What to Watch:
Balanced Attack - Cal brings in one of the country's most balanced attacks with five players averaging double figures. Last week's Pac-12 Player of the Week, Justin Cobbs, leads the way from the point guard position averaging 14.9 points per game and 6.4 assists per game (11th in the country). Richard Solomon is Mr. Double-Double down low. He is one of two players in the country averaging a double-double, with 12.1 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game (12th in the country).
Back to Being Byron - Byron Wesley was on a strong streak. He had scored 18+ points in five of six games (going for 20+ in four of those). But last weekend's trip to the mountains of Utah and Colorado saw Wesley finish below 10 points for the second and third times this season. USC needs Wesley to be knifing through the defense and getting to the foul line, if it wants to finally get that first conference win for Andy Enfield.
Ball Security - Against Colorado, USC only turned the ball over 11 times. The problem was that eight of those came in the first half when the Trojans fell behind by 17 points. The Trojans averaged 17 turnovers in the four previous conference games. USC's four primary guards have to step it up. Julian Jacobs, Pe'Shon Howard, J.T. Terrell and Wesley have combined for 49 assists and 48 turnovers in conference play.
Wake Up Nikola - Nikola Jovanovic is one of USC's most troublesome matchup. He is 6'10" and can drag defenders out to the three-point line because of his shooting ability. In the final six non-conference games, Jovanovic averaged 13.3 points and 7.5 rebounds. USC was 5-1. Since conference play has started, Jovanovic is averaging just 4.8 points and 3.7 rebounds. USC is 0-5. He plays a key role when USC is doing well. The Trojans are 7-1 when he reaches double-digit points.
Get Hot, Stay Hot - A lot was expected of J.T. Terrell heading into this season. He was supposed to be the face of the USC program this year as a senior leader and offensive weapon. That weapon has misfired. After depositing 20 points in the Trojans' opener, Terrell ran into academic issues that forced him to come off the bench for two games and then be ruled academically ineligible for seven games. Since returning, Terrell has been up and down with games of 18 points and 16 points, but also a pair of games with 6 points and another game with 2 points.
Terrell did play well against the Buffaloes, finishing with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including knocking down four of his five 3-pointers. The Trojans need him to continue that play this week against Cal and Stanford. Terrell needs to get hot and stay hot (while not turning the ball over).
Stopping Dribble Penetration - The Trojans have struggled with point guards that are able to get in the lane and create for their teammates. That's exactly what Cobbs wants to do for the Golden Bears. Will USC try to slump into a compact zone as it did against No. 1 Arizona? The Wildcats got unexpected marksmanship from point guard T.J. McConnell.
The Trojans could dare Cobbs (26 percent on three-point attempts) to shoot it from deep, but they have to keep an eye on Jordan Matthews (39 percent in conference), Tyrone Wallace (42 percent in conference) and especially redshirt senior Jeff Powers (58 percent on the season) when he checks in the game.
Avoiding the Big Run - Rinse, Repeat...from last game's What to Watch: USC has been blown out in all
four five of its Pac-12 contests thus far. In all four five games, the Trojans haven't been able to avoid the big run. Instead, turnovers and poor shooting lead to a four- or five-minute scoring drought that sees a six- or eight-point deficit turn into 15.
Against Colorado, it was a 20-2 run to open the game up. It's never an easy to look up at the scoreboard and see that you only have two points eight minutes into the game or to see that you are on the verge of being down 20 points.
Jan. 15 - Cal 72-64 (@ Galen Center). The Trojans had no answer for Allen Crabbe, especially in the second half when he scored 19 of his 27 points, including his own 7-2 run that put Cal ahead for good. Four USC players finished with double figures, but it wasn't enough.
Feb. 17 - Cal 76-68 (@ Cal). The Golden Bears won their fourth straight against USC in a highly dramatic affair despite the final margin. The Trojans took a 15-point lead in the first half and watched it get whittled away in the final 10 minutes by a fired up Crabbe, who was shoved by Cal head coach Mike Montgomery. Cal finished the game on a 25-7 run as USC scored two field goals in the final six minutes.
Where to Watch:
Game Time, TV channel: 8:00 p.m. PST, ESPNU (Jon Crispin, Beth Mowins)
Radio: USC: ESPN 710 AM (Chris Fisher, Brandon Granville); Cal: 810 KGO AM (Roxy Bernstein, Todd McKim)
Odds & More:
Odds and Wagers: Latest Odds: Cal -7.5/USC +7.5, Over/Under N/A
Cal Preview (from our friends over at California Golden Blogs):
Projected Starting Lineups: