USC Preview

ASU (16-8, 5-7) tries to salvage a split on the road when they head into the LA Sports Arena to face the USC Trojans (9-14, 2-10).

Coaches

Head Coach: Jim Saia (interim)
Assistants: Eric Brown, Bob Cantu, Tim Floyd (future head coach)

Projected Starters

G Nick Young 6-6 195 Fr. (11.1 pts, 4.0 rebs) – young, athletic wing player that can score in bunches; game needs refinement to become more consistent
G Lodrick Stewart 6-4 215 So. (13.8 pts, 2.9 rebs, 2.4 asst) – biggest 3-pt threat; streaky and can be forced into poor shot selection
G Gabriel Pruitt 6-4 180 Fr. (11.9 pts, 2.4 rebs, 3.4 asst) – leading Trojans in assists and second in points; the ball is in his hands often
F Jeff McMillan 6-8 265 Sr. (8.5 pts, 6.5 rebs) – gets most of his points in the paint and on offensive rebounds
F Rory O'Neil 6-11 240 Sr. (8.3 pts, 2.4 rebs) – soft big man with a nice outside touch

Impact Reserves

F Gregg Guenther 6-9 255 Sr. (6.8 pts, 5.4 rebs) – strong inside player that used to be a TE on the Trojan football team
G Errick Craven 6-2 205 Sr. (4.8 pts, 1.1 asst) – athletic but streaky guard that provides nice depth coming off the bench
F Nick Curtis 6-8 225 Sr. (4.6 pts, 3.1 rebs) – strong rebounder; will be asked to play significant minutes guarding Diogu
G Derrick Craven 6-2 215 Sr. (4.2 pts, 2.3 rebs) – mirror image of his twin brother, in both looks and game

Overview

This game sets up a lot like the first game between these two teams that took place in Tempe earlier this year. ASU is coming off a frustrating loss to UCLA and the Trojans are hoping to snap a five game losing streak. The Devils hope the outcome is different, though. They will try to avenge the 98-94 defeat to the young and athletic Trojans.

Unfortunately for ASU, they have not been able to do the things required to beat teams as athletic as USC – rebound and defend. The Trojans are very athletic, matching the likes of Arizona and Washington with their athleticism. However, what they have in athleticism, they lack in purpose, poise, and focus. In other words, they are very good athletes but only average basketball players at this point.

This is understandable because their frontcourt is very young, starting to freshmen and a sophomore, and their coach was fired earlier this season. Jim Saia is a solid assistant, but has proven he is not quite ready to be a head coach in the Pac 10. He, too, is young and has plenty of time to get another shot at a head coaching position.

In the first meeting, ASU let the young frontcourt players of the Trojans get it going early and they road the early confidence to their first Pac 10 victory. If the Sun Devils want any chance to win, they must slow down the perimeter players early in the game and not allow them to gain confidence from the opening tip. The Devils must also keep the USC athletes from penetrating into the lane, where they can utilize their full arsenal of shots going to the rim.

Finally, the Devils will have to put a body on someone to control the boards. Generally, Diogu and Angounou have at least held their own on the boards; however, the Sun Devil guards must also block their men out to allow Ike and Serge to grab rebounds without players getting running starts and jumping over them.

Offensively, ASU must be patient and pound the ball inside to Diogu. The Trojans are not a patient team on the defensive end. They will gamble and teams that do not turn the ball over can get many easy looks at the basket. However, being careless with the ball will result in multiple USC fast breaks and athletic dunks.

The records of the teams make it appear like a potentially one-sided affair; however, Sun Devil fans know that their team is not playing well and is especially susceptible to very athletic teams that can score in bunches. In short, the Devils do not defend very well and teams that can score can take advantage of it.

Losing this game puts a 100% lock on the Sun Devils not going to the NCAA Tournament this year. Winning keeps a slight glimmer of hope alive. The Devils did not respond well in their "must win" game on Thursday night. However, if there is one thing that has been consistent this season, it is that ASU is wildly inconsistent. They lose games in which they are favored and win games as underdogs.

In this battle of two teams heading in the wrong direction, something has to give. The Sun Devil faithful hope it's the home team.

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