. Command the boards.
The Jayhawks don't have the length to contend with the Mobley brothers or USC's supporting cast. The Trojans should have the edge on the boards, especially with Jalen Wilson, KU's leading rebounder, only just coming back from his absence.
The only equalizer on that front is energy. And if USC lets Kansas out effort them there, they don't deserve to win.
3. Don't let free throws become an issue.
USC ranks 328th in the NCAA with a free throw percentage of 64.5. That's a woeful number that is just waiting to bite the Trojans on the butt. So they need to make sure that doesn't happen.
The simplest solution would be to just hit free throws, but obviously, that's easier said than done. The Trojans have shot below 54 percent in three of their last four games. They left an average of more than seven points off the board in those contests.
The tournament is all about fine margins. Every element of the game matters, free throws especially. Games are won and lost at the stripe in every tournament. If USC can't be trusted to hit their shots from the line, they need to make sure it doesn't come to that. The better the Trojan defense and efficiency on offense, the less they will have to worry about everything else.