In a season best described by not playing games all out from start to finish, Andy Enfield's Trojans look to showcase their best game of basketball for an entire 40 minutes in this win-or-go home scenario.
After dropping each of their first five conference games by 20 points or more, USC has come around on both ends of the court by playing more competitive basketball against Pac-12 foes. Despite the 2-12 since that point, the Trojans took both Stanford and Oregon State to overtime (in succession) and held second half leads in seven of those losses.
It goes without saying USC has been riding some tough woes since the clock turned to 2014. The competition does not get any easier for the Trojans however, as a five-way tie for third place has slotted the Colorado Buffaloes -who beat USC during both regular-season meetings- in the second first-round match up of the loaded basketball slate.
The Trojans are 12-13 all-time in the conference tournament after losing to 11-seeded Utah, 69-66, as the No. 7 seed in last year's Pac-12 Tournament. USC has now lost three-straight conference tournament games, and will look to break their lowly tournament ways as the lowest-ranked team in this year's field.
If their is any real consolation in this year's tournament, it would be that the Trojans posted a winning record in White Uniforms this season (6-4) and we don't mean they will be waving the white flag in Las Vegas, Nevada. The other thing USC must focus on doing this week is playing defense because they are 3-20 when teams score 70-plus on offense.
TELEVISION: PAC-12 NETWORKS- 2:30 P.M. PST (Kevin Calabro and Ernie Kent)
RADIO: ESPN 710 LOS ANGELES (Chris Fisher and Brandon Granville)
TWITTER: @USC_Hoops, @CUBuffsMBB, @CChronicles, @RalphieReport
BETS, BETS, BETS
VEGAS INSIDER: -8½ -10
1ST HALF SPREAD: -4½ -15
TOP PLAYERS TO WATCH
USC: Byron Wesley
After not being named Pac-12 Honorable Mention despite quite the strong statistical season, the Trojans best player should come out with some determination against the length Buffaloes starting lineup. After struggling to find his shooting touch in the team's first meeting (9 PTS on 3-14 shooting), Wesley returned to per-game averages in the final home series for USC scoring 21 points on an efficient 14 shots and 10 free throw attempts. Averaging 19.9 points in his last nine games, Wesley currently has 1,144 career points which ranks 24th on USC's all-time scoring list. Known for his ability to slash to the basket and finish at the rim, the junior will be need to be aggressive on offense and also work hard on defense to slow down Colorado's best wing player in Xavier Johnson.
Colorado: Josh Scott
Ever since the loss to Spencer Dinwiddie during the 17th game of the season against Pac-12 rival Washington, Josh Scott has elevated his game to new heights averaging 14.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per contest. Scott has averaged 18.5 points per game against USC this season, pushing around Nikola Jovanovic, D.J. Haley and Omar Oraby with relative ease down low in the paint. The sophomore stud has scored in double figures in each of his team's past seven games, and will heavily be relied upon once again to propel the Buffaloes scoring efforts inside the paint.
WHAT DOES ENFIELD SAY
After finally winning a conference road game, Enfield believes his team knows what it takes to not only win in tough environments but also play hard for a full 40 minutes. Enfield also told us that he believes his team will be ready for this matchup, and not fall trap to another 20-2 deficit like what happened back on January 18th.
HOW THE TEAMS STACK UP (USC vs. COL)
71.0 Offensive Pts./Game 72.5
75.8 Defensive Pts./Game 68.9
.440 Field Goal Percentage .440
.429 Field Goal Defense Pct. .429
.294 3-Point FG Percentage .320
.325 3-Point FG Defense Pct. .366
.670 Free Throw Percentage .722
37.4 Rebounds/Game 37.9
12.7 Assists/Game 11.9
14.2 Turnovers/Game 13.4
5.4 Steals/Game 6.3
4.3 Blocks/Game 3.5
If we have learned anything from recent trips to March Madness anything is truly possible. Especially when your head coach is coming off a first-of-its-kind trip to the Sweet 16 with the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.
Maybe USC can take some inspiration from their Women of Troy, who just won four games in four days (beating No. 12 Arizona, No. 4 ASU, No. 1 Stanford and No. 3 OSU) for the first time in Pac-12 Conference history. This seems to be the prevailing thought but maybe USC has instead packed for their for next year's recruiting class highlighted by Etiwanda H.S. PG Jordan McLaughlin and transfer standouts Katin Reinhardt (UNLV) and Darion Clark (Charlotte).
Whatever the case, remember that last year's Pac-12 Conference Tournament featured four first round match ups that all were decided by eight points or less. Familiarity breeds content, and USC could just be the angry bull to knock Ralphie the Buffalo off his March Madness hoofs. At least try to make things interesting for a FULL 40 MINUTES!