Now that the BCS championship game is over and done with, we can finally focus on college basketball. And too bad we only have one game to talk about this week. Yeah, we have to wait till Saturday to take the sting off of last weekend's loss against Oregon. And now with the news of Shipp’s injury, it looks like the Bruins will have to show the same resiliency they showed through all the injuries last season. The Bruins get to take on a perennially irrelevant program in JustSC, which is having it's once-in-a-blue-moon decent season.
What do we have here? We have a classic case of an inferior team which is benefiting from the Thursday-Friday scheduling of the Pac-10. Sure, the Trojans beat Oregon at MacArthur last weekend. But, it was classic trap game for a Ducks team, which was looking forward to being all jacked up for UCLA (and jacked up they were). And then they got to pound a Beavers team whose coach had to say this following the pasting they took on Saturday. From the Trojan Times itself:
We have to get back to that. Our defense wasn't all that bad last Saturday. We held a team that scores 82 points a game to 68 on Saturday afternoon. We shut down a team pretty well in the second half, which came out absolutely on fire in first half, making all kinds of crazy shots. So Arron, DC, Luc and co. will have to come out with that same intensity from the tip off this Saturday and not give the Trojans any room to breathe.
Now these Trojans, as mentioned above, have some decent players. They have 3 NBA level players in their starting lineup: Nick Young, Gabe - Victoria - Pruitt, and Taj Gibson. Gibson is a good player, but just like most Trojan athletes, is dumb as a door knob, somehow magically getting admitted to a D-1 institution of higher learning. If you look back last year, Southern Cal probably should have made the tourney with Young and Pruitt (and the late Ryan Francis), but they didn't. This year they are coming into this game with a 13-4 record. As mentioned above, there is a good argument they are benefiting from the way Pac-10 scheduling has been set up. Besides Oregon, their resume building wins came in a overtime win over a flawed Washington team, and against a Wichita State team which went on to lose 4 games in a row.
So about this game. Again, given that the Trojans do have 3 NBA level players on their roster, the matchup should be interesting. DC and AA will be taking on Pruitt and Stewart. Pruitt, unlike Brooks and Acie Law, who gave DC a lot of problems, is not a true point guard, and he is still getting back in groove, after coming back from - what else - an academic suspension. Me thinks DC is going to come out a little more focused on defense and will give us a better and more focused effort against Pruitt.
Stewart is having a pretty good season. He is scoring 14.3 points a game, shooting 44.7 % from 3. However, he is overall FG shooting - 45.7 % - is not so great. AA may match up against Stewart, but Howland may opt for AA to D up against Nick Young, and use a Westbrook/Roll combination against Stewart (starting Roll). I would not be surprised if Howland breaks out a 3 guard line up with DC, Westbrook, and AA to take on the Trojan trio. Again, Shipp’s injury is going to hurt no doubt in terms of offensive production. But, at the same time, this injury will force Coach Howland to give more minutes to Westbrook who had his break out game on road last weekend, showing absolutely no fear in tough circumstances. It will also increase the minutes of Michael Roll, who has been aggressive on defense, and coming up with clutch plays on both O and D in recent weeks.
Now, in terms of match-up in the front court, once again Mata and company will have their hands full with Taj Gibson. The guy is a load in the Trojan front court, averaging almost a double/double per game (13.6 pts/9.3 boards). But he is also a turnover machine. In two losses to the Kansas schools, KU and KSU, he turned over the ball 11 and 6 times, respectively. He has cut down on his TO's recently, even though he is still turning the ball over 2-3 times a game, and has 53 total turnovers. That is a pretty horrible number for a guy in the pain who is not responsible for ball handling.
His team-mates are not any better. Trojans are dead last in the conference in assist/TO ratio at 12.9/17.5 (the Bruins are better at 15.1/13.2 in that category). The Trojans are also last in the conference in TO margin at -1.29 per game (the Bruins are second in conference with a +4.80 TO margin). So, the Trojans’ problems with handling the rock negates their number 1 defense in the conference in terms of FG percentage (.350). [Stats taken from the Mid-Majority and Pac-10]
So, going back to the point of front court match-ups, expect the Bruins to hit Gibson with their classic double down post defense by Mata and Luc. Not sure if Gibson has seen that kind of double team in any other match-ups this season. The trick for the Bruins will be to do these double teams quick, and not be a step slow like they were against Oregon.
Shipp’s injury hurts. But, in terms of bench strength, the Bruins are deeper in that department with Westbrook, Roll, Aboya and Keefe. I really hope if Shipp is not being effective on defense (this may turn out to be a moot issue because Shipp will probably come out with more intense effort on defense), Coach Howland puts in Westbrook and Roll. Those guys attack on defense. Same goes for Keefe. The kid has been coming on in last few games. And it may help the Bruins to give him more minutes this coming Saturday, so he can pitch in wearing down the Trojan front court. We will have more game notes on this game in the coming week.
It's been pretty amusing to read the cute Trojans running their mouths around the internets talking about Southern Cal being a relevant hoops program in the Pac-10. A lot of these assclowns probably don't even remember all the hype around Harold - `Baby Jordan' - Miner's Trojan team during the 1991-1992 season. We heard a lot of smack about how the Trojans were serious about hoops, yadi yada yada, when Raveling and Miner's Trojies swept the eventual Pac-10 champion MacLean, Murray and Madkins Bruins team that year. But, as usual, we never really heard back from them again.
We weren't worried than. And there isn't much to take note of now. This pathetic little program, which may be experience a little short term success, isn't heading anywhere in the long term. The latest version of Baby Jordans - Pruitt and Young (and maybe Gibson) - will most likely head towards pros after this year is over, which leave Timmeh, his prized recruit, and a bunch of slobs playing glorified AAU ball in a basketball arena that feels like Costco.
Anyways, going back to our Bruins, we made our run last year by attacking the ball and our inside-the-jersey defense, instead of getting caught up in one-on-one ball, which we saw some during first half of Oregon game. The bottom line for now is, if the Bruins come out attacking the ball, playing our lock down defense, shutting down the perimeter, and bumping cutters in the lane, we are going to be fine.
We just have to do our part. Make sure our guys feel at home in front of thousands of Bruins fans by turning JustSC's Costco like gym into Bruin blue.