Now Shabazz is sick and we may only have 6 players for the game tomorrow - Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
USC is a team without an identity. Can they beat a team without an inside presence.
USC Basketball, which to me was summed a few years ago when USC threw its basketball team under the bus to protect its football team, is best defined right now by this quote.
"To be honest I'd be lying if I said we thought about anything more than game-to-game," point guard Jio Fontan said.
They began the season a defense first team that loss 6 out of 7 at one point but also held opponents to 44 and 26 points. Then they fired coach Kevin O'Neill and interim head coach Bob Cantu has been changing their style to running more and more offense. They even scored 93 points in a game in his four game tenure. But the bottom line is they are 1-3 under Cantu and only scored 50 in their last game against Arizona.
The Trogans have no plans for the future, they are not sure of who they are in the present, but I am sure they would like to beat UCLA. Can they?
UCLA's number one weakness is okay-to-good bigs who know how to post up. So let's start the preview with 7' center (they call him power forward but whatever) Dewayne Dedmon. Dedmon started PAC 12 play off with four consecutive double figure games and shot 11 and 12 times against Utah and Colorado. Then Cantu became coach and he has scoring has diminished in each game. In other words, USC new quicker pace is hurting Dedmon. A major break for UCLA on all levels.
Dedmon is still a good shot blocker but, and it is hard to write this, he is no Jordan Bachynski. Dedmon will have a hard time covering Travis Wear, if Travis plays.
Forward Travis Wear is still day-to-day with the concussion he suffered at Arizona last Thursday. He was limited to conditioning and shooting in Monday's practice.
And yes, the Trogans have two other seven footers, including a decent Omar Oraby from Eygpt. If USC can get anything out of their three seven footers which is not inconceivable they could make a game of it. Will USC other players be patient in work it inside? I doubt it.
Next for USC comes the players who were not around last year. First, leading scorer Eric Wise, a UCI transfer, who was honorable mention all Big West in 2010-11. Wise is a wing but number two in rebounding for USC. He has been very good from three (19-40)and decent on the offensive boards. Until their blowout loss against Arizona, Wise was really enjoying playing for Cantu, having three of his four highest scoring games of the year under Cantu. Wise will be a challenge for Anderson.
Next is point guard Jio Fontan. Fontan was supposed to be a star but after being hurt last year, he makes Larry Drew II look like a good shooter. Fontan shoots only 33% from the field. However, Fontan may have ability at the big game. He had 25 against ASU recently. Of course, he is also capable of the opposite. He had a disaster of a game against Oregon when he had 10 turnovers. For USC to have a chance, he must have an "on game." Jio does rank third in the conference in assists.
USC starts two more guards. First is second leading scorer JT Terrell. Terrell was a top high school recruit who has played at Wake Forest, Peninsula College, and now USC. He is supposedly quick and has the ability for the big game. He has scored 20 or more twice in his four games under Cantu. However, he shoots 32% from both 2 and 3, taking most of his shots from three.
The last starter is 6'5 wing Byron Wesley. Wesley is a good shooter by USC standards hitting 46% overall and 35% from three. He also passes the ball well. Wesley started every game last year as a freshman for USC and is probably their most consistent player.
The other two to play significant minutes are Aaron Fuller and Chas Bryan. Fuller was forced to start last year and is not a bad inside player if a bit undersized at 6'6". While Fuller is undersized for his position, 5'9" Chas Bryan is just undersized.
This is once again a poor shooting USC ranking eleventh in the conference in field goal percentage. They do have three seven footers, two of which have some talent, who could possibly take advantage of UCLA inside. In other words this would be a game that cries out zone. But while USC is a team without an identity, UCLA is one that has an identity that because of coach Ben Howland is inflexible at times. So while UCLA is now running and will kill USC if they try to run with them, USC could learn from ASU and have Wise dump the ball inside. If that happens effectively, USC may or may not have a chance, but I do know that Howland won't go zone. For as Jack Wang writes in response to a question on pressing:
Not certain since this hasn't been asked directly, but he really, really likes his man defense. He stuck with it when it was absolutely terrible, so no reason to abandon it now that it's gotten better. Howland is a man of his system.
Go Bruins. Beat SC!