Here comes the stick.
Length, height, offensive rebounding, defensive pressure. Lots and lots of talent. It's going to calculate just how good this Trojans team actually is. No. 7 Arizona enters the Galen Center Saturday afternoon as the ultimate measuring stick and barometer of where this program stands. This isn't an emotional rivalry game against UCLA for the Trojans and the Wildcats aren't going to be overlooking USC after losing their last game.
No, both teams are going to be locked in on this game and we're going to see just where the Trojans stand in the pecking order of the Pac-12. Arizona has summarily dismissed the Trojans by a combined 50 points the two times Andy Enfield has previously faced the Wildcats. How the Trojans play in win or defeat will show whether they are actual contenders or pretenders.
Here's what to watch, where you can see the game, a flashback to the last time these teams played and the projected starting lineups.
What to Watch:
Getting Outside the Area - When you come off the bench and you don't score many points, it's easy to be overlooked. That's why many people may not have noticed the impact USC forward Darion Clark is having when he comes into the game. While he is averaging 2.8 points per game, Clark has been a monster on the glass. The last two games Clark has been an efficient and effective rebounder per minute.
"Well Darion is one of the best rebounders out of his area I've ever seen," Enfield said. "That's why we brought him here. He has an important role on our team."
After collecting nine rebounds in 17 minutes against Washington, he grabbed 10 in 16 minutes last game -- 19 rebounds in 33 minutes of action the last two games. He is averaging 5.1 rebounds per game despite playing 12.1 minutes this season.
"His minutes fluctuate depending on the time, the score, how everything is going in the game," Enfield said. "I give him a ton of credit because when we put him in the game, we know he is going to rebound the ball. He's going to be physical and he's going to go get it. He was a big factor."
Clark started 16 games last season. He averaged 5.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in 22 minutes per game. This season, his role has been cut and his offensive statistics have declined, but he has found a niche and is bringing great effort and energy to provide the Trojans solid frontcourt depth.
Blocks on Blocks on Blocks - The Trojans swatted away nine more shots against Arizona State to push their season total to 105 -- best in the country. Freshmen Chimezie Metu leads the way with 30 shots blocked, nearly two per game, but he's far from the only one joining the block party. Against the Sun Devils, fellow freshman Bennie Boatwright had two big blocks and Nikola Jovanovic tied his career high with four blocks. Darion Clark also added one. The Trojans have six players averaging at least a half block per game. As a team, USC is No. 4 in the country in blocks, with 6.6 per game.
Effective Recovery - It will be interesting to see how USC junior guard Julian Jacobs' ankle responds two days after playing 29 minutes against Arizona State. Jacobs re-aggravated a left ankle injury early in the second half of the Washington game and did not return. He didn't practice all week leading up to the game agaisnt the Sun Devils, but he called Andy Enfield early in the morning on Thursday to tell him he wanted a shot. After making it through shootaround without any noticable discomfort, Enfield ruled him a game-time decision, but said Jacobs "was so emphatic about playing, I felt my hands were tied."
While he seemed to play a bit more cautious and didn't have any of the explosive high-flying plays that we've become accustomed to, Jacobs didn't show any real signs of being bothered by the ankle, but he said following the game that he definitely would be getting the ankle iced down. How well the ankle responded to the ice and treatment in between games could determine to what extent Jacobs is available against the Wildcats.
Perfect at Home - It got interesting down the stretch, but the Trojans remained a perfect 10-0 at home with a 75-65 win over Arizona State on Thursday night, but they get their toughest test of the season with Arizona up next. The common thought in the Pac-12 is that if you can win two at home and split on the road during the conference's weekly two-game sets then you will have a shot at the Pac-12 title and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
To complete that task against the conference's preseason champion, the Trojans have to play a complete 40 minutes unlike their first three games of 2016. USC has held leads of 25, 22 and 17 only to see them all dwindle away. Washington State cut a 25-point lead in half, getting it down to 12 before ultimately losing by 13 points. Washington came all the way back for the victory and Arizona State missed a shot with just over a minute remaining that would have given the Sun Devils the lead. If the Trojans find themselves up on the Wildcats, there can't be any let up if they want to stay perfect at home.
Know Thy Enemy - The Wildcats come into the Galen Center off a buzzer-beater loss to Bryce Alford and the UCLA Bruins. They enter 13-2 and will look to keep in tact their streak of not having back-to-back losses that dates back to 2012-13. Of course, that set of back-to-back losses also came on the road at the hands of the Bruins and Trojans. To make that occur again, USC has to force Arizona into tough shots and keep them off the offensive glass. The Wildcats enter with a +12.0 rebounding margin and have averaged 12 offensive boards per game.
Senior graduate transfer Ryan Anderson leads the Wildcats averaging a double-double with 15.1 points and 10.6 rebounds, including nearly three offensive rebounds per game. He has notched five consecutive double-doubles and the Wildcats as a team have scored 80 or more points in seven straight games. Freshman Alonzo Trier is capable of scoring in bunches and has already notched four 20+ point efforts this season, including Arizona's season single-game high of 27 points against Fresno State.
Tarzan Tarczewski - Arizona 7-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski returned just in time for Pac-12 play after missing eight games due to a foot injury. He suffered a muscle strain and stress reaction in his left foot during the Santa Clara game after having had a sprained right ankle during the preseason. An old school, classic 7-footer, Tarczewski gave the Trojans troubles last season in the paint and has recorded at least seven rebounds in three of the four games against USC in his career. While the Arizona guards and Ryan Anderson are who will be focused in the offense, Tarczewski just does the dirty work on the offensive glass. He could be in line for his first start since returning from injury, so the Trojans need to negate his impact as much as possible.
Last Matchup: Arizona won 87-57 on Feb. 19, 2015.
On a night where the jersey of former Arizona shooting guard Jason Terry was retired, the current Wildcats spent the night pretending to be "The Jet" Terry gliding with their arms out after every highlight play -- of which there were plenty. Six Arizona players scored in double figures led by Kaleb Tarczewski, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half. He also grabbed nine rebounds where the Wildcats dominated the Trojans, 50-34. Malik Martin did score a career-high 15 points off the USC bench.
Where to Watch:
Game Time, TV channel: 4:00 p.m. PST, Pac-12 Network (Kevin Calabro, Don MacLean)
Radio: ESPN 710, TuneIn Radio (Chris Fisher, Jordan Moore)
Projected Starting Lineups:
G - Kadeem Allen (6-3 junior)
G - Gabe York (6-3 senior)
G - Allonzo Trier (6-6 freshman)
F - Ryan Anderson (6-9 senior)
C - Kaleb Tarczewski (7-0 senior)
G - Julian Jacobs (6-4 junior)
G - Jordan McLaughlin (6-1 sophomore)
G - Katin Reinhardt (6-6 junior)
F - Bennie Boatwright (6-10 freshman)
F - Nikola Jovanovic (6-11 junior)