What to Watch:
Getting Back in the Win Column - USC basketball has played much stronger in the last five games, but the Trojans don't necessarily have the results to prove it. USC picked up its first win in Pac-12 conference play against Cal, but have dropped four straight despite some flashes of solid play. The Trojans lost to Stanford and at Oregon State in overtime before dropping a pair of games at Oregon and against UCLA due to poor second halves. Can USC finally put together a full 40 minutes again?
Foreign Post Battles - USC's starting front court of 7'2" center Omar Oraby (Cairo, Egypt) and 6'10" forward Nikola Jovanovic (Belgrade, Serbia) will have to take on 7'0" Canadian Dallin Bachynski tonight when he enters the game. But they will not be the only foreign-born players muscling up down low.
Lulling You to Sleep - In basically every game this season, the Trojans have at least one extended period where they can't buy a bucket, forget how to play defense and feel it is their duty to share the ball with their opponent. USC's opponents almost always have at least one four-to-five minute (sometimes longer) run where they are able to either play catch up or push away from the Trojans and take a significant lead. It has happened the last two games coming out of the halftime break.
Against UCLA on Sunday, USC held a 10-point first half lead, but that was gone within minutes of the second half opening as the Bruins unleashed a 27-6 run to come from behind, overtake the Trojans and assume a dominant lead.
No Road Warriors - Utah has an impressive 16-7 record, but don't ask the Utes to produce the same results away from their home arena. At home, Utah looks like one of the top teams in the country, with a 16-1 record. On the road, it couldn't be worse at 0-6.
But that's what happens when you don't challenge yourself in the non-conference schedule. Utah is still ranked sixth in the nation in scoring margin (+16.0 points) after destroying Evergreen State by 83 points and St. Katherine by 73 points (and honestly, I'd never heard of either school before seeing them on Utah's schedule). The Utes are also third in the nation in shooting percentage (50.4) and are 15th in the nation in 3-point field goal defense percentage (29.4) -- numbers that continue to revert toward the mean with each passing game.
Souring the Homecoming - Utah's three starting guards, Delon Wright, Brandon Taylor and Dakarai Tucker, are all from the Los Angeles area. Wright attended Leuzinger HS in Lawndale. Tucker played at Gardena's Serra HS while Taylor went to Pacific Hills HS in West Hollywood.
The Trojans need to limit the trio and ruin their homecoming if USC is going to get its second conference win. Wright leads the Utes averaging 16.0 points and is second with 6.7 rebounds. Taylor is averaging 11.0 points and a team-best 3.7 assists per game. Tucker recorded a career-high 18 points, knocking down four 3-pointer, in the first game versus USC.
Jan. 12, 2013 - USC 76-59 (@ Utah). In Kevin O'Neill's final game as head coach, the Trojans took it to Utah on the Utes' homecourt. All five USC starters scored double figures led by J.T. Terrell's 14 points and Dewayne Dedmon's 13 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocks.
Mar. 13, 2013 - Utah 69-66 (Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas). Despite playing without suspended centers Dewayne Dedmon and James Blasczyk, USC dominated the paint 42-14 thanks to 18 points (and 10 rebounds) from Omar Oraby. The Trojans battled back from a 13-point deficit, but couldn't get over the hump. The loss was the final USC game for Eric Wise, Jio Fontan, Aaron Fuller and Ari Stewart.
Where to Watch:
Game Time, TV channel: 7:30 p.m. PST, Pac-12 Network (John Sunderland, Don MacLean)
Radio: USC: ESPN 710 AM (Chris Fisher, Brandon Granville); Utah ESPN 700 AM (Bill Riley, Jimmy Soto)
Odds & More:
Odds and Wagers: Latest Odds: USC +4.5/Utah -4.5, Over/Under 139.5 points
Projected Starting Lineups: