Cats and Trojans play for Pac-10 title

Arizona puts its streak of 11 straight wins in the Pac-10 tournament on the line against a team that just might be the toughest its ever played in conference tournament action. The USC Trojans are playing as well as anyone in the nation right now and might be too much for Arizona to overcome, especially with the game in Los Angeles.

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USC was tough enough to beat when teams only had to worry about trying to slow down its "Big Three" of Brandon Granville, David Bluthenthal and Sam Clancy. However, now that senior threesome has some help off the bench and from a starting freshman; together trey al form an almost unstoppable force at times.

Reserves wing Desmon Farmer and Jerry Dupree are two of the more athletic players on USC's roster and are capable of scoring in bunches. Farmer, in particular, has proven that point with his play during the tournament's first two rounds.

Against Stanford, the sophomore from Flint, Michigan scored 19 points off the bench while hitting six of nine shots and the Trojans won in a laugher, 103-78. Friday's game against top-seeded Oregon was decidedly in the Ducks' favor until Farmer came into the game midway through the first half.

Almost immediately, Farmer made his presence felt by driving to the hoop and drawing fouls. He made his first four free throws and followed up with jumpers, three-pointers and lay-ups en route to scoring 15 points by halftime. For the game, Farmer scored 17 points and has been the best non-starter on any of the tournament teams.

Dupree is like a human pogo stick. He is always active and always hitting the boards. When he's not finishing an alley-oop from Granville he's following up a missed shot for an easy dunk. He blocks shots into the ninth row and he plays the passing lanes well too. The combination of Dupree and Farmer on the floor together with the "Big Three" is lethal for most opponents.

There's not much reason to see why that would be any different against Arizona on Saturday either.

Stopping Sam Clancy is priority number one, or at least number 1-A, and that means doing a better job on the defensive glass. Clancy, the Pac-10 Player of the Year, is a force down low and also a major threat to hit turnaround jump shots on the baseline, not to mention 18-footers from straight away. In short, Clancy is a match-up nightmare for anyone who is assigned to him.

Ricky Anderson: Best of luck because you're going to need it.

Granville is the solid and reliable point guard for Henry Bibby's team. He can score with any of the Pac-10's lead guards but it's his assist total that sticks out.

After the first two games, Granville has amassed 21 assists, just four short of breaking Gary Payton's tournament record set back in 1988. What's even more impressive than the 21 assists is the fact that he has only commited three turnovers in the same span. That's seven-to-one in favor of the assists, folks. Magic Johnson wasn't this efficient.

Granville gets most of his assists to Clancy or to the streak-shooter extraordinaire, David Bluthenthal. A local writer in Tucson said that anytime Bluthenthal scores 14 or more points the game's pretty much over. What that means is that when he's on, USC wins. Simple as that.

Bluthenthal lit up Arizona in the Trojans win over the Wildcats a few weeks ago by scoring 31 points on 7-12 three-point shooting. If he gets half of that production today, it's so-long Arizona.

What chances the Wildcats have in beating USC and thus winning the Pac-10 tournament, rest on the shoulders of Jason Gardner. For Arizona to win, he has to be on top of his game and that means no turnovers and several three-pointers during the game.

Walton and Anderson have to attack the defensive glass with a purpose (but without fouling...Ricky) and they need help from freshmen Isaiah Fox, Channing Frye and Dennis Latimore.

There are two things that are very unlikely to happen in today's game. One is that Farmer won't be anywhere near as hot scoring the ball as he has been the first two days, and the other is that Arizona doesn't have enough to keep up with ultra-hot USC on this given day.

I hope I'm wrong but the clear advantage has to go to the Trojans. You should hear how loud the Staples Center gets with all those USC fans cheering on their team. It's a home game is what it is.

Too tough to beat USC at home.

Trojans by seven.


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