USC Preview

Two games down and 17 to play in the regular season in the march for an NCAA Tournament bid. The Arizona State Devils (12-3, 1-1) hit the road for the first time in 2014's conference play to take on the L.A. schools with their first stop being the Galen Center to take on the USC Trojans (9-5, 0-1) on Thursday night.

USC and Andy Enfield are happy to be back on their side of Los Angeles after getting blitzed by UCLA in a game that had a lot of buildup because each program has a new coaching staff and the two head coaches got into a big of a verbal spat in the preseason about styles of play (hint: the one who promised to score more just gave up 107 points in a 34-point loss). Byron Wesley scored 21 points while J.T. Terrell and Julian Jacobs had 14 points and 10 points respectively. UCLA shot 58% from the field and made 11 three-pointers while forcing 17 turnovers. A rough first taste of the Pac-12 for Enfield and company.

ASU is coming off a disappointing split at home against the Washington schools. Getting a taste of both ends of a blowout, the Devils were rocked against Washington before pasting Washington State to close out the weekend. Against the Cougars, Jermaine Marshall scored 18 of his game-high 26 points in the second half to lead the Devils to an easy win. The most impressive aspect of the victory was the shooting prowess of the entire team: 45% from deep and 83% from the free-throw line. The premium shooting numbers have been inconsistent all season but it's never too late to start.

After the Washington loss, the Sun Devils needed to put the Cougars down and they were able to do just that. As Todd Graham would say, they dominated a team they were supposed to dominate. Getting on the road is always a challenge but the Devils have won two true road games against UNLV and DePaul with another victory at a neutral site over College of Charleston. Three wins away from home before the first Pac-12 road game is the most for ASU under Herb Sendek.

Head Coach:

Andy Enfield: 1st season at USC – 9-5; 45-31 career

Herb Sendek: 8th season at ASU – 131-111; 385-289 career

Projected Starters:

G – Julian Jacobs (7.3 PPG, 4.3 APG) vs. Jahii Carson (18.7 PPG, 4.9 APG)

G – Pe'Shon Howard (10.2 PPG, 33% 3PT) vs. Jermaine Marshall (15.4 PPG, 45% 3PT)

F – JT Terrell (11.3 PPG, 30% 3PT) vs. Shaq McKissic (8.2 PPG, 4.9 RPG)

F – Byron Wesley (17.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG) vs. Jon Gilling (6.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG)

C – Omar Oraby (9.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG) vs. Jordan Bachynski (12.1 PPG, 4.9 BPG)

Why USC Can Win:

Much like Washington, USC thrives on fast break opportunities and getting as many buckets in transition as possible. While many have pegged USC to have a rebuilding season under the new regime, speed and three-point shooting are great equalizers in college basketball and the Trojans have both. There will be an influx of guards running around and trying to expose the lack of perimeter speed the Sun Devils possess. If Jon Gilling and Egor Koulechov are on the floor, look for USC to go right at them.

Why ASU Can Win:

The Sun Devils have a huge advantage at the point guard and center positions and will need Carson and Bachynski to get the chemistry working early and often. Jermaine Marshall was two different basketball players last week with just four points on 2/11 shooting in the loss to Washington but 26 points on just 14 shots. As Pac-12 play gets rolling, the Devils will need their stars to be hitting on all cylinders and Marshall's offensive output is pivotal to ASU's success.

Key Stat: From ASU SID Doug Tammaro, Jahii Carson doesn't hate staying in hotels. In 13 true road games in his career, Carson is averaging 22.5ppg with his four highest scoring outputs coming away from home including his amazing 40-point effort against UNLV in November.

X-Factor: Shaq McKissic; the most athletic perimeter player for ASU, McKissic will be relied on heavily to attack the basket on offense but also lock down Byron Wesley. If the Devils can negate Wesley's impact on the game, there will be opportunities to expose the thin Trojans.

Final Score: ASU 79 USC 72


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