The No. 6 seeded USC Trojans are big underdogs going into their Elite Eight matchup against the No. 1 overall seed, the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
USC is coming off an impressive 82-68 win over Pac-12 rival Oregon in the Sweet 16. There is no doubt that Gonzaga provides a much more difficult challenge than the Ducks.
The Bulldogs are 29-0 for a reason as head coach Mark Few looks for that elusive championship. Gonzaga is the highest-scoring team in the nation (89.3 points per game) and has been dominant so far at the NCAA Tournament, winning three games by an average of 25.6 points.
Led by Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Drew Timme, the Bulldogs pose a unique threat to any team they face. Gonzaga will focus on pushing the pace and using its speed advantage to try and make the Mobley brothers uncomfortable on the defensive end.
It was interesting to see Trojans head coach Andy Enfield go with a zone defense for most of the game against Oregon. USC’s zone gave the Ducks fits all night, holding Oregon to just 31.3 percent shooting. Isaiah and Evan Mobley’s size and length flustered the Ducks, so we can see Enfield employ a similar strategy against a fast Bulldogs squad.
The Trojans lead the nation in opponents’ two-point field goal percentage and will need to have one of their efforts of the season to keep up with the Gonzaga.
But USC hasn’t been a slouch at all during its first three games of the tournament. The Trojans have won their matchups by an average of 21.3 points, including a 34-point beatdown of the Kansas Jayhawks. USC has been on fire from deep during the tournament. The Trojans have connected on 70 percent of their 3-point attempts.
USC will need its backcourt to help protect the paint by not getting beat easily off penetration by the talented Bulldogs guards. Tahj Eaddy will give up some size to either Suggs or Andrew Nembhard, so the Enfield might try and protect his guards with the zone.
The Trojans need Evan Mobley to assert himself early in this one. If he or his brother Isaiah can get Timme in foul trouble early, it will be a huge bonus for USC.
The Trojans will need to play at their best, but they go into this one knowing that a victory will get the program back into the Final Four for the first time since 1954.
When: Tuesday, March 30
Time: 4:15 p.m. PT
Online: NCAA March Madness Live
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis