Entering the 2017 NCAA Tournament in a Trojan horse, USC men’s basketball has since caught their foes by surprise with consecutive double digit comebacks against Providence and SMU—yet now they face one of their biggest challenges on their road to the Sweet 16 against the Baylor Bears.
Narrowly escaping the Round of 32 on a last second shot by Elijah Stewart, the Trojans were the epitome of themselves all season long. They jacked up threes, converted them at a low rate, perimeter defense broke down when switching to 2-3 zone but regardless of it all, they came back to win the game.
Unfamiliar to the Trojans was defeating a ranked opponent—as prior to the game, USC had only beaten one ranked opponent in their seven opportunities this season.
With twelfth-ranked Baylor next on the docket, the Trojans will need to get all they can from sophomore forward Bennie Boatwright who has been the go-to-guy all season long. Both Boatwright and sophomore center Chimezie Metu got all they could handle from SMU junior forward Semi Ojeleye who bullied his way to 24 points and 10 boards (some cooler than others) and now face another steep challenge in projected first-round NBA Draft pick Jonathan Motley.
Now in his junior year, Motley is developing in the versatile big men many thought he could be. At 6’9” with a daunting wingspan over 7’3”, Motley has had a career year averaging 17.3 points per game to go along with 9.9 boards and 1.1 blocks.
With a lot of activity around the rim by Motley, the Trojans will most likely chuck it from afar as they tend do, and shoot themselves in—or out of the game.
On the defensive end, the Trojans are at their best after the first 10 seconds of the shoot clock are off they can control the tempo. Once they’re settled in, USC moves a lot around the perimeter—not allowing many passes in the paint, and often attack the passing lanes as the shot clock winds down.
More than often however, the Trojans are beat on the transition and that’s a dangerous game against a long and fast Bears squad. Baylor’s defensive prowess is poised to translate into quick and easy buckets on the other end in this contest.
With Stewart, Boatwright and Metu showing up for the Trojans all tournament long, junior forward Jordan McLaughlin is going to have to find his rhythm on offense. Scoring only five points, McLaughlin was only 2-7 from the field and a completely abysmal 0-5 from the three point line.
Getting everyone on the right page will be crucial against a legitimate basketball powerhouse in Baylor, but much like it’s gone most of the season—the Trojans will look to embody the March Madness moniker and quite possibly get the hat trick for those double digit comebacks.
**We could use some help covering USC Basketball.**