Tournament Preview

Boston College heads into the NCAA Tournament as a higher seed than many expected. They also face a ten-seed that many think is on a roll. This promises to be one of the more interesting games of round one. Eagle Insider's basketball writer breaks down the match-up.

After a one-year hiatus, the Boston College Men's Basketball program is back in the NCAA Tournament and looking to make some noise. Standing in their way are the USC Trojans who are riding a late season surge after making an improbable run in the Pac-10 Tournament Championship.

USC enters the tournament as a 10 seed having won five straight games in March to finish with a record of 21-12. This came after losing six of seven during a rough month of February that nearly saw the team's post-season hopes vanish.

Under Head Coach Tim Floyd, USC has reached three consecutive NCAA Tournaments. They pride themselves on their strong defense. The Trojans have allowed only 63.5 points per game this season. They play mostly man-to-man, but Floyd has been known to mix in some unusual defensive schemes, including some triangle and two and box and one sets.

Don't be surprised to see USC make Tyrese Rice the sole focus of the defense if he gets hot early. The Eagles should also expect to see some heavy pressure on the ball. USC loves to play full-court defense, a strategy that has worked well for them recently.

Reserve guard Marcus Simmons is the key defensive cog for USC. He has missed significant time this season due to injuries, but when healthy he is a lockdown defender. During the Pac-10 tournament run, he limited UCLA's Darren Collison to just four points and ASU's James Harden to 10 points. You can almost be assured he will be assigned to defend Tyrese Rice.

Taj Gibson, the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, leads the conference in blocked shots with 2.8 per game. Gibson also averages 9.4 rebounds and has 16 double-doubles this year. He is the team's leading scorer at 14.3 points a game. The junior is extremely athletic and has post-season experience already under his belt. He does, however, have a tendency to get into foul trouble.

He is a lot like Georgia Tech's Gani Lawai, a guy who can elevate and get up and down the floor quickly. Josh Southern will have to work hard to keep him off the blocks and prevent him from wrecking havoc in the middle.

Freshman star, DeMar DeRozan has been solid, yet unspectacular for much of the season averaging 13.6 points and 5.7 rebounds. However, during the Pac-10 Tournament he emerged as the premier force in the Trojans attack. He scored an average of 21 points a game and received MVP honors while also registering two double-digit rebounding games as well.

DeRozan is well known for his high-flying dunks and is adept at getting to the rim, although he struggles from outside (19% from three-pointers). BC must be physical with him and keep him from driving to the hoop.

The backcourt of Dwight Lewis and Daniel Hackett has been steady all year. Hackett, the point guard, is not flashy but he averages 12.5 points and 4.7 assists each game. Lewis has struggled shooting recently, but he still is second on the team with 14.1 points per game. USC's guards are at their best when slashing to the rim and scoring or creating for others. USC is not a great shooting team, but Lewis and Hackett are pretty good three-point shooters and take the vast majority of the team's shot attempts from behind the arc.

USC does not have a deep bench and you can expect their starters to play at least 35 or more minutes each game. Hackett played all 40 minutes in each Pac-10 Tournament game. BC may be able to wear them down with their physical approach.

Boston College may hold the advantage in terms of traveling because USC has been abysmal on the road this season. They are just 3-9 away from home on the year. Keep in mind the Pac-10 Tournament was played in their backyard in Los Angeles so their streak will certainly be put to the test in Minneapolis.

The key to this game will be the tempo. The Trojans like to push the ball up the court and score in transition. They will run the floor whenever they get the opportunity because they are quicker and more athletic than the Eagles.

Boston College meanwhile, plays a more slow and methodical approach. The flex is something USC has yet to see in the Pac-10 and this may be to the Eagles advantage. Whoever can control the game and set the pace of the game will have a distinct advantage during the course of this contest.

This game is setting up to be one of the most evenly matched games of the first round and for good reason. Each team holds advantages in various aspects. The Trojans are playing good basketball right now, but the question remains how they will respond on the road. The difference may come down to three-pointers, where BC has the upper hand.


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