USC (9-5) vs. #4 Washington State (13-0) - Game Preview
When: Thursday, Jan. 10th @ 8:00 PM (PST)
Where: Galen Center (Los Angeles, CA)
Watch: FSN West
There seems to be a divide in predictions for this game; some believe Wazzu's methodical half-court style will slowly but surely chip away at the young Trojans team, while others, like myself, think we match-up better against the Cougs than Stanford (or Cal for that matter). In last year's match-up at the GC, we lost a close one in a defensive battle, but that was when Wazzu was still under the radar and caught everyone off guard. In the 2nd meeting up in Pullman, Lodrick Stewart missed a free-throw to win the game with a few seconds left, which led to the Cougs capitalizing on our foul trouble and pulling away in double OT. We eventually got them in the Pac-10 tournament at Staples off a big game from Gabe Pruitt.
I feel good about this game for several reasons:
1. SC has a clear SOS advantage
- Using Jeff Sagarin's ranking, SC's SOS is ranked at #47 while Wazzu's is ranked at #287. The disparity, to me, closes the inexperience gap as SC comes in more battle-tested.
2. Young teams thrive off emotion
- The fans are going to be pumped to see an upset, the team is anxious to secure their 1st conference win, and it's the Pac-10 home opener - is that not an upset in the making? Also, as reported earlier in the week, Coach Floyd had a special meeting on Sunday to get this team focused. I've felt the team is primed for a big game and O.J. still hasn't had the type of performance I know he's capable of having. I'm not so bullish about the latter because of Kyle Weaver's ability to lockdown defensively, but I still feel this is a type of game where the team might put it together.
3. Wazzu lacks a dominant big man
- Yes, Aron Baynes will be a load down low, but he isn't going to alter shots on the defensive end like the Lopez twins. On that fact alone, I think we'll see a much better shooting effort from the team. Remember, our FG% average in our 3 meetings last year was a shade under 50%. Yes, I realize we had a very different team last year, but being able to penetrate should help SC offensively. We won't drop Cal like numbers, but I expect a lot more fluidity on offense than usual.
4. SC has the clear athletic advantage
- This game will be a match-up of experience versus athleticism and I believe SC's athletic advantage can get Wazzu into foul trouble early. If Low, Weaver, or Baynes get into foul trouble, it can have a huge impact on the outcome of the game because Wazzu lacks go-to players on the bench.
I realize I can get burned by this prediction, afterall, the Cougs aren't the #4 team in the nation for nothing, but I've had a gut feeling about this game since last week, so I have to go with my instincts and call the upset.
Prediction: W by 5