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UCLA Basketball: USC Preview - A Pac-12 Tournament Surprise

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After an early Pac-12 tournament upset, UCLA will face the Trojans for the third time this season and the 2nd time in 8 days.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In what will certainly be the biggest upset of the first round, USC knocked off Arizona St in only their 4th win since conference play opened. Elijah Stewart came through for the Trojans, scoring 27 points and helping USC overcome a late deficit with a 19-2 run to end the game.

It has been just over week since our last meeting with our crosstown 'rivals,' so everything in the chrissorr's excellent preview still stands. Rather than rehashing the same ideas, I will take a look back at what had gone right and wrong for the Bruins in the previous games against USC.

Beating the same team 3 times in a seasons is generally considered difficult, but UCLA has cruised through the previous 2 meetings between these teams. On January 14th, UCLA went into the Galen Center and rolled through USC 83-66. UCLA took of care of the Trojans at Pauley Pavillion 85-74.

Bryce Alford has had his way against USC, averaging 22 points per game and shooting 62.5% from the field, including 10/14 (71.4%) from beyond the arc. The Bruins have had at least one other player break out in each game, with Norman Powell scoring 22 points in the first game and Tony Parker scoring 22 points last week at Pauley. The team as a whole has shot well, shooting 52.8% from the field in the 2 games combined.

There have been some struggles for our Bruins as well though, as the team could not hold on to the ball in the first meeting, coughing the ball up 18 times, including 5 from Bryce. The team fixed that in the second meeting, but neglected to play perimeter defense, allowing the Trojans to shoot 55.3% from the field and 57.9% from outside arc. That is terrible for a team that is shooting under 33% from the 3 pt line this season.

Realistically, this should be an easy win for our Bruins. Elijah Stewart and Julian Jones played 37 and 39 minutes respectively, and the well rested Bruins should be able to take it to a USC team that expended a huge amount of energy to claw their way back into the game against the Sun Devils. This is game that we have no business losing and it really shouldn't even be close.

My keys to the game:

1) Does UCLA show up looking rested or rusty?

2) Do the Trojans carry the momentum over from their big comeback win or did they leave their legs on the court tonight?

3) Do Bryce, Powell, and Parker carry over their success from the previous matchups?

4) Do the Bruins take care of the ball?

If UCLA can succeed on #1 and #4, they should cruise through this game.

Prediction: USC keeps it close for a half, but an early 2nd half run leads to UCLA double digit win.

The Southern Cal-UCLA game and the other three quarterfinal games will be available online for free to all fans on Pac-12.com, regardless of your TV provider, with no login required. So, for those of you who are on DirecTV or another provider who does not have the Pac-12 network, the Pac-12 Networks is making the game available to you. This also means that those of you stuck at work can watch the game, provided that your boss doesn't catch you.

Go Bruins!