<strong>Missing in action</strong>: Junior forward Nikola Vucevic finished with just 11 points on five shot attempts.
On a positive note, a basketball thread on this site got nearly 200 comments. Other than that, I'm scrambling for positives other than, "well, at least they made the tourney!" On the eve of St. Patrick's Day in Dayton, Ohio, USC was embarrassed by a Virginia Commonwealth team that's most notable distinction was being a controversial at-large bid for the field of 68. Yet, when the game resulted in a 13-point win for the Rams, it appeared as if the Trojans were the more puzzling inclusion in this year's NCAA tournament.
It was, in many ways, difficult to anoint a winner in a contest, where both teams scored a combined 44 points at halftime - it was tied at 22. The primary takeaway in the aftermath, at least one held by many, was whether the expansion from 65 teams to 68 teams was necessary. Because yes, it was a watered down competition. No doubt. But when you compare the efforts from both teams, VCU unquestionably beat USC in nearly all aspects of the game. In the context of Wednesday night's game, the Trojans were soundly and thoroughly beaten.
"We didn't have it all night. We didn't have it." Kevin O'Neill told the media in the aftermath of tonight's loss. Surely, they didn't.
Most fans, as a result, and it's understandable, wish to discuss the job status of O'Neill. PointGuardU.com reported last week he was going to be fired. Sports by Brooks has hinted at such a possibility several times this week. Who knows. The folks in Heritage Hall will come to determination sooner rather than later.
More after the jump.
For now, though, USC will have to deal with a rather unsatisfactory taste left in its mouth in the aftermath of a game, in which it struggled immensely. In nearly every facet of the game, it was bettered by VCU. A few telling stats:
- Shot differential: VCU 59 attempts, USC 38 attempts
- Rebounds: VCU 35 USC 29
- Turnovers: VCU 8 USC 15
It's not as if the Rams were incredibly more efficient than USC, which shot 39 percent from the field (VCU shot 33). In a sense, it's as if they out-hustled and out-muscled USC, particularly its the backcourt. Of the Trojans' 29 rebounds, 24 came from Alex Stepheson
and Nikola Vucevic
. Not that should be a surprise necessarily, but a combined five boards from everyone else on the roster shouldn't necessarily be a welcomed statistic.
For a team with the size and strength of USC, its frontline consists of Stepheson, Vucevic and a 6'6" Marcus Simmons, who was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, it should have been able to get more second chance shots. Instead, USC, which went just 1-of-9 from three-point range, was limited offensively. It, simply, compared to VCU, did not get a ton of opportunities. Too many one-shot possessions. Too many turnovers, particularly in the frontcourt. It had chances to capitalize and it didn't. Remember, it was tied at halftime.
But VCU came out and delivered early, as a three-pointer from Jamie Skeen
gave the Rams an early lead, which eventually ballooned to a seven-point margin six minutes into the half. And as the minutes kept ticking, change was slow to occur. While USC did bring the game closer at 44-43, the Rams closed the game on a 15-3 run to cement the win, as Jio Fontan
and Simmons fouled in the process.
Clearly, they didn't bring it. Even as the fouls piled up on both teams, USC shot just 60 percent from the foul line. When you can't rebound, make three-pointers or knock down free throws in a tight ball game, wins are tough to come by and we saw that tonight.
'SC was beat tonight, and that was plainly evident. Based on the 40 minutes witnessed, there aren't a ton of positives to hold onto. In the meanwhile, let the speculation run rampant.