South Carolina Preview

UCLA plays USC for a second time within a week, but this time it's basketball and South Carolina in the Maui Invitational...

UCLA plays USC today at 3 PM PST. It might be another 27-0 blowout, as DeShaun Foster remains ineligible (though he does have a nice car) and Cory Paus is off on another pub crawl…

Oh… wrong sport. My bad! Wrong team, too. My bad again! As Britney said, "Oops, I did it again!"

Hopefully, UCLA won't be singing that same tune as it takes on South Carolina in the consolation bracket of the Maui Classic today. Some consolation. The Bruins will likely move to 2-1 without any quality wins or losses against ranked teams, but they will at least have enough game tape to scare themselves for weeks. Dave Odom's game Gamecocks lost to Duke by 25 yesterday, which makes sense. They lost 16 games last year and will probably struggle to finish at .500 in the SEC this year. In other words, USC is no Ball State.

They're led up front by Rolando Howell, 6-9 220 SO PF, and Tony Kitchings, 6-10 260 JR C. Howell is a very solid player who can go inside or out, but he needs to stay inside more for the Gamecocks to win more often. He averaged 8.8 ppg and 5.1 rpg last season as a FR after getting a lot of top 50 h.s. rankings. Unfortunately, with South Carolina's trigger-happy and pass-averse guards, he doesn't see the ball much. Kitchings is slow, huge and will get you 10/7 night in, night out. Carlos Powell, 6-7 220 FR PF/C, has looked very solid for USC inside in its first two games.

On the wings, USC can throw Chuck Eidson, 6-7 205 JR, Aaron Lucas, 5-11 185 SR PG, and Jamel Bradley, 6-2 170 SR SG, at the Bruins. Eidson is a multi-skilled player (9.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.1 apg), sort of a poor man's Jason Kapono who tore up his knee last year and isn't playing at 100%. Lucas is a quick PG who'd rather shoot than pass (10.3 ppg, 3.9 apg), but he's barely a 35% 3-point shooter, so it might be a good idea if he didn't shoot so much. Unfortunately, until Eidson is healthy, Lucas is the best USC has to offer from behind the arc, so he'll probably keep shooting. Bradley (11.5 ppg) is another quick gunner whose accuracy doesn't proffer bragging rights. Off the bench, Chris Warren, 6-5 195 JR SG, and Michael Boynton, 6-2 180 SR SG, will also shoot the ball a lot. Carolina has quick guards, but they don't have great skills or poise.

USC seems to play a disorganized, freestyle kind of motion offense that would work really well if they had players as good as Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer, but they don't have anyone that good. Defensively, they go man and try to overplay the ball up top. Unless UCLA does a good job of finding releases inside, that kind of defense might work against them. Gadzuric has to have a strong game.

Dave Odom is probably in a bad mood after getting blown out by Duke. He'll probably watch the Ball State game tape and urge Lucas and Bradley to penetrate and drive and dish rather than jack it up from wherever, whenever. Whether he gets through to his team is another question. If USC can magically hit 40% of their 3s and get Howell and Kitchings some good looks inside, they can win this game.

Steve Lavin is probably in a bad mood after getting blown out by Ball State. He'll probably watch the Duke game tape and wonder if Pete Dalis called Coach K last night. More likely, he'll try to get his team to play more urgent defense. If the Bruins play anything resembling defense today, they'll cause USC to do its usual 8-28 number from 3. If Gadzuric, Cummings, Barnes and Patterson show any Balls State, they can keep Howell and Kitchings off the offensive glass and get them in foul trouble at the other end. UCLA must find a credible inside attack against an overplay team like this. If that happens, and if UCLA doesn't make 20 unforced turnovers, they can win this game. Hopefully, Ced Bozeman played the worst game of his life last night…

Prediction: UCLA 75, South Carolina 66.

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